| Program: || Community Building Task Force, Charlotte, NC |
| Contact(s): || Dianne English, Director: (704) 333-2595 |
| Purpose: || To improve community race relations by gathering information from people throughout the community |
In the fall of 1996, several incidents of hostility among people in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area emphasized the growing polarization of the different ethnic communities. The chair of the Mecklenburg County Commission asked the Foundation for the Carolinas, a nonprofit community foundation, to serve as a neutral convener of a task force on race and ethnicity. The foundation accepted the challenge, and developed the 53-member Community Building Task Force, formally launched in April 1997. Supported by public and private resources including the local government, foundations and businesses, the task force gathered information on demographics and existing multicultural organizations, held a series of "Listening Sessions," conducted a community conference, and prepared recommendations to continue the process of reconciliation beyond the life of the task force. It was created with the intention of involving key community institutions and grassroots leaders in constructive interracial dialogue to build an inclusive and just community.
The Community Building Task Force began its work by creating a process for looking at issues of race and color in an increasingly multiethnic community and channeling the call for a community "summit on race" from a one-time event into an experience that would encourage continued community and personal investment. The task force provided a diverse group of individuals--the media, business, government, schools and universities, nonprofit and religious organizations--with opportunities for meaningful interaction and for committing themselves to seeking short-term and long-term solutions. Between May 7 and December 16, 1997, the task force met as a group 10 times with four teams meeting between regularly scheduled gatherings. Activities involved task force members creating and conducting focus groups for data collection, examining various interactive models for addressing issues of race and ethnicity, organizing and hosting a community conference and laying plans for the second phase. At this stage, the task force will create six Issue Action Teams to address specific challenges--three on education, two on economics and one on public safety. Teams will examine how race and color affect these issues and will formulate recommendations for action.
Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments
From the efforts of the task force came the Ethnic Identity Project, which involved teens exploring stereotyping, as well as a community conference, "Building Community: Something has Begun," held in December 1997 and attended by over 600 citizens. Over 200 citizens participated in the 15 focus groups that the task force held, and countless others volunteered or indicated an interest in becoming involved in the second phase of the effort.