If Akron is going to narrow its racial divide, a challenge facing many cities, its leaders must get the larger and littler things right. That means persisting in finding ways to recruit more minorities to the city police force. It involves a strong and sustained commitment from local businesses to implementing the concept of career and college academies in the Akron Public Schools.

The work also goes to members of the City Council setting an example of civility and decency, listening and communicating.

On Monday, the city received a lesson in the importance of even smaller tasks. It remains hard to conceive how an event to celebrate Sojourner Truth, with Ilene Shapiro, the Summit County executive, and Dan Horrigan, the Akron mayor, in attendance, could proceed without a single black leader at the gathering.

It is more baffling because the unveiling of the Sojourner Truth mural was part of the Knight Arts Challenge, an effort designed to cross barriers and help to build community.

So, the four black women on the City Council, Linda Omobien, Tara Samples, Margo Sommerville and Veronica Sims, had good reason to be disappointed that more wasn’t done to see that they were included, though there were black participants in the program. The failing wasn’t mean-spirited or somehow deliberate. It reflects a familiar lack of imagination, missing the opportunity in the role of Sojourner Truth here in Akron, in a simple gesture of inclusion, in the concept of diversity bringing true value to the life and the economy of the community.

That absence of necessary imagination, or seeing things through the eyes of others, was evident in the responses, as reported by Doug Livingston of the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com. Even the mayor’s office joined in the expressions of it-wasn’t-us or we-had-no-idea. To be sure, Margo Sommerville, the council president, received an email invitation on Friday. Still, not enough was done to gain a needed black presence in the project.

The need to work harder toward inclusion should have been evident in how jarring the Facebook image of an all-white celebration would look — and eventually did.

State Rep. Emilia Sykes, a black woman, got at the failing in another way. She stressed that the new mural in commemorating Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech at the 1851 Women’s Convention in Akron departs from the meaning. The mural substitutes an exclamation point. Perhaps that seems appropriate in some contemporary fashion. Actually, it removes the penetrating edge in the question.

The foundation of the civil rights movement, even going back 170 years, has been to ask the country, the white majority, to live up to the ideals and principles it holds close, about equality and opportunity, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. “I am a man,” goes the declaration.

Again, Akron likes to see itself as a community of collaboration. In many ways, it is. It also falls short, and the Sojourner Truth mural is an example, however unintended. The moment could have been one of outreach and inclusion. Instead, it tilts to mistrust and misunderstanding. It reminds that narrowing the racial divide requires vigilance, and communication, especially from those long in the position of power.