Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives in Raleigh, N.C.
Wednesday, April 12, 2023, 4pm by Visit Raleigh
A visit to Raleigh, N.C., is more than a trip to a blossoming Southern metropolis. With over one million residents, it’s truly the smart, savvy and welcoming locals who make our destination unique. Individuals from different backgrounds, with different beliefs and of different abilities are shaping the growth of our emerging creative businesses, extraordinary food scene and enriching cultural experiences.
The hospitality community in Raleigh extends a welcome to all visitors with open hearts and the desire to meet their needs. We’re here to help you discover your own Raleigh story.
Below are examples of how our destination has been working harder than ever to ensure visitors of all types feel welcome, included and celebrated.
All Access Wake County
We aim to do more than the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires and provide top-notch hospitality to those with disabilities. In 2019, Visit Raleigh held a summit entitled “All Access Wake County” to help educate and train restaurants, hotels, attractions, retailers and event venues throughout the destination on accessibility. More than 150 hospitality industry employees participated in the summit.
All Access Wake County is our call to partners to do more than the minimum. This summit was only a part of a larger initiative, which includes an online accessibility resource portal at visitRaleigh.com/allaccess. The online portal provides hospitality partners with resources and training they may need to offer extraordinary customer service to people with disabilities; in addition, the official tourism website itself is accessible.
Partners and destination stakeholders excelling
While we would love to highlight every business celebrating DEI in Raleigh, N.C., we are exceptionally proud of these area partners leading the way.
Esteamed Coffee is a coffee shop and cafe in downtown Cary that is working toward lowering the more than 70% unemployment rate for adults with disabilities. Esteamed Coffee has created a unique space for individuals with various disabilities to carry meaningful employment opportunities, connect with the local community and serve area visitors.
John Chavis Memorial Park and Community Center
John Chavis Memorial Park and Community Center has been an integral part of the Raleigh community for decades. The 37-acre park opened in 1938 near downtown Raleigh and was named after early 19th-century free Black preacher and teacher of all races John Chavis. The park goes above and beyond to make all feel included—even adding a wheelchair-accessible chariot to its 100-year-old carousel. In 2021, City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources unveiled multiple park updates and improvements (totaling over $12 million), including a new two-story community center with a full-size indoor gym, elevated walking track, fitness center, numerous classroom and meeting spaces, an example of the City’s drive to preserve and celebrate African American heritage sites.
Visitors may also check out the on-site exhibit: John Chavis Memorial Park: Past to Present. The outdoor exhibit tells about the events that impacted the development of the park while highlighting community stories from the park's earliest days up to the present.
Black Friday Market
Black Friday Market describes itself as “your favorite Black-owned businesses in one spot.” Black Friday Market is a retail department store, located at 23 W. Hargett St., that allows business owners to sell their products commission-free. Currently, they feature products from over 80 local vendors—including artwork, clothes, books, candles and more. The shop also hosts a number of community events such as flea markets, live music and networking events in which they highlight Black business owners, entrepreneurs and creatives from the area.
Black Friday Market was the first business to receive Downtown Raleigh Alliance’s Pop-Up Downtown Raleigh Grant in 2021—which reimburses businesses up to $2,500 to cover up-fit and stand-up expenses associated with the pop-up space for businesses that lease for less than one year. However, Johnny Hackett, owner of Black Friday Market, says the storefront isn’t going away any time soon.
A Place At The Table
A Place At The Table is addressing the problem of food insecurity, led by Maggie Kane, founder and executive director of Raleigh’s first pay-what-you-can nonprofit café. She is joined by more than 2,000 volunteers and a community that has paid it forward by purchasing meals for others, providing a sense of community around the table—regardless of means. Good, healthy food is available to everyone at this welcoming cafe that treats everyone with compassion and as part of their community.
The path for women to recover from trauma is a bit brighter in the Raleigh area because Carroll's Kitchen exists, providing a place of safety for employment and training. This nonprofit social enterprise offers outstanding food at their grab-and-go storefront, which employs women recovering from homelessness, incarceration, addiction, domestic violence and more.
Designed For Joy
Designed For Joy aims to remove the stigma of vulnerability while providing a safe, living wage in their downtown Raleighs studio for women who are at high risk for sex- and labor-trafficking. The collections feature jewelry, home goods, leather bags and other well-crafted items.
1 in 6 Snacks
The 1 in 6 Snacks name comes from the eye-opening fact that one in six people in the U.S. face food insecurity, meaning that they don't know where their next meal is coming from. Founder Josh Monahan directs a portion of proceeds from each purchase of his six uniquely Carolina flavored chips to the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.
