I am fortunate that I have been able to have the opportunity to interact with people from all over the world through teaching English to adults who do not speak or need to improve their skills in English. I have had the privilege of working with students (and co-workers) of various cultures, faiths, races, and backgrounds. A good way to get involved is by volunteering in an ESL classroom. Many churches and community organizations, as well as schools, offer ESL classes to adults. In addition, there are organizations in Charlotte who provide services to diverse populations including immigrants, refugees, children, and others who need various types of assistance. They are always looking for volunteers. This is a great way to meet, interact with, and learn more about other cultures that are living right here in Charlotte! They are eager to meet you and have much to teach us!

Breaking bread together – I would love to see community tables established in reasonably priced restaurants around the city, where individuals can join others to communicate ideas and have spirited and respectful discussion.

Sunday continues to be the most segregated day of the week. Several years ago, when my son (then 6 years old) started asking about God, I decided to return to church. I deliberated about which church to attend. I read an article in our local newspaper about a pastor and his wife who had recently started a church. He had previously been in sports and, after an injury, attended divinity school and became a preacher. I thought that attending a church with a younger leader might be a good thing for my son. I am Caucasian. My son was adopted as an infant and is biracial (Hispanic/Latino). The church was an African American church. When I started attending, it was only about 6 months old and had about 40 members. At first, I’m not sure the church knew what to think of me. I was often the only Caucasian person attending service. Over time though, as I shared my vulnerability and they learned my story, they began to TRUST me. And with trust grew camaraderie. With camaraderie grew friendship. The church unfortunately disbanded last year. I still keep in touch with some of the friends I made there. We CAN improve relations if we can get out of our comfort zone and start worshiping with people who are different from us. Church with diversity is transformational.

Interaction between human beings is not something which can be compelled. In fact meaningful interaction cannot be imposed from without. Maybe a question as to how can I become approachable and eventually lovable by people unknown to me at this time? Thinking that we are better than someone else based upon external criteria is a trait exhibited by Satan at the time of the creation of Adam. That is the impediment to us acting as the sons and daughters in the family Adam. We have turned away from the PRACTICE of the religions we say we are connected to. That message was sent down with the Prophets and Messengers to show us how to be pleasing to, and awarded by God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Anything else and we are just kidding ourselves and I don’t think God likes our type of kidding.

My response doesn’t quite directly answer the question because I am writing about my church community, Our Lady of the Assumption Church which is the most divers e parish in the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte. In this case the people are united by a love of Jesus, a devotion to the parish community and a devotion to the sacrament of Eucharist. The Parish is on the East Side and the diversity of the community reflects the diversity of the neighborhood. The most diverse mass is the 11:00AM Sunday mass- it is like the United Nations of Central and South America, and the United Nations of Africa, with representatives from both French and English Africa. When I am at mass and think of racial diversity it is as if we have totally arrived, and I have to remind myself that this is not the case for the larger world. It is a demonstration of what is possible. I often wonder why this happened. I think the community is a place where displaced persons feel comfortable whether they are from Pittsburgh or Accra or Douala or Tegucigalpa.

Change the mindset that underlies the word “compel.” No one should be forced to interact. We should have occasions to interact. We should have shared interests to interact. How about a REALLY inclusive community bulletin board system that is done in cooperation with all the media, the library system, houses of worship, and schools. It should have community funding including fulltime staff to gather things together. Look at what Jody Mace does with CharlotteOntheCheap.com for pleasant activities. Add to that neighborhood events to which the public is invited – talks, physical events and activities, educational opportunities, sharing of skills and knowledge. Put “interesting stuff to do” in neighborhood centers across the city – and go citywide with the publicity, not just in the neighborhood. Ask people for help to do something for a neighborhood, or to share their expertise. Recognize those who do – as individuals, or as a group. Keep asking this question. PUBLISH some of the answers and let others respond. It can be monitored so there’s less trolling! Ask ten-year-olds for their ideas.

