Repairing the Breach
"...you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in."
In 1996, the National Task Force on African-American Men and Boys published Repairing the Breach: Key Ways to Support Family Life, Reclaim our Streets, and Rebuild Civil Society in America’s Communities. This seminal report, hailed by Washington Post columnist Bill Raspberry as “the plan to save America,” was directed and edited by Dr. Bobby W. Austin, and included a guiding framework with recommendations from leading figures in civil rights, education, and public policy.
Task Force leaders included Andrew J. Young, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, and Marilyn Melkonian, former Assistant Undersecretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and founder and President of the Telesis Corporation.
Repairing the Breach (The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 1996)
In 2014, the Harvard Graduate School of Education sponsored a conference to reflect on the legacy of Repairing the Breach. Over 300 scholars and practitioners from around the country came to the event to join Dr. Austin, architect of the report. Dr. Austin called both for a continued focus on African American boys and for attention to the challenges faced by poor white boys and working-class whites -- challenges shared by poor African American boys and their families. He stated that there was a need for dialogue between white men and black men, and drew attention to young white men in an Indiana town, whose experiences were the subject of the award-winning documentary, Medora.
The consensus among attendees was that Repairing the Breach remains salient, and that the formation of an organization specifically devoted to advancing the report’s recommendations would be a significant next step.
As Dr. Austin concluded, “This work now must be about the common good in America.”
In response to the conference, work began on carrying forward the report’s visions of how to best meet the challenges faced by communities and neighborhoods throughout America and of the assets that already exist within communities that can help shape solutions. Guiding the transition and the work are Dr. Austin, President of Neighborhood Associates Corporation (NAC), and the framing questions posed by Repairing the Breach:
How do we find and discuss the things all Americans hold in common?
How do we make progress toward re-establishing supportive communities?
How do we help ethnic communities overcome negative media stereotypes and political exclusion?
Since 2014, beginning in the Telesis Corporation’s 10 affordable housing communities across the country, NAC has worked with the Repairing the Breach network, Telesis, and new funders to pilot efforts to
“rebuild the village” and cultivate practices of Public Kinship to guide further collaborations
with residents and local leaders.