Repairing the Breach Through Public Kinship


Article by:

Dr. Bobby William Austin

President of Neighborhood Associates


Originally Published by :

International Leadership Association

Link to Original Article



Washington, DC | November 12, 2020


When Dylann Roof entered Charleston, South Carolina's Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015, he joined a group engaged in prayer. They welcomed him. He bowed his head, but soon rose and opened fire on them – killing all but one, whom he said he spared to tell the story of what he had done. Family members and crime victims have the right to face the perpetrator of the crime before sentencing. During the impact statement portion of Roof's trial, the families of his victims each rose to speak of their anger and their pain. And then they forgave him. The actions of the men and women who forgave Roof are not uncommon; yet it can appear so when many feel that revenge or retaliation would be the normal human reactions. It may be that the grace of their self-leadership allowed these individuals to move beyond a desire for retaliation. They may have been hurt, but they could grant forgiveness, and finally they could renew and release that relationship. This is a major aspect of personal self-leadership: it asks the individual to bring him or herself to the point where they can arrive at a new way of living and acting in the world in relation to others. It also reveals how self-leadership can repair public trust and the breaches which divide us – and how Public Kinship can be developed. The concept of Public Kinship stems from the singular 1996 report, Repairing the Breach: Key Ways to Support Family Life, Reclaim our Streets, and Rebuild Civil Society in America's Communities, which was commissioned by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's National Task Force on African American Men and Boys. As a program officer with Kellogg, I directed the study and the report, so that organizations and individuals might use it to transform communities and thereby assist families and boys. The civic leaders comprising the Task Force posed three pointed public questions:

1. How do we bring relief to families and communities affected by violence?
2. How do we make inroads in re-establishing communities and veering away from violence?
3. How do we overcome negative media stereotypes and political exclusion in order to reconnect African American men and boys and their communities to the greater society?

In response to these questions, and after rigorous debate among scholars, practitioners, and civic lea