CLEVELAND, Ohio – Justin Bibb’s swearing-in ceremony as the 58th mayor of Cleveland on Saturday turned from a big business to an intimate one, thanks to the pandemic. But the scaled-down celebration still carried with it the pomp and circumstance of a city marking its next chapter.
Bibb, though legally mayor since Monday morning, took the oath of office at the downtown Cleveland public auditorium on Saturday afternoon, surrounded by a small crowd of around 60 of his family, senior officials cabinet and key supporters of its campaign and transition teams.
The 34-year-old’s inaugural address – broadcast live to the public, along with the rest of the ceremony – was Bibb’s commitment to working for a safer, fairer and healthier Cleveland, where residents have access to economic opportunities.
“We can be the Cleveland where young people return because there are good jobs, safe streets, good schools, good groceries, good health care. We don’t just have to dream of this Cleveland. We can and will work towards this goal every minute of every day, ”said Bibb, to applause from the crowd.
Now, the work to realize that vision is officially underway, Bibb said. He rallied the Clevelanders to get involved, speak out on their priorities and join him for this cause. “We walk into the highest office in town together,” Bibb said.
Like any mayor, Bibb said his administration would make progress and mistakes; he will make friends and enemies. But he said his goal was to move forward and “keep the promise of Cleveland’s future.”
This promise includes safer streets, where families are raised without fear of violent crime, Bibb said. The city needs to provide police officers with augmentations and better technology, while also holding them accountable and giving residents a greater voice in how policing is conducted.
“We can and we must do both,” the mayor said.
Bibb was joined on stage by his mother, Charlene Nichols, who held the Bible as her son recited the Oath of Office which was administered by the first black female Ohio Supreme Court Justice Melody Stewart.
Reverend Jawanza Colvin of the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church offered the opening invocation and Reverend Larry Howard of the Greater Friendship Church offered the closing blessing.
Kendall Skillern, a student from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, sang the national anthem. Local gospel singer Tina Farmer performed the song Lift Every Voice and Sing.
United States Representative Shontel Brown, in her remarks, named Bibb as the latest in a long tradition of Cleveland officials to “put the people of Cleveland first” – on civil rights, fighting for the poor and service with decency and integrity. His predecessors in this tradition, said Brown, include the late Mayor Carl Stokes, Congressman Louis Stokes, Congresswoman Stephanie Tubb Jones, current US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, and former mayors. George Voinovich, Jane Campbell and Frank Jackson.
The ceremony concluded with a slideshow of artwork and photographs, depicting scenes from Cleveland and striking portraits of Bibb, as well as residents young and old, of different races, backgrounds and communities.
Cuyahoga County Poet Laureate Honey Bell-Bey recited a poem specially written for Saturday’s event, describing Bibb and his rise to the mayor’s office as a living example of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream.
The poem, in part, said: “It was assumed that Martin Luther’s words knew there would be this day. The dream of living in a country where the streets of Cleveland are safe. The dream of living in a city where the main pandemic is not hatred. “
Bell-Bey said, “Martin wasn’t just saying ‘I have a dream today’. He was asking Justin ‘Will you carry a dream someday?'”