1999-10-14 The Paper "Calling All Colors"

Calling All Colors
The Paper: West Michgan's Independent Voice

It is not often that 200 teens in close quarters bring postilion results. But Hope College hopes that changes on Tuesday, October 19 when it hosts 200 middle school students for the fourth-annual "Calling All Colors" conference.

The North Ottawa Ethnic Diversity Alliance began organizing the West Michigan "Calling All Colors" conference in 996, when minority families in Holland and Grand Haven felt a need for support.

A cross burning on the lawn of a black minister in June of that year confirmed the need for action.

The alliance, led by Gail Harrison, hoped to prevent future discrimination by targeting middle school age sutdents who have not yet finished forming their opinions. Students from 12 schools participate in games, performance workshops, and open discussions on race that expose them to different points of view on important issuers and teach them ways to handle conflicts that result from these differing opinions.

"Calling All Colors," an annual conferences on racial unity, is held in cities nationwide. South Carolina's Coastal Carolina University hosted the first conference for adults in 1992 after a racial incident between a white police officer and a black man started both the NAACP and the KKK marching. A 9 year old girl suggested that a similar conference be created to help adolescents accept the cultural differences they encounter.

This year, students will create "racial harmony action plans" to bring what they learn at the conference back to their schools. Some ideas generated by participants in previous years were the establishment of multicultural clubs, and performances on ethnic diversity. A followup conference in May will bring the same students together so the NOEDA can examine the results of their efforts.

Schools all over West Michigan are eager to join the conference. Many were turned down because of limited space. However, Central Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University will each host a "Calling All Colors" conference later this year.