Access to the American Dream – The State of Race Relations in Hickory

Race Relations Focus Group Discussion 
Saturday May 22, 2010, 12:00pm – 4:00pm 
First Presbyterian Church of Hickory Fellowship Hall 
237 2nd St. NW, Hickory 28601 

A very unique event will occur on May 22, 2010 when a diverse group of 20 people from the Hickory community will convene for a race relations focus group discussion. The group of five Caucasians, five African-Americans, five Hmongs, and five Latinos will discuss their experience in race relations, with an emphasis on assessing equal access to the American Dream. Each group will include people from different backgrounds, men and women, and one youth.      
The focus group discussion will be facilitated by Tong Yang, Chairman of the Hmong Community Development Corporation. Yang is a well known community leader, executive producer of Hmong Press Radio, and former executive director of the United Hmong Association. He is a skilled group facilitator, and is looking forward to leading the event, saying ” I’m excited about this opportunity about bringing people from diverse backgrounds together to share their deep feelings about the state of race relations in Hickory.”     
The Rev. Susan Smith, Chair of the Hickory Branch NAACP Committee on Community Coordinaton, and Associate Pastor of Exodus Missionary Outreach Church has led planning for the event which will take place at First Presbyterian Church in Hickory. A 2009 grant submitted by the Hickory Branch NAACP to the City of Hickory Community Relations Council will fund simultaneous interpretation for non-English speaking Hmong and Latino participants. The use of simultaneous interpretation equipment is being donated by the Center for Paticipatory Change in Asheville, and will be used by skilled translators.  Smith is pleased with the partnerships that are making the event possible, “We have non-profit social justice organizations, people of faith, business, government, and citizens working together to make this happen. It’s a great project!” she said.  
Members of the NAACP, City of Hickory staff, Community Relations Council members, and other representatives working in race relations have been invited to observe the event which begins at noon with a light lunch donated by Biscuitville followed by the focus group discussion at 1:00pm. Discussion questions will ask participants about their experience and observations regarding race relations in social settings, on the job, in the neighborhood, at school, in the justice system, and in accessing government services. The goal of the event is to develop recommendations to address issues identified in the discussion. These recommendations will be shared with the City of Hickory Community Relations Council, and the Hickory Branch NAACP. Hickory Mayor Rudy Wright will attend, and help open the event.       
Media representatives are encouraged to attend this event. Group participants will be available for interviews before and after the focus group discussion. Representatives from this event will also be available in the future to discuss the group’s recommendations in print, radio, or TV coverage.    
For more information about the focus group discussion, contact the Rev. Susan Smith at 828-962-8196 or  For more information about the Hickory Branch NAACP, go to