Regional Coordinator (Virginia), One America Movement
Q: You grew up in Philadelphia and then went to South Carolina for college. What was that transition like?
A: I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into when I stepped out of the car for freshman orientation at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC. I didn’t know any country songs, I said “you guys” rather than “y’all,” and I’d never had sweet tea (once was more than enough for a lifetime). That first night, I lay awake long into the night, certain I’d made a huge mistake.
But I was profoundly shaped by my time at Wofford, and I look back on those four years with gratitude. Philadelphia is ocean blue. Spartanburg is tomato red. If I hadn’t spent significant time in both places, I think my relationships and worldview would be much narrower. In both contexts, I encountered people with very strong views different than my own. And I came to love people “on both sides.” In an age where we all seem to end up in echo-chambers if we’re not constantly vigilant, I’m thankful to have people—liberal and conservative—who challenge me and push me to think deeply about my beliefs and extend grace to those who disagree with me.
Q: You moved to Charlottesville, VA the weekend of the white supremacist rally…What was that like, and what does it have to do with your role with One America?
A: “Do you regret moving here?” my friend asked me during that first week. My wife and I were unpacking boxes and trying to find our bearing in a city reeling from heartbreak. Charlottesville was silent and felt heavy everywhere we went, as if a great cloud hung over the city.
I considered the question and then replied, “No, I don’t regret it.” And I really didn’t. From the first, I felt like I had two choices: I could write the timing of our move off as horribly ironic, or I could see it as an opportunity to join our neighbors in the effort to seek healing and pursue hope in the face of tragedy. I chose the latter. In that spirit, I was drawn to the One America Movement. Now, as the One America Movement Regional Coordinator of Virginia, I have the opportunity to daily help people build relationships across divides and take action together to turn their communities toward love rather than hate, hope rather than fear.
Q: You gather people on a regular basis to play basketball and watch movies together. What is the deal with that?
A: Both are inherited traits. My dad used to say that basketball was “nature’s perfect sport.” Frankly, I never knew what that meant, but he loved it and taught me as a kid that basketball—and sports in general—can do so much to transcend divides and bring people together. So now I round up anyone with an ounce of interest (and often less than an ounce of athleticism) and drag them to a local court. It’s amazing how well you can get to know somebody just by playing pick-up with them every week.
Movies are the same deal, just a different crowd. Another idea borrowed from my parents, movie and discussion nights have become a monthly staple in our house. We have people from many different walks of life who gladly come together to share the mutual joy of watching a film and taking time to think deeply about what it might say about us as humans.
If you’re ever in Charlottesville, bring your basketball shoes and an appetite for popcorn and come on over!