When Mayor Jonathan McCollar was Mayor-Elect in November 2017, he put together a transition team co-chaired by Drs. April M. Schueths, 47, and Saba Jallow. The team worked together to put McCollar’s platform into practice, which was to improve the lives of all people in Statesboro. Jallow and Schueths developed the plan for what would eventually become One Boro, the Workforce Development Commission (which is now a subcommittee of One Boro) and the Youth Commission.
“During spring 2018, One Boro began meeting as a committee. In May 2018, One Boro presented a strategic plan to Mayor McCollar.” Schueths said. “On Nov. 20, 2018, One Boro became an official city commission (Ordinance #2018-09).”
Current members of the commission include voting members Dr. April Schueths, chair; Dr. Stacy Smallwood, vice-chair; Dr. Jacek Lubecki, secretary; Dr. Julie Pickens, treasurer; and Annie Hills, Janice Cawthorn, Suzanne Shurling, Dr. Nandi Marshall, Barb King, Que`Andra Campbell, Johnny Gamble and Freddie Hagan; as well as ex-officio members Marcus Toole, Jesse Hartlett, Dr. Julie Chance, Deion Byrd and Dr. Saba Jallow. The city of Statesboro representative is Demetrius Bynes, Human Resources director.
“The members of One Boro are some of the most committed volunteers I’ve worked with. They are extremely dedicated to making Statesboro a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community,” Schueths said. “People tend to get involved because they care about Statesboro and are committed to helping it become the best city it can be.”
Vice-Chair Dr. Stacy Smallwood, 42, has also been involved with One Boro since the beginning. In 2019, when the commission was still in its early stages, One Boro hosted Facilitated Group Listening (FGL) in all five Statesboro districts. In March 2019, they canvassed neighborhoods to inform people of the seven available FGL sessions and then in April, they hosted the sessions at diverse locations. The locations included: City of David Food Bank, Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds, Agape Worship Center and Georgia Southern University.
The sessions helped the commission to identify what areas in Statesboro needed attention. Housing, transportation, employment, discrimination and safety were areas that needed improvement.
In October 2019, One Boro hosted an event called The Longest Table.
Describing the event, Smallwood said, “…we hosted a free meal open to everyone in Statesboro as an opportunity for people to get to know others that they may not ordinarily interact with. We also had a multimedia showcase as part of The Longest Table, in which local businesses and organizations could show how they incorporated diversity and inclusion in their practices.”
The group is also focused on helping to change policy in the community to protect the diverse people of the city. They collaborated with the mayor and City Council to develop the equity package that included a nondiscrimination ordinance, which was voted into law on Oct. 20, 2020.
“The Equity Package includes a nondiscrimination ordinance for the city of Statesboro, a 6% preference for women and minoritized groups when bidding for city contracts to address the disparities in city contracts (white men only represent 25% of the Statesboro population, but receive 92% of city contracts), and other equity items, including creating a nonviolence task force and requiring the city to keep yearly equity metrics,” said Schueths.
Statesboro is only the 11th city in the state of Georgia to pass such an ordinance. It is only the second south of Macon. The first was Savannah.
The purpose of One Boro is to promote equity, diversity and inclusion and to identify and examine their relation to poverty and prosperity. They also work closely with the mayor and City Council on policies and programs.
Schueths, a professor of Sociology at Georgia Southern, also works as a mental health therapist with a small private practice in Statesboro. She also holds a master’s degree in Social Work.
Smallwood serves as an associate professor of Community Health at the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health and a moderator of the Bulloch County Beloved Community. He has lived in Statesboro for 7 years.
Each of their chosen professions relate to their work within One Boro in different ways. As a social worker and therapist, Schueths sees the interworking of society and its effects on individuals as well as on the society those individuals are within. Smallwood’s work as a community-based public health advocate is to help promote the health of the population.
Smallwood said, “A lot of the principles that go into diversity, equity and inclusion have been at the center of public health work for some time. So, it’s not much of a stretch for me from my profession to practice in the civic arena.”
