Charlotte leaders gather for diversity conference

Charlotte leaders gather for diversity conference

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The first Charlotte conference dealing with diversity, inclusion and Equity kicked off Monday.

More than 100 people attended the conference learning how to tackle discrimination, harassment and intimidation in the workplace. First responders and local government workers attended.

Charlotte Fire Department, Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office, MEDIC and Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department sponsored the conference.

The conference had multiple sessions covering topics from bullying to respect, creating an inclusive environment for public safety professionals, homophobia and transphobia in emergency services confronting the last taboo, and challenging racism and sexism in emergency services.

People who attended that workshop said it was powerful. The facilitator had people get connected by holding hands. They took steps forward and backwards to answer questions they were given.

Some of the questions centered on race. Questions ranged from had they ever been discriminated against to if their ancestors were lynched.

"Watching the people," Participant Jennifer Davis said. "The connections that they had and how they broke because of the questions she described."

Davis hopes that exercise will make a difference as the first responders and other workers go back to their jobs.

"I hope it will cause more people to have self-awareness," Davis said. "That we have more in common than we do different, but also the fact that all of us don't have the same background and we don't have the same access."

The first responders say now was the time to hold this conference. Leaders says times are changing and the world is becoming more diverse. They wanted to get tools in place to handle dealing with various groups of people.

The conference included keynote speakers to motivate attendees. Tuesday's speaker was Tommy Norman. He is a police officer in Little Rock, Arkansas. He has been recognized for his work with community policing. He believes that type of policing helps officers better connect with the community.

"Getting to know people who aren't your color," Community Police Officer Tommy Norman said. "Getting to know people who don't live in the neighborhood you live in - going above and beyond."

Norman believes community policing can help ease tensions between police and the community when conflict arises. He thinks having a diversity conference will help bridge differences and unite communities and police departments.

"Don't go small," Norman said. "Go big - you get to know as many people as you can from nine years old to 99 years old. You get to know these people. Get to know their stories and become their friends and at the end of the day you develop trust and respect to me that can't be broken."

Organizers say the conference was a success and they are anticipating to have another one next year.

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