Mayor’s Summit explores benefits of strangers


The 10th annual Mayor’s Summit on Race, Culture and Human Relations keynote speaker Robbie Stokes Jr. emphasized rethinking the idea of strangers Tuesday.

“I talk to strangers – and it’s changing my life,” Stokes said.

According to, the summit is designed to create a climate and opportunity for open, honest and safe dialogue about race, culture and human relations.

The daylong event offered workshops and a public forum that focused on timely, relevant issues to encourage maximum community participation. The theme of this year’s summit was “Together, We Rise.”

Stokes, who is the founder of the I Talk To Strangers Foundation, said he is trying to implement a social change movement aimed toward closing the communication gap between different sects of society.

Through his foundation, Stokes has traveled to more than 20 countries spreading his message around the world.

Angela Hendrieth, manager of equity and workforce development for the city of Tallahassee, said she believed the event was a success.

“We knocked it out of the park,” Hendrieth said.

Hendrieth said she believes Stokes was the perfect speaker for the event.

“When I heard Robbie’s message and realized how powerful it was, I wanted to bring it to a broader and younger audience,” Hendrieth said.

Stokes said today’s technology and young generation are much to blame for the communication gap.

“We are the ones to blame for not talking to one another,” Stokes said. “Facebook, a billion dollar tool, was created to connect people. But are we really being connected?”

Students from Florida State University and Florida A&M held a variety of viewpoints on the speech’s topic.

Tairia Samuel, a freshman political science student from Pensacola, Fla., said she saw students in the audience being very friendly with one another.

“I haven’t seen any type of segregation or separation here because everyone is so social,” Samuel said.

Taylor Hinton, a freshman criminal justice student from Atlanta, said the friendly environment was enjoyable.

“I don’t see much of a problem with it,” Hinton said. “I’m not sure if it’s the college environment or just the friendly people.”

Both students see few issues with race relations in their daily lives. However, not everyone shares the same sentiments.

Robyn Mendlow, a senior psychology student at FSU from Centreville, Va., said she believes problems run deeper than that.

“I think that there still is a lot of segregation within our schools,” Mendlow said. “There are so many things for people to be involved in that they usually join the one that they feel the members are most like them. We are not forced to have interactions with different people, so when we come in contact with them we tend to shy away.”

Stokes said his mission is to help people begin to understand others through sharing their life stories.

“Give people the respect to tell their own story through conversation,” Stokes said. “Maybe then we can find out who people really are.”