On April 25th, 1650 people of faith, including seven members of Holy Trinity, met at the Celeste Center on the Ohio State Fairgrounds for the B.R.E.A.D. (Building Responsibility, Equality, And Dignity) Organization’s Nehemiah Action meeting. The B.R.E.A.D. Organization is composed of 44 central Ohio congregations of various faiths, and it includes five Lutheran congregations. At the annual Nehemiah meeting, B.R.E.A.D. confronts serious community problems important to its member congregations by asking public officials with power to solve these problems to commit to B.R.E.A.D.‘s proven solutions.
Achieving a solution is challenging and often takes years of research and negotiating. B.R.E.A.D. works with experts to understand the problem and identify evidence-based solutions, and then negotiates with the officials to address their concerns. The Nehemiah is important because B.R.E.A.D. leaders ask the officials to commit publically to implement the B.R.E.A.D. proposals. Because the officials make their commitments in public, they can be held accountable.
At this year’s Nehemiah, B.R.E.A.D. celebrated progress by the City of Columbus’ adoption of three B.R.E.A.D. issues: Columbus Violence Reduction Initiative (CRVI), an Elder Care program, and an environmental issue. B.R.E.A.D. has worked on these issues for several years and officials were diligent in following through on their commitments. The B.R.E.A.D. community rejoices in these results.
B.R.E.A.D. was also successful this year in having Jennifer Adair, President of the Columbus Board of Education, respond positively to the issue of implementing Restorative Practices in Columbus City Schools. “Restorative practices is a field within the social sciences that studies how to strengthen relationships between individuals as well as social connections within communities (www.iirp.edu).” In particular, research shows restorative practices help effectively address conflicts among students and others by working to make the victim whole and relationships restored.
Other issues on the agenda concerned affordable housing, municipal identification, police-community relations, and an Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) program.
- The affordable housing issue addresses the needs of those spending over half of their income on housing and making less than ½ of the median income in central Ohio.
- Not having an identification card is a problem for about 80,000 people in central Ohio and a municipal identification will allow access to banking, libraries, food pantries, visitation at schools, local government buildings, and emergency housing.
- Relationships between the Black community and Columbus police are tense and B.R.E.A.D. is advocating for a formal reconciliation program between the community and police.
- The ABLE program is aimed at teaching skills for police officers to act when they see other officers, including superiors, making egregious errors.
B.R.E.A.D. has identified solutions for problems underlying these issues, but at this time, no public official will commit to B.R.E.A.D.’s solution. B.R.E.A.D. research committees will continue to work with the appropriate public officials so that these serious community problems can be addressed.
If you are interested in knowing more or becoming involved in the work of the B.R.E.A.D. Organization, please contact Dave Kriska, Sharon Hamersley or Benson Ross.