At a news conference on Tuesday in the Council Chambers in the city's new Public Safety building, Auburn Mayor Ron Anders announced the launch of the One Auburn initiative, which aims to spark discussion about diversity and equality in the community.
The initiative follows the Juneteenth proclamation Anders issued last Friday, which recognized the importance of June 19 and committed the city to do more to celebrate the day in future years. Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of slaves in the United States.
Anders' One Auburn initiative comes as the country is engaged in widespread protests over police brutality, systemic racism and the need for change, sparked by the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police.
Multiple protests have been held in downtown Auburn and elsewhere in the surrounding community over the past several weeks.
"I've said before that what happened in Minnesota was disgusting. It was terrible," said Anders. "That has served as a catalyst for all of us to look in the mirror and talk about and look at who we are in our own hearts, where we're going, what are our beliefs, and what are our hopes and dreams for our community."
The One Auburn initiative aims to spark discussion and help explore ways to further unite the Auburn community. The initiative has five components — a citywide reading program; the city's Juneteenth proclamation; a video series that will explore diversity and the experience of the black community; a town hall panel discussion in the fall; and the construction of a new African-American heritage center in Northwest Auburn.
For the "One Read" part of the initiative, Anders wants area residents to organize book groups to discuss "Under Our Skin," a book by former Georgia tight end Benjamin Watson that explores the issue of race in the United States. Copies of the book can be found at the Auburn Public Library, which will also feature a number of other items on the subject.
The "One Conversation" component of the initiative will provide a video series platform for different community members to share their experiences with race and diversity in the community.
Both the One Read and One Conversation components will kick off in July. This fall, "One Meeting" will consist of a town hall panel discussion on One Auburn and the conversation it sparks.
"One Project" will consist of the construction of an African-American heritage center in an expansion of Boykin Community Center, which has been planned for several years. The building will be a replica of the Rosenwald school houses built in the early 1900s.