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Basheer Jones: Bridging Communities and Inspiring Change
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"….you are looking at the what and not paying attention to the why..."
- Basheer Jones

Basheer Jones, a name synonymous with passion, activism, and community leadership, made history in November 2017 by becoming Cleveland’s first Muslim council representative. Representing Ward 7, which includes the vibrant Hough district and other diverse neighbourhoods, Basheer has dedicated his life to empowering others and effecting positive change.

From Activism to Advocacy: A Journey of Service

Basheer’s journey began in Brooklyn, New York, but it was in Cleveland where he found his calling. After graduating from Morehouse College with honours, he returned to Cleveland, becoming the youngest news talk radio show host at Radio One. His voice resonated far beyond the city, leading to interviews with prestigious publications like Time, JET, and Essence, as well as appearances on major news networks.

A Voice for Change

Basheer’s commitment to social change was further evidenced during the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, where he played pivotal roles in organizing rallies and voter registration drives. His dedication to service led him to publish his first book, “I’ll Speak for Change,” and establish The Basheer Jones Foundation, focusing on community development and youth empowerment.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Basheer Jones (@basheerj)

Empowering Communities, One Initiative at a Time

As a City Councilman, Basheer had a transformative impact. He revitalized Ward 7 with nearly $500 million in development projects, challenging the negative narratives that had plagued the area since the Hough Riots. Basheer’s initiatives, such as The Imani Food Distribution Center and Salaam Clinic, were pillars of support for residents, providing essential services and fostering a sense of unity.

Looking Ahead: A Legacy of Leadership

Today, Basheer’s commitment to service continues as the CEO of LIFE Development, a real estate company focused on economic empowerment for religious institutions and nonprofits. His accolades and recognition span the globe, but his greatest pride is in being a father and uncle to a large, loving family.

In Conversation with Basheer Jones

Q: What drives your passion for community service?

A: My upbringing instilled in me the value of giving back. I see each day as an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, no matter how small the act.

Q: What advice do you have for young activists and leaders?

A: Believe in the power of your voice. Change starts with one person, one idea. Never underestimate the impact you can have on your community.

Q: What legacy do you hope to leave behind?

A: I hope to be remembered as someone who inspired others to dream big and work hard. My ultimate goal is to leave a community that is stronger, more united, and filled with hope for the future.

Q: How do you balance your role as a community leader with your personal life and family commitments?

A: It’s all about prioritizing and time management. My family is my rock, and they understand the importance of my work. I make sure to carve out quality time for them while staying committed to serving my community.

Q: Can you share a pivotal moment or experience that influenced your decision to become a community leader and activist?

A: Growing up my mother, three siblings and I lived in the Salvation Army. Though we were homeless my mother would take us to feed other people experiencing homelessness. At a very young age, my mother made it clear that no matter how bad you think you have it someone has it worse. Our true success will come through our service!

Q: What’s your approach in the Be the Change Leadership Series?

A: My goal has always been to teach children that the Change they are looking for has and Always will be within them. Throughout the series, I talk about the qualities that it takes to be a leader and show them living examples from across cultures and history. 

Q: Can you share a powerful moment from your Campout Against Violence?

A: The violence was getting out of hand in my neighbourhood. The murders were coming back to back and the tears of mothers and children were becoming overwhelming. I decided to pitch a tent in the middle of the Warzone. I have never pitched a tent in my life lol! People stop by to check on me to drop off food and it actually became a safe space for us to discuss the ill of our community. Many lives were saved as a result of it.

Q: What motivated you to publish your first book, “I’ll Speak for Change,” and how has it been received? 

A: I’ll change with my first book it was so impactful for me and I hope it was impactful for those who have read it to book of my poetry and my thoughts, I pray that my book inspired others to be courageous enough to share their inner dialogues. You’ll be surprised how courageous acts will inspire others to be courageous.

Q:  What challenges did you face when running for City Council, and how did you overcome them?

A: I actually ran for city council twice. The first time I was fresh out of college, but even though I was from the community, I didn’t take the time to listen to the needs of the people and as a result, I lost the race by a lot, but when we take a L it’s doesn’t have to be losses, it can be lessons. The lesson that I learned that is that when you take care of the people, the people will take care of you.  

Q: How do you define success, and how do you measure it in your life?

A: My mother taught me that true success is completely dependent upon how much you serve. Service is my definition of success.

Q:  How do you stay connected to the community and remain authentic in your leadership?

A: I think staying connected to your community is the only way to remain authentic. Because they will remind you of where you come from they will remind you of how you got there and they will remind you what your purpose should be. I will go on to say that you could only be an authentic leader by remaining connected to the community in which you serve.

Q:  What lessons have you learned from your experiences as a councilman?

A: The lessons that I learned as a Councilman, the importance of patience, empathy, sincerity, caring, and love. Even though these people from this neighborhood didn’t vote for me they still deserve my service. Being a Councilman and being Muslim, I was constantly battling my own ego and pride, there is no greater battle but the battle of oneself. If you are going to be a leader, it can’t be based on how others treat you. It must be based upon your responsibility to serve them.

Q:  Looking back at your journey so far, what advice would you give to others who aspire to create social change and make a difference in their communities?

A: Best advice that I can give others is falling is a part of the journey. You can’t even bow down to God without falling down. falling is absolutely necessary. But getting up is your choice

Q:  How do you balance your various roles as a councilman, foundation leader, and speaker and their responsibilities?

A: Being balanced has been one of the challenges of my life. This is a journey that I am still travelling.

Basheer Jones is more than a councilman; he is a beacon of hope, a catalyst for change, and a testament to the power of passion. His journey inspires us to believe that, indeed, we can all “be the change that we want to see in the world.”

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