Rev. Al Sharpton Heads Rally in Cleveland to Demand Transparency of Taxpayer Dollars Toward Construction of New Sherwin-Williams Global Headquarters
Renowned Civil Rights Leader Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the New York-based National Action Network, will co-lead a rally outside the Cleveland City Hall, at 601 Lakeside Ave. E., in Cleveland, on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, where Black contractors and community leaders will call on the mayor and city council to withhold tax dollars that have been earmarked for the construction of The Sherwin-Williams Company’s new global headquarters.
The economic justice rally, where the participants will also call on Sherwin-Williams to name a Black-owned firm as a key partner in the project, begins at 11:00 a.m. ET.
“We are calling on Mayor Justin Bibb and the city council to withhold all funds earmarked for The Sherwin-Williams project,” Rev. Sharpton said.
“We want a forensic report to show the public how the money has been spent. Tax dollars spent on Sherwin-Williams should benefit all citizens of Cleveland. We want economic parity. We want our elected officials to take action to end poverty and close the wealth gaps. Cleveland is 51 percent Black. Black people cannot be on the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to making profits on this project.”
With his visit to Cleveland next week, Rev. Sharpton becomes the latest of several legendary civil rights leaders joining the campaign for economic parity in Cleveland. He follows Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., president and CEO of the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the organization co-founded and first led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Martin King III, the eldest son of Dr. King, former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, who was a close aide to Dr. King, and Civil Rights Icon Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., who heads the Rainbow PUSH Coalition in Chicago. Rev. Jackson, who also worked closely with Dr. King, visited Cleveland in July to meet with Black leaders who were divided over approaches for addressing diversity, equity and inclusion surrounding the project.
All of the leaders have appealed to Sherwin-Williams to settle a dispute between the Black Contractors Group of Cleveland (BCG), which is led by Mr. Norm Edwards and the SCLC’s Cleveland Chapter, which is led by Dr. Rev. E.T. Caviness.
This dispute began in September 2020 when the BCG and the Cleveland Chapter of the SCLC called on Sherwin-Williams to name an African American-owned firm as a key partner on the construction of the corporate tower, which will enhance the city’s skyline. At that time, the global paint and coating company, ranked 162 on the Fortune list of companies, announced nine partners to build its office complex and a research and development center in suburban Brecksville. All of the partners are white. In one of the nation’s poorest big cities, where the majority of residents are African American, the leaders say Sherwin-Williams’ failure to name a Black-owned firm as a key partner is unacceptable.
The BCG and the SCLC met with Sherwin-Williams. Both sides agreed upon a Black-owned firm that could be named a key partner, but talks stalled, and Sherwin-Williams has refused to return to the negotiating table. Since that disagreement, the SCLC and the BCG have held protests. They called in Dr. Steele from the national office of the SCLC to lead the campaign. Since the protests, Sherwin-Williams has awarded numerous contracts to minority-owned firms, but the company refuses to return to the negotiating table to name a Black-owned firm as a key partner, and that is why the protests continue and Rev. Sharpton has been called in to lend his support.
“This is great news for our movement and for all Black residents of this city,” Edwards said.
“Our national leaders understand what is at stake and that is why they are joining with us. We want our local leaders to follow their lead. This is the only way to end poverty and close the wealth gaps. The Sherwin-Williams project is the most vivid example of why these problems persist.”
Added Dr. Steele, “Business as usual is no longer acceptable. We want to see what the nine white partners are earning. Like Selma is to the right to vote, Cleveland will become the battleground for economic justice. With Rev. Sharpton joining our effort, we are sure this campaign will gain national momentum.”