2001-02-04 Holland Sentinel Interest grows in racism summit

Interest grows in racism summit
Holland Sentinel

Greater interest than expected in an upcoming summit on racism has a key planner excited and ready to accept even more registrations.

“I was expected 400 total, but we have 400 as of today. It’s getting more intense,” Gail Harrison, executive director of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, said last Friday afternoon. Fifty registrations arrived in Thursday’s mail and 36 more in Friday’s, she said.

The Ottawa Area Summit on Racism is Feb 13 at Hope College. It’s sponsored by the alliance, in collaboration with Latin Americans United for Progress, the African-American Support Group, and the Alliance for Cultural and Ethnic Harmony.

Its premise is to promote racial inclusion in society throughout the Holland-Grand Haven area. Planners at a December meeting used residents’ comments on racism from two town meetings to shape the event.

Summit participants will hear two keynote addresses, but the main activity of the day will be breakout sessions geared toward seven sectors: business, community, education, faith, government, health care and media.

“Education is the most populated, which we expected,” Harrison said. More than 100 have registered with the education box checked on the form.

Registration in two other areas surprised –and pleased-Harrison as well.

“We ended up having to set up two breakout sessions for government,” she said. She added that the response from faith communities also was strong, but she has not seen as much interested from the health care or media sectors.

All groups will first identify barriers to racial inclusion, then brainstorm strategies for pulling those down and later report about their talks to the group at large.

As of Friday, 15 facilitators were trained and ready for their tasks, but Harrison thought she might need to train a few more.

“I am so thrilled that the community is embracing this initiative,” she said.

To allow more people to join the discussion more easily, Harrison said she no longer will require advance payment of the $15 summit fee. However, she wants interested people to let her know that they plan to come and which breakout group they want to join. They can pay at the door, she said, but planning will be easier if she knows how many to expect.