A group of Charlotte business executives, spurred by last month’s street protests, is looking to raise millions of dollars from local corporations to address issues related to social and economic justice in the city.
Sounds familiar? Well, not so fast.
Unlike some previous efforts, this group, called One Charlotte, is led by African Americans. Its founding members include Jesse Cureton, chief consumer officer for Novant Health; Brett Carter, chief operating officer of global technology and operations at Bank of America; and Gene Woods president and CEO of Carolinas HealthCare System.
At a press conference Thursday announcing the launch, Cureton said One Charlotte is still in its formatives stage, but he outlined a broad plan that would, in time, seek to address issues such as affordable housing, economic mobility, education, employment, health care and criminal justice reform.
The initiative, he said, grew out of the Sept. 20 police shooting that killed Keith Lamont Scott and the sometimes-violent protests that followed.
Charlotte, he said, was left in “great pain,” and the “pain was deeper than one incident or one shooting.”
Carter said One Charlotte, which has expanded to include clergy, local officials, businesses and nonprofit groups, will work with organizations already trying to move the needle on issues related to social and economic justice.
“We have so many entities today that are already working on various pieces of this strategy, so we’re not trying to recreate the wheel.”
Carter said One Charlotte will be an “integrator and accelerator” for those organizations, looking to establish measurable goals and help various organizations coordinate their efforts.
One of the organization’s “four pillars” will be to “invest in the recommendations of the economic opportunity task force.” The task force was created after a Harvard study found that, out of 50 large cities, Charlotte ranked last in economic mobility – meaning that Charlotte resident who are born poor or more likely to remain poor.
The other pillars are:
• Invest and partner in neighborhoods most in need.
• Invest in the Charlotte Mecklenburg criminal justice system
• Invest and remove barriers to ensure access to: education, employment and healthcare.
A Health Component
Mecklenburg County Health Director Dr. Marcus Plescia, who spoke at the press conference, said any effort to address social and economic disparities must also include a health component.
While African American women in the region are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, he said, they are 40 percent more likely to die from the disease once diagnosed. And although African Americans make up only 30 percent of the county’s population, he said, young black males make up 70 percent of all new HIV cases.
Bishop Wade Ferguson, pastor of the 15th Street Church of God, said Charlotte must “finish the cause” of social and economic justice.
“We must move from a protest to peace,” he said. “We must move from a riot to recovery.”
Specifically, Ferguson said, it’s time for employers to remove barriers that deny jobs to men and women with nonviolent, criminal histories.
A Generational Effort
In an interview with Qcitymetro, Cureton said the work of One Charlotte will be “generational.” And when asked about specifics related to how the organization will function, he said, many of those details will be decided as the group gets more public input.
“We have a framework in place, but what’s going to inform that framework is really listening to the community,” he said.
Cureton said One Charlotte will seek to raise $20 million to $25 million to fund the effort.
“I don’t want to speak to the number,” he said. “What I will tell you is that we have gotten commitments in the millions. I think we are moving in the right direction to meet or exceed something in that area.”
On Sunday, Nov. 6, at 1 p.m., One Charlotte will host a “symbolic march” to Romare Bearden Park from Trade and Tryon streets.
Cureton said the event will serve as an official kick-off for the organization. Once marchers reach the park, he said, events will be organized to “create spiritual unity” around the organization’s four pillars.