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Last week while sitting under the hair dryer at the salon, I listened to two older African American women discuss the state of the black community. They discussed everything from parenting to the current budget issues, with the focus of the entire conversation on how young black women and men are not prepared to be parents or fight for the rights of the black community. As they talked I cringed at many of their views, agreeing with just a few.

As a Charlotte native, product of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and one who has benefitted from the generosity of this community, I began to think about my history in and with this city. I remembered a young white female attorney who took an interest in me and introduced me to people, places and experiences I would have never had if it had not been for her. I reminisced on the friendships I continue today that were developed at the then racially and economically diverse Piedmont Open Middle School. I remembered moving away to Raleigh and thinking how uncomfortable it was to be in a city without a heart (my observation, not necessarily a fact), and how I longed to get back to my birthplace and to contribute to the community that cared about me and given so much to my development as a person and professional.

Remembering these things and listening to the conversation made me realize a few things:

1. There is a huge generational gap of thought in the African American community.

2. There is a huge sense of distrust in the African American community toward the larger community structure.

3. I am disappointed at the black community and the community at large for the choices they’ve made – or not made – during the last decade. SN: I can’t begin to speak on the decisions because we’d be here all day. Let’s just say I am appalled that we sat by and allowed our schools to be desegregated.

It also made me proud to be a part of Get Real 2011, an initiative being sponsored by Crossroads Charlotte, an independent organization that offers numerous ways for the community to Act Today in small and large ways to build trust by creating access, inclusion and equity in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

On Thursday, Crossroads Charlotte will launch Get Real 2011. This initiative is a call to action for the entire community to spend time together learning, listening and talking about our history, our future, our choices and values.

Meetings will be taking place from late February to early March, and at the end the voices of those who attended the meetings will be shared with elected officials and senior staff of public institutions in the community in the form of suggestions on how they should make the tough decisions that are being debated and decided.

My company, studio b public relations, will be reaching out organizations and individuals asking you to get involved by hosting a Get Real session. Get Real session hosts are asked to gather a small group from your church, workplace, club or neighborhood to discuss the issues facing our community. Hosts provide the location and people for the session and Crossroads Charlotte will provide the program. Interested in being a host? Call 704-973-4577 or go to www.getreal2011.com or www.crossroadscharlotte.org to register your group.

You can also register to attend a Crossroads Charlotte meeting, which will be held the week of March 7 – 11.

Crossroads is promising that Get Real 2011 won’t be all talk – there will be real options presented to consider. Get Real 2011 won’t be a perfect process, but it is a community-based effort (as opposed to being government sponsored) that will educate and empower the community.

With that said, I encourage you all to bring your salon, barber shop, kitchen and water cooler conversations to one of the Get Real sessions and help impact change in this community.

As Crossroads Executive Director Tracy Russ says: “Real choices are being made…here’s an opportunity to affect those choices…but it won’t be real without you.”

My challenge to you: Stop talking in silos and get real with Crossroads.

Share your thoughts on the state of our community and your solutions to the issues.

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