Three thoughts after BREAD Nehemiah Action

Last evening around 60 CMCers joined 1600+ folks at the BREAD Nehemiah Action at the Celeste Center.  It’s the climax of BREAD’s annual cycle of organizing around solutions to problems facing folks in Franklin County.  Here are three things I’m chewing on the morning after….

+ One of the opening reflections was given by Rabbi Alex Braver of Congregation Tifereth Israel.  He referenced BREAD’s framing biblical story of the Exodus, with Pharaoh representing the entrenched forces that set themselves against justice, and BREAD congregations representing the plague of the gnats – individually small but powerful when we swarm.  To this he added a reference to the plague of darkness, which Exodus says prevented the Egyptians from seeing one another.  Rabbinical commentary notes that the true curse wasn’t the darkness but the Egyptians’ inability to see others – as fully human.  Rabbi Braver invited us to escape the plague of darkness by seeing the worth in everyone and advocating for public policy that reflects this.

+ One of the moments that didn’t sit quite right with me was during the affordable housing portion.  The speaker asked people to stand for various reasons to demonstrate how unaffordable housing affects us all.  One of the calls to stand was whether you know a young adult still living with their parents or have a young adult living in your house because of the challenge of affording a place of their own.  While I understand this as an indicator of housing cost, I’m increasingly convinced that we have bought into the wrong story of what makes for a successful adulthood – mainly, starting your own nuclear family on your own piece of property.  Supporting and celebrating multi-generational households and chosen families, and altering our zoning laws to allow for construction that aids this arrangement, seems like a step that would address multiple social ills at the same time.

+  A highlight of the evening was the topic of restorative practices.  A member of Church of Christ at Genessee Avenue gave a powerful testimony about how he had acquired a reputation as a turnaround principal.  Through his leadership, schools in South Chicago and Indiana went from failing to excelling, primarily due to his implementation of restorative practice.  These include greatly limiting expulsions and suspensions and having students work through root causes of their anger and conflict with others, assuring victims have a voice and control in what would restore their sense of safety.  Columbus City Schools Board President Jennifer Adair then made a series of commitments from the stage about prioritizing training for restorative practices in Columbus City Schools, including hiring a supportive superintendent.  This has been a multi-year effort of BREAD and it’s encouraging to see officials catch the vision.

BREAD rises.


Sunday’s sermon, Wisdom is a Tree of Life and a Nurse Log, is posted HERE.