On Monday evening about 50 CMC folks gathered with about 3000 others from around the city for the annual BREAD Nehemiah Action at the Celeste Center at the Fairgrounds. This was my first experience being a part of this gathering and so it was impressive to see this many folks turn out for a show of people power to address key justice issues in the county.
Along with broad interfaith cooperation, one of things I most appreciate about BREAD is how we choose a single area of focus each year and a specific way of addressing that issue locally. The three issues addressed at this gathering were public education, immigration, and mental health – the first two being follow ups from previous years. These are all huge issues, and so for each one research committees have chosen to address one particular solution.
For education, it was discovered that suspensions are a completely counter-productive way to deal with truancy. On Monday Columbus City Schools Superintendent Dan Good agreed that the school district would not issue any suspensions for truancy during the 2014-15 school year – the first time such a commitment has ever been made.
For immigration, BREAD is asking Franklin County to accept a form of Mexican identification for undocumented immigrants known as the Matricula Consular. This has no bearing on immigration status, but provides a form of official identification for immigrants while helping law enforcement by reducing unnecessary hours given to detaining and processing those without papers. No public officials were present on Monday to accept or reject this plan, although yesterday a group from BREAD met with Sheriff Zach Scott to further lobby for the Matricula Consular.
This year’s issue was mental health and the BREAD research committee discovered Magnolia Clubhouse in Cleveland that has had a remarkable impact on that community. On Monday David Royer, CEO of the Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health (ADAMH) of Franklin County agreed to send a team to visit Magnolia Clubhouse but would not commit yet to creating one in Columbus.
At Columbus Mennonite we talk often of “peace and justice” and BREAD is one of the key ways that people of faith engage in justice work in Central Ohio. Justice work goes deeper than charity and service in that it seeks to get at the root problems and create the conditions that make charity less necessary. Columbus Mennonite is always looking for people who wish to be BREAD leaders in our congregation.