International conversation on racial and immigration issues was hosted at Johnson C. Smith University

On Wednesday May 2, 2018, Johnson C. Smith University hosted a delegation of nine German professionals and local community leaders to hold a critical conversation on challenges and best practices for racial and immigration integration. The visitors were welcomed by an enthusiastic group of JCSU’s staff, faculty and students. Among the participants were also faculty and students from the University of North Carolina in Charlotte (UNCC), as well as representatives from the City of Charlotte and the Cultural Vistas organization.

The visit on campus was part of the itinerary of the 2018 Welcoming Communities Transatlantic Exchange. This professional exchange program annually convenes over forty professionals from the United States and Germany to share best practices in their respective countries and learn from one another about the reception and integration of immigrants and refugees at the local community level.

“The City of Charlotte kindly approached us as a key partner to host this conversation on intersections of racial equity and immigrant integration efforts. The goal was to make sure that the visitors would be exposed to the perspectives of young leaders in Charlotte”, said Irene Sandoval Arce, Assistant Director of Communications and ESL Coordinator at Metropolitan College of Professional Studies. Mrs. Sandoval Arce served as co-host of the event. Emily Yaffe, International Relations Specialist at the City of Charlotte and coordinator of the tour said that “the visit to JCSU was a continuous point of reflection and conversation for the group”.

Dr. Melvin Herring, JCSU’s Program Director of the Master of Social Work, also co-hosted the visit. “This exchange allowed us to work collectively in order to find effective mechanisms to prevent and reduce discrimination and racism against minorities and vulnerable sectors of society,” said Dr. Herring.

During the session, some of the Latino students at JCSU shared their experiences around the defense of the DACA program and their initiative to create the organization called “Latinos Aiming for Achievement” (LAFA). Another group of students both from JCSU and UNCC also shared their perspectives regarding access for communities of color and their ideas and actions for change. The faculty and staff helped moderate the round tables and offered their insights in their respective areas of expertise.

This event was co-sponsored by JCSU’s Metropolitan College of Professional Studies and the School of Social Work. “This was a great opportunity to learn from situations that different cities in Germany are facing in regards to immigration and racial issues, which are similar to some of the issues that we experience here in Charlotte. It is central to our mission to promote these enriching opportunities for dialogue and share our work with diverse stakeholders,” said Dr. Laura McLean, Dean of Metropolitan College of Professional Studies. The session brought together multiple stakeholders from different sectors, including Bank of America, Camino Community Center, City of Charlotte, and distinguished students, faculty and staff from both JCSU and UNCC.

The Welcoming Communities Transatlantic Exchange is administered by Cultural Vistas, in collaboration with Welcoming America and the Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America. For more information, please visit www.culturalvistas.org/wcte.

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