1999-01-16 Lakeshore Press "Turnout indicates interest in promoting unity"

Turnout indicates interest in promoting unity
Lakeshore Press

Llyod Newsom says he fits the profile.

He's black.

And in a predominately white community like Holland, Newsom figures that makes him more likely to be a target of discrimination.

"You're driving down the street and a police officer looks over at you and pulls you over," Newsom said, describing an example of discrimination he says he faced at the hands of Ottawa County Sheriff's Department six years ago.

"It's the profiling. That's what we want to talk about and stop," said Newsom, a trailer on Holland's north side.

Newsom is a part of a newly formed group called Race Unity Task Force for Holland, the first of its kind in the Holland area.

David Douglas, who said he anticipating a turnout of about 20 people, was pleased with Friday's attendance. "Some of these people I don't even know," he said grinning.

Gail Harrison, president of the North Ottawa Ethnic Diversity Alliance, told listeners of ways they can help solve problems of racism and discrimination. She said churches may be the most important way to spread the word.

Newsom and other acknowledge the problem isn't necessarily any better or worse in Holland than other communities, but they believe it must be tackled at a grass-roots level.

Newsome said the group doesn't want to attack any particular agency or individual as practicing discrimination, but simply education the public about the issue.

Allegations of racial discrimination are a serious matter to Ottawa County Sheriff Gary Rosema, who says he's heard very few of those complaints. "We're extremely sensitive to concerns that are brought up. And we always follow-up on it," he said.

Still, organizers want awareness, and they hope Friday's event leads to more events. Douglas said he expects to schedule other meetings of the task force in the future.