Community Engagement in Action

Written by Amanda Cote

On March 21, 2011
Yvette Lambright staffs booth at Black Expo

Yvette Lambright staffs booth at Black Expo

Real community engagement does not occur without the efforts of dedicated volunteers, and this week we want to recognize some of the tremendous inroads we are beginning to make, due to several special folks. For the Charleston Promise Neighborhood to be a success, members of the community must know who we are, our goals as an organization, and how these goals connect to improving their daily lives.

Our 2011 Commitments set forth our specific objectives for this year, but much of our work in the community will be directed and informed by those who live in the community.  For that reason, getting the message out about who we are is paramount, and this past week offered an excellent opportunity to reach a broad audience at the Charleston Black Expo.

For those who do not know, the Charleston Black Expo is an event sponsored by the Thomas Media Group, which is designed to promote and support minority-owned businesses. This is the 13th year that the event has been held, and the Expo itself takes place at the North Charleston Coliseum, capping a weekend of activities designed to stimulate economic activity, particularly within the African-American Community.

Because the population within the Charleston Promise Neighborhood 5.6 square mile zone is largely made up of African-American residents from Charleston and North Charleston, our Community Engagement Council felt this venue would be an excellent opportunity for us to tell our story and interact with the community.  Historically, several thousand area residents attend the day-long expo, during which time over a hundred vendors are able to set up booths to provide information on their businesses or organizations.

On Thursday, March 10, Charleston Promise Neighborhood distinguished board member Brig. Gen. Walter Johnson, III (Ret.) kicked off the weekend with an inspiring speech at the Black Expo Business Opportunity Summit, held at the Gaillard Auditorium.  Community Engagement Council members Rev. Alma Dungee and Marvetta Daniels were on hand to hear of General Johnson’s rise from the Gadsden Green projects to the ownership of a major defense contracting company, which he later sold to Lockheed-Martin.  Gen. Johnson also signed copies of his book, I Can Do That: Advice for Spiritual Entrepreneurs, which highlights the value of prayer and education in his life.

On Friday, March 11, the Charleston Promise Neighborhood was one of the charitable beneficiaries of the Annual Black Expo Golf Tournament.  We thank the Black Expo and Thomas Media for selecting us, and for the check in the amount of $1500 which was donated to support our programs.

Finally, on Saturday, March 12, The Thomas Media Group donated a booth to the Charleston Promise Neighborhood, which allowed us to hand out information on our organization, answer questions, and expand our mailing list of volunteers. Special thanks must go out to Community Engagement Council Member, Yvette Lambright, who originated the idea and manned the booth for the majority of the day; Hank Cheves and Anchor Signs which donated a beautiful Charleston Promise Neighborhood banner so people would know who we were; and Robbie Kennemur with ProLegal Copies who donated printing so that we could hand out information to the public.  This was a heavily-attended event which gained us wonderful exposure, and the execution of this effort would not have been possible without the generosity of businesses located here in the Neighborhood, and the inspiration of a dedicated Community Engagement Council member.

On Saturday, I also had the honor of presenting to the North Central Neighborhood Association on the invitation of Reverend Alma Dungee, president of the association and Charleston Promise Neighborhood board member, who chaired the meeting.  This followed a similar meeting at the Eastside Community Development Corporation on March 2, facilitated by members Marvetta Daniels and Tyeka Grant, and a meeting at Chicora-Cherokee set up by Anita Antoinette and President Anjene Davis.  We want to publicly thank all of our Community Engagement Councilmembers for their ambassadorship, introductions and efforts on behalf of the Charleston Promise Neighborhood.

The goal of all this interaction and input is for the Community Engagement Council to create a working plan by April 30, 2011 which will include 3-5 projects which our organization can work on with the community during the rest of the year.  We look forward to presenting that plan to the public upon completion and to further genuine community involvement, which we know will ultimately make the projects a success.

Dwayne Green