GREENSBORO, N.C. — Everyone expects the Chamber of Commerce to lead the way in all things commerce and business. Greensboro’s Chamber of Commerce is leading in conversations about race in the Triad.
“We as a chamber staff had some really in-depth conversations following the death of George Floyd, which I know a number of organizations and families,” Greensboro Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Brent Christensen said. “That has really I think sparked an awful lot of dialogue everywhere.”
Christensen says his team partnered with the Greensboro Public Library for a series called “One City, One Film.” Leaders from the business community, law enforcement and people from all backgrounds living in Greensboro came together for discussions about the movie “The Hate U Give.”
“Really if you’ve seen ‘The Hate U Give,’ it’s a great opportunity for folks that look like me to walk around in a different skin color and get an opportunity to learn from walking in other shoes,” Christensen said.
They held three virtual discussion sessions focused on debriefing, sharing different perspectives and talking about how the movie applies to today’s America.
“From my own personal perspective, when you open with an African American having to have the discussion about how you act when you’re pulled over by the police. That’s not something that my family ever really felt the need to do. That’s eye-opening right from the very beginning,” he said. “There were terms that were used throughout the process, like code shifting, that perhaps folks didn’t understand what that meant, but hopefully opened their eyes to what it’s like to be someone in a different color skin than theirs.”
Christensen told FOX8 the Greensboro Chamber is no stranger to diversity and inclusion.
“We have a great program at the chamber, the Other Voices program, which is a diversity and inclusion program. It’s not just race, but all -isms. We’ve got this great program, a great infrastructure built around that with volunteers and others who help people on their own journeys that are part of that class,” he said.
The conversations are bigger than that now. They’re not easy, but there are resources out there to help empower business leaders and managers to have them, including on the chamber’s website.
Christensen says he understands that there are people who don’t believe there’s a race problem and some may wince at the thought of talking about race.
“I think you do the best that you can to explain to them how important it is to them personally, to their organizations, and to the community as a whole and hope that their minds and their hearts are open to it.”
He believes it’s an exchange of words that could pay off for everyone.
“I think what you have to understand is your business only gets better the more perspectives you consider,” Christensen said.
Christensen said his hope is that people in the sessions made personal connections that will lead to one-on-one conversations offline and that they’ve spurred a community conversation that will go beyond those three sessions.