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From Valaida Fullwood, writer and discussion facilitator at The Charlotte Center for the Humanities and Civic Imagination

1. Tell us about The Charlotte Center for the Humanities and Civic Imagination’s proudest accomplishment last year.

As a start-up nonprofit organization, The Charlotte Center experienced a string of proud moments and accomplishments last year. We launched publicly in January 2021 with the mission of helping people and communities flourish. The Charlotte Center is advancing the idea of flourishing as a peak state of well-being, where people possess a strong sense of meaning, mastery, and mattering and can live into the best versions of themselves. Vibrant cities with healthy civic life provide abundant opportunities for every resident to flourish.

Weaving the humanities into local civic life, The Charlotte Center debuted with a conversation and speaker series, called The Forum. We kicked off The Forum with renowned poet Richard Blanco. Hosting Blanco, a Presidential Inaugural poet and author of How to Love a Country, for an in-depth interview, poetry reading, and audience engagement, opened the door to a prodigious year.

The Forum series unfolded with acclaimed speakers. For example, in March we hosted Pádraig Ó Tuama, an Irish poet and activist, who engaged participants around themes of language, power, conflict and religion. In May, Eboni Marshall Turman, PhD, professor of theology and African American religion at Yale University Divinity School, provoked thinking and conversation on race, faith and gender. In October, The Charlotte Center collaborated with Opera Carolina and BOOM Charlotte to host Douglas Tappin, composer of I Dream, an award-winning theatre production honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tappin enthralled the audience with an exploration of “dreaming in reality.”

The Forum has become our flagship program. In intimate settings and with diverse audiences, our featured speakers and discussion facilitators enable Charlotte residents to connect with fellow residents, consider new perspectives, and ignite myriad ideas and possibilities. The Charlotte Center’s programming framework and mantra: Connect. Consider. Ignite!

Other initiatives in our first year included Wisdom Wednesday, a virtual interview series, and SenseMaker, an outreach program gathering personal stories about belonging from residents across the community.

2. What do you hope to change this year? 

In this, our second year, The Charlotte Center aspires to continue changing how Charlotteans perceive and experience the humanities and how residents participate in shaping our city, because these are keys to human flourishing.

The humanities—poetry, literature, history, religion, philosophy, the arts—are sources of wisdom as we try to make sense of our lives. They serve as guides and offer a basis for a different, and often deeper kind of conversation. That is, conversations that seek to understand who we are and who we can be.

Exploration of “who we can be,” as individual people and as a community, is where civic imagination can take flight. The Charlotte Center creates experiences where residents of Charlotte can envision a better future and consider ways to make it happen. Intentional questioning and regular reflection help exercise and stretch our minds in ways that unlock creativity and compel our collective pursuit for a better future. Civic imagination turns questions into answers and ideas into action.

The Charlotte Center recognizes we are living in a time when social trust and institutions are challenged. We all have witnessed a degradation of civic discourse and in the ways we seek to address community concerns. This is occurring while core community issues are becoming more complex. The Charlotte Center believes community flourishing is best achieved when community processes are inclusive and when residents are active, reflective and hold power in deciding the path forward.

To exert that public power, our programming, through a humanities lens, aims to strengthen community connections and inspire innovation that leads to change in Charlotte where we all can flourish.  To that end, we are launching The Charlotte Center Festival of Ideas—a 3-day event that’s part of Charlotte SHOUT!  The Festival of Ideas will include inspiring presentations, group discussion, and explorations of flourishing and imagination.

3. How can Charlotte Center for the Humanities actively support the needs or well-being of employees?

Civic Reflection is one way The Charlotte Center supports the flourishing and well-being of employees. Grounded in the humanities, Civic Reflection discussions are designed to help people talk more comfortably about values, think more deeply about choices, and respond more imaginatively to the needs of their organizations and communities.

We design and facilitate these discussions so that each group—whether employees, neighbors, board members, students, congregants or other groups—benefits and grows together from intentional moments of reflection and conversation. The discussions help expand imagination about future action and build bridges of understanding amid differences.

Companies and organizations find Civic Reflection instrumental in their efforts to improve how socially curious and socially conscious groups understand each other, work together, and achieve a lasting, positive impact on their group and the community.

Benefits of Civic Reflection include:

  • More effective and efficient meetings
  • A clearer sense of shared purpose
  • Stronger bridges to partners, community members, and other stakeholders
  • Better strategizing about the impact your work has in the community
  • Higher rates of staff, volunteer, and talent retention
  • Healthier communication that helps to weather crises
  • A ready structure for productive dialogues about important issues

Our team at The Charlotte Center looks forward to partnering with companies and organizations in our region to lead their employees in Civic Reflection discussions.

Connect with the Charlotte Center via these platforms:

  • ‘Word to the Wise,’ Our Monthly Brief, Sign up