By Morgan Miles, staff writer
As a part of its social mission and commitment to faith-driven anti-racism conversations, Bellarmine Chapel hosted a virtual event called Across the Color Line with Mark Curnutte
Curnutte discussed his 2019 book Across the Color Line: Reporting 25 Years in Black Cincinnati. This is a compilation of newspaper stories he’s written while covering African American social issues in Cincinnati.
Using the book to frame the event, Curnutte began by reading from the prologue.
A multitude of historical events were mentioned. Some examples include in 1804,when Ohio enacted an anti-immigration law to regulate the population of Black people and in 1995, when a coalition led by the Cincinnati NAACP wanted police officers who killed Black students to be held accountable.
“In my work, I served as a conduit,” Curnutte explained, “I went into communities where the media often did not go. I went not only in times of crisis… I went and captured daily life.”
Capturing diversity was Curnutte’s goal when he immersed himself in each Black community.
Recalling those Black communities, Curnutte said, “(I was often) the only White person. I was given great hospitality and welcome… African Americans do not receive that welcome in predominantly White communities.”
In his discussion, Curnutte mentioned how he scoffs at the idea he’s given a voice to the voiceless or is doing social work for communities on which he reported. He believes instead that he’s gained a deeper understanding of privilage and oppression.
“The voices you hear in the book… they aren’t my words, they’re the words of very strong people,” Curnutte said.
After the prologue, Curnutte quoted a few stories from his book. Joann Burton’s funeral, for example, is a story of injustice where a homeless woman was killed by a police cruiser in 2010.
Another example was about Nicole Taylor, a woman who attended a protest with her 5-year-old and realized, the he will be looked at in fear because he’s Black.
Through the 1990s, Curnutte was coming of age as a White reporter and discovered an interest in social justice advocacy.
Today, Curnutte feels very fortunate that the Cincinnati Enquirer saw value in his work.
His focus was not only in the Black community, but was also expanded to indigenous Central American, Asian and African refugees and the LGBT+ community.
“Just by being there so much, I picked up that those communities are not monolithic, and I realized the diversity. Every person was different, and every person had a story,” Curnutte said.
Near the end of the Zoom meeting, Curnutte responded to questions. One guest asked Curnutte where the faith community has stood up and where it hasn’t.
“The Christian church has really failed to capitalize on the shared faith of Blacks and Whites in this country. Not only has it failed to capitalize it… it’s participated in the justification of enslavement… and continues to support a White nationalistic political party, and its forebearer, Mr. Trump,” Curnutte responded.
Across the Color Line: Reporting 25 Years in Black Cincinnati is available to buy on ucincinnatipress.uc.edu.
The conversation was also recorded and uploaded to the Bellarmine Chapel’s YouTube channel.