2001-02-05 Grand Haven Tribune Response 'overwhelming' for the Summit on Racism

Response 'overwhelming' for the Summit on Racism
Grand Haven Tribune

With just little more than a week left until the Ottawa Area Summit on Racism, and responses still pouring in, Gail Harrison is simply overwhelmed.

More than 360 people have registered for the summit by mail and the phone has been ringing off the hook.

“That says to me there are a whole lot of people out there who really do care,” said Harrison, executive director of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance.

But despite the huge response so far, Harrison said she is still hoping for more people to come forward who would like to make a difference when it comes to issues of racial tolerance in the Tri-Cities and surrounding communities.

“We’re hoping to have 500 people there and I think we will,” Harrison said. “We’re still getting 20 to 30 registrations per day and phone calls, lots of phone calls.”

The Ottawa Area Summit on Racism is planned for Feb. 13 from 8am to 4pm at Hope College in Holland and is open to everyone. It will include keynote addresses by two nationally known civil rights leaders and workshops to develop strategies for overcoming racial barriers. There will be seven workshops focusing on the sectors of business, government, health care, faith communities, education, community and media.

And while LEDA, which is sponsoring the event, was requesting all registrations to be in by Feb. 5, Harrison said they will be extending that to include as many people as possible. She said that people will be able to pre-register up to the day before he conferences and walk-ins will be accepted on the day of the event, although walk-ins will not have a choice on which workshop they will attend.

Registration forms are available by calling 846-9074 or downloading from the website www.ethnicdiversity.org. The cost of the summit is $15, which includes lunch.

Harrison explained that people can download the registration form from the website and mail it in, if they expect it to get the LEDA by Feb. 9. Otherwise, those who would still like to participate, can call LEDA and give their registration information over the phone and then pay the cost of the summit at the event.

Harrison said that even a phone call the day before the summit to pre-register would be helpful so everyone can be placed into a workshop.

Most of the seven workshops are filling up, Harrison said, adding that they are prepared to expand those sessions if necessary. She pointed out that the only workshops that are currently low on registered attendees are the workshops for the media and health care.

“I would strongly encourage people in either of those fields to come to the summit,” she said. “The community is embracing this initiative and I would encourage anyone who is at all concerned about how our community grows, to please join us in this effort to create a community of tolerance.”

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, Harrison said. 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.

In addition, 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.

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

In addition to LEDA, organizations collaborating on the summit are Latin Americans United for Progress, the African-American Support Group/COBB Community Center and the Alliance for Cultural and Ethnic Harmony, all based in Holland.