For the third time in the past year, Browns players and prominent members of Cleveland's Safety Forces came together Tuesday for a productive session of open dialogue with youths at the Cleveland Browns' Third Neighborhood Equality and Unity Summit.
Twenty-six youths from Cleveland's Cudell, Halloran, Gunning, Estebrook, Clark and Michael J. Zone Rec Centers gathered at Gunning Rec Center for panel and roundtable discussions that hit on a variety of topics regarding social justice – social equality, police and youth interaction, neighborhood dynamics and youth leadership. The summits are designed to facilitate broader, meaningful dialogue in the City of Cleveland between Browns players, local youth, police officers and other first responders in the city.
"The importance of this is it shows we're all one community," said Calvin D. Williams, Cleveland's Chief of Police. "Whether you're a Browns player that's from another state and now you're playing here in Cleveland; whether you're a kid from one of our recreation centers on the East side or West side or whether you're a police officer that's been here five years or 20 years, we're all here in one community.
"Until we realize that and come together to talk about issues, we'll continue to have problems. But this is a step in the right direction to make sure we talk about issues as a community."
Tight end Seth DeValve, wide receiver Derrick Willies, kicker Greg Joseph, offensive lineman Earl Watford and wide receiver Ricardo Louis joined 19 police officers and representatives from Fire & EMS of the First District, N.I.C.E, Public Education, Community Engagement units and the Hispanic Police Association.
DeValve has been a central figure in all of these summits. Speaking with a bit of a younger crowd than the previous two, the third-year tight end recalled one particular moment that put everyone on a common ground.
"Somebody asked what you loved about Cleveland and everyone got to answer," DeValve said. "It gave everyone a reminder of how thankful we are for Cleveland and how good our communities are even though there are some blemishes here and there. We want to make them as good as possible. Cleveland is a great home for so many people."
In early May, the Browns held something of a town hall at the team's Berea headquarters to show their players various paths toward affecting social change. Last October, they helped host the first Neighborhood Equality and Unity Summit at Cleveland State and did the same this past May at FirstEnergy Stadium, again bringing together Browns players, police officers, community leaders and CMSD students.
There are no plans on stopping these sessions, which Williams called a "unique" aspect in the strong relationship between the city of Cleveland and the Browns.
"I talk to other police chiefs around the country that have NFL teams," Williams said. "They're trying to do similar things, but I don't think they're to the extent we are as far as having that great partnership with our NFL team, our safety forces and trying to bring our community together."