“A Love for Humanity” — Maude Hill

“Know thyself. Keep true to your own ideals. Be not ashamed of what is homely and your own. Speak out and speak honestly. Be true to yourself and to the message God and Nature meant you to deliver.” -Anna Julia Cooper

Homeport is a premier low-income to moderate income service offered to the community for those seeking affordable housing.There are 5,700 residents in over 30 communities.Maude Hill is one of six VP’s who has demonstrated a passion for helping others obtain affordable, safe and stable housing in our Columbus, Ohio neighborhoods. Her passions for social justice, welfare rights, and housing rights have shaped her life’s gifts and talents and thousands of families have benefitted. She has quite a story to tell, and I have been privileged to sit with a woman who has fought for poor people’s rights to live freely while accessing resources in a country where growing freedoms are celebrated. I am grateful for the opportunity to meet with someone who has been a champion for citizens’ rights.

Maude Hill was born into the Cade family who “lived freely” during Alabama’s Jim Crow segregation era. She was born in Miringo County’s Thomaston, Alabama. It was in southwestern Alabama that her foundation was laid by richly blended cultures, which includes African, First Nations (Creek Indian), and European. Three layers of foundational upbringing included family, religion, and work in that order. She was taught the importance of the “Cade” family name which represents honest hard work and a pursuit of knowledge through education. These living standards were taught by her grandfather and instilled in her.

When she was a small child, Maude’s mother moved away to Florida to take care of a family and their offspring so that she could send money back to Alabama. The money she sent back was used to help care for the remaining children. Maude Hill grew up with four siblings who whom she later found out were biological cousins. Her aunt and grandfather were raising all the children together on a farm. She knew very little about her father.

Maude’s grandfather, born into slavery, was a farmer and an entrepreneur into the 1960’s. He had 28 acres of cotton, corn, green beans, potatoes, hogs, cows, and other livestock. They sold 100 gallons of milk a day to Sealtest Dairy Farms. The farm is where she learned good work ethics and academic rigor. Her grandfather would say to her, “Daughter, you better go up to that school and make mark.” Because 2 of her grandfather’s encouragement, Maude became an honor roll student. She was a master in history and spelling and took pride in her school work.

Her grandfather’s experiential knowledge of slavery, Jim Crow segregation, labor division and inequalities taught him to value human rights. She remembers her grandfather’s instructions to others as people in the south would seek him out for advice. Most came to him if they experienced labor and wage injustices. He would explain to the people how to go about challenging the powers that be.

Maude Hill moved to Cleveland, Ohio to help take care of her cousin’s children. In 1965 she was a welfare rights organizer and met Baxter Hill who was a Civil Rights activist. Maude expressed that living within her grandfather’s house and moving into a marriage house with Baxter was an easy transition with strong parallels. Human rights beliefs taught by her grandfather flowed smoothly into Baxter’s household whose family believed in Civil Rights. Together, they brought 11 children into their relationship. Maude brought six of her own children. Baxter brought four. And together they adopted one neighborhood child.

During this time of marriage and raising children, Maude was fully engaged in the National Welfare Rights Movement and reported being involved in aggressive tactics, such as setting a coffin on fire on state lawn. Although aggressive protesting caused subsequent arrests, the movement received the help of Legal Aid Society. The protesters were taught how to engage in “careful looking” both before and after each of them was taken into custody. This served the purpose of watching out for bruises, broken bones, and other kinds of injuries that were regularly inflicted upon them by police.

It wasn’t just the police that they had to look out for though. Baxter Hill’s car got shot up. In the process of trying to clean up the sex trade industry in Cleveland, Ohio he was into busting “Johns” who often paid the police to let them go. So instead activists took pictures of these “Johns” and pimps inaction along with their car make and model, license plate numbers and sent photos to their wives.The pimps and “Johns” would become angry and fired shots into his vehicle.

What led Maude to become a welfare rights organizer was a strong belief that she and other organized activists could make a difference. Accessing state welfare resources is a social justice issue. It means knowing that resources can be made available when scarcity is felt. Maude helped to shed light on the fact that accessing relief can actually help a person learn better as they navigate life’s challenges.