Both Schueths and Smallwood agreed that the work of One Boro helps to “recognize the humanity of others and make sure that who they are does not become a limitation to who they can be or how they can live.”
Schueths is married to Dr. Nathan Palmer, assistant professor of Sociology at Georgia Southern and they are parents to Lilly, 13, who attends Langston Chapel Middle School. She has been a Statesboro resident for 11 years.
“It’s important that my family, friends, students and clients live in a community that is continually working to be an equitable place for everyone,” said Schueths.
The work of One Boro is important to the community as a whole, no matter what your social identity. A vital part of that mission to promote diversity, inclusion and equity is to ensure that people understand what those terms mean.
Diversity simply means that there are many different kinds of people in our community with different social identities and lived experiences. Inclusion takes diversity further.
“We can acknowledge the diversity of a population without making sure that each individual within the population feels welcome to be a part of it or to be their full selves,” Smallwood said. “Inclusion is creating an environment or a climate where everyone feels they belong.”
Lastly, Equity is the recognition that not all communities or social identities have always had the same opportunities as others. As Smallwood explains, “There have been impediments preventing certain groups/identities from being full participants in the areas where they live, work, pray, play and call home.”
Equity can also be described as the practice of prioritizing the voices of those who have been ignored or silenced.
“When we center and reprioritize those that are pushed to the margins the most, we create a more thriving, vibrant community for everyone, regardless of their identity,” Smallwood said.
On a national scale, some social identities have been front and center in the conversations about equality and inclusion, but One Boro’s goal is to focus broadly and not focus on one or two identities. They are purposely maintaining a broad scope and including not just those groups that we often think of when we hear of diversity and inclusion such as race, gender identity, religion and sexual orientation. They are going further and including issues related to ability, disability and accessibility as well as military service/status.
Smallwood summarized the goal of One Boro in an eloquent way: “Our job is to be able to help everybody be able to recognize and value the sum totality of who we are and all the great things that come along with our diverse lived experiences, backgrounds and cultures and be able to bring all of that in.”
He elaborated, “No one person is only any one thing. We contain multitudes of identities.”
That statement should resonate with every individual because of the truth in it. Each of us who makes up the community we are in is more than one of their characteristics — you aren’t just Christian or Hindu. You aren’t just female or male. We are all more than one thing and fit into more than one category. One Boro’s purpose is to help us all bring these identities to the table and improve the community by allowing all residents to be authentically who they are.
“We want to create a space where everyone is open to be their full selves and be able to bring that into the public space to help enhance the integrity and productivity of our entire community because when we are able to create space for people to be seen accurately, then people bring their best selves to their work, their neighborhoods, into the education space, the civic engagement space. What we’re trying to cultivate isn’t tied only to one particular identity,” Smallwood said.
One Boro currently has five subcommittees that work together to achieve the commission’s goals. They are: Workforce Development, Longest Table, Violence Prevention, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Training and Equity Metrics.
On top of working to make Statesboro and Bulloch County more equitable for its residents, the One Boro Commission is taking into consideration its location and using a homegrown, grassroots approach to make local solutions that work for the local population. They recognize that our needs and assets are unique from other cities and as such, need a different approach.
For community members interested in getting involved, One Boro meets the first Monday of each month at 5:30 and meetings are open to the public. The subcommittees generally meet once a month. At this time, all funding is raised locally, but the group is exploring grant funding opportunities.
Schueth’s goals for One Boro include continuing the hard work and enthusiasm that has been a part of One Boro’s first few years of service as well as working on data collection and other events and subcommittees.
“We’re planning the second annual Longest Table in the spring 2022, the date is TBA. (We want to achieve) … collect and analyze the city’s equity data to measure our progress; make recommendations for DEI training for city staff; put together a Violence Prevention subcommittee; and work to improve employment prospects,” she said.
With the involvement of individuals like Smallwood and Schueths along with the other dedicated members of One Boro, Statesboro is almost guaranteed to become one of the most diverse, inclusive and equitable communities in the Southeast. The residents of Statesboro are lucky to have a group like this at the forefront of these issues.