When Auburn Mayor Ron Anders announced the ONE AUBURN initiative back in June 2020, his mission was to invite members of the community to join him in a conversation on diversity and equality.
In 2021, that mission still remains the same.
“I charge everyone in the community to just come have a conversation with me,” Anders said. “We just want to have real conversation with the community — what this looks like now, how far have we come and what will this look like in the future.”
Kicking off with the first ONE AUBURN component, One Recognition, last June, Anders signed a proclamation commemorating Juneteenth in the city of Auburn. Historically, June 19 or Juneteenth celebrates the date on which, in 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger announced in Texas the end of both the Civil War and slavery.
According to Anders, the proclamation was the first step in a five-part program where he is collaborating with leaders in the Auburn's Black community to stimulate much-needed dialogue.
“I’m working closely with Dr. (Taffye Benson) Clayton who is over the Office of Inclusion and Diversity at Auburn,” Anders said. “So far, we’ve been able to complete three of five components.”
Those five components include One Recognition, One Read, One Conversation, One Meeting and One Project. Anders said that through his initiative, the One Recognition, One Project and One Read phases of the mission have already been completed or set in place to begin.
“We are getting things underway for the One Project where we have approved and begun preparing for the introduction of the Auburn Center for African American Culture and History,” Anders said. “It's going to be in the style of the Rosenwald school and really showcase how prominent Black history is in the history of Auburn and east Alabama.”
While the mission of the initiative was rooted in the presence of the mayor, Anders said that they have had to get creative with some of the presentation due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We’ve had to hold some events over Zoom and things of that nature,” Anders said. “When we kicked this thing off, we were in the peak of the pandemic but there were so many things that were affecting our day-to-day lives during that time.
“So, we decided to push forward with the launch and it still has seen success.”
Due to Covid, Anders has opted to hold one of the last components for now, saying the gravity of the conversation that needs to be had requires in-person discussion.
“For the One Conversation, I believe it's necessary for us to wait until we are able to safely gather,” Anders said. “We want to have honest and open discussion but I would be remiss if I didn't recognize that the conversation can get very deep and raise emotions.
“The goal is to create that rapport between all members of the community where roundtable discussions will no longer be needed,” Anders said. “We will just be able to freely and candidly discuss the topic.
“As a community, I know that we love and serve each other no matter our diverse backgrounds. We are not perfect but with this initiative, we can continue to open our minds, our hearts and become One Auburn.”
For more information about the initiative, residents are encouraged to visit the city’s website and social media pages to stay in touch with One Auburn.
Residents can also catch up with recorded conversations Anders has had over the past months on the city's Facebook page, including December's discussion with long-time Auburn resident Desmond Scaife, where the two discuss the impacts of integration on Auburn City Schools, among other topics.