Racial Unity through a Healthy Habits Approach
Starting in the spring of 2012, two Chicago neighborhoods separated both physically and culturally, came together through the most human of means—sitting down together to share meals. The Rev. Patricia Novick, a friend of Enlace Chicago, is active in the area and suggested the Unity Dinners as a means to bridge the barrier created by the railroad tracks that bisect the two areas and the cultural assumptions that sometimes divide communities.
The project aimed to not only improve relations between the communities but to do so through the promotion of healthy living, nutrition, and other wellness activities. In short—health in its broadest definition, rooted in the knowledge that a healthy community helps to foster the health of individuals.
“The idea was that through the basics of life—laughter, food, connection, relationships—that the possibility of seeing the humanity in the other would come out of this project,” Novick says.
Partners for the project included Enlace Chicago, a community organization working in the primarily Latino Little Village area in west Chicago and the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation in North Lawndale, an adjacent neighborhood that is primarily African American.
While the two areas, which are predominantly working class, have much in common, they have remained largely segregated, according to residents of both communities.
“I find it fascinating that two groups that have such similar histories can live so close to one another and have so little contact,” says Enlace’s Tiffany Childress.
During the dinners, as well is in the joint preparations for the meals, participants came together to learn and share. Neighborhood history, art, and health issues were addressed in the context of conversations over delicious and healthy food. Materials were also gathered to create a leader’s guide as well as advice on programming, menus and recipes so that the program can be further expanded and replicated. A film, made during the Unity Dinner project, further tells the story of these communities coming together around health and much more.
This is a project of the Fetzer Advisory Council on the Health Professions.