When the right people are at the table, a lot of good can come from a brief visit.
Davenport-based community organizer Tracy White accomplished a great deal over lunch Wednesday, Nov. 28, by connecting male and female business leaders in the region with African American boys.
Conversation during the inaugural Embrace Race Luncheon was guided to challenge participants’ perceptions and stereotypes as well as highlight their similarities and differences. Four professionals joined four students in grades 4-12 at eight tables, each of which cost $150 to reserve.
Proceeds from the event benefit Well Suited, a nonprofit organization that aims to help close the opportunity and achievement gaps for African American boys and develop strong leaders in the Quad Cities.
“My boys need to be comfortable talking to everybody,” said White, who launched Well Suited in June 2016 with a black-tie event that linked 25 boys with positive male role models.
Well Suited primarily serves African American boys at Hayes Elementary School in Davenport. The school-based leadership club received a $1,600 grant last year from the Quad Cities Community Foundation because its vision aligns with the talent development and diversity and inclusion goals of the Q2030 regional action plan.
Involvement in the program, now in its third year at Hayes, deters disruptive behavior, absenteeism and tardiness, White said.
She hopes the dialogue, a product of Q2030 and the Quad Cities Big Table, forms mentoring relationships and eventually leads to job shadows, internships, college scholarships and job offers.
“I think men get just as much out of it as the boys do,” White said of the experience.
According to a follow-up survey of the 5,000-plus people who participated in the Big Table last April, 36 percent of hosts said their tables broached the topic of equity and social inclusion. The following needs also were identified:
- Develop an awareness of the challenges in the central city neighborhoods
- Develop empathy for people from different backgrounds
- Embrace immigrant families and the value they bring to the community
To make the Quad Cities a more welcoming and inclusive place to live, respondents called for the sponsorship and promotion of more cultural events that celebrate the area’s diversity, among other solutions.
Estes Construction sponsored the Embrace Race Luncheon. Kent Pilcher, president and owner of Estes Construction, said his company’s contributions mainly support youth programs, so the fundraiser fit right in line with their philanthropic mission.
He and White first met at Rock Island’s Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center during a meeting to promote the Big Table.
White went to the meeting because she wanted to engage more members of underrepresented populations in the community-wide initiative. It encouraged her to host a Big Table forum at the Multicultural House on St. Ambrose University’s campus. Pilcher, who doubles as a tri-chair of Q2030, attended the discussion and the duo since has developed a working relationship.
“Without this (Big Table), she and I would have never connected,” said Pilcher, who hopes White continues to grow Well Suited and its impact. “She (White) is doing a lot to change these young men and help them grow.”
For more information about Well Suited, contact Tracy White at firstname.lastname@example.org or 563-499-5701.