Greenville Forward implements and facilitates the goals of Vision 2025. The current vision emphasizes ensuring a high quality of life in Greenville around seven primary focus areas – Learning, Creative, Inclusion, Green, Health, Innovation, and Connected. Each quarter we plan our programming around one focus area.
For the past three months, Greenville Forward’s programs and events have centered on the Inclusion focus area of Vision 2025. It has been an exciting, yet challenging, quarter as we’ve explored how Greenville can be inclusive of everyone. Through lunch discussions, presentations, tours and more, we’ve sought to understand the issues and create dialogue in order to shepherd our community toward Vision 2025 goals:
“In 2025, we dream that Greenville is open and welcoming to all, regardless of what you look like, how much you make, where and if you worship, where you come from, or who you love.”
In January, we kicked off the quarter with a packed Momentum discussion on LGBT relations. Despite the fact that Greenville County still has an anti-gay resolution on the books, attendees agreed that a closed-minded approach is not representative of the Greenville community at large. In contrast, there are many groups that are welcoming and affirming of all sexualities, such as Gender Benders, Warehouse Theatre, Greenville UU and more, helping to move the conversation forward. In response to the discussion, Greenville Forward took the opportunity to add a clause in its Equal Employment Opportunity Policy to explicitly include sexuality.
In February, we took a closer look at poverty and race relations. After a series of Greenville News articles last November, there is a renewed interest in Greenville’s homeless population, and many are eager to help. Beth Templeton, with Our Eyes Were Opened, led a poverty simulation at Long Branch Baptist Church, which allowed participants to have a more personal experience of the myriad effects and impacts of poverty. Greenville Forward members also toured the White Horse Road crescent, one of Greenville’s most impoverished neighborhoods, and learned about the work being done by United Way partners to educate, empower and uplift these communities out of poverty.
In March, we turned our focus to religious diversity and celebrated Upstate International month. At another packed Momentum discussion, participants shared that Greenville may be known as the “heart of the Bible belt,” but is actually more accepting than they expected (despite having to answer “where do you go to church” quite often). At our Progression series, Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship minister, Pat Jobe, poignantly shared how religious inclusion is necessary for Greenville’s future and how groups such as the Year of Altruism and the InterFaith Forum are bridging the divide through their work.
Reflecting on the past quarter, the overall consensus is that we’ve come a long way, but can still improve some areas, namely LGBT relations, race relations, and religious diversity. Although our programs are transitioning to the Green focus area in April, the conversation on diversity and inclusion does not end here. In the coming weeks, Greenville Forward will re-launch our Inclusion Task Force to re-look at the Vision so that we are sure to keep moving toward a Greenville that is open welcoming to all. Please join us in this journey.