2001-07-13 Grand Haven Tribune Teaming up in the fight against racism

Teaming up in the fight against racism
BY CLARENCE POEL
Grand Haven Tribune

Gail Harrison and David Rhem are carrying the ball in the Grand Haven area by seeking citizen action to deal with racism. Education is a powerful tool.

Gail is director of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, while David is an area lawyer. He become active in the cause after being astounded by a cross burned on a Ferrysburg home lawn a number of years ago.

Both Harrison and Rhem emphasize that Grand Haven is become more ethnically diverse. The latest U.S. Immigration Census report for Ottawa County verifies the trend.

Action teams were organized following a February Ottawa Area Summit on Racism that brought a surprising attendance of 650 people to Holland’s Hope College campus.

There were 150 community leaders invited. Seven action team strategies were developed since the summit.

The strategic teams include: Business, Community, Education, Faith Communities, Government, Health Care, and Media. They are designed to promote community action in each field.

Rhem serves on the Business Action Team of 200 that has been meeting two hour weekly for 10 weeks to devise vision statements. They include evaluating the impact of diversity issues on profitability of firms.

The Community Action Team is working with diverse neighborhoods through forums to expose racism. It also encourages research, development and coordinating community resources that built solidarity among divers groups.

An Education Team has a study to implement to best practices for hiring a diverse work force and training a staff in diversity issues.

Implementing and expanding the Institute for the Healing of Racism is another team effort. There also will be an effort to educate church congregations on cultural diversity.

Governments will be encouraged to promote employment and volunteer opportunities for people do color. The tension and recruitment of ethnic service providers for health care is being encouraged. Engaging the media in dialogue about diversity issues is another goal.

Rhem emphasized, “We don’t know each other, and schools can help in overcoming this barrier over color.”

More teachers of color are needed in Ottawa County Schools to help break down barriers and prejudgments while teