For 2019, the Statesboro Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, or One Boro for short, is planning several listening sessions for different locations in town, a multimedia documentary contest and then a Longest Table event for this fall.
“The long-term goals are to bring together diverse communities within Statesboro and work on goals to improve the quality of life for everyone in Statesboro,” said One Boro chair April M. Schueths, Ph.D.
For City Council during 2018, One Boro was the most contentious topic of the three commissions proposed by Mayor Jonathan McCollar and volunteers. While unanimously adopting the Works! Commission for workforce development and the Statesboro Youth Commission in October, City Council members delayed action on One Boro a second time, saying they wanted it to include more representation from Statesboro’s neighborhoods, particularly majority African-American council District 2.
But the council ultimately adopted the One Boro Commission on a 5-0 vote Nov. 20, and four nonvoting members have joined the panel, in addition to the eight voting members originally called for in the city ordinance. City Council voted Jan. 15 to confirm two of the nonvoting members, who were not previously listed.
The commission has met twice so far in 2019. Voting members at the Jan. 19 meeting unanimously elected their officers, including Schueths as chair, Saba Jallow as vice chair and Jacek Lubecki as secretary. Julie Pickens was unanimously named treasurer at the next meeting, with this being a provision for the future since the commission currently has no money, Schueths noted.
Community listening sessions are proposed to include each of Statesboro’s City Council districts, but some of the districts may be grouped together so that three such events could include all five districts, she said. Pastor Lisa Deloach of the City of David Worship Assembly has met with One Boro on the possibility of the first listening session being held at her church, which is in District 2 and operates a community food bank, Schueths said.
Other sessions may be held at a voting precinct, such as the Kiwanis Fairgrounds, and on the Georgia Southern campus, she said.
Meanwhile, planning is going forward for Statesboro’s Longest Table, proposed for October but with no announced date yet. Longest Table events, held in communities in various states and some other countries, feature a community meal and discussion. Folding tables are set up end-to-end to form one very long table.
“It’s this idea of bringing people together from diverse parts of the community who wouldn’t normally interact,” Schueths said, “and literally placing a table through Main Street downtown is what we plan on doing.”
A discussion guide would suggest questions or ideas to stimulate conversation.
One Boro members plan to hold a multi-media contest to showcase how individuals, faith communities, businesses, nonprofit organizations or other groups “are already affirming diversity, inclusion, and equity in Statesboro.”
The call for entries should go out by April or May and will include guidelines such as the maximum length of videos or similar presentations, she said.
Winning entries would be presented at the Longest Table.
With no city funding promised so far, members expect to do some fundraising or seek grants to support the Longest Table and other activities, Schueths said.
One Boro’s purposes resemble those of a longer-established local effort, the Beloved Community, launched by leaders of faith and volunteer organizations in 2015. In fact, three of the One Boro voting members are also members of the Beloved Community group, said its moderator, Stacy W. Smallwood, Ph.D.
Beloved Community is meant to facilitate events that “help to bring members of the Statesboro and Bulloch County community together across areas of difference,” he said.
But while the Beloved Community initiative “is focused more on grassroots community engagement,” Smallwood observed, One Boro is an official city commission, authorized to advise the mayor and council.
“The commission, I think, is different in that will it have the ability to make recommendations not only for community events and involvement but also to influence policy makers, to be able to inform them of initiatives that may help to promote diversity at a more structural level than what is the focus of the Beloved Community,” Smallwood said.
In late January, several One Boro Commission members attended a training session Smallwood led on “Facilitated Group Listening,” a technique Beloved Community has used to encourage open-minded and respectful discussion of topics where views differ.
The One Boro Commission now meets on the first and third Mondays of each month and will meet this Monday at 5:30 p.m. in the Joe Brannen Hall annex beside City Hall. All of the meetings are open the public. For people interested in input or involvement, the agency’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’re very open and want to hear what people have to say,” Schueths said.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.