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Maria Saporta WABE

Commentary: ‘Friendship Initiative’ bridging cultural divide

Original Story on WABE by Maria Saporta

John Grant Bill Nordmark

John Grant and Bill Nordmark talk about how their new-found friendship can be a model for others (Photo by Byron Small, Atlanta Business Chronicle)

Two Atlanta business leaders have launched a new effort – the Atlanta Friendship Initiative – aimed at bridging divides in our community.

The idea is for two people of different races or ethnic backgrounds to agree to become friends. They pledge to see each other once a quarter and bring their families together once a year in fellowship.

Bill Nordmark, an Atlanta business consultant and former president of the Rotary Club of Atlanta, had become increasingly concerned about the state of race relations here and incidents of violence between the police and citizens around the country.

He reached out to John Grant, the former CEO of 100 Black Men of Atlanta, and asked if they could become friends.

The two men then set out on a mission to get others to join their cause. Since September, the two civic leaders have been able foster a total of 47 pairs of friends. That means there are 94 metro Atlanta leaders – black, white, male, female, Islamic, Jewish, Christian – who are proactively reaching out to people different from themselves.

Grant told Nordmark he felt God’s hand in the establishment of the Atlanta Friendship Initiative. Grant said he was familiar with how the now-defunct Atlanta Action Forum had played a similar role among the city’s black and white business leaders during the 1970s and 1980s. But the city has changed, and the business community is now more transient.

Nordmark and Grant, however, say they’ve been encouraged by the response. Almost everyone they’ve approached has embraced the idea and joined the self-directed initiative to build friendships across society’s divides.

Ed Baker, the former publisher of the Atlanta Business Chronicle who is now with Georgia State’s Robinson College of Business, had been talking with Nordmark about similar concerns for years. Not only has Baker become one of the friendship pairs, he said the Robinson College of Business will provide administrative support for the initiative.

Nordmark says he hopes civic organizations, churches, businesses and nonprofits will adopt the initiative. He already has reserved domain names for the America Friendship Initiative and the International Friendship Initiative.

As Nordmark said: “What better place to start this than Atlanta?”

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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  1. LiynLing November 16, 2016 12:06 pm

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  2. Mother Moore December 27, 2016 11:13 am

    In attempting to understand the YMCA plan to demolish Jordan Hall and build a new headquarters, I discovered this “Friendship Initiative”.  MY OPINION: The YMCA in the spirit of this Initiative, “bridging the cultural divide”, should do all in its power to renovate Jordan Hall, even the spending of funds. Of course, the history of our country has always been that racial progress/cultural sensitivity, etc. goes by the wayside in the wake of money.  YMCA OFFICIALS:  This is your opportunity to stand out among the “Friendship Initiative”. PRESERVE JORDAN HALL!!!! I know you can if you wanted to!!!
    Mother Mamie Moore, resident by choice, English AvenueReport


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