Church and city leaders in New Bern are hosting a conference to explore racial and economic divisions within the local community.
Pastor Dawn Baldwin Gibson of Peletah Ministries says racial divisions contribute to economic disparity in New Bern.
The event will feature discussions on community development, but there will also be a racial reconciliation service this evening.
"We're gonna see people from across the community that are going to lament and share some woes because we've got to be very honest about that," Gibson says.
"But (they) are also going to have a very frank understanding that if we stay stuck in what has been, then we will not be able to move our communities forward."
Gibson says she hopes interested community partners can hear one another's grievances and develop plans to bolster suffering neighborhoods. She says she's seen diverse and constructive racial discourse in the church's food pantry.
"There became a comfort level that transcended race. And I believe that is where the community—Caucasian, African-American, we have a large Burmese population that we serve here, and we have a Hispanic population here, and all those in between—that we can come together on a respectful common ground."
Civil rights activist and minister John M. Perkins will lead a workshop on community development. Former North Carolina Senator Malcolm Graham, whose sister was killed in the Charleston church shooting this summer, will also speak.