City of Cleveland Planning Commission
Freddy L. Collier Jr. was born in Cleveland, raised up in Cleveland, college-educated in Cleveland, and is now reinventing the city that he loves. Like many children from urban communities, Freddy faced adversity from birth. “When you’re growing up in an urban environment (one) faces a lot of challenges. Something is always tugging at you,” he says. Gangs, drugs, and unhealthy relationships are realities that debut far too early in a Cleveland kid’s life.
Around the age of nineteen, the tragic passing of a friend deeply saddened Freddy, and was the first time he saw a stark connection between a person’s environment and their
well-being. Today, he is the Director of Cleveland City Planning Commission, creating a healthier urban environment for generations to come.
“Often times when we talk about health, we put it on the individual, ‘You need to exercise more... you need to eat better,’ but the disparity issue starts to illuminate the fact that the choices we make are shaped by the choices we have,” explains Collier. He says that disparities are the differences in health outcomes across jurisdictions. “Some neighborhoods have opportunity structures within them that promote individual health. On the other end of the spectrum you have the opposite; where disinvestment negatively impacts the health prospects of individuals.” For people to thrive, they must have places to live, work, play, learn, and worship that are well-connected, safe, and aesthetically pleasing. Community gardens, green spaces, and agricultural initiatives are being incorporated into the fabric of Collier’s Cleveland. Citizens have the opportunity to make healthy choices and to be more resilient against economic instability. As urban systems and lifestyles evolve, Collier stresses that “we need to take what we know and zero in on our kids... because that is how you begin to shape society beyond yourself.”