African-American leaders talk economic mobility during barbershop forum

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Six different African-American leaders met Wednesday night to talk about the issues surrounding economic mobility in Charlotte.

The event titled "Real Talk"  was organized by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, Inc. and was hosted at the No Grease! barber shop in Mosaic Village.

The forum was designed to facilitate conversation about economic mobility in Charlotte from a black male's perspective.

Panelists at the event included Charlotte City Councilman Braxton Winston, Reverend Clifford A. Jones of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Mecklenburg County Sheriff-Elect Garry McFadden, former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt, DJ "No Limit" Larry Mims, barber Shaun Corbett,  and Urban League Central Carolinas President William "Teddy" McDaniel III.

Kellen Nixon, Senior Director of STEM Education , served as the moderator for the event.

For more than two hours the group discussed and debated the various issues that contribute to economic inequality in the Queen City.

Much of the conversation focused on groups not present for the event, the youth and the impoverished.

McFadden said that panel discussions like the one held Wednesday night are often comprised of the wrong people.

"We talk about what the kids need and we talk about what the community needs, but each time none of the kids or the community are here," said McFadden in an interview after the meeting.

He said the people who are in need should be the ones answering questions on the panel.

"I think we're always missing the ball by not inviting the panel to look like the community," said McFadden.

The group of leaders talked about ways to help children who are faced with hardship at a young age. Some panelists noted that the youth need better mentoring than what is currently provided to them.

"We have great mentoring programs, but we can't come every Saturday, every third Saturday," said McFadden. "Bring them into your homes. Bring them into your world and show them some of your failures."

Corbett told the crowd that he credits his mentors for helping him find a career path and helping him to stay on that path. He now helps run Cops and Barbers, a Charlotte organization that helps to bring the police and the public together.

"I just want to be the change agent to show people that when you get in to situations you're younger or the younger part of your life, that doesn't mean it's the end all be all," explained Corbett.

The group touched on several topics including the need for vocational training and college education, segregation in the city, and the empowerment of young people.

Most members of the group seemed to agree that more role models are needed to provide a positive influence in the community.

"The African American community, it was built on bringing the next man up and we've gotten away from that so we have to get back to doing your part to bring the next person along," said Corbett.

McFadden said he plans to host community conversations every month once he is sworn in as sheriff of Mecklenburg County.

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