Siler City Unidos: Working to Unify a Community

The Chatham County town of Siler City is 50 percent Latino — but the town’s leaders and most engaged residents are overwhelmingly white.

Sergio Borrayo, a code enforcement officer for the town, says it is hard to engage the Latino population in community life.

“I think that a number of people do not believe that their opinion could make any difference in the decisions of the community and therefore do not see a reason to participate,” Borrayo said.

Borrayo is among a group of people who want to unify and engage different groups in town through a new mural project called Siler City Unidos.

“I personally feel that our town is open and welcoming to participation from all members of the community, so I hope that Siler City Unidos can do something to motivate those people who could contribute to the progress of our town,” he said.

Siler City Unidos is a project through the the Siler City Development Organization, the Chatham Economic Development Corporation and the Siler City Mural Society. The organization is working to create a resident-designed downtown mural that will reflect the diverse community.

The group called for mural designs that would represent the interests, values and cultures of the county on Nov. 6. Alyssa Byrd, communication and outreach specialist at Chatham Economic Development Corporation, said the town hopes to have a completed mural by summer 2016.

The idea for the mural came from a need in the community for minority leaders, Byrd said. The finalist collaboration received an Innovation Award grant from generous Triangle Community Foundation donors to create a project that would bring together the town’s various groups, she said.

Byrd and town planner Jack Meadows spent the summer attending community events like festivals and concerts to see what ideas people had for the project and how Siler City residents wanted the grant money spent.

People always seemed willing to help and to make things happen in the community, she said. At one particular festival downtown, Byrd said they were offering raffle tickets for a cash prize in exchange for an idea to better the community. When someone won at the hourly drawing, they said to keep the cash and put it towards the improvement of the community.

“That really shows the attitude of the community here. They just really want to see something good happen here, and we want to see something good come out of this,” Byrd said.

“The concept of just having everyone have a say in their community and giving people something to be proud of — that’s really what it’s all about,” she said.

Identifying and recruiting young people to participate in the mural and also the community as a whole is a big goal of the project, Meadows said.

“The point is to engage a broader base of leaders by conducting a collaborative downtown vision effort that will tap into all of the town’s population and its diversity,” he said. “We want folks to see that they can be a part of something that will be finished and lasting in downtown Siler City.”