When Mary Angelini realized that no one would hire Gabi, her special-ability daughter, she and Gabi decided to focus on a way to employ and empower those with special abilities. The result is a great mission and a great cup of coffee. And they didn’t stop there! With 82% of the intellectual-and-developmental-disabilities community facing not being hired, Gabi’s has expanded with Gabi’s PALS (Packaging, Assembling, Labeling, Shipping), offering packaging, assembly and item labeling services for other companies.
Coming soon: North Carolina Freedom Park to honor African American struggle and triumphs
When North Carolina Freedom Park opens in downtown Raleigh in summer 2023, it will serve as a signature public space honoring the fight for liberty and equality for African Americans, featuring a large sculpture shining a light into the night sky to reflect the fire for freedom. Learn more.
On your next trip to Raleigh, N.C., peek inside some of these area galleries showcasing more inclusive artwork.
Block Gallery at Raleigh Municipal Building
Block Gallery at Raleigh Municipal Building features a revolving showcase of diverse art and artists. Through March 2022, the gallery highlighted Black contemporary artists living in N.C. Hue Untitled: The Process of Color, curated by Christina Perkins, emphasizes Black artistic thought and process by exploring the use of color as a critical element in one’s visual dialogue.
Stacy Bloom Rexrode, the curator of exhibitions and collections for the Raleigh Arts Commission, recently spoke with Visit Raleigh about the responsibilities they have to make sure the City’s art collection represents the Raleigh community at large. “I started researching our collection, and it was obvious that we’re really failing on having a diverse collection for a city with 48% people of color. So I proposed to the City of Raleigh Arts Commission that should be the focus of our purchases over the next few years. We’re making sure we’re buying works by people of color and people with disabilities.”
Individuals may also view past exhibitions such as Abstracto/Latino: Latin American with an Abstract Fusion and A Collection of Changes online.
Gathering Gallery employs adults on the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities spectrum is a driving mission behind Gathering Gallery’s art and gift shop. Products sold put an emphasis on local/NC, fair trade, nonprofit, women owned, BIPOC owned, LGTBQ+ owned and eco-friendly brands that make a positive impact on our community and the world.
Charlotte Russell Contemporary Fine Art Gallery
Charlotte Russell Contemporary Fine Art Gallery offers original artworks by emerging and mid-career artists in both their online art gallery and pop-up art gallery in the Village District. Charlotte Russell Contemporary is committed to an inclusive art experience by presenting high-quality artwork by underrepresented artists, women artists and artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
What we are doing
In 2020, we/Visit Raleigh established our own DEI committee to ensure we are proactively implementing best practices around diversity, equity and inclusion within our operations and as a steward within the community.
We have worked to ensure our digital visitor experience is more accessible to visitors with disabilities by implementing the AudioEye platform on visitRaleigh.com. We’ve also made the conscious effort to be even more inclusive in Visit Raleigh marketing and have encouraged groups to utilize minority-owned vendors and businesses for their event needs.
As a way to celebrate our LGBTQ visitors and local LGBTQ community, we have a landing page highlighting LGBTQ-welcoming accommodations, gay and lesbian nightlife and several Pride events throughout the year worth planning a special trip around.
Leadership organizations in Wake County
Leadership organizations in the destination have also come together to take steps to dismantle systemic racism and reimagine the systems that create inequitable outcomes for marginalized groups. A Better Wake, spearheaded by the Triangle Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity Alliance, outlines the steps our community is taking to transform into a place where all residents experience equity. Get details here.
Regarding area ordinances and policies, Raleigh, Cary, Wake County and towns within the destination have adopted nondiscrimination ordinances stronger than N.C. law. These municipalities in our destination have put inclusion into law, giving visitors of all types peace of mind. Below is a list of those ordinances and links to more information.
- The Wake County Board of Commissioners has adopted a nondiscrimination ordinance protecting everyone in the destination from discrimination based upon “race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or familial status and more.” Individuals who believe a business or organization has discriminated against them can file a complaint with the County Manager’s Office for investigation.
- These Wake County municipalities have adopted similar nondiscrimination ordinances: Raleigh, Apex, Cary, Garner, Knightdale, Morrisville and Wendell.
Another policy-related note: Abortion in North Carolina is legal during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
We hope that, through these initiatives and offerings, both visitors and newcomers alike will continue to feel even more embraced and welcome to the destination.
For more about DEI in Raleigh, N.C., or to plan your next meeting in the City of Oaks, contact Visit Raleigh’s associate director of sales Stephen Jackson, CMP, at sjackson@visitRaleigh.com.
You can also view our DEI Resources portal, here.
Author: Visit Raleigh
Visit Raleigh is the official and accredited destination marketing organization (DMO) for all of Wake County.