Commission member has earned respect
A local television station recently aired a story regarding an employee of the Columbus Urban League, Oleatha Waugh. The story led with the headline “Convicted felon appointed to Mayor Ginther’s new Safety Advisory Commission” and included Fraternal Order of Police leaders questioning Waugh’s ability to serve because he was convicted of drug-related offenses almost 25 years ago.
I cannot remain silent about the injustice of this. In fact, this incident reflects the exact reasons why mistrust persists between communities of color and many in law enforcement.
Waugh has been a positive, valuable employee of the Columbus Urban League for five years. He has devoted his life to giving people second chances, particularly in his work with Choose 2 Change, which effectively keeps nine out of ten exoffenders from returning to incarceration. Waugh is also immersed in other community violenceprevention efforts managed by our organization. He has never exhibited anything but respect for the law-enforcement and legal systems, which he understands are critical to everyone’s safety. In fact, he has been an advocate for the FOP and expressly invited FOP officers to last year’s Father 2 Father Fishing with Dad annual event.
This country has become mired in negativity and conflict exactly because people make unfair assumptions based on someone’s past mistakes. Mayor Ginther’s Commission seems uniquely poised to help foster better understanding among all communities and to find the common ground that we desperately need. How disappointing and ironic that even before the Commission’s first meeting — much less first recommendation — people attack men of color because of a nearly quarter-century-old mistake.
I call on other community leaders to stand with me and speak out. Celebrating diversity not only means appreciating talent. It also means forgiving transgressions.
Stephanie Hightower CEO and president Columbus Urban League