Longest table brings hope to a devastated community

Event attendees of The Longest Table enjoy warm food on Sunday Oct. 14th
Jina Gilliam | The Famuan

In the midst of Hurricane Michael’s aftermath, the City of Tallahassee and Democratic nominee for Governor of Florida and current Mayor of Tallahassee, Andrew Gillum hosted The Longest Table. The event took place on Sunday, Oct.14th in the heart of downtown on Duval Street and featured a 1,200 ft picnic table where members of the public could gather around, eat and discuss matters of the community.

Chief of Staff to the Mayor, Jamie Van Pelt believes events like these are important so people can enjoy a nice hot meal and enjoy some cool, community building. He hopes everyone leaves with a full stomach and a full heart.

“For the last 4 years, we’ve convened The Longest Table and public road ways to bring folks together and break down some barriers that every city experiences by simple conversation, good food and a nice trusting environment,” Van Pelt explained. “Where folks can speak their mind about experiences, what their issues are and try to connect with each other on a little more human level”.

According to Van Pelt as of Wednesday 114,000 people were without power but the city was working diligently to get back up to 100% restored as quickly as possible.

Event officials estimated more than 15,000 people were in attendance. The main topic of conversation revolved around the recent hurricane that left thousands of people without power.

Mayor Andrew Gillum speaks with members of the community at The Longest Table
Jina Gilliam | The Famuan

Mayor Gillum was one of those people left without power who didn’t want to sit in a hot house alone. He

instead feels that coming and being a part of a community event that focuses on bringing more people together can make the situation more positive.

“I’m extremely excited to see so many members of our community come out, to be part of this event,” Gillum stated. “I think a lot of people thought about the fact that we don’t have everybody back in power, maybe we should call it off. But I think the exact opposite. I think we needed a distraction,” said Gillum.

Throughout the event, guests opened up to one another about the current issues going in their daily lives. The main goal of this event was to break down bias and prejudices in the community.  

Former Chief of Staff and candidate for Tallahassee Mayor, Dustin Daniels said was proud to see the number of people that have stepped up and have tried to do their part to make the community whole again. He was focused on discussing ways to improve infrastructure to lessen the impact of natural disasters.  

“There is nothing we can really do to prevent this from happening, but I do think there are things we can do from a resilience side to make sure that the way that we respond, the way we prepare, makes sure that the impact at least on the negative side isn’t as bad as people kind of experienced these last couple of years,” Daniels said.

Multiple times throughout the event, the message “Tally Strong” was emphasized. The message was to emphasize and reinforce the resiliency of the Tallahassee community.

Event attendee Agnes Furey was overall impressed with the event. She said she felt the support and neighborhood kindness of those across Tallahassee.

“I think any kind of community event will bring people together and break the gloom of sitting in the dark houses for however many days or hours,” Furey expressed. “What has happened to anybody in Tallahassee is nothing compared to what has happened to people to the west of here which has been disastrous. We’ve maybe been uncomfortable or inconvenienced but we’ve not been destroyed.”