Jesse Cureton, a Charlotte native and executive vice president with Novant Health, spent the day before Keith Scott was shot in a Dismantling Racism workshop with other community leaders. When turmoil broke out in the streets, he texted two other African American executives, Gene Woods of Carolinas Healthcare and Brett Carter of Bank of America. They swapped ideas about how to respond.
In early November the trio rolled out One Charlotte, designed to bring corporate leaders and clergy into the conversation about how to invest in change. The effort debuted with a march that drew hundreds to uptown Charlotte. Since that march, there’s been little visible action from One Charlotte. Cureton says the group is working with the Opportunity Task Force to address long-range solutions to injustice and lack of opportunity.
With the talk of investment, One Charlotte’s leaders heard from some people who wanted to donate money and others who hoped to receive some. That’s not what the group is about, Cureton says.
“I grew up in this community. I had the privilege of working for a bank and now a health care system, and am at a point in my career where I can’t allow this to happen without doing something.
I know the community will never think it’s fast enough, and it never will be fast enough, but ... the leadership in this community is more deliberate today than we have ever been in connecting the dots.
“(The One Charlotte march) would be the launch of a different narrative around how we would begin to look at our communities. Having clergy as part of this movement is very important, because in addition to the tactical things that need to take place, we have to begin to cause people to pivot.
“I’m not one that supports the notion that we change our capitalistic structure, or ‘Down with capitalism!’ I am one to say that we have to figure out a way to be focused on equity, and understanding that there are people that really haven’t had a fair share, and it’s beyond anything that they can do.
“I know the community will never think it’s fast enough, and it never will be fast enough, but what I will tell you is the leadership in this community is more deliberate today than we have ever been in connecting the dots and understanding it’s not just about tactical solutions, it’s about strategic comprehensiveness.
“We think of One Charlotte more from a convening and advocacy organization. I think it’s real dicey when you start talking about raising money, because when you start talking about raising money you have to then start talking about what is the ‘it’ that I’m going to do with the money.
“We are working very hard around work force, starting with how we begin to look at our employees within our organization from zip codes and making sure that we are intentional about closing the gap. ... When you look at your employee population, where do they live? Then you ask the question, where do they work and what roles do they have within our organization? How much are they making, right? ... What are the gaps to get into jobs that may pay $30, $40 and $50 an hour? Are they education gaps? Is it access to transportation? What are the gaps and what can we do to begin to close those gaps?
“When it comes to our community, it took generations for us to get here and it’s going to take generations for us to get out, right? But if we begin to look at these communities differently, if we identify our problem we will solve it.
“This is not going to be easy work, and if anyone thinks that 12 months from now we’ll be sitting down and saying, ‘We checked that box. We’re done. We’ve taken care of housing, we’ve taken care of the gap in jobs, we’ve taken care of the gaps in education,’ that’s just not going to happen. It’s not going to happen in 12 months. It’s not going to happen in 12 years. That’s the reality of this work, so everyone needs to hunker down, get their long marathon running shoes on and let’s go at it.”