This story is part of “Asian in Ohio,” an interactive gallery exploring the landscape of Ohio and the Asian and Asian American individuals who call it home through narratives, data, mapping and film.
Gabriel Kramer is an Ohioan, through and through.
He entered into this world at a hospital in Medina — the same one as his father. He walked the stage at Medina High School — the same as his grandfather. Three generations here in the Buckeye state, and yet, he still found himself searching for ways to fit in while growing up— ways that sometimes required him to neglect parts of his mixed-race identity.
“I’m American. That’s the noun. Filipino. That’s the adjective. But I couldn’t quite get that across to the white kids at my school,” Kramer said. “They just know that you’re different. They just know that you don’t really look like everyone else.”
So, like many Asian American kids coming of age in Ohio, he turned to assimilation as a survival strategy.
“All of a sudden, you’re in your 20s. And you’re like, man, you don’t have that community outside of the family,” he said.
Now a broadcast journalist at Cleveland’s local NPR station, Ideastream Public Media, he’s dedicating his career to telling the stories that go unheard and covering the communities that go unseen. In 2022, for example, he covered on-screen diversity by featuring a new children’s TV series about Filipino siblings.
“[When you look at] the people who make the decisions about what gets displayed in the media, there’s a lack of diversity,” Kramer said. “There’s not enough Asian Americans. There’s not enough Black Americans or not enough Latino Americans. That can really have an effect on what gets put out there. And as best as I can, I want to change that.”
For years now, he’s been on the ground, developing connections and relationships with the community that allow him to pursue and tell these stories with integrity.
“Now that I’m in this field, I can continue to keep tabs with the community leaders in AsiaTown and continue to tell stories of what’s happening there,” Kramer said. “It’s something that Cleveland needs – and not just in that neighborhood in Cleveland. That extends to all AAPI and minority communities all over the region.”
In part, Kramer credits his venture into journalism to his mother’s support for his love for writing, meeting new people and storytelling — all qualities that naturally pointed to his future in the industry.
“I’m really lucky that my mom was willing to let me explore my passions, even if that meant being creative,” Kramer said. “I’m sure my parents would have loved it if I was a nurse, or a doctor or a lawyer or whatever career path could have made me lots of lots of money. But I felt passionate about writing. I felt passionate about connecting with people.”
Today, the sense of responsibility and care he directs toward his community-based work also comes from the hard work his parents put into raising him and his siblings. In particular, carries his mother’s own immigration journey.
In the ‘80s, she moved from the Philippines to Seattle, then Ohio, where she married his father. To support her family, she worked odd hours at a candle factory for nearly 30 years. He carries her story as a source of pride, fuel for all the community-centric work he does.
“She didn’t have the privilege to be able to join Asian American organizations and preserve culture and preserve our history,” Kramer said. “I have that. I want to take advantage of that while I can. … And it would be a real shame if we let go of our traditions and our culture. I don’t want to lose that. I won’t lose that part of my life. I’m a proud Filipino American, and I want to be able to cherish that and hold it forever.”
Kramer often thinks about moving to a different part of the country where the Asian American population is greater, where he can help serve bigger communities. Yet he finds himself grounded by the people, the voices and the stories to be told right here in Ohio.
“I think long term, Cleveland is the place for me. Cleveland is a city that really can be great in a lot of ways, and Cleveland can be a place that deserves all the diversity that it can get,” Kramer said. “There’s no reason why we can’t have more people of color here in the city thriving. And I hope it becomes that place. I’d like to do what I can to help it become that place. And I think through storytelling and journalism, and fighting for that representation, I think that can go hand in hand in a lot of ways.
You can read a selected transcript from Gabriel Kramer’s interview here and explore other stories from this series here.“Asian in Ohio” is supported in part by Ohio Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Equity & Access Initiative Fund of the Greater Toledo Community Foundation.