2001-01-13 Grand Haven Tribune Summit on racism to focus on strategies for change

Summit on racism to focus on strategies for change
Grand Haven Tribune

Throughout the Tri-Cities and surrounding areas, people are “wringing their hands” over issues of racism in their community, but most don’t know where to begin in order to make a difference, according to Gail Harrison, Executive Director of Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance.

The Ottawa Area Summit on Racism will give people a place to start. The summit is planned for Feb 13 from 8am to 4pm at Hope College in Holland.

“This is an opportunity to do something. No one will walk away from this conference and say, ‘I still don’t know what to do about (racism),’” said Harrison.

The summit, which is open to everyone, will include keynote addresses by two nationally known civil rights leaders and workshops to develop strategies for overcoming racial barriers.

Dr. Gregory H Williams, dean of the Ohio State University law school and author of “Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black,” as well as Dr. Juan Andrade Jr., president of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute Inc., in Chicago will speak at the summit. In addition there will be seven workshops on the sectors of business, government, health care, faith communities, education, community and media.

According to Harrison, the ideas and concepts, which were brought up during town meetings on racism in Holland and Grand Haven, as well as the Leadership Conference of the Ottawa Area Summit on Racism this past December, were used to make a vision statement for each of the workshops.

During the workshops, participants will determine what barriers exist to achieving their vision statement, the strategies that will dismantle those barriers and which strategies they can implement over the next year, Harrison said. She added that people will also be asked to sign up to work on those strategies over the next year.

“If everybody does their work we should be making some great strides in fostering a community of tolerance,” Harrison said.

Next year, at the second Ottawa Area Summit on Racism, participants will report back on the success of those strategies.

Harrison said that when selected which of the seven workshops to attend, people should attend a sector they are interested in, not necessarily their field of employment.

The Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, which is sponsoring the event, is already receiving a positive response.

Harrison said they are expecting about 500 people to attend, but there is no limitation and more can be accommodated. She expected most of the attendees to be from the Tri-Cities, Holland and Zeeland areas.

Registration brochures will be mailed to several hundred people who took part in the two town meetings or the leadership conference. Forms are also available by calling 846-9074 or downloading from the website www.ethnicdiversity.org

The cost of the summit is $15, which includes lunch. Pre-registration is requested by Feb 5.

Harrison explained why this summit is open to everyone.

“We think change is often driven from the top. But for the entire community to change we need to have as many folks, that find this topic of interest, participating,” she said. “We need to be visible supporters of diversity in our communities.”

The summit will begin at 8am in Dimnent Chapel on the Hope campus.

In additional to LEDA, organizations collaborating on the summit are Latin Americans United fro Progress, the African-American Support Group and the Alliance for Cultural and Ethnic Harmony.

Keynote speaker Dr. Gregory H. Williams, a law professor for 22 years, is immediate past president of the Association of American Law Schools. In 1999, he was named the first recipient of the National Bar Association’s A Leon Higginbotham Jr. Award for contributions to the preservation and promotion of human and civil rights. His best-selling book has received several awards.

Also keynote speaker, Dr. Juan Andrade Jr. has headed the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute since 1982. The institute educates the public about Hispanic issues and politics, trains public officials in local development programs, advocates for policies supported by Hispanics and conducts research on Hispanic social, economic and political demographics. He has received a number of awards and worked with government and community leaders in many Central and South American counties, Mexico and Haiti.