Oakwood inclusion group aims to end ‘lingering reputation’

Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of Wright Library in Oakwood Thursday evening. Jim Noelker/Staff

OAKWOOD – A coalition focused on inclusivity and diversity will seek to address issues which one top official said have left a “lingering reputation of a community which is troubling.”

Some residents have been seeking a group like the Oakwood Inclusion Coalition since last September, when a report was issued that criticized the city’s safety department treatment of minorities, said resident Sam Dorf.

“I am very glad I was able to help bring this to council and I hope it will have an impact in the city,” Dorf said in an email Tuesday.

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The recently established coalition’s mission is “to study, promote, and celebrate an inclusive, equitable, diverse and welcoming environment and community for everyone who lives, works, visits, or passes through” Oakwood, according to the city.

The population of the largely residential suburb of about 9,000 bordering Dayton is more than 95% white, according to U.S. Census data.

Some residents at a June Black Lives Matter rally in the city were critical of how minorities are treated in Oakwood and referred to the city as a “dome,” a term used for decades to describe its isolation from other cities.

But Oakwood “is very different place today than it was 50 years ago,” City Manager Norb Klopsch said.

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“And yet in some ways there’s still this lingering reputation of a community which is troubling,” he added. “And I think it’s primarily a thing of the past and it’s kind of hard to move away from that in certain ways.”

The establishment of the coalition follows a report last year that indicated the city’s safety department stops and tickets black drivers at a much higher percentage than they represent in Oakwood.

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE), a nonprofit law firm that represents low-income individuals and groups in western Ohio, and a University of Dayton criminal justice professor released the report in late 2019.

The city disputed the report, saying “from a data analysis perspective, the ABLE report is seriously flawed in several ways, rendering it inconclusive at be or invalid at worst,” records show.

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The group that put the coalition organization “was careful to move past the ABLE report,” Klopsch said.

The citizen-driven coalition is seeking to become a 501(c)(3) organization, officials said. It will consist of government, school, and library officials, private citizens, faith, ethnic and cultural leaders, and representatives from the business and media communities in Oakwood, city records show.

Its leadership team will be chaired by Wright Memorial Public Library Director Kristi Hale, Klopsch said. The team will also include a vice chair, treasurer, secretary, committee chairs, two members-at-large and one liaison each from the city, the school district and the Wright Memorial library, city records show. They all will serve two-year terms.

Oakwood City Council adopted a resolution endorsing the group at its Monday night meeting. Similar measures will be presented to the Oakwood City School District Board of Education and to the Wright Memorial library board later this month, the city said.

Citizens interested in these volunteer positions should contact Hale at (937) 250-6824 or hale@wrightlibrary.org.

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