Before I do anything else on this blog I want to honor my friend and co-worker, Sylvia Bingham, who was hit by a truck on the way to work at Hard Hatted Women and killed yesterday morning.
I wasn’t sure whether or not this was appropriate, but seeing the Plain Dealer article, with comments both kind and disrespectful, I thought I’d like to provide this space of reflection.
I only knew Sylvia for a couple days, but I identified with her immediately. We had both gone to elite institutions and had come from the coasts out to the Midwest both for friends and community and because we knew there was important work to be done here. She was damn smart, had an ironic sense of humor, and was interested in the same things I was: green jobs, urban agriculture, and justice. She came from the Bay Area, where those movements flourish, and I can’t convey how impressed I was that she had the sense and courage to come here, where those things are so important but still so young. To be frank, so many of us college grads look down on those parts of the country that are different than ours, or see them as places to get an education and then leave. Sylvia went to school on the coast and came out here, and I wish more of us did the same, had the same maturity.
I remember how enthusiastic she was about community urban gardening, whenever we passed a downtrodden empty lot she pointed out that there should be a garden there with opportunities for local kids.
She cared about urban poverty, about bringing the benefits of green to people who are almost always ignored by people like us, the privileged environmentalists.
I remember her goofily wearing a pink hard hat at Women on the Rise, a fundraiser event a couple weeks ago. I remember all of us sitting together at the table so proud to be where we were, so happy we all got along so well, so excited by the work there was to be done and the relationships there were to be had.
I remember how we passed by restaurants, bars, and clubs in the Flats and in Tremont, talked about hanging out, all us young people at Hard Hatted Women, so excited to be working for such a great organization with such a positive mission.
Hard Hatted Women, and the young, bright, passionate, diverse group of people is one of the most positive things I have these days, with so many other things getting me down. It is a damn shame that one of us had to be taken so suddenly and so meaninglessly at the outset of such an important journey. I’m not religious, but my prayers and faith go out to the people who knew her and loved her- her father, her best friend she came to Cleveland for, her housemates. I hope those people can in time find some measure of peace, though nothing like this heals completely. Please, to anyone visiting, feel free to share a memory or a kind word.