Last month, an Atlanta organization called Urban Mediamakers hosted an event that got quite a lot of attention in Georgia and across the nation.
To the surprise and bewilderment of some people throughout the Peach State, the first ever, “Come Meet a Black Person” networking event was held in Lawrenceville, Ga.
The event made headlines across the country, including in major newspapers such as The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Cheryle Moses, the founder of UMM and an Atlanta native, said that she came up with the idea after running across a Public Religion Research Institute’s study that reported 75 percent of all white people in the United States do not have any non-white friends.
“Americans’ core social networks tend to be dominated by people of the same race or ethnic background,” according to Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). “Few opinions are formed and few experiences occur in isolation.”
That’s when the idea for the “Come Meet a Black Person” event dawned on her, Moses said.
She believes the only way this country can solve racism is one-on-one genuine conversations that lead lead to learning about other cultures and developing real friendships.
“In that moment, I decided to invite white people who did not have non-white friends to come to my event and meet a black person,” Moses wrote in a Nov. 30 column about the event. “For the past 16 years, I have marketed events for Urban Mediamakers in hopes of getting media attention with limited success. But not this time. This time the headline ‘Come Meet a Black Person’ went viral and sparked emotions across the world, fueling conversations and comments, both positive and negative.”
While some organizations might have backed down from any negative media attention and changed the event’s name, Moses decided to embrace it.
“When the Universe shows up, you do not question it, you just flow with the flow,” Moses wrote, adding that she wanted all people to see how racism impacts African-Americans throughout this country. “As a black woman, dealing with racism is a part of everything I do – at the job, in relationships, getting on elevators, at gas stations, shopping at retail stores, restaurants, when dealing with law enforcement and the government — you name it.”
While she grew up in Atlanta, she moved to Gwinnett County about 10 years ago and bought a home in Lawrenceville in 2016.
“The first weekend in my house, a white mid-20s male and female came to my door (peeping in my windows) at 1 a.m. asking if their cell phone was in my house,” Moses wrote. “I called the police. A Gwinnett County officer (young white guy) arrived and stayed at the bottom of my driveway talking to the white young adults. After some time, I came out of my house and walked down the driveway since I called the police. The officer approached me in my driveway and informed me that the young adults had an app that tracked their lost cell phone to my house. ‘What?’ I responded to the police officer. The officer then asked with arrogance and total disrespect, ‘Are you sure you don’t have the cell phone in your house?’”
After the presidential election last year, Moses said she drove home from work and saw “two white men in a pickup truck with a huge confederate flag turning wheelies” on a main street in Lawrenceville celebrating President Donald Trump’s win.
“I felt a fear that I have never experienced before in my life,” she wrote. “Now in 2017, racist white and non-black people are aggressive and blatant with their bigotry. There is a fearlessness about bigots today. I am not the one for this nonsense, but I do not want to die or kill someone else needlessly over the color of my skin.”
Therefore, Moses said she saw a clear need for the “Come Meet a Black Person” event.
“I believe as long as non-black people listen to lies written and spoken about blacks in this country and the world, racism will continue to thrive,” she wrote. “It is only until you see another person as a friend, an equal, a person your life would not be wonderful without – will racism change.”
After hosting the first “Come Meet a Black Person” networking event in November, Moses has decided to keep the mixer going.
“‘Come Meet a Black Person’ networking events are badly needed in this country to discuss racism,” she wrote. “Black, white and those who classify themselves as non-black were offended and upset by the title ‘Come Meet a Black Person’ but they could not articulate why. I wrestled with why people were so angry about the title of the event.”
She insisted people should not be afraid of the name of the event.
“‘Come Meet a Black Person’ networking events are taking place across the country (the world) on third Thursdays of each month beginning January 2018,” she wrote. “‘Come Meet a Black Person’ multiple-city tour is beginning January 18-20, 2018 in Los Angeles … I am excited about the future of ‘Come Meet a Black Person’ and the evolution of the movement. I invite people to become a part of the movement and help change the racially divisive world that we live in today.”
The next “Come Meet a Black Person” event in Lawrenceville is scheduled right before Christmas on Dec. 22.
“We are inviting white people who do not have non-white friends to attend this event and put aside any pre-conceived notions about different cultures,” Moses wrote. “And this invitation goes out to anyone who does not have a black friend – Asian, Latino, Indian, American Indian, mixed race — you name it. We want everyone to just come with an open mind to this networking event of diverse, creative individuals.”
The event will include introductions, a cultural scavenger hunt, a chili bar, drinks and giveaways. Tickets are $15 per person in advance and $20 at the door, which will include food and drinks.
The members of the Urban Mediamakers also want participants to share a piece of themselves with the group.
“Bring an item that represents your unique heritage,” the invitation reads. “So if you classify yourself as white but are Italian, bring something from Italy. If you are mixed race, bring something that represents up to three of your known heritages.”
While Moses’ intentions seem noble, people might also simply want to try walking outside their home or stepping outside their office and engaging in conversation with a neighbor or co-worker of a different ethnicity.
It’s pretty wild that our society has gotten to the point that we need a networking event to help people meet someone from a different race.
Newsflash, folks: Opportunities are everywhere, not just at a mixer.
Talk to people of all races. You’ll be amazed at what you learn.