Moral arc bends small
Thin support from sheriff at ICARE 2023 Nehemiah Action
It was a night of tough love at Abyssinia Baptist Church. A Jacksonville interfaith assembly of 650 church members – including 49 from BBUUC– gathered to ask Sheriff T.K. Waters to focus more on violent crime and less on arrests for low-priority offenses. And also, to offer more compassion to people suffering from a mental health crisis.
Waters acquiesced, at times grudgingly, to a few of ICARE’s requests, and said no to others. “I’ll go to Miami to learn more about their mental health program,” he said. “But not with you.”
Here’s how the night stacked up:
WIN – Sheriff showed up. Waters promised to attend last fall, then ghosted ICARE until just one week before the Assembly. ICARE got confirmation when a letter campaign threatened media coverage of his failed promise.
WIN – Mental health. Waters agreed to better coordinate 911 operators with the new 988 mental health hotline. And to take a look at Miami’s model program for handling mental health crises.
LOSS – Group violence intervention, adult civil citations. Waters sparred on facts when confronted with Jacksonville’s poorly performing GVI program. He staunchly opposed adult civil citations for minor offenses, saying he’s against decriminalization.
LOSS – Attendance. Over 1,300 attended the Nehemiah Assembly in 2019. But after three years of virtual assemblies, post-COVID participation has not yet rebounded, as churches continue to struggle with their own Sunday attendance.
WIN – Research. ICARE leadership gave compelling, fact-filled pitches for policy changes, that included personal testimonies locally and success stories from communities outside. The result has been excellent media coverage by top Jacksonville news outlets.
WRAP UP – Winning social justice is a long game. And we’re only in the first inning with our newly elected sheriff. It took eight years for ICARE to win youth civil citations in Jacksonville. So we celebrate everyone who came to the Nehemiah Assembly this year, and we ask that you keep showing up!
Our work is not complete. The work of justice is God’s work. We are called to love God and our neighbors as ourselves. Therefore, even when things don’t go as we’d hoped, we continue to work…the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. ~ 2023 Nehemiah Assembly
See some pictures of BBUUC members at the Assembly. Thanks to all who were able to come out and support!