1999-11-14 Holland Sentinel Diversity alliance earns city award

Diversity alliance earns city award
Holland Sentinel
The North Ottawa Ethnic Diversity Alliance has been working on building equality and celebrating diversity in this community for over three years. Now they are receiving an award for instilling these same lessons in middle school students through the annual Calling All Colors conference.

The alliance will receive the city of Holland Human Relations Commission’s Justice Award, which recognizes persons or programs that provide exemplary service in regards to equality in a community. “We’re thrilled, said Gail Harrison, executive director of the alliance.

The Holland Human Relations Commission will present the alliance with the award at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Holland City Hall. The alliance has held four Calling All Colors conferences, which bring students form Muskegon County and Ottawa County middle schools together to talk about racial harmony, experience activities from other cultures and create an action plan to help their schools appreciate diversity.

For the first time this year, the conference was separated into two events. The first was at Hope College this fall where students created an action plan to teach and appreciate diversity in their schools. The students will return for the second part of the conference in May at Grand Valley State University where they will report what changes they made.

Alliance board member Ortenchia Ruiz said that she thinks holding the fall conference at Hope College in Holland had a lot to do with the alliance receiving the Justice Award from the city. “I like the connection there,” she said, adding that she hopes they will be able to hold the fall conference there again next year.

Calling All Colors is not the only way that the alliance is working on creating racial harmony in the area. The alliance is made up of about 30 members who volunteer their time to work on migrant worker issues, diversity education for children and adults and enforcing laws against housing discrimination.

Calling All Colors is not the only way that the alliance is working on creating racial harmony in the area. The alliance is made up of about 30 members who volunteer their time to work on migrant worker issues, diversity education for children and adults and enforcing laws against housing discrimination.

The alliance puts together welcoming packages for migrant families who are returning to area after heading south. The group collects food, clothes, blankets and money at area churches for the packages. Harrison said that the alliance also works for people who have been discriminated against because of their race while looking for a home in the area. They make referrals to the Grand Rapids Fair Housing Center to enforce the housing laws.

The alliance’s latest project is organizing a summit on racism in Ottawa County. Harrison said that the entire community would be invited to the summit to listen to speakers on diversity and break into groups based on their occupation. In the groups they would identify racial barriers in their field and brainstorm on how to reduce those barriers.

Harrison said that the summit will most likely be at Hope College a year from this February.
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