The turnout at Cheryle Moses’ annual anniversary party for the Urban Mediamakers organization far exceeded her expectations, even though she didn’t actually know what to expect to begin with. The viral event titled “Come Meet a Black Person,” was held Thursday, Nov. 16 in Lawrenceville, Ga., and saw people with various backgrounds and careers come together and network over chili, cornbread and hot dogs.
For $15, 60-70 Black and white attendees — 50 of which preregistered — mingled at Cornerstone Coworking. From a Black front-end developer to comedians to a white Scoutmaster from the Boy Scouts of America, the discussion was heavy but the mood was light. “Life has been heavy for a lot of people. Everybody that came to the event was like ‘a big weight was lifted,’” Moses told Atlanta Black Star.
The mixer, which benefited the Young Urban Mediamakers program, encouraged non-Black guests to “put aside any pre-conceived notions about the Black community and bring an open mind.”
“We are willing to start the healing,” the slogan for the event said.
Yet Moses said the feedback ahead of the event was half negative and positive. While she said she expected “Confederate trolls” to respond critically, her feelings were hurt when Black people slammed her — she didn’t expect that from the community.
“People don’t read, first of all,” Moses said. “So the title, ‘Come Meet a Black Person,’ is not the same as, ‘Come See a Black Person.’ So people who are saying, ‘It’s like we’re animals in a zoo.’ That’s not what that sentence says. If you look up the definition of ‘meet’ is has one definition and if you look up ‘see’ there’s another definition. You go to a zoo to see animals you don’t come to a meeting to see an animal. My sentence is very clear.”
Related: Race Driven Meetings In the News
Black Lives Matter Philly Defends Policy of Banning White, Other Non-Black People from Meetings
Jim Brown, Ray Lewis Meet with Trump to Talk Job Creation for Black People
‘Concerned Black Students’ Call on Duke to Address Alleged Hazing in African-American Sororities, Fraternities
Even though Moses simply didn’t know what to expect, the event grabbed the attention of folks around the country and many let their feelings show online.
Come Meet a Black Person smh like we a new attraction at the zoo or something pic.twitter.com/3wSyPX31Un
— D.T. (@Darlene26811165) November 15, 2017
My thoughts on the “Come Meet A Black Person” event: lf a white person hasnt met a black person & it’s almost 2018, that’s because they’re probably racist & dont want to.??♀️
— Melanin Princess? (@BreLynnor) November 16, 2017
Yet one person who went to the event gave it nothing but praise.
Moses said she had been planning the yearly party and came across an email from the Public Religion Research Institute that found 75 percent of white Americans don’t have non-white friends and 91 percent of white people’s friends are also white. It also discovered that 65 percent of Black people do not have white friends.
“Spirit led me to say, ‘Why don’t you invite some white people to come meet all of the Black people who are part of Urban Mediamakers?’” said Moses, who has worked in public relations for 17 years. “And I wrote out the title and filled out the rest of the invitation. And sent it. And went to bed! I didn’t ponder over the headlines like I normally do when I’m sending out press releases.”
But the event’s title took on a life of its own. She said several people attended simply because of the title. “One guy said his mom made him come …I’ve had people from Annapolis, Virginia, New York and all over ask me to host the event in their city,” said Moses.
To continue to foster engagement, Moses issued homework to be completed over the next couple of weeks. She plans to continue to host “Come Meet Black People” events in different cities. The next one is happening in L.A. as part of its west coast chapter. Moses said she hopes to have the event happen in mid-January.