Happy Wednesday!

๐Ÿ˜Ž Today's weather: Sunny all day! High near 82ยฐ.

๐Ÿฃ Sounds like: "Born This Way," by Lady Gaga

Today's newsletter is 944 words โ€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Ohio's first Black-led, free-standing birth center

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The nonprofit Birthing Beautiful Communities (BBC), Cleveland's only organization dedicated solely to improving birth outcomes for Black mothers and children, has launched its first-ever capital campaign with the goal of building a birthing center in Hough.

Why it matters: The funding will help pay for the construction of a $15 million facility in a historically redlined neighborhood that is nearly 90% Black and has an infant mortality rate far higher than the national average.

  • The center would become the only Black-led, free-standing birthing center in the state of Ohio, according to BBC's CEO Jazmin Long.

State of play: BBC, founded in 2014, serves about 600 families a year, offering both labor and postpartum support services. The organization's doulas help expectant mothers create birth plans and serve as a "support person, labor coach, instructor, peer counselor and peer advisor."

What they're saying: "Our doula program has proven to effectively address the poor birth outcomes that have plagued Black mothers, babies and families in Cleveland for far too long," Long said in a statement.

Details: The 10,000-square-foot center will include multiple birthing suites allowing patients to give birth on site, plus exam rooms and medical stations for both gynecological and mental health care.

  • Multipurpose open spaces will be used to host workshops and trainings for the community.

By the numbers: Fundraising has been kickstarted by three $1 million donations โ€” from the City of Cleveland's federal stimulus funds, the Cleveland Foundation and the Gund Foundation.

What's next: The goal is to begin construction of the Hough facility in autumn 2024, with operations to begin in 2025.

2. Maternal mortality highest for Ohio's Black women

Estimated maternal mortality rate in 2019, by state
Data: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation; Map: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

Nearly 60 Black women died in Ohio in 2019 for every 100,000 live births, a maternal mortality rate far in excess of every other ethnic group, according to a JAMA study that provides the first state-level breakdowns by ethnicity.

Driving the news: Ohio's total maternal mortality rate rose almost imperceptibly from 1999-2019, with 10.7 deaths per 100,000 lives births in 1999 and 10.8 in 2019.

  • Yes, but: The data fluctuated wildly during that span, with a low of 5.3 deaths in 2001 and a high of 29.7 in 2016.

Between the lines: While American Indians and Alaska Natives saw the largest percentage increase in Ohio's maternal deaths (from 2.6 in 1999 to 11.5 in 2019), Black women saw the highest totals, (29.3 in 1999 to 59.7 in 2019).

The big picture: Maternal mortality rates more than doubled in the U.S. between 1999 and 2019, with states in the Midwest and Great Plains accounting for significant increases along with the South, Axios' Oriana Gonzรกlez reports.

Details: Maternal mortality is defined as a death that takes place during birth or up to a year later.

  • Common causes include mental health conditions, hemorrhages, blood clots, high blood pressure and cardiac and coronary conditions.

3. The Terminal: Eyes and ears on local news

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

๐Ÿ‘‚As Cleveland expands its use of the controversial ShotSpotter technology, the City of Dayton did not renew its contract with the company. (Bolts)

  • Local law enforcement admitted it was "challenging" to prove its effectiveness.

๐Ÿ—ณ๏ธ A "surprisingly large" number of people are casting early in-person ballots for the Aug. 8 special election in Cuyahoga County, dwarfing totals in last year's May and August primaries. (Cleveland.com)

๐Ÿณ๏ธโ€๐ŸŒˆ Statehouse Republicans have introduced a bill that would ban drag performances in any location other than "adult cabaret" and proposes stiff penalties for performances that are deemed "obscene" in the presence of minors. (The Buckeye Flame)

๐ŸŽ Almost a third of the teaching staff in Garfield Heights have left the school district due to safety concerns and administrative mismanagement. (Ideastream)

4. โœ๏ธ Inkubator writing conference returns to Cleveland

Image: Courtesy of Literary Cleveland

One of the biggest free writing festivals in the country returns to Cleveland this September.

Why it matters: Organized by the nonprofit Literary Cleveland, the 2023 Inkubator Writing Conference will be the largest ever, held in conjunction with Cleveland Book Week and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards.

Details: Inkubator will include three days of virtual conversations with national authors Sept. 18-20 followed by a two-day in-person festival at the Cleveland Public Library.

  • As in years past, writing workshops, panel discussions, craft talks and a book fair are on the menu.

๐Ÿ’ญ Sam's thought bubble: If you're free at 3:30pm Sept. 22, come see the panel I'll be moderating on the local media landscape, featuring journalists from Signal Cleveland, The Land and The Buckeye Flame.

What's next: Registration opens Aug. 1.

5. ๐Ÿ€ Cavs are NBA Summer League champions

A ring's a ring. Photo: Louis Grasse/Getty Images

With a scrappy squad of G-leaguers, undrafted rookies and Evan Mobley's brother, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA's Summer League Championship.

Driving the news: The Cavs clobbered the Houston Rockets 99-78 on Monday night to win the Summer League crown.

  • Their final record in Las Vegas was 6-0.

Why it matters: The Cavs' future is bright. Summer League is the NBA's offseason showcase, featuring young and unproven players hoping to earn roster spots.

Details: The three players who have earned two-way contracts, which allow them to play for both the Cavs and their G-League affiliate, the Cleveland Charge, all meaningfully contributed.

  • Isaiah Mobley: Evan Mobley's older brother played on a two-way contract last year. He was named the championship MVP on Monday and looks ready for a full-time roster slot.
  • Emoni Bates: The Cavs' lone draft pick (No. 49 overall) was a highly touted high school prospect before an erratic college career. His scoring potential tantalizes every time he sets foot on the court.
  • Craig Porter Jr.: The undrafted do-everything guard from Wichita State is winning over the fan base in a hurry. He'll be earning NBA minutes before long.

The bottom line: With sharpshooters Max Strus and Georges Niang acquired in the offseason, plus this bounty of young talent, the Cavs are poised for another strong season.

Thanks to our editor Lindsey Erdody and copy editors Rob Reinalda and Yasmeen Altaji.

Our picks:

๐Ÿ˜… Sam is getting a real kick out of the "fake sweat" scandal in the Frank LaRose campaign announcement video.

๐Ÿ•ถ๏ธ Troy is back. What'd he miss?