Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Legacy Together
— By: Dr. Stephanie Cooper-Lewter, Executive Director
Over the past few days across our community, many came together to collectively honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s. legacy. Our elders reminded us how hard it was to challenge the status quo pushing for transformative change. Our youth reminded us to listen and engage their voices in identifying future solutions. Dr. King's commitment to build a beloved community is more inclusive, fair and just. His legacy inspires us in our work to address the impact of segregation - racially and economically.
It’s often said that a rising tide lifts all boats, but unfortunately, not all boats are rising. The Chetty Study, grounded in research and statistics, ranked Charlotte last among the 50 largest US cities and Mecklenburg 99 out of 100 counties in upward mobility for children. In essence, the destiny of a child born poor in Charlotte-Mecklenburg is already determined – they are least likely to rise economically from the lowest quintile of society to the highest quintile. Access to opportunities far too often is predicted by ethnicity, income, race, gender or the zip code one lives in. Stories and lived experiences of those left behind who struggle to achieve the dream due to segregation and racism have resulted in our "tale of two cities."
25% of Charlotte’s children are poor and 44% of Mecklenburg County children ages 0-5 live in households earning below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. The poverty rate of working age African Americans and Hispanics is twice that for whites in Charlotte. 14.5% of young people ages 16-24 are neither working nor going to school or training.
Social and economic mobility is the defining issue of our time. Everyone should be able to access opportunities and second chances to achieve their dreams.
Our committed Leading on Opportunity Council members and team is focused on achieving our collective, bold, inspiring vision: Charlotte-Mecklenburg is a community that cares about all our youth – regardless of income, background, race or zip code – where all our children belong, have big dreams, and have the opportunities to achieve their dreams.
At the core of community-building work is having a vision of what’s possible - seeing the invisible and making it visible. In 2019, Leading on Opportunity will continue to work alongside community to connect, advance, amplify and accelerate meaningful transformation, building an Opportunity Movement focused on community alignment and systems change. While impact of our work will unfold in the decades ahead, my radical hope is for Charlotte-Mecklenburg to one day become a national example of how together, we as community, slowly moved the needle - in 5, 10, 20 and 30 years from today.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg, what can we build together? Not with a saving or rescuing mindset – but from a place of authenticity, reciprocity, lifting up the dignity and building upon the assets in our families, neighborhoods and communities of promise.
"Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Let's reimagine Charlotte-Mecklenburg as our beloved community - building greater pathways of opportunity, continuing the legacy of Dr. King. Together, we can courageously and bravely challenge the status quo as we move forward in our quest towards justice, inclusion and love.