2000-11-07 Grand Haven Tribune Town meeting is step toward tolerance

Town meeting is step toward tolerance
Grand Haven Tribune

Area residents had a chance to tell their stories last Friday. These were stories that didn’t paint a pretty picture of our community.

Phyllis Howard, who has lived in the area more than 35 years and was the 1977 Grand Haven High School homecoming queen, recalling finding two dead animals left in her driveway. On another occasion, racial slurs were called out to her as she drove around town. Howard is African American.

Lisa James, who is also African American, told of a cross being burned on her lawn. Others told similar stories.

The residents were sharing their encounters at a town meeting on racism sponsored by the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance. A similar meeting was held earlier in Holland.

The town meetings, according to Gail Harrison, executive director of the Ethnic Diversity Alliance, were just the beginning of an action plan to address racism in our community.

On Feb. 13, the first Ottawa Area Summit on Racism will be held at Hope College. The summit is patterned after a similar program conducted in Grand Rapids.

“This is the beginning of a five-year plan. Next year, we will have summit two,” Harrison said.

We are encouraged with the number of people (150) who turned out for last week’s town meeting.

It clearly indicates that many residents are willing to become involved in helping to stop racism.

We hope even more residents and business become involved in the summit and other activities promoted by the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance.

Just as important is the involvement of our schools in ethnic diversity.

We’re already seeing some progress made at Spring Lake and Grand Haven high schools where students have been presented with programs that deal with diversity.

Brian Wheeler, an African American who works for the Grand Haven school district, said he was at first reluctant to accept a position in Grand Haven because he didn’t think he would be comfortable.

He is right that we need to make people of all races feel comfortable in our community. The town meetings and summit are good starts in attempting to reach that goal.