2000-12-06 Grand Haven Tribune Area leaders to work on eliminating racism at Friday confrence

Area Leaders to work on eliminating racism at Friday conference
Grand Haven Tribune

About 150 leaders from various walks of life will learn how organizations can benefit from valuing and properly managing cultural diversity after they hear about the transformation made by Denny’s Restaurant. Rachelle Hood-Phillips, chief for diversity officer of Advantica Restaurant Group Inc. will be the keynote speaker at the Leadership Conference of the Ottawa Area Summit on Racism at Hope College on Friday.

Hood-Phillips will speak to area leaders in business, education religion, government, community organizations, health care and media, based on her experiences in helping transform the Denny’s Restaurant organization after it faced charges of discriminatory practices in the mid-1990s. The restaurant chain is part of the Advantica Corporation, headquartered in Spartanburg, S.C.

This year, Fortune magazine ranked Advantica as the best company in the nation for minority employees, and the transformation of Denny’s has been featured on CBS’s “60 Minutes” and a CNBC documentary, “The Denny’s Turnaround” The four-hour Leadership conference will be attended by leaders form the Tri-Cities, Holland, Zeeland and northern Allegan County.

“The people at this conference will develop a vision of what a prejudice-free Ottawa area would look like and strategies leaders can use to help eliminate racism in our communities,” said Gail Harrison, executive director of the Lakeshore Ethic Diversity Alliance (LEDA).

Conference participants will also review video clips and oral reports of concerns, hopes and solutions that were voiced at town meetings on racism in Holland on Sept. 28, and Grand Haven on Nov.2. They will work on plans for the Ottawa Area Summit on Racism, which will take place at Hope College on Feb. 13, 2001.

“We all know that change can be more effective when encouraged by leadership, “Harrison said, adding that the conference will give leaders of the community a more direct way to be involved in eliminating racism.

Prior to joining Advantica in 1995, Hood-Phillips held leadership positions in private business, including 10 years of diversity work at Burger King Corporation. She advises a number of Fortune 500 companies on how to value and manage diversity within their organization. A native of Detroit, she holds bachelors and master’s degrees in communication from Michigan State University.

The Ottawa Area Summit on Racism, the start of a five-year process to break down barriers faced by people of color, is sponsored by LEDA, in collaboration with the African-American Support Group, Latin Americans United for Progress and the Alliance for Cultural and Ethnic Harmony. The latter three groups are headquartered in Holland. The Ottawa event is based on two successful summits held in Grand Rapids in 1999 and 2000.

A limited number of spaces remain available for Friday’s conference. To register, call 846-9074.