Why a blending of cultures is a major component of vibrant and thriving cities everywhere.
Cities are nothing if not beautiful melting pots of cultures where the constant interaction of ideas and attitudes can lead to friction at times but if embraced can breed a sense of energy to be found nowhere else. From the youth culture of students on mountain bikes and skateboards, young professionals sipping on craft beers and cocktails in the newest hotspot and annual festivals celebrating arts and culture, cities can simply be a reflection of the world we live in today where things aren’t quite as cut and dried as they used to be. And for me that’s a very, very good thing.
One of my most lasting impressions about my time in the mayor’s office was that my life was intersecting with so many different lives and cultures on a constant basis. From regular talks to students in classrooms and regular visits to inner city neighborhoods to speaking to young professionals at a Theology on Tap event, I found these intersection points to literally have no limit and I actively sought them out. Regularly attending events like our local Greek Festival, our local Hispanic Festival and our annual India Day celebration became something I always looked forward to, giving me a greater appreciation for the city I served while helping to develop in me a big picture view on just how wonderfully diverse our community had become.
It was several years ago during Arts in the Heart of Augusta, one of my favorite annual local events, that I had an epiphany as I watched over seventy-thousand people gather in our city center to celebrate arts and culture over a three day period. With so many countries, age ranges and ethnicities gathered together in one place I realized that this was what cities were supposed to look like and that this was what Augusta now looked like to me. Needless to say, that realization in a singular moment in time put a smile on my face and still does to this very day.
Having spent time in cities across the country and all over the world, I’ve always been fascinated by the places where there was a wide mix of cultures and where these cultures didn’t sequester themselves in any one given area but rather interacted regularly. I’ve seen this mix both domestically and abroad, both in large cities and small. I’ve also seen cities that were dominated by one particular ethnicity or political ideology without any real cultural diversity to showcase. Though this type of city can still be a great city and a fun place to visit, having experienced the difference they just don’t seem to quite have the vibrancy, the vibe or the flavor that diversity and a mix of cultures brings to the table.
In the end, not all cities may embrace cultural diversity and all that it contributes to the overall quality of life of a community. However, we live in a fast changing world that grows more diverse everyday. As the battle in cities across the nation and across the globe to recruit and retain millennials and the generations that come after them continues, its my firm belief that the battle will be won by cities willing to embrace new cultures, new ideas and the next generation.