By Lee Batdorff
August 30, 2020 – Update – NPR’s Michel Martin speaks with New York Times columnist Charles Blow about efforts by President Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party to appeal to Black men.
DURING THE FIRST WEEK OF AUGUST 2020, was when a neighborhood headquarters for the Donald Trump presidential campaign showed up. This according to Michael, a resident of the three-story May-Lee retail and apartment building on the southeast corner of Mayfield and Lee Roads, where this Trump first floor campaign HQ is located—in notoriously liberal Cleveland Heights.
At this prime corner location, first floor display windows are filled with black and white ‘Black Voices for Trump’ signs fronting two major streets, directly across Mayfield Rd. from the architectural award winning Rockefeller Building.
Gary Gross, an old friend, while waiting at the traffic signal in a line of automobiles headed north on Lee Road—snapped photos of these storefront windows and quickly posted them to his Facebook ‘wall.’
I soon found his FB post and immediately went there to see for myself. While spending perhaps half-an-hour on that sidewalk, I watched the reaction to the signs from people driving north on Lee Rd. in close view of the line of black-and-white pro-Trump campaign signs.
I even tried to roust one weary black man sitting in a car at an open passenger window waiting for the light to change. I called out to him, “What do you think of these signs?” He ignored me. Gary’s reaction was atypical of the passersby headed north on Lee Road.
As time passed, I realized hardly anyone in cars headed north on Lee Rd. paid any attention to this close-by display of black-and-white pro-Trump campaign signs.
Perched directly above, in second floor residential windows of the May-Lee building facing Lee Rd. is a peaceful rebuttal in cardboard signs to the first floor multiple-show-window display that is directly below this apartment.
Michael, 31, whose last name shall remain anonymous here, is a white graduate student from Alabama, studying at nearby John Carroll University in the field of psychological counseling. He lives upstairs and was out pushing his baby daughter Charlotte in a pram when we met on the sidewalk in front of the signs.
He insisted that I also see, and photograph, the upper floors of the May-Lee building facing Mayfield Rd. with more peaceful apartment window protest signs against the ‘Black Voices for Trump,’ campaign signs on display in the storefront windows directly below their suites.
Between these two long store front displays is the corner entrance, (1601 Lee Rd.), to the large store floor space used by the Black Voices for Trump popup headquarters. (Located here for decades, until a few years ago, was a family-owned antique furniture store.)
This is a view of the inner workings of this ‘Black Voices for Trump’ campaign headquarters at the southeast corner of the intersection of Mayfield and Lee Roads taken through a Mayfield facing window.
Michael, who often takes his pram-borne daughter on these sidewalks, was happy to answer my questions.
How many people has he seen through the street front windows of this ‘Black Voices for Trump’ HQ retail space in the two weeks of its existence that he witnessed? Michael said twice there were small groups of mixed race visitors, and once, the TV monitor was playing showing only four white people on the TV screen to an empty office.
Two young black women walked up to cross Mayfield Rd. and stopped to admire the baby Charlotte. I asked one of them if she would visit this office. “I would not visit that office,” she said matter-of-factly.
According to a measurement made through Google Maps, the May-Lee intersection is about 400 feet west of the entrance to the old temple building that is now the location of the New Spirit Revival Center. It is led by pastors Drs. Darrell and Belinda Scott.
Darrell Scott was one of the very few black people who spoke to the crowd at Trump’s Republican National Convention held in Cleveland Ohio in August 2016.
I haven’t pursued who is paying for this prime corner retail space and I won’t being visiting there either.
TWO MORE STORIES about the commercial, apartment and institutional district around the Mayfield-Lee intersection:
The Rockefeller Building
My first job, at $0.90 an hour, was as a 16-year-old soda jerk, making carbonated concoctions, and sandwiches at the lunch counter of the old Streight Pharmacy, a ma and pa operation in the Rockefeller Building on the northeast corner of the Mayfield-Lee intersection. (The space is now a Starbucks store, the last I looked.)
This was during the summer of 1968 with civil disruption over civil rights and the Vietnam War erupting in Cleveland and across the nation.
An older man, a regular customer who always ordered half black coffee and half hot water, along with sandwich and pie—he and I got to talking. The subject turned to the bedlam of the police riot at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that had just happened. He said, “You know some of those kids kicked the cops in the nuts!”
In 1977 or 1978
The old temple building
In my mid-20s, it was my chosen lot to publish an “underground newspaper” during ’77-’80. It had two names, starting with the ‘Coventry Shopping News’ followed by what it grew into, the ‘Cleveland Express.’ The paper’s office in the early days was in my apartment a few city blocks away in Coventry Village.
When I needed ‘camera work’ I’d bicycled over to a ma and pa print shop, (Creative Copy Associates), entered through the corner door of the single floor commercial building on the southwest corner of the Mayfield-Lee intersection across Lee Rd. from the May-Lee building.
(In those days, a couple doors to the west of CCA’s entrance, was the door to the legendary Mayfield Music, owned and operated by Barrington R. “Barry” Weinberg.)
One day I pulled up in front of CCA on the Mayfield Rd. sidewalk intending to lock my bike—when I saw to the east a big crowd of people flowing out onto the sidewalk along the south side of Mayfield Rd.
I rode to the fringe of the crowd in front of what I knew as The Temple on the Heights—B’nai Jeshurun Congregation, (now located in Pepper Pike Ohio).
People kept coming out. The streaming crowd parted under the synagogue’s five high archways and flowed together down the wide stone steps to the sidewalk. I was told it was the funeral for a rabbi.
More about life in the old days of the CSN and the CE can be found here: