WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — This year changed a lot of things.
How we communicate and respond to pandemics, how our schools and universities operate and how we work.
But 2020 also brought many divides to light: Issues on racial equality and policing, to name a few.
There’s a little known movement in our area called The In-Crowd Movement that has been motivated by both the headlines and changes people in our area saw this year. It's a platform comprised of people on opposing sides moving forward.
Close friends Steve West and Dr. Phillip M. Dukes, the co-founders of The In-Crowd, prepare for their first big meeting.
"We could run America and make it what it's never been," Dukes said. "We have to move beyond the dialogue."
He is referring to the power of his movement, a think tank that holds meetings every Tuesday evening that is pledging people to be informed, inspired and involved.
"There's people who want to construct and build and make the world a better place. And there’s people -- especially today -- who want to destroy it," said West.
Every Tuesday, leaders in education, law enforcement, clergy and civic organizations address inequities, hold elected officials accountable and plan events to bring opposing sides and points of view together.
"We're asking people to make the choice to do something," said West. "If you're interested in gun violence, elections -- it doesn’t matter what aspect of human endeavor that you're interested in. There will be something for you to do. You don't have to sit around the kitchen table and lament about how the world is going. Stand up and take action, and we're going to provide that platform to stand on."
West and others in The In-Crowd say the formula is simple: People have to interact and support each other's causes to unite. Even amid a pandemic, it an equation that's caught the attention of regional activists.
"There is a virus that is out there that's even more powerful and more demonic than the coronavirus. It's the virus of hatred, prejudice, injustice and discrimination," said Rabbi Barry Silver, Interfaith Justice League founder.
Silver is referring to the people he and others call the "instigators" who they say still ignore the positives that come out of months of demonstrations and protests.
"The change that has come with the George Floyd murder [among others] has awakened people," West said. "It has awakened Black people that things can change, and pink people to the possibility that we can work together to assist in that change."
The change his movement would like to see runs the gamut from affordable housing to crime.
"It's not one problem. It's multi-dimensional," West said.
There's even change that others would like to see when it comes to the controversy surrounding Spanish River High School's former principal.
"How does [Dr. William] Latson's case bring us together? How do we recognize that there is division," West said.
Latson was removed in July 2019 after it was revealed in an email to a parent in 2018 that he couldn't say the Holocaust was a fact.
He also wrote the same about slavery, which some believe didn’t get enough attention in the headlines both nationally and internationally.
"I thought the news media would tell the whole truth and not half of it. They only talked about the Holocaust, but they omitted the Black experience of the statement," Dukes said. "Slavery happened in America. Brutality happened in America for over 250 years. The truths about the effects of slavery aren’t taught enough. America's roots are in brutality, injustice and greed, but we dress it up, or many take the Black experience and make it void."
These are sentiments echoed by Silver, who said people from all backgrounds need to go beyond the surface, even when it comes to media consumption.
"You have people that are watching different television stations, people of different religions, and they're not talking to each other, and they harbor this ill will and these bad feelings, and if you don’t address it, it just lingers and grows," Silver said.
Even people outside The In-Crowd, like Matthew Levin, president of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, said there is an overall breakdown in historical and social education.
"[There are] stark differences in the way we approach racial equality, civil strife and certain values," Levin said. "The place for America right now is getting back to a centrist nation."
The In-Crowd encourages leaders in the public to join their conversation every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
A critical component is helping to build, expand and empower leaders and uniting existing leaders and organizations.