Cleveland: Group posts billboard message on youth

CLEVELAND -- An inner city organization of young men, the Distinguished Gentlemen of Spoken Word, wants Clevelanders to judge youth by their actions, not their appearances.

They have posted abillboard at E. 74th Street and Cedar Avenue, in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin.

"The billboard shows us in our hoodies and how we appear in everyday life," said Avery Swanson, a group member.

"Our members live a positive life and give back to our neighborhoods through poetry and performance art. Are we suspects too? Will the same fate happen to us?"

The Distinguished Gentlemen of Spoken Word is a performance poetry and arts troupe, giving young, at-risk males an outlet to creatively express themselves and give back to the community through creative means.

Distinguished Gentlemen paid for the billboard from proceeds of their performances, music and book sales. The group volunteers their time and talents on a weekly basis at nursing homes, hospitals, churches and other community organizations.

"These young men are a testament to the youth in our community who are working hard to improve their lives and give back," said TJ Dow, Cleveland City Councilman for Ward 7.

"They prove that society cannot judge an individual's character based on their appearance. I commend them for the positive impact they have in my community and beyond in light of the shooting of Trayvon Martin."


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