The LAND: Inside the Streets of the Cleveland Ghetto
The Land made popular by LeBron James’ run as the star of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the legendary hip-hop group of Bone Thugs N Harmony, but Cleveland East Side is the true heart of the city.
Before we get into the story of the streets of the East Side, a quick lesson on the city’s black history will help give more insight on how the city became in its current condition.
As black southerners relocated to Ohio’s most northern city, many moved into the already existing black community of the Central neighborhood, which at the time was between E. 30th and E. 55th around Central Avenue.
With the hope that Ohio and Cleveland would bring them better living conditions than the south the black population of Cleveland constantly increased, which in turn helped the city’s African-Americans establish new communities in other East Side neighborhoods outside of Central.
The black population within the Central community had probably been around since the late 1800s, but as more and more southern African-Americans moved up north into Ohio the neighborhood grew and expanded further east.
Nearby areas like Hough and Fairfax, which neighbors the Central area by being just east of 71st, eventually became predominantly black communities as well as other sections of the Cleveland East Side.
Outside of the Hough neighborhood and the Fairfax community, there were also small black sections in the Mt. Pleasant area, around 79th and Kinsman, and in an old area once known as Miles Heights, which was located near Miles and South Lee.
Fast forwarding into the 1970s, the entire East Side, east of 55th, became the predominant home of Cleveland’s black population, with exceptions to certain sections of the city’s West Side.
Currently, with less and less housing as vacant properties on the East Side are widespread, the East Side is slowly losing its population as years of decline have led people to move into the suburbs of Cuyahoga County like Cleveland Heights, Maple Heights or even South Euclid.
Despite the movement into the East Side’s suburbs, the East Side of Cleveland is still the heart of the city as the side is divided into multiple sections of Down Tha Way, Out Tha Way, In Tha Way, Up Tha Way and East Cleveland.
DTW (Down tha way)
The Down Tha Way area is home to the historic community of Central, which transformed by the 1960s as the community became strictly bounded by the majority of Cleveland’s housing projects.
Starting in the 1930s and 1940s, the city created the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority which would later build its first public housing complexes, the Outwaite Homes and Cedar Estates in the Central neighborhood.
Following Outwaite and the Cedar Estates, Down Tha Way became home to the Longwood, Friendly Inn (Unwin), King Kennedy, and later Delaney Village housing complexes, which made it the most populated area in the city of Cleveland.
With so many separate ‘hoods like 30th of the Cedar Estates or Case Court and the Compound of Outwaite along with old school gangs of the Brick City Outlaws and the King Kennedy Outlaws, Down Tha Way is Cleveland’s most reputable area.
ITW (In Tha Way)
The smallest section of the East Side is In Tha Way, an area of two notorious neighborhoods of the Garden Valley and the Morris Black projects as well as neighborhoods around Cedar Avenue, from 71st to 105th, Quincy Avenue, from 79th to 93rd, Broadway, and Fleet Avenue.
With Cedar’s and Quincy’s close location to the Cleveland Clinic, as the communities are in the Fairfax neighborhood, the area is slowly disappearing within the black community as the expansion of 105th street and the constant construction of new Cleveland Clinic buildings is pushing the people out of the area.
Garden Valley, which was the former home to the Valley Brick Outlaws, was one of the first housing projects in Cleveland to be torn down during the 2010s as the community has been newly rebuilt leaving a smaller complex of Rainbow Terrace to represent the old ‘hood.
UTW (Up Tha Way)
Up Tha Way, which can also be referred as Uptown or the South Side, is a well-known section of the city with people living along Kinsman or Harvard as many families have had generations of relatives living “Up Tha Way”, especially in the Mt. Pleasant community.
Along the route of Cleveland’s RTA’s number 14 bus is a view of the South Side’s most reputable area, Kinsman, with ‘hoods like Kinsman 20s, Kinsman 30s and the Kinsman 40s, which represents the separate sections of Kinsman between 116th and 149th.
Cleveland gangs have always been part of the community of the East Side, from the days of the Brick City Outlaws and the Dynamite Devils to the arrival of the Vice Lords in areas like 131st or the rise of the Kinsman County Crips.
Another large area of the South Side is 116th, home to John Adams High School this section is probably Up Tha Way’s most populated area with blocks from Benham to Lenacrave, an area that has constantly made the local media.
With Miles Ave, Buckeye Road, 102nd City off 93rd, and the multiple ‘hoods of Harvard like the Deli and J Park, Up Tha Way is the East Side’s largest area by expanding from 93rd street to 190th.
OTW (Out tha way)
As the black community of Cleveland was expanding during the 1950s and 1960s, African-Americans eventually began to reside in the Hough and Glenville neighborhoods.
During a time of racial tension, these two neighborhoods would later gain national attention during the 1960s for the “Glenville Shootout” and the “Hough Riots”, as people began revolting against their mistreatment within the local black community.
The Hough and Glenville neighborhoods went from being ground zero in the city’s civil rights movements to being ground zero in the streets of northeast Cleveland.
The Hough area built a reputation with the help of ‘hoods like Hough Harlem, Hough Heights, once known as Water World, Wade Park, one of the first Vice Lord ‘hoods in the city, and Zone 8, which is expands from 79th to Ansel along Superior.
The Glenville community is divided between 105th, also known as the 10-5, and the area along St. Clair Avenue from East Blvd. to Lakeview with areas like 93rd, 108th and the old ‘hoods of the Wasteland and the vacant housing project of 88th.
The home of the legendary rap group Bone Thugs N Harmony, “Out Tha Way” has numerous neighborhoods along St. Clair Avenue and Superior Avenue like Zone 6 around 65th, 7 All around 79th, 117th of Eddy Road, Coit Road, and many more.
E.C. (East Cleveland)
From blocks along Euclid to blocks around Shaw and Hayden, East Cleveland has built one of Ohio’s fiercest reputations with ‘hoods like Foothill, Brightwood, Valley Low, Knowles and others.
Just east of the East Side is the small city of East Cleveland, a city of a population less than 20,000 that has s poverty rate of almost 50% and an average income of $15,000 in one of America’s most impoverish and corrupted city.
What was once one of Ohio’s most thriving cities as the famous business family of the Rockefellers invested in the community and Euclid Avenue was referred as “Millionaire’s Row”, changed by the 1970s as all the city’s white families left during previous decades.
Today, a trip through the East Cleveland ghetto would resemblance a third world country as crime, poverty and corruption with the local police department and public officials has had the city to develop its own status within the Cleveland region.
While it can be debatable about what section of the East Side is the largest and has the biggest reputation within the streets of Cleveland, but what is not debatable is that all areas contribute to the East Side being the heart of the Land.
*Note: All information is provided either through people of the community, outside sources, and/or research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.