By Melvin Twigg Mason
The following individuals have earned their place on The Cleveland Observer’s list of Movers and Shakers Of Greater Cleveland. Each is an emerging leader and influencer among the citizens in our area, especially Gen-Xers and Millennials. Each is making a difference in their community. They are rising stars in their industries, particularly among African-Americans. Their entrepreneurial and community-conscious efforts, along with their proven personal drives, are making them icons among their peers.
First up, as founder and CEO of The INDI Media Group, Jada Renee Hobson is poised for greatness. Still, in her 20s, Jada oversees the growth of her budding empire, which includes music production & artist management, casual urban fashion, and visual marketing & branding. It all started a short while ago, during her college years at Kent State University. During that time, Jada spent a few weeks overseas learning about business development and creating a business plan. She was encouraged to pursue her personal interests (fashion, music, and mixed media expression) as a starting point for her would-be company. She spent a few years traveling & networking with potential colleagues and celebrities, promoting her clothing line through friends and underground artists, and finding new independent performers to promote.
Jada has now turned her attention to marketing & branding for up-and-coming artists (e.g., Cleveland’s own singer/rapper, Aphiniti), as well as providing a platform for her own spoken word performances. You see, Jada is all about individuality, artistic expression, and entrepreneurship, both for herself and others; hence the company’s name, The INDI Group (an acronym for individuality and independence). Her branding slogan is “Inspiring the uninspired.” You can follow Jada and learn more about her company on Instagram @indi.musicgroup, or @indi.media, Facebook (facebook.com/theindigroup), or on the company website, www.theindigroup.com.
Another millennial who’s making moves and changing the landscape in Cleveland is 28-year-old Alexandria “Lexy” Lattimore. Lexy is a self-titled “community practices social worker” and the director of Hood Ballets, a creative arts/community engagement organization. She’s also one of its dancers. What is community engagement you ask? Well, it is the process of working collaboratively with groups of people who are affiliated by geographic area or special interest to address issues affecting the well-being of those groups. In the case of Hood Ballets, they tackle traumatic issues such as police brutality, urban blight, and/or systemic oppression.
To hear Lexy speak of it, her enterprise acts as an information/communications bridge for the people of a community. Hood Ballets helps them deal with sudden or ongoing tragedies occurring in their district. It also helps residents learn of development measures being considered for their neighborhood. Citizens are also able to influence & share cultural & creative visions for their community. Lexy says her goal is to utilize unique & artistic, community-building methods to stimulate change and help folks “build the healthy and inclusive community that they deserve!”
Lexy is a multi-disciplined dancer. She has performed in shows from Karamu to Cleveland Public Theatre, from Philly to Sydney, and from North Carolina to Cuba. “I was a very serious child, creating full-length ballets [with & for neighbors and family] when I was very young. I learned [from my parents and my church family] about the power and importance of community very early.” While currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Social Administration at Case Western, Lexy’s most recent work also has her writing and researching community trauma, resilience & healing. It has taken her into the Hough-Euclid neighborhoods between E. 55th & E.90th St, where redlining, negligence, and other systemic injustices have taken a toll. Lexy says that despite it all, people are “working to improve their neighborhoods, but they are doing so without all of the tools they need and deserve.” So she’s hoping that her work through Hood Ballets will help.
Favorite Lexy quotes? “I really believe in the power of the Arts. I really believe in the power of people!” and “Do your best. Push through fear. Heal through the pain. Prioritize love.” To learn more about Lexy Lattimore and Hood Ballets, follow her on Instagram @lexyonpointe, Facebook (facebook.com/lexy.lattimore), or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And finally, one man brings fresh meaning to the phrase, “my brother’s keeper.” His name is Julian Khan. Julian is a very down-to-earth guy who’s all about putting the “neighbor” back into the neighborhood! In an interview this year with podcaster Jay Working, he said, “We need community,” and he’s doing all he can to help make it happen. You might say Julian wears his heart on his sleeve — his heart for people. It’s a principle he says his mom drilled into him. “You have to love the people in order to serve the people.” And he tries to show his love & service in everything he says and does, including several endeavors he started recently.
With the help of Neighborhood Connections, he’s spearheaded Good News CLE, a podcast that collects & captures “feel good” local news stories throughout the neighborhoods of metro Cleveland. He’s also working with a few mask initiatives to get functional protective equipment (PPE) to those who need it most during this pandemic, the immune-compromised and elderly. Also, he launched a hyper-local community newspaper called A Greater Buckeye, to make sure the residents of his beloved Buckeye area “are in control of our own narrative.”
A regular activity that Julian began in 2017 is the Buckeye Summer Soul Series. It’s a string of summertime street fairs & block parties. He uses them to cultivate a sense of community among residents, neighborhood businesses & organizations, and other stakeholders in the Buckeye and Shaker Square areas. Julian says, “We create our own realities, and if we can create a space to bring those realities to the table, and then move away from that table with a collective action [plan], we can change everything!” Oh, and did I mention that on top of all this community service, Julian also owns and operates a screen-print T-shirt shop called Cleveland Over Everything ?
Julian says, “I always think about being on the right side of history. And if I can produce some change, whatever it may be, I’m always looking to do that. I like problem-solving and thinking creatively.” If you want to accomplish a particular community endeavor or have ideas you want to share, or even if you just want to make use of his network connections, touch base with Julian on Instagram @juliankhan, or FaceBook (facebook.com/julian.khan).