GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — A program started by Greensboro city leaders 30 years ago is still working to help people in the city see life from someone else’s point of view.
Other Voices is a diversity, equity and inclusion program that was birthed under the leadership of former Mayor Vic Nussbaum in 1993. The program is a simple concept: different voices gather to share their life perspectives. The subject matter can get complex and is often times uncomfortable for many. During the eight-month course, participants take a deep dive into conversations about racism, classism, sexism, sexual orientation and more.
Other Voices Vice President Joyce Gorham-Worsley says the class is a great teacher for people of all ages, races and backgrounds. She went through the class herself in 1999.
“What I got from other voices was how I used words. Sometimes when you use words, folks don’t necessarily agree with the words you use. So some of my issues came from just not knowing. So I had the opportunity to hear those other voices,” Gorham-Worsley said. “By the end of my class, I actually came to the point where I felt empowered to have conversations with folk when they say, participated in telling jokes, gay jokes, racial jokes. I felt empowered to say something.”
Inez Elliott graduated from the class in 2021. She says she learned about the program through a coworker. It was shortly after the death of her husband, and she was looking for something to fill her time.
“The class had everything from someone in the police department, people in nonprofits, people who worked in corporations and banks and schools,” Elliott said. “I was representing, I might be a different generation than some of the folks in the class. I’m a woman. I’m a mother of a non-binary kid that I love to death, and I’m Jewish. So I brought different perspectives, but I also gained so much from listening to other people’s experiences.”
Elliott says she thinks Other Voices is one of the reasons Greensboro is a more progressive town.
“I grew up in Alabama. I’ve lived in several different parts of the U.S. and I find that Greensboro is—and I’ve been here 10 years—is the most open. I’ve been able to have conversations with a lot of people in a lot of different backgrounds,” Elliott said.
The class is a safe space to speak freely. People who take the course are given the language to express themselves and talk to others about difficult subjects.
“We like to tell people we don’t try to change anyone’s mind. We want you to actually see and listen to the perspective of others, and, hopefully, you will have a positive mind change.” Gorham-Worsley said.
30 years and later, one person at a time, Other Voices is helping to make Greensboro a more accepting place. The most recent class, class number 30, graduates on May 1, 2023.