As an educator and community activist, I consistently ask the same questions of city leaders whenever there is a community forum discussing the city’s growing pains: When, and how often, do you meet with each other to discuss the city’s most urgent crises? I’m often met with blank stares and ambiguous answers.
It’s impossible to effectively address the city’s problems without all of our city leaders meeting together at least once a month. The mayor, city council, county commission, CMPD chief, sheriff, fire chief, city planner, county manager, a representative from each entity… you get the picture. All of the city’s urgent crises are interrelated and can’t be addressed appropriately by operating in silos.
For example, it’s difficult to talk about the affordable housing crisis without speaking to our problems of infrastructure, transportation, safety or equity in schools. Working separately is fine if Charlotte city leaders want to continue to make reactive and, at best, tactical decisions. However, urgency and proficiency demand two important things: Charlotte city leaders must talk to one another on a consistent basis and be transparent to the community about the discussion.
Charlotte has a variety of resources, nonprofits and businesses with sustainable solutions to our most urgent problems. The answers require a village strategy of engagement and resolution. Here are a few examples of the strategy in action:
Urban Ministry Center
The Urban Ministry Center is a collaborative of religious entities working as a central hub to help the homeless in Charlotte. On Jan. 8, Urban Ministry Center will host acclaimed artist Edwin Gil as he presents a social mosaic art project called “Faces of Diversity.” The public is invited to help create the mosaic art project. The “intentional dialogue” is intended to bring unity as Charlotte struggles to find the most effective ways of addressing an affordable housing crisis brought on, in part, by its explosive influx of residents.
Black Business Owners of Charlotte
A thriving economy is fueled by small businesses, yet access to capital can be an obstacle. Groups like Black Business of Charlotte help to bridge the gap for Black-owned businesses by offering vendor opportunities for popular events like Black Food Truck Fridays.
Westside Education Think Tank
The Westside Education Think Tank is a group of educators, community stakeholders and CMS Board members dedicated to improving the academic experience for students who attend schools on Charlotte’s west side. On Jan. 12, the Think Tank will lead the inaugural “It’s All About You!” appreciation event for parents/guardians to learn key aspects of engagement in their child’s education and recognize the vital role they play.
Applying a village strategy to support these types of community events contribute to the resolution of the problems our growing city faces. Using a village strategy also shows that our city leaders can relate and that their agenda aligns with the needs of Charlotteans.
Although Charlotte continues to experience growing pains, the resiliency of the Queen City to transform challenges into potential is a peek into what’s to come in the new year.
Yvette Townsend Ingram is an educator and community activist with a love for learning and political debate.
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