2001-03-11 Holland Sentinel Racism summit action teams ready for work

Racism summit action teams ready for work
Holland Sentinel

About 450 people are taking their experience at the Ottawa Area Summit on Racism in February one step further, but the business and health care sectors have shown little interest, according to the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance.

Executive director of the alliance, Gail Harrison, told the Spring Lake Rotary Club Friday that 451 people have signed up to work on implementing the action plans that were developed during the summit at Hope College on Feb 13.

“That is what made the summit a success,” Harrison said.

A total of 667 people attended the summit, which was sponsored by the alliance, and developed strategies for breaking down the racial barriers in seven sectors including business, government, faith communities, education, health care, community and media. Harrison said that five of those sectors have had several people sign up to work on their strategies.

But David Rhem, president of the alliance, said that there has been hardly any interest from the Grand Haven business sector to implement these strategies. Rhem said that the business sector may not recognize that racism is an issue for them. He added that members of the health care sector have not shown much interest in working on the strategies either.

“We got virtually zero or no support out of the Grand Haven area (in those sectors),” Rhem said.

“They don’t see it as an issue. Hopefully we can get some more interest and involvement from the business community here. That’s one of the reasons we’re here today,” he said.

The first meeting of the business action team will be in Holland at Hope College on Thursday at 7pm.

Harrison said that all the other action teams, with the exception of education, have scheduled their first meetings and will begin meeting this week. She explained that the education sector had so many people who wanted to be a convener for the action team, that those people will need to meet before calling their first full meeting.

During the summit, the various action teams created strategies and participants volunteered to work on the teams that would work on the those strategies over the next year. An education action team at the summit planned to increase student involvement in cross-ethnic activities while a government team planned to develop employment criteria to promote volunteer and pair opportunities for minorities.

Harrison said that an additional 20 people, who did not attend the summit, have called her office to join a team and get involved.

Over the next year, these groups will work on these strategies and report on their progress at the next Ottawa Area Summit on Racism. The summits will be held for five years.

“We hope by the end of the five years there will be a lot of action plans in place,” Rhem said. “And eventually we hope there will be a huge web of people working on racial and diversity issues.”