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Our Commitment to Inclusion & Diversity

The leadership of ACCESS Center for Equity & Success gather around a table to talk.

Our official statement on inclusion, diversity and anti-racism in the Innovation Quarter

Innovation can’t happen in silos. Diverse ideas, voices and perspectives are essential to bringing new ideas into the world. We acknowledge the reality of underserved communities, both in our society at large and in our local community and the history that has led to their situation.

History of Systemic Racism

The very land on which our innovation district sits was once home to vibrant African American neighborhoods in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Many of the residents of these neighborhoods were also laborers in the same factories that are now home to research, education and entrepreneurship in the Innovation Quarter.

Industrialization and geographical segregation resulting from the construction of U.S. Highway 52 in the late 1950s created a physical barrier between downtown and what is now the communities of East Winston-Salem.

The ripple effects of these decisions on these neighborhoods, such as a lack of intergenerational transfer of wealth, still reverberate today. Poverty levels in the census tract we call home sit at a staggering 46.1 percent.

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company workers organized a strike in 1946 for fair wages.


While the Innovation Quarter was formed in just the last decade, and while we did not participate in the decisions that led to the historical disenfranchisement of these Black communities, families and people, we nevertheless acknowledge that the land under our stewardship has a painful history. The wounds still run deep.

To that end, we apologize for the history of conscious and unconscious racism that led to these outcomes. We acknowledge the reality of that history. As if slavery, Jim Crow and segregation weren’t large enough obstacles, geographic segregation in our city helped create a reality in which, for many in our community, there now exist two Winston-Salems.

A R.J. Reynolds Tobacco company building from 1916.

We acknowledge that our role in the stewardship of this part of downtown Winston-Salem must include continual, intentional work to help bridge those physical and historical divides.

Our Commitment to the Community

At Innovation Quarter, we’re committed to not only recognizing but celebrating, utilizing and elevating the valuable perspectives from historically oppressed groups, including people of color, women and our LGBTQ+ community.

We strive to be more intentional about preventing and rooting out racism, sexism and any other types of bigotry from our spaces.

A panel discussion held in the Innovation Quarter's Biotech Place.

As we strive to live these values, we seek to partner with and learn from organizations and individuals in and around Winston-Salem that are embedded in this work, to lift up voices that have been left out and to continually renew this commitment to ensure our community is one where all feel welcome and valued.