How Diverse is Our Community?


By Laurie Paolicelli

Orange County is composed of people from different walks of life, different races, nationalities, religions, and abilities.

In its new website campaign, the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, a division of Orange County government and members of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals, created in order to showcase the broader community right here in our backyard. It’s a message we hope our visitors, meeting planners, and residents get to see.

“The website provides a deeper look into our Black Indigenous People of Color in all walks of life, from policy leaders to business owners, restaurant and hospitality leaders, and students, neighbors, and local decision makers,” says Visitors Bureau Board Member Spring Council of Mama Dip’s Kitchen. “We wanted our visitors to take a closer look at our BIPOC leaders that help our community prosper,” says Spring. “This website is now being incorporated into our larger site, and our goal is to have local governments and civic groups add this link to their websites.”

The website was created by a committee of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau Board, which includes Sharon Hill, Orange County Economic Development Advisory Board, Spring Council, Owner and Operator, Mama Dip’s Kitchen, Chapel Hill, Lili Engelhardt, Board Member, Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, and Shenekia Weeks, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, Town of Chapel Hill. The website was created by Nancy Largent, Owner and Operator of Largent Creative Company.

Chapel Hill Divesity Committee: Sharon Hill, Lili Engelhardt, Shenekia Weeks, Nancy Largent, Spring Council, and Laurie Paolicelli.

“We all learned so much while putting this site together,” says Sharon Hill, Visitors Bureau Board member. “About the Castro family purchasing Breadman’s after their father emigrated here from Mexico in 1996. Breadmen’s opened in 1974. Roy Piscitello was the owner then. The Piscitello family ran Breadmen’s until 2020 when they sold to long term employees the Castro Family. Omar Castro, his father Luz, mother, brother, grandfather, and two sisters have all worked at Breadmen’s over the years.

Luz Castro-Lopez, Cristina Castro- Juarez, Omar Castro-Juarez, Yesenia Castro-Juarez, and Francisco Juarez-Vazquez. Photo courtesy of Chapel Hill Magazine.

“It was also great to learn about the global popularity of speaker and UNC faculty member, Tressie McMillan Cottom, and take a look at the long lasting legacy of Mildred Council’s family and the businesses that have been created in addition to Mama Dip’s Kitchen.”

Tressie McMillan Cottom Pens a Cover for Vanity Fair.

The origin of Rasa Malaysia restaurant in Southern Village shines a bright light on our diverse community. The restaurant, owned by Winnie and Simon Leong, is located in Southern Village. Simon left Perak, Malaysia for New York in the 1970s, when many Malaysians were leaving for Taiwan, Japan, Europe, and the United States due to economic recession in Malaysia. Winnie joined him in the United States in 1996 and together they worked in numerous restaurants in New York before moving to North Carolina in 1999. In 2005, Simon become one of the owners of Merlion, a Singaporean restaurant, alongside four others. When the restaurant closed in 2015, Winnie and Simon opened Rasa Malaysia in the same space. As a self-taught chef drawing from memories of Malaysia, Winnie makes Malaysian food that is at the heart of the small but mighty Malaysian community in the Triangle area.

Rasa Malaysia Restaurant.

Chapel Hill Diversity was created as a tool and resource to help support, promote, and connect BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) businesses in the Orange County, North Carolina communities of Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough, North Carolina.

To add your business or suggest content, contact the Visitors Bureau at

Nancy Largent is the IT and Communications Manager for The Local Reporter. Orange Slices is an independently produced column shared in TLR.

Laurie Paolicelli is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.

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