Diversity a Cornerstone of Life in Davidson County
Davidson County, NC strives to be more culturally diverse.
In 1929, the Davidson County library system became one of the first in the South to provide services to all citizens, using resources from a special grant to open two branches in the African-American community and also offer monthly bookmobile visits. This early integration effort quietly became a point of pride that carries over into the county’s healthy embrace of cultural and ethnic diversity today.
Schools Create Interaction
Providing a key foundation today are the county’s school systems, which individually and collectively bring together students from a range of backgrounds and set the stage for positive interaction. This approach is clearly reflected in the belief statement of one system: “We believe that diversity is a valuable and vital asset to our school community.”
“The diversity in our schools has become a positive force within the community,” says Ray Howell, a local minister and author of a history of Davidson County. “What the schools do very well is affirm the various cultures and backgrounds, but focus on unity and working together.”
From a historical perspective, Howell also credits local officials for dealing directly and quickly with issues as they’ve arisen over the years, particularly the complexities of integration during the 1960s. He also notes the ever-broadening ethnicity of the community that has resulted in more interaction in the workplace and throughout the area. Local churches are credited with creating and maintaining support for outreach and unification.
Multicultural Festivals Promote Unity
The county’s diversity is plainly visible at the popular Multicultural Festival organized by the Lexington Recreation and Parks Department each May. Dedicated to the promotion of understanding and tolerance, the festival features five individual “villages” that showcase the historic and cultural heritage of the county’s African-American, Asian, European, Latino and Native American citizens. Thousands come out each year to experience the history, dance, music, cuisine and art showcased within the villages.
Celebration Honors Dr. King
Another outstanding example of the county’s diversity is the annual nine-day, multi-event celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, which includes a parade, invitational dance concert and oratorical contest for area high school students. Based on the teachings of Dr. King, the various events scattered around the county offer opportunities for education and discussion, and also actively “promote the talents and gifts of local artists and performers of all races.”
Howell says the growth of such activities is proof of ongoing progress.
“The entire concept of these festivals is consistent with life in our community,” he says. “It says let’s celebrate our distinctions, but let’s focus on how we can work together.”
Dr. George Jackson, founder of the King event, echoes his opinion.
“The stepping stones have been laid, and we have a good foundation we’re building on throughout Davidson County,” Jackson says. “We’re making steady strides toward being a diverse, inclusive community.”