Ride a bicycle! I’m being absolutely serious. I moved here in 1998, and only began cycling in the last 2 years. Through bike commuting, social rides and group training rides, I have met Charlotteans from all walks of life and visited so many of our small neighborhoods. Being on a bicycle connects you closer to those around you – while also taking you through neighborhoods on roads you wouldn’t normally travel. There is time to chat before/during and after rides and you begin to learn and care about each other. There’s a theory that riding a bicycle can solve most of the world’s problems. I’m a believer.

Gear more events to a wider audience (i.e. have a soul singer or a gospel play with the symphony in the park). Host block parties that feature food, entertainment that isn’t NOT the ethnicity of that neighborhood (i.e. have a Soul Food or Mexican themed event/block party in Myers Park). But above all, people need to start promoting events and gatherings in places other than their own networks. Otherwise, there’s no way for people outside of that community to know about it.

I think it would be helpful if communities had mediators to help people resolve conflicts. We live next door to people originally from El Salvador and it’s been painfully obvious almost from the first month that our cultures are at odds in many ways ( even when women talk!) and that they saw the new privacy fence as a sign of prejudice instead of a desire to for privacy. The neighbors on the other side, who have lived in their home 50 years, have made their dislike of relocated “Northerners” known. This 1960’s era neighborhood is diverse in race, ages, blue collar & professionals which attracted us but the discord has made life here unpleasant. And we plan to move to the Research Triangle Area and rent first! Establishing community/neighborhood associations & events might also help bring people together.

I belong the my local YMCA, the Daniel Stowe Y in Gaston County. This Y has all ages, races, and lifestyles. Mostly middle class. I take classes with African Americans and Latinos. Everyone is very friendly. I may not be friends with them but we are all in this together to improve our fitness. People who sweat together feel closer somehow. My trainers there were African American. I like this a lot as I grew up in mostly white cultures in Minnesota and Colorado.

More opportunities for people to get together in a public setting. Such as public park events related to physical activities, kite flying, outdoor music events, picnic in the park events, public art showings, community informational events, and multi-cultural events. Various neighborhood gatherings related to the theme of “This is Our City,” where community centers, art galleries, differing businesses, representatives from different museums and entertainment venues can come and provide information about themselves and what they have to offer. Continue the forward motion in creating various methods of transportation that connect to each other so that people can readily reach all areas of the city and county.

Simply put, white people need to leave their comfortable white spaces and engage with other communities. Charlotte is self segregated, and white and middle class people have the choice and agency in their lives to choose where they live, work, and spend their free time, those who live in poverty, and many (certainly not all) people of color do not necessarily have that option. There is no “compelling” of folks to do this, it is a choice people make. I have met COUNTLESS Charlotte natives, who are in their 50s and 60s, who have never traveled further north than Central Ave. or NoDA proper.

I have seen Charlotte change rapidly over the years with sprawling new neighborhoods and small communities. The small communities have created silos and there isn’t a huge need anymore to travel across neighborhoods or towns. I see some interaction within the neighborhood but the real work begins by exploring other neighborhoods where you can experience different races, classes, lifestyles, and beliefs. The cost to live in Charlotte has skyrocked and even my once healthy lifestyle has suffered as my commute time ranges anywhere from 30 min-60 min. I have spoken to several people about their own drive times to work or to fun activities and it has increased over the years. I also understand that there is a level of fear amongst residents to interact with different cultures, fear is learned and we pass fear to others and this creates another silo.

Go to churches that aren’t predominantly any race. We go to Transformation Church and it’s a place that forces interaction in a welcoming environment. We have small groups and messages that facilitate some hard questions/conversations that people are more willing to engage because we see each other weekly if not more and form relationships. Also attending a RMJJ.org seminar.

It’s simple. Don’t be a jerk. Treat everyone as your friend at all times and you will have no problems. I look like a typical redneck, yet I never seem to have a problem with anyone from another race/culture. I have more issues with people that look like me than I do with anyone else.