2000-10-26 Holland Sentinel Town Meeting Generated Hope

Town Meeting Generated Hope
Holland Sentinel

To the editor:

On Sept 28, 320 citizens of the Holland area gathered at St. Francis de Dales Catholic Church to talk about an issues vital to the success and well-being of our community: race relations. The panelists, as well as those present, deserve our deepest thanks for prioritizing this effort. Their words were moving and heartfelt.

Tears and laugher embodied the caring ambience of the evening. Those of us in the audience had the opportunity to hear stories of our neighbors’ experiences with racism in Holland, eye-opening stories which indicate that unfortunately, racial discrimination continues as a formidable presence – no only in our neighborhoods and schools, but in our civic and business institutions as well.

It was the first multi-ethnic event of its kind in our city’s history, drawing a large and diverse crowd with its call to action. Talking about racism as a community brought us hope that now at this time and in our community we have the power as a people to take action, beyond the rhetoric, to embrace the wealth of diversity we have. Some have already rolled up their sleeves on this issue; some have worked on it for a long time.

Sometimes that commitment brings with it what seems like too many meetings, too many scheduling conflicts, too much time away from home and family. But racism is a spiritual and economic travesty and the issue of race relations in Holland is crucial one. It demands our presence and our attention.

Many of us have enjoyed prosperity and relative peace in the Holland area, but the happiness we often take for granted here is not enjoyed by everyone: not by the men and women of color who struggle to find housing and meaningful employment, not by the parents of color who struggle to provide adequate education and health care for their children, and not by the children of color who sometimes struggle to find affirmation and inspiration in our schools.

Ensuring equal opportunity and respect for all our citizens requires the best efforts of every man, woman and child in this community. Send a message by attending the Ottawa Area Summit on Racism Feb 13 at Hope College. Send the message that we will not tolerate racial discrimination in our community and that we will do everything in our power to make it stop. The hope generated at the town meeting at St. Francis was this: Together we can make Holland a comfortable community for all of us.

Barbara Cote, Summit on Racism Planning Committee