Maude and Baxter took pride in Caucus organizing in Southeast and Northwest Cleveland, Ohio. Their efforts were well-organized and effective. Their most successful strategy involved strong communication. They led effective boycotts that helped African Americans gain access to owning food franchises. Organized efforts were effective at closing down a food franchise. Protests focused on policies that excluded African Americans from commercial buying power.

U.S. human rights activists believe that they can change things and create a better America. The philosophy for a “better America” consisted of gaining knowledge of rights and accessing them without threat or danger. This philosophical belief standard is what fuels her work in the housing industry.

Although Maude agrees that one can never forget their roots, she also believes that in order to continue to make change, one has to work within the system and learn how systems are structured, how information is disseminated and resources are allocated. With a chuckle and smile, she said that the people in the movement “removed their dashikis and put on three piece suits.”

Maude began her 25 year career at Homeport as a Family Development Specialist. She considered the approach to family housing as holistic. The program was designed to assist community members to grow out of poverty. Through her experiences and knowledge base, she was able to assist families who might have been apprehensive about signing up for low-income housing and other income based social programs. Her experiences in life taught her how to reach out with empathy and authentic caring.

As the Director of Operations, her job consisted of improving overall production. She collaborated and built relationships with neighborhood policy developers who did not want to see poverty or impoverished people living in their neighborhoods. Maude Hill is a kind educator who helps our communities better understand that gaining access to well-maintained shelter is a basic human need. Those who qualify should be able to gain access to appropriate housing without feeling the stigma or shunning from their neighbors. She dares to challenge people to raise their level of compassion and empathy toward other human beings. Homeport, as a leading provider of low to moderate income housing to Columbus residents, set out to improve workmanship of properties. Homeport is working to establish well-connected relationships with organized groups such as Near East Side Area Commission. Relationships are being developed in order to increase understanding of who lives in affordable housing. There is a “North of Broad” Revitalization happening as a result of combined city-wide policy efforts.

Homeport offers a social service component to residents, such as after school homework help where children can access computers and internet service. Residents can also work on resume writing skills. There are social workers assigned to neighborhood communities that help to assess the needs of residents. Also existing are summer programs where children are assisted with maintaining what they learned so that learning would not be lost during summer months.

As VP of Community Relations, Maude Hill has strong influence over funding policies, i.e. HUD certified counseling policies. She is a leader and advocate for low and moderate income housing resources. She believes that when housing is stabilized, people learn and grow better while living happier and more productive lives.

Maude expressed that it is her God-given talents that energize and direct her work. She believes that passion and work go hand in hand. She holds firm that her work passion is destined. She believes that in work, romance can be found. And for her, a better America is a romantic notion.

For instance, “Voice and Vision” is a funded social program that helps to supply children with supplies needed for schooling and is helping children who come from bi-lingual families become more fluent in the English language. Maude believes that housing stability, access to food and nutrients, and employment leads to progressive learning and productive citizenship. Programs like these represent love being expressed toward others.

Maude has had “a 25 year romance with Homeport.” She has been able to live out a life-long dream. She states, “I live to come to work” because she knows that she is going to impact people, policies, and make significant changes in the lives of others. Her passion and love for humanity drives performance. Maude expressed a belief that in order for children to thrive and learn well, it is crucial that they experience their living environments as comfortable and nurturing. Her experiences in life have taught her how to reach out with empathy and authentic caring.

As mentor in the housing field, Maude Hill gives this advice:
• Be slow to judge and quick to help. Have compassion.
• Be diligent in your work and ensure that you have done everything you can do to truly help.
• Network in the community and always give back.
• Know who you are as you face your challenges.

Reverend Donald Bean- Cleveland, Ohio
I have known Maude Hill since the early 60’s. She and I worked together in the civil rights movement. We were both active in the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) that was led by Jim Farmer and Floyd Mckissick. I always found Maude to be a confident and caring person. She is like a sister to me. She has a strong sensitivity for helping people and she is an excellent mother to her children. I also knew her late husband, Baxter. He and I also worked together in the civil rights movement.
Maude is a professional with a no-nonsense attitude who knows how to get the job done. She also worked to get Mayor Carl Stokes, Congressman Louis Stokes, Governor Dick Celeste, Mayor Michael White and School Board Member Arnold Pinkney, elected to office.

Republished with permission from Columbus African American News Journal
Ray Miller, Founder & Publisher