The sun beamed and the air was still. Two long tables stretched the length of Fayetteville Street, from the Capitol building all the way down to City Plaza. More than a thousand people sat side by side, eating a traditional southern meal and enjoying each other’s company.
“This is a physical sign of who we are as a people, and as a city,” said Mayor Nancy McFarlane, from a stage set up at the top of Morgan Street, where it joins up with Fayetteville. “It’s neighbors coming together to help our neighbors just down the road in a time of need. That’s what this is all about.”
It was a fitting end to a tumultuous week, and a stark contrast to the chaos that flooding from Hurricane Matthew wrought on large swathes of the state just a month earlier.
The Sunday Supper, organized by communications firm Eckel and Vaughan, raised more than $100,000, to benefit people living in eastern North Carolina whose lives were upended by flooding from the hurricane– an estimated at $1.5 billion in damage, statewide.
Diners paid $20 apiece for a place at the table and a meal of barbecue, Brunswick stew, cole slaw, cornbread, and blue-frosted cupcakes—all catered by local restaurants. More than twenty other Raleigh businesses pledged ten percent of the day’s sales to hurricane relief efforts, as well.
Shaw University’s gospel choir sang. The DreamMakers performed. Leaders from across the state, including Kinston and Four Oaks, spoke about the damage the hurricane inflicted on their communities.
Diners held hands in prayer, and after the meal, a few of the more adventurous got up and danced. But whether their energy was dampened by a contentious election week, or out of consideration for their neighbors who have lost so much, the diners’ moods were fittingly subdued.
“We have been recipients of the best of humanity,” said Kinston mayor B.J. Murphy, capturing the spirit of the gathering. “I believe within each of us lies seeds of humility, love, grace, and mercy. Over five weeks, that love and compassion has been on display. This Sunday Supper is one example of that kindness.”