(BLOOMINGTON) – While working to ensure both public safety and a welcoming and inclusive environment at the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market, Mayor John Hamilton is simultaneously working to engage our community more generally on concerns about racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of discrimination.
Hamilton has invited the assistance of The Bridge Initiative, part of the Divided Community Project (DCP), an organization housed at The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, to help lead new community engagement on these issues.
The project strengthens community efforts to transform division into action, and works through experienced leaders who have the opportunity to meet with local leaders to better understand underlying concerns that may not be readily apparent.
In Bloomington, DCP’s Bridge Initiative is being facilitated by William A. Johnson, an experienced mediator who previously served three terms as the Mayor of Rochester, New York and before that for over two decades as the President and CEO of the Urban League of Rochester.
Johnson has met with City employees and community leaders, and is continuing to identify others, including non-traditional local leaders who may not hold positions in local organizations but play critical roles in the life of the city.
The goal of these conversations is to listen and understand issues that may have persisted beneath the surface for many years, and are contributing to current tensions.
Without attributing any ideas or concerns to any one person, and with an eye towards how this information can lead to action, Johnson is compiling a summary of these concerns and the proposals community leaders have offered to address them.
The Bridge Initiative will provide a report capturing this information to be shared publicly and to serve as a foundation for action by community and government leaders.
“We requested the expert assistance of DCP’s Bridge Initiative to create an arena in which all stakeholders can peacefully and productively share concerns and contribute to meaningful change,” said Hamilton.
“We are grateful for their guidance, and especially to the leadership of Mayor Johnson, and we look forward to sharing his findings.”
The process Johnson is using is one that has enabled other communities confronting deep divisions and crisis around issues such as ongoing racism and discrimination to work collaboratively to understand the issues and develop plans of action to address them, using tools for tracking progress toward goals.
While Johnson introduces and helps facilitate processes, local leaders in the community drive the processes that have led to meaningful transformation in cities across the country. The grant-funded services of the DCP are offered free of charge.