In September of 2012, just over one year from now, Charlotte, NC, will host the Democratic National Convention. In all likelihood the delegates will re-nominate President Obama as the Democratic candidate for President of the United States.
Charlotte happens to be the city where I live and is a unique and special community that I feel very much a part of. When Charlotte was awarded the convention over other U.S. communities such as St. Louis, MO and Minneapolis, MN, I felt a sense of pride and also a bit of apprehension that my city was soon going to be showcased on an international stage.
Media outlets from around the world will descend upon our community and be evaluating our emerging “new American southern city” with a critical eye. This got me thinking about just exactly what “Charlotte” people might actually see and experience?
How can others evaluate a community’s sense of place?
In its most elemental definition, sense of place can mean defining characteristics that a particular geography has come to be known for.
Paris, for example, may derive its sense of place for some from sidewalk cafes, the Louvre, the Eifel Tower and the left bank of the Seine. Delhi’s sense of place may be derived from the cacophonous traffic, Raj Gat, street vendors and Humayun’s Tomb.
Surely our cities and towns have physical landmarks and unique characteristics that help paint a picture of life for residents and visitors alike, but what truly defines a particular community?
I want people unfamiliar with Charlotte to come to know her for the characteristic that make me feel connected and give me a sense of belonging.
Charlotte is a city that has caring people who look for ways to help those less fortunate. The burrito bikers featured in this short film http://vimeo.com/24668378 are a great example of the kind of caring and giving spirit you’ll find in Charlotte.
Charlotte is a community that places a great emphasis on the arts, culture and civic involvement. We have vibrant and active support of performing, visual and literary arts in all corners of our community and we like to engage around civic issues where we might not always agree, but where everyone has a voice.
I am fortunate to be part of an editorial team of a nonprofit organization whose mission is to enrich the civic and cultural life of the Charlotte region – Charlotte Viewpoint http://www.charlotteviewpoint.org/ is a great example of what involved and committed citizenry can do when they band together with grassroots support focused on issues in our community that are important to us all.
Our city is welcoming and encourages all to celebrate our fabulous gardens, restaurants, recreation and leisure activities and the chance to be part of the ongoing civic conversation. The 2012 convention will see by some estimates, more than 16,000 media personnel from all over the globe join our community for coverage. A group of local independent media producers including myself have launched an organization to help play host to the denizens of bloggers, journalists, artists, activists and independent media producers that will call Charlotte home during the convention. Learn more about The PPL here: http://theppl.us/.
What sets communities apart is less about their physical characteristics and more about the commitment and involvement of their inhabitants. The Queen City is excited to be on the world stage and welcome people into our community. We’re busy planning for our place in the spotlight.
Michael J. Solender
Michael J. Solender is the author of the short story and poetry chapbook, Last Winter’s Leaves, published by Full of Crow Press. His essay, Unaffiliated, is featured in the anthology, Topograph: New Writings From The Carolinas and Landscape Beyond, published by Novello Festival Press. He is the editor of the online magazine, On The Wing and City Life Editor at Charlotte ViewPoint. Solender’s work is found at michaeljwrites.com and his blog, NOT FROM HERE, ARE YOU?