Words By: Anjelicia Bruton
Leon County residents mingled with city officials and people from various backgrounds who live throughout the Big Bend Area at the Longest Table event on Oct. 9th
The Longest Table was introduced last Fall in the middle of Park Avenue to accommodate about 300 people. The city of Tallahassee/Leon County Government brought this concept forward to have citizens build and strengthen relationships.
Due to its success the purpose of the event has grown with the help of the Knight Foundation Creative Cities Challenge,which centers on civic engagement and communities. Tallahassee was awarded a $57,250 grant.
Mayor Andrew Gillum said the event is to bring the city together to speak on issues and share ideas with people from different neighborhoods throughout Tallahassee.
“They’ll[Tallahassee will] know that there are layers to people, layers to a community and that we expose them to those layers by having them break bread with people that they don’t know and don’t know their stories, said Mayor Gillum. “Maybe they’ll leave today, more informed a little bit more engaged about the community that we live in.”
The table stretched more than 1,000 feet down FAMU Way between Wahnish Way and Pinellas Street and welcomed more than 1,000 residents. Participants also had free dinner provided by locally owned caterers.There was also music provided by Leon High School’s Orchestra.
The tables also included thought-provoking topics that were designed to help spark conversations. The questions addressed poverty, community growth, showcasing diversity, interactions with law enforcement and other topics pertaining to the community.
Mayor Gillum said the “thought bubbles” on the table cloths were to inspire thinking and conversations.
“This offers the opportunity for folks to have more detailed conversations, be in a different side of the city than they live or visited. My hope is that next time they see something that is on the news, or read something in the newspaper on something that happen
s in another side of our city instead of being judgmental about what they read maybe they’ll choose to be more curious,” he said.
Yolanda Bogan, a Tallahassee resident, said this was her first time coming to this event.
“ I wanted to come to this event to support the mission of the activity which is to get to know the neighbors and find commonalities that you have with them,” Bogan said. To discuss some of the issues that are laid out on the table as it relates to communities universally.”
Bogan said it was nice to meet new people,which is why Freddie Rouse is back for his second time.
Freddie Rouse, Tallahassee minister and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University student, said this effort put forth by Tallahassee gives him the opportunity to meet with people of all many different walks of life.
“We have to have everyone out here, instead of having something that’s based on color, gender, or culture,” Rouse said.
Rouse stated that this event is important to him because it prevents racial divide that he sees between the different communities in Tallahassee.
“Racial relations really has not changed, it was just being suppressed. I encourage that they continue to do this to make things available for every culture with different walks of life. This is just a small token,we[America] got a lot of work to do.”