We received the news that annexation passed. Albion is now part of the Marshall School District. So far the crowing has been kept to a minimum, at least on my Facebook feed. It needs to stay that way.
Even though annexation seems to have passed in every polling place, it was really close in some, especially our poorest precincts. That means that a lot of the most vulnerable folks in Albion are heartbroken today over seeing the last nail in the coffin of the Albion School District, and local autonomy over schools. There is real fear over the loss of tradition, loss of cultural respect and identity, and forever being under the influence of Marshall. There is real grief, and it will take a long time to heal.
We have had a divisive campaign, with a surprising quantity of dirty tricks. Not everyone has been open to conversation, and not everyone has played by the rules. Church leaders have openly taken sides, calling themselves prophetic, and really being divisive instead. This will take healing, a regaining of trust, and I believe that it has hurt the place of churches in Albion.
Meanwhile, other people have pursued open conversation, and have tried to understand one another’s points of view. These people are scattered throughout the community, and they are showing the best of Albion. I am thankful to them for their commitment to community and to mutual understanding.
The collapse of Albion schools did not happen all at once. The failure of discipline forty years ago, a huge decline in population, Schools of Choice, and insurmountable debt all led to where we are today. Racism remains a huge part of the story, but it is not nearly enough to explain it. Racism was likely a part of the Schools of Choice plan, that took the legs out from a lot of schools in communities that were already struggling. But Racism didn’t close the foundries, or change the remaining jobs to high-skilled positions. Racism didn’t weaken our economy in 2008.
Many years ago, one of my predecessors as pastor at First, Rev. John Tennant, was proud to have taken part in the marches against segregation in Albion. He was proud that Albion had finally allowed a black family to buy a house on the east side of town. I am proud that black people in Albion didn’t stop with one house east of Eaton Street! I wish that our churches had become as integrated as our real estate market.
The protests of the fifties did some important things, including breaking down segregation. Albion is more integrated than are most communities in America, but that’s really not saying much. We have so far to go, if we are going to resemble God’s hope for us! This election has stirred up some of the business that we left unfinished in the fifties and sixties. It has reminded us that a big section of our community has been left behind over the last seventy years, and they know it every day.
Where does healing begin? It begins with understanding the disease. Understanding comes from conversation, from relationships, and from earning trust. Don’t let the pot settle: keep stirring it up! And in the middle of that, do what Jesus said: Love one another.