Dispatches from the road - Northwest Arkansas and Charlotte

The E Pluribus Unum team had the privilege to visit Northwest Arkansas and Charlotte for two community visits in October.

In the past month, we’ve continued our travels across the south. First, we made a stop in Northwest Arkansas to see what’s going on in Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers and Springdale.  

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As we travel, we’re listening to and learning from leaders in cities across the South about what separates us now in our communities and what unites us as Americans.  

Northwest Arkansas is a rapidly growing region that boasts headquarters for Walmart, Tyson Foods, and J.B. Hunt, as well as the University of Arkansas.  It’s exciting to see the area embracing changes happening in the community. However, we heard that with growth comes some uncomfortable change for a lot of people and that the benefits aren’t often evenly distributed by race, gender or class. Still, there was a lot of optimism for the future, and it’s clear that this corner of the state awaits great opportunities for many. Special thanks to the  Fellowship Bible Church, Walton Family Foundation, and Arvest Bank for hosting us while in Bentonville.

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Like we saw in Arkansas, the country’s racial profile is changing. The country is getting more diverse by the year. As these changes happen, it’s important we have the tough and truthful conversations about race and class that can help us move forward.   Only when we are able to bring people together and have truthful conversations about our past can we really chart a better path forward.

North Carolina, a state that once sent more Confederate soldiers into the Civil War than any other southern state, has moved to embrace its diversity.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, we also saw a growing and diversifying region. Charlotte too is home to multiple Fortune 500 companies, particularly in the banking and financial services sector. Those headquarters provide significant job opportunities that in some ways are accelerating demographic changes and widening inequities in many instances. Still, the city is seeing progress and recently elected its first African-American female mayor.  Many groups on the ground have been doing work on inclusion and equity for decades, well ahead of the rest of the country. Charlotte’s Community Building Initiative (CBI) is a nonprofit organization established in 1997 by government and civic leaders to achieve racial and ethnic inclusion and equity in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community. Rev. Jacotran Potts also kindly took us on a tour of his childhood experience, showing us a real transformation in opportunity. Special thanks to the Mayor Vi Lyles, the Charlotte Fire Department and CBI for hosting us recently.

Over the next few months, we will continue to convene community leaders to listen and learn, and we will try to bring people of different races and backgrounds together around our shared values. If we are able to work through the discussions of race and class, we can then begin moving forward together.

 

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