Why we hosted a Recipe for Unity dinner in Durham, North Carolina

Rise Above | Recipe for Unity | UnidosUS

By Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, El Centro Hispano

I’ve lived in Durham, North Carolina for 13 years and one of the things I love most about my home city is the diversity of its residents. So when I heard about the opportunity to host a Recipe for Unity dinner in my community, I jumped at the chance. I was excited to meet more folks who call Durham home, and if I’m being honest, to eat all the delicious food they would bring to the dinner.

Launched by UnidosUS in 2017, Recipe for Unity originated from the Rise Above initiative in order to encourage Americans to rise above racial, political and policy differences and unite around a positive vision of the future. Joining hands with local partners, UnidosUS hosted five dinners across the country, including Durham, to bring people together from all walks of life to share a meal and find shared values and strength through diversity.

I got to work inviting as many folks as I knew from different backgrounds and recruited other friends to help me invite their friends. We ended up with a wonderful mixture of people, immigrants from countries like Poland and India, long-time white Durham residents, Afro Latinos and others from Mexico and Colombia, representatives of the LGBT community, and guests from a variety of faiths, including Catholicism, Islam and Judaism. The mosaic of people who joined us for dinner in our community room at El Centro Hispano was as beautiful as the dishes they brought.

Recipe for Unity | Rise Above | UnidosUS

And let me tell you, the dishes were delicious. I learned about dishes that I had never tasted before, like Knox blocks, a tasty gelatin dessert common in the Midwest, and enjoyed some of my favorites like tamales, chicken tikka masala and tortas de papa. We even got to taste buttermilk and chocolate chess pies donated by Scratch bakery in Durham. As everyone shared the dishes they made, we learned about the significance of each dish to the guest’s family, region or cultural tradition. Here are just a few of the quotes I remember from our inspiring discussion:

Recipe for Unity | Rise Above | UnidosUS

“Food evokes an emotion that truly matters – and I hope that events like Recipe for Unity continue to expand and grow all across the country.”—Betsy Dessauer

“The Orange County Sheriff’s Office values the importance of diversity and hearing from all members of the Durham community—especially through events like tonight at Recipe for Unity.” – Jennifer Galassi, Orange County Sherriff’s Office

“If there was only one color, there would be no rainbow. There’s still so much we can learn from one another.” – Ron Sanyal


I’m so thankful to everyone who attended and shared their family traditions and scrumptious dishes. It was so nice to have the time and space to celebrate our difference and commonalities. I can’t wait to host another dinner and I encourage anyone interested to host their own. It’s easy, fun and the experience is something you’ll never forget.

Download the Recipe for Unity toolkit to find out just how easy it is to host your own dinner.

Recipe for Unity | Rise Above | UnidosUS



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