Lesley Scearce, left, and Samar Ali open the discussion on hope for the attendees
United Way of Greater Chattanooga has partnered with national non-profit Millions of Conversations to launch Learn United, a community-wide conversation series designed to ignite meaningful connections and foster intentional dialogue during a time of increased polarization in the U.S. Learn United will leverage the power of joy and conversation to break down barriers across every corner of Greater Chattanooga, said officials.
The series kicked off Thursday with a conversation of hope led by Lesley Scearce, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Chattanooga, and Samar Ali, Research Professor of Political Science and Law at Vanderbilt University, co-chair of Vanderbilt Project on Unity & American Democracy, and Founding President and CEO of Millions of Conversations. The first event welcomed 80 community members with diverse perspectives and backgrounds.
The core message of building trust and finding hope was discussed over a shared meal from Chef Kenyatta Ashford. Even the menu was a reflection of Ms. Ashford’s spirit of creating common spaces where people can come together across backgrounds and beliefs.
"In the midst of chaos, we’ve seen our community come together despite our differences,” said Ms. Scearce. “What if that spirit of collaboration could be sustained every day? What if we spent more time listening and building a community based on our shared values? Think of the Chattanooga we could build together. This is how we move forward united.”
Learn United will bring leadership speakers to the stage throughout the year to explore the themes of building a healthy community. Each interactive event will create space for all voices to be heard. This movement will also arm neighbors to lead their own conversations and inspire action throughout the community, said officials.
"This is a timely, important initiative by United Way of Greater Chattanooga to ground its community in conversation,” Ms. Ali said. “It was powerful to hear from community members this week as we discussed building hope in Greater Chattanooga. Learn United is a call to action to get comfortable with the uncomfortable that leads to joy. Millions of Conversations is committed to continuing the conversation as we live our mission of bringing people together around common values for a shared future.”
Additional details will be shared in the coming months for community members to get involved. Visit www.unitedwaycha.org/learnunited to learn more.
Community leaders Lakweshia Ewing and Andrew Zito have conversations around the future and how we build stronger community