Ottawa racism summit draws more than planners can seat
By: Kym Reinstadler
The Lakeshore Press
Organizers of today’s conference at Hope College say they are overwhelmed by the response from 643 people. Another 100 had to be turned away.
When Jennifer Jones came to Holland in 1992 to attend college, she knew the small community with Dutch roots was a lot different than her native Cleveland.
Jones, a black youth minister with Maple Avenue Ministries in Holland, said she hasn’t experienced a lot of racial hostility but knows that problems exist.
Jones was among hundreds who attended the first Ottawa Area Summit on Racism this morning at Hope College.
“I’m sure something good will come out of this,” she said.
Jones said she is glad that organizers of the summit are taking an “active voice” on the issue instead of letting racial problems stagnate.
Planners of today’s event say they are delighted and overwhelmed by the response.
“When we started planning this thing more than a year ago, I said attendance less than 300 would be an embarrassment,” said Gail Harrison, Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance director. “I’d be pleased with 400, and 500 would mean we had done a bang-up job getting the word out.” Instead, 643 people are registered for today’s events, and more than 100 were turned away.
The five-year effort to promote racial inclusion is patterned after an effort in Grand Rapids, where the first summit in 1999 drew 400 participants and the second drew 700.
Harrison said she never imagined more than 600 people clamoring to attend the day-long summit, held during Hope’s winter break.
Sections were added last week of seven breakout groups charged with developing strategies for