Young people walk into a bar - not exactly an unusual occurrence. But a gathering at Fitzgerald's Irish Pub Thursday night was about more than partying. If you listened carefully you could make out the message over the barroom din.
Meghann Gunderman is co-chair of GO CLT, a group affiliated with the convention host committee that was celebrating its official launch. (The GO stands for Generation Opportunity.) "It's not a red thing or a blue thing, it's a Queen City thing," she said. The goal is "to leave a great legacy and showcase Charlotte on the national stage," said Gunderman, 28, who moved back to her Charlotte home from New York about a year ago.
Like the host committee, GO CLT is nonpartisan. It hopes to shine a light on the convention's legacy projects, including youth employment and civic education, economic inclusiveness and opportunity, healthy children and families and creating a more sustainable community. Another goal, of course, is fundraising, a host committee responsibility.
Mayor Anthony Foxx stopped by to lend support to the young professionals who see the convention as a turning point for the city. "This is the generation that will see huge benefits of this in the long term," he told me.
Each member is asked to contribute $20 and commit to 12 hours of service in 2012. Flyers offered a Sunday afternoon service opportunity at Amay James Recreation Center, when DVA Charlotte - a nonpartisan group of women supporting the host committee - will lead the painting and gardening needed to reopen the center.
On Wednesday night, a Hip Hop Caucus rallying reception for the 2012 Respect My Vote campaign fit in with the youth theme. The nonpartisan Hip Hop Caucus counts more than 650,000 supporters across all 50 states and D.C., organizing young people to be active in elections, policymaking and service projects. Wednesday's event focused on Charlotte.
Liz Havstad, director of civic engagement and strategic growth for the national group, came down from Washington for the event at Caviar Nightlife. It's about getting young people from 18 to 40, specifically, energized by "connecting cultural expression to political experience," she said. The target community includes entrepreneurs, party promoters, DJs, political activists and national celebrities lending their names. The campaign aims for racial and ethnic diversity in its drive to register, educate and mobilize. Havstad said 60 percent of supporters are women. Charlotte businesswoman Colette Forrest and DJ/personality Nolimit Larry were among those attending as part of the Respect My Vote local leadership committee - one of 15 across the country - which hosted Wednesday's reception.
These nonpartisan outreach efforts don't obscure the fact that it's a Democratic convention causing all the buzz. In case you needed a reminder, this week, convention chair and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa released a video encouraging delegate participation. The number of delegates has been upped from 4,419 in 2008 to more than 5,500 this year.
"Every state will send a delegation of dedicated Democrats to Charlotte - people like you - to talk about the important values of our party," said Villaraigosa in the video. "Make your voice heard, and you could join us in Charlotte in September."
Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte, N.C.-based journalist, is a contributor to The Washington Post's "She the People" blog, The Root, NPR and the Nieman Watchdog blog. Her "Keeping It Positive" segment airs Wednesdays at 7:10 a.m. on Fox News Rising Charlotte, and she was national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter.