Leading on Opportunity's On the Table CLT Brings 8,000 Residents Together to Reflect on Home and Belonging

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Unites Over Mealtime Conversations

“Our city and county are experiencing a rapid transformation right in front of our eyes as residents relocate from around the world. Part of feeling at home is being able to identify the spaces where you can be yourself and connect with people of similar beliefs, interests, and cultures. It is important that we understand how others define home and what is needed to create a more inclusive community as our demographics continue to evolve,” said Dr. Stephanie Cooper-Lewter, Executive Director of Leading on Opportunity.

By: Loán C. Lake

On Wednesday, October 23, 2019, one question was on the hearts and minds of Charlotte-Mecklenburg residents: “What does it mean to belong in our community?” That’s because this year’s On the Table CLT theme, “Finding Home: Where Do I Belong?” caused participants to reflect on what home and belonging mean to them as well as the reason they now lived in Charlotte. In homes, schools, churches, malls, coffee shops, libraries and community centers across the county, participants first acknowledged the existence of native inhabitants of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, then proceeded to delve into their definitions of home.

On the Table CLT consists of mealtime community conversations which are held on one day of the year throughout a city or town to discuss ways to make the our community more connected, dynamic, and opportunity-rich. The Charlotte gatherings, which are being led by Leading on Opportunity this year, are part of a national initiative generously funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. On the Table replicates an annual civic engagement initiative of the same name developed by The Chicago Community Trust in 2014. Support for this effort advances Knight Foundation’s work to help cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of civic engagement based on the belief that successful communities are equitable, inclusive and participatory. Based on social media reports, Charlotte was one of the most engaged cities in this year's national conversations.

Leading on Opportunity's Council opened the day with its own On the Table CLT conversation at The Carole Hoefener Center. The breakfast discussion was sponsored by JP Morgan Chase & Co. and catered by The Yolk Cafe, owned by James Beard-nominated chef Greg Collier and his wife Subrina. Participants consisted of 170+ representatives from city and county government; corporate, non-profit, business and faith communities; and featured students and staff from Year Up Charlotte. Leading on Opportunity also provided meals for seven community partners with the support of JP Morgan Chase & Co.

“Our city and county are experiencing a rapid transformation right in front of our eyes as residents relocate from around the world. Part of feeling at home is being able to identify the spaces where you can be yourself and connect with people of similar beliefs, interests, and cultures. It is important that we understand how others define home and what is needed to create a more inclusive community as our demographics continue to evolve,” said Dr. Stephanie Cooper-Lewter, Executive Director of Leading on Opportunity.

In a show of unity and collaboration for this year’s theme, local artists Nico Amortegui and Marcus Kiser were selected to co-create the artwork that represents this year’s theme Finding Home. Amortegui is an immigrant from Colombia and Kiser is a Charlotte native. Together they developed an artistic piece (shown in this article) that captures the symbolic Charlotte skyline and represents all sectors of the greater community, including the native population that first resided in the Carolinas.

"We extend our gratitude to our entire council, our breakfast sponsor, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Knight Foundation and TIAA for their support of On the Table CLT, the staff of The Carole Hoefener Center for their hospitality, and Chef Greg and Subrina Collier, the proprietors of Uptown Yolk, for providing such a delicious meal. To our table hosts, your willingness to be trained and then lead this conversation is what makes On the Table CLT possible," Cooper-Lewter concluded.