Would filling a table with people from different ethnic backgrounds, religions and ages help build broader community understanding and respect?
The Salt Lake County Mayor's Office of Diversity Affairs hopes so. That's the goal of the county's first Diversity Dinner, to be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 10 at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center, 1355 W. 3100 South.
"It's a way to bring people together and each have a dialogue," says organizer Rebecca Sanchez. "The real goal is that everybody listens and gets some understanding. ... And we start to see each other as individuals, rather than just labels."
Participants are asked to fill out a form when registering that includes a series of questions about how they define themselves, Sanchez says. The information will be used to make each table as diverse as possible. Adding to that, participants are encouraged to sit apart from their spouse or partner.
It's encouraging that the dinner's definition of diversity includes the often overlooked aspect of disability, says Matt Knotts, executive director of the Disability Law Center.
"Bringing people together is one of the first important steps to any kind of strengthening of the community," Knotts said. "I would just hope that relationships would get built and people would be able to network ... and feel less isolated and connect to the community.
Elaine Emmi, a Quaker and chair of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable, said while the event is limited to 300 people, it has the potential to create a "ripple effect" in the broader community.
She hopes that people will take what they learn about other's experiences and "take an extra effort get to know someone, who before they might not have." Or, simply share their new knowledge while talking to friends or family.
The event is free, but reservations are required by Friday. Registration and information is available online at www.slco.org, or by calling 801-468-3097.