During the pandemic, diversity has become a prominent topic. It was also an item of discussion at a recent mayor’s breakfast. While the topic usually is focused entirely on race, several of the mayors took the discussion on this topic to be an opportunity to look at the dissimilarities between all of us, as well as the commonalities. What brings us together is coming together as neighbors.
In the sense that the mayors discussed the issue, it was addressed as an opportunity to create inclusive cities and an inclusive county where everyone feels accepted. What diversity entails varies by the needs of the populations under each mayor’s sphere of influence.
“When we talk about diversity,” said Fairview Mayor Debby Rainey, “we get lost in race. It is more than that.”
Rainey discussed the need to also look at both the aged and the disabled when discussing diversity in the population of Fairview, as the median age of residents is 38.3 and more than 88% of the population is white. They have a strong Meals on Wheels program to aid their shut-in senior population and they are building a new inclusion playground that will open in July of next year.
Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson addressed the issue by saying, “God created us all equal…we need to treat everyone with respect and assure them that they are important.”
Franklin Mayor Ken Moore discussed a four-year-old program called Unite Williamson that the city developed to bring people together no matter their race, age, religion, sexual orientation, etc. “We want everyone to feel included,” he said.
Moore founded the annual event after witnessing the response of a diverse, faith-based community following the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. On the Unite Williamson website, Moore further explained his reason for starting the project. “In the wake of that horrific event, people of all faiths came to the support of the church and the surrounding community. Through Unite Williamson, we hope to strengthen our community by creating a formal connection through prayer and commitment to bring hope and unity in a time of great need, should it arise.”
Franklin has also had popular Juneteenth celebrations for several years, this year being one of the largest just as President Biden signed into law the event becoming a national holiday. While Nolensville celebrated Juneteenth for the first time this year.
Jim Hagaman, Mayor of Spring Hill, is retired United States Airforce. Being in the military his whole life, he has worked in a diverse environment. It was part of the infrastructure. “Diversity is about more than race or the color of your skin. It is about everyone in society… having value. It is a great thing…delving into what everyone has to offer.”
For Thompson’s Station Mayor Corey Napier, where the population is 90% white, diversity and inclusion are addressed by providing residents with the opportunity to get out and meet their neighbors. The city is mainly residential, so he sees their vast number of parks and walking trails as a means for the population to get to know one another.
Also primarily residential, Brentwood has a long-standing history of interaction between the African American and white population. Everyone came together after the Civil War as the town of Brentwood formed on land between white-owned farms and the settlement of former slaves called Hardscuffle.
“Years ago, Brentwood established an acceptance of diversity,” said Mayor Rhea Little. “We have many nationalities that live in the city.”
With populations in Williamson County’s cities becoming less and less homogenous, all of the mayors noted that diversity and inclusion was really being defined by the populations of their respective cities and the county. From addressing the needs of the aged to coming together to celebrate new and varied cultural holidays and traditions, the addressing of diversity is more than anything about becoming aware of the needs of current and emerging populations as the world around us embraces massive changes created by increased connectivity.