As families in Charlotte-Mecklenburg continue to struggle to escape the grip of poverty, this year’s UNC Charlotte Dr. Bertha Maxwell-Roddey Lecture will consider “A Road Map of Opportunity for Charlotte,” focused on a community call to action around the issue.
The co-chairs of the 20-member Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force, Ophelia Garmon-Brown and Charles Dee O’Dell, will present this year’s annual lecture on Wednesday, September 20, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in McKnight Hall, Cone University Center.
Special recognition and a reception will immediately follow the lecture. The event is free and open to the public, with RSVPs to 704-687-5161 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Parking is available for a fee on campus for those without UNC Charlotte permits.
The Africana Studies Department inaugurated The Annual Dr. Bertha Maxwell-Roddey Distinguished Africana Lecture in 2008 to honor Dr. Bertha Maxwell-Roddey’s pioneering contributions to the development of Africana Studies as an academic discipline at UNC Charlotte. This is the ninth talk in the series; past talks have considered topics as wide-ranging as Charlotte’s future as a global city, to African American families, to health concerns.
“Each year, we present the lecture as an intellectual and social forum to engage with and connect to the Charlotte region’s diverse populations on issues of broad relevance,” said Akin Ogundiran, chair of the Africana Studies Department. “When selecting the topics and speakers, we are focused on bringing forward original ideas on the African Diaspora to a broad audience.”
This year, the talk will consider the findings and recommendations in the Opportunity Task Force’s report, Leading On Opportunity, which followed almost two years of investigation prompted in part by a 2013 Equality of Opportunity study by Harvard University and University of California Berkeley, led by Raj Chetty of Harvard University.
In the study, the Charlotte community ranked 50th out of 50 in economic mobility among the largest U.S. cities, which speaks specifically to the ability of a child born in the bottom income quintile to rise to the top income quintile as an adult. Many in the community reacted with disbelief, while others already knew that “Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s story is a tale of two cities,” the task force says.
In 2015, Chetty and other researchers expanded on the earlier study and analyzed the same data with different methods.
“They found that incomes rise when children of poverty move to higher-opportunity communities—communities that are less segregated, have fewer incidents of crime, more two-parent families, higher performing schools, and so on,” the task force says. “For Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the 2015 study reinforced what we already knew from the earlier study: the odds of low-income children and youth escaping poverty in Mecklenburg County are very low. Of the 100 largest counties in the U.S. identified in the study, Mecklenburg ranked 99th in upward mobility.”
One person who will avidly follow the discussion on September 20 is Maxwell-Roddey, She continues to engage with the community, following a long, distinguished career in education. As a leader with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, she was the first African-American to serve as an administrator in a predominantly white school. She was the founding director and later founding chair of what is now the Africana Studies Department at UNC Charlotte and holds the title of Frank Porter Graham Professor of Africana Studies Emerita.
She co-founded what is now the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture and was instrumental in the formation of the National Council for Black Studies. She has served on more than 50 boards and commissions and received awards including the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the Elizabeth Catlett-Delta Legacy “Women Making a Difference,” and Eagle Fly Free Award from the Institute for the Advancement of Multicultural & Minority Medicine. She is actively involved in the Gamma Lambda Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Words and Image of Maxwell-Roddey: Lynn Roberson, CLAS Communications Director