1998-05-11 Grand Haven Tribune "Students learn about healing"

Students learn about healing
Grand Haven Tribune

How many races are there on the Earth?

"One," answered middle school students from Muskegon and Ottawa counties at the second annual Calling All Colors conference on Friday.

And they are right.

Keynote speaker, Ivy Goduka, a professor of human environmental studies at Central Michigan University, spoke to the students about diversity and similarity among people of different colors.

"There is only one race and that is the human race," Goduka said.

The purpose of the conference, which took place at Grand Valley State University, was to promote racial harmony and racial healing.

Gail Harrison, a committee member of the North Ottawa Ethnic Diversity Alliance, said this healing begins with children.

"I believe if we are going to be successful in healing racism we need to involved our youth and this is a great way to do it," said Harrison.

And the students were getting the message loud and clear.

Rachel Frage, an eighth grader at White Pines Middle School said, "I think people should get along even though they are different colors and they should respect each other."

Erika Thomas, an eighth grader from Fruitport Middle School added, "You need to appreciate people and not call them names because they are different."

One hundred and eighty five students from 11 area schools participated in dialoges about racial issues and racial harmony.

"It gives these kids an opportunity to dialogue about racism and healing. We're going to talk a lot about stereotyping and do some role playing," said Ben Lawrence, an ESL teacher (English as a Second Language) for Grand Haven schools.

The students were able to learn more about other cultures by choosing one of 11 cultural activities. Students chose from quilt making, African beading, Native American tribal dancing, Irish dancing and martial arts to name a few.

Roberto Chavez, an eighth grader at Lakeshore Middle School, said the day "helped me to learn more information about other people's cultures. It has been educational."

NOEDA committee member, Paula Kendra stressed the importance of doing these activities with children.

"It's important to bring these issues up with children because they can still be influenced and they can react instead of just having the stereotypes of society," Kendra said.

At the end of the day, students got back together with their classmates and developed an action plan of what they can do to help racial harmony. The action plans were presented and shared with the other schools.

Harrison said that people who become aware of this conference always want to implement it in their area.

"As we speak to people in the community about this conference, we always get a real positive response," Harrison said.

The conference was sponsored by the North Ottawa Ethnic Diversity Alliance with major funding from D & W Food Centers and GVSU.

The original Calling All Colors conference was held in 1992 at Coastal Carolina College. It was designed by and for children. Currently, more than 26,00 students around the world have taken part in the conference. This was the second such conference conducted by the Ethnic Diversity Alliance.