Charlotte Chamber taking on the assignment of race relations - | WBTV Charlotte

Charlotte Chamber taking on the assignment of race relations

(Dedrick Russell | WBTV) (Dedrick Russell | WBTV)

The Charlotte Chamber Fall Retreat ended with the business community tackling a controversial issue - racism. More than 150 business leaders gathered at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC, for two days to talk about the recent events that have happened in Charlotte. 

Leaders said the violent protests in response to the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott by a police officer was a wake-up call. They said the retreat was different and powerful.

“I think one of the rarest occasions where the chamber really got down to true, authentic, sincere, compassionate conversations about how the Chamber as a business entity in our community can really shift  the conversation and do it in a strategic way," Goodwill Senior Vice President LaRita Barber said.

Leaders will soon put together a plan that will address why some African Americans are not thriving in Charlotte and don't feel heard.

"Our city is challenged unlike we have ever seen before," Chamber President/CEO Bob Morgan said. "Out of this dialogue something good will happen. We have to believe so, the timing is perfect."

Morgan said many solutions came out of the retreat to help heal the city. They include a reconciliation committee - to have candid talks about race, have business leaders take a dismantling racism course, have the city create more affordable housing, and create more jobs.

"We heard about mentorship programs that some companies are doing that need to be expanded by other companies," he said.

Other business leaders are ready to work but say there should be an inventory of what's already happening in the city.

"We have a lot of great initiatives going on, but not everyone is aware of them," PricewaterhouseCoopers Community Relations Carrie Reeder said. "And there is probably some overlap. So how can we take that and take what's going on and better allocate resources - whether it's dollars or volunteers?"

Leaders admit these kinds of conversations have been done before, but claim this time it will be different. Money won't be thrown at the problem and leaders won't just tell the hurting people what they need to do to make life better for them.

"It requires transparency," Albemarle Corporation President/CEO Luke Kissam said. "So everybody understands and feel like they are a part of the discussion, and they can help provide the solutions. We got the resources, the people we got - the business community that can come together and provide those solutions to raise the entire community up. Everybody is going to benefit by raising that community up."

Business leaders said they don’t want Charlotte to be defined by the violent protests but rather be known for tackling complex issues head on. Leaders said a press conference will happen in a few weeks to announce next steps.

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