Rewind: Ep 11: On The Table

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Season 3, Special Thanksgiving Episode (Rerun of Season 1, Episode 11)

The Relationships:

On the Table is an initiative aimed at getting a community involved and talking to each other face-to-face over a meal about the issues they care about. On The Table was started by the Chicago Community Trust in 2014 and has grown into a national initiative through the support of the Knight Foundation. This includes On The Table CLT, a branch of the initiative happening in Charlotte, NC.

At the time of our recording, On The Table CLT events were hosted by the Foundation For The Carolinas. With continued support from the Knight Foundation, this annual event is now led by Leading On Opportunity, an organization serving the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community, as of October 2019.

The conversations in this episode were taken from On The Table CLT events on October 24th, 2018. Over 6000 Charlotte and Mecklenburg County residents took part and the theme of the day was segregation and its continued impact. Conversations were between strangers, neighbors, artists, elected representatives, transplants, native residents, and more.

The Conversations:

This special episode gives you clips and snippets of different conversations from On The Table CLT. In it, people from across the city reflect on the legacy of segregation, their experiences with it, progress that they’ve seen, and how they see issues of segregation playing out today.

You’ll hear from a man who went to a segregated school, a woman remembering her experience with bussing, an artist and a councilwoman discussing modern-day segregation and the policies behind it, a man realizing how easy it is to reinforce racist ideas about schools and neighborhoods, three women reflecting on the histories of neighborhoods, and a woman thinking about gentrification.

Lena Hopkins-Jackson and LaWana Mayfield

Topic Timestamps

School segregation, subversive restaurants, and bussing

  • 00:00 – We start with Preston Wittwer introducing the re-run and Sandy Cyr introducing the special episode–recordings from On The Table discussions that took place in Charlotte, NC on October 24th, 2018.
  • 01:24 – A man talks about going to a segregated school.
    • Their books and materials were generally hand-me-downs from a local white school.
    • There were also segregated restaurants where Black people couldn’t sit down and eat where white people sat to eat. 
  • 02:40 – One woman talks about being born in Charlotte in 1962 and recalls her experience with bussing.
    • In fourth grade, she remembers being bussed from one area out in the country to Lincoln Heights in the city.
    • “That was the first time really being outside of my element and my comfort zone.”
    • “There was no preparation for differences. We were thrown together, literally.”

You can make a change

  • 04:52 – Lena Hopkins-Jackson, a local visual artist and teacher, reflects about her conversations from On The Table with the Arts and Science Council.
    • She’s seeing progress from where they were in the 90s to where they are now.
    • She recalls living in the NoDa community separated by railroad tracks: poorer working artists in Section 8 housing on one side, and yuppie-types and contributing artists on the other.
    • Lena remembers having a “Polyanna” view of things, thinking that it was just a question of access and getting people to the other side of the tracks.
    • There’s a tension between the benefits of gentrification and forced removal of people from their homes to clear it for new development.
    • “You’ve got to use your talent for more than just painting pretty pictures.”
    • She felt a shift today and a change:
      “Segregation exists. Racism exists. But don’t let the current political climate going on… distract you from the fact that you can make a change.”
  • 09:12 – LaWana Mayfield represents District 3 on the Charlotte City Council and she serves on the board for the Arts and Science Council.
    • She talks about her table where she was the only African American, along with another woman who was from El Salvador but how that identity gets erased when everyone is thrown together as a “minority”
    • She talks about sitting at a table talking with some people who have no Black people in her life.
      • She talks about white flight, infrastructure, and often destructive gentrification. “White America is re-imagining historically Black communities”: what does that look like?
    • She discusses the history of a nation of policies: racist policies create systemic lack of access.
    • She talks about a young white man at her table who has moved into a historically Black community and was not sure how to build a relationship with his neighbors until his Black sister-in-law came to visit.
    • What’s next? How do we build real relationships so we can change the conversation?
  • 17:42 – Lena responds to LaWana and the two reflect on how far we’ve come from the era of bussing
    • The positives and genuine diversity that has come from bussing.
    • We tend to only see that horrific experiences of the Black children who were bussed—what are the other sides of the story?
      • What was the experience of white kids going to predominately Black schools?
    • “I hope that, ultimately, these On The Table conversations become real relationships.”
    • “This meeting was a success”: being able to talk in a relaxed setting with others and connecting about issues you both care about
    • You don’t have to wait for this one day to talk to other people:
      “You can do some On The Tables in your own neighborhood to change the conversation”

Neighborhood impact

  • Rosalía Torres-Weiner, Jill Bjers, and Mary Long
    24:27 – A man talks about the conversations he and his wife have about where they want to live and where they want their kid to go to school
    • “We’ve realized just how easy it is to be really racist”
    • When people talk about the best schools and the best neighborhoods, a pattern of racism emerges and its easy to fall into that trap.
    • “We just want what’s best for him, but that can lead to inadvertent decisions.”
  • 27:13 – Three women talk to each other about culturally enforced segregation in communities
    • The women are Mary Long (business advisor for an organic farm and board member at the Duke Mansion Lee Institute), Rosalía Torres-Weiner (artivist), and Jill Bjers (founder of Open Charlotte)
    • Jill talks about the role of realtors in segregating families by neighborhoods and Mary mentions her search for a non-monochromatic child care center.
    • Rosalía remembers painting a mural in a Latino community when a Black man came up to tell her about how the neighborhood used to be a Black neighborhood.
      “At the end, we’re a community that really needs to work together”

Wrap up | Final reflection on gentrification

  • 33:26 – Sandy wraps up with the credits
  • 34:00 – A woman talks about going through Charlotte and watching the houses change the closer she got into town
    • “It really made me think about the people who live in those neighborhoods and at what point does somebody say… we can’t keep building these $500,000 houses in these neighborhoods because we’re running people out of them.”
    • She comments on watching a slow gentrification of mostly Black neighborhoods and the lasting effect of segregation

Editor’s note: This article has been updated (12/02/2019) to accurately reflect the current leadership of On The Table CLT by Leading On Opportunity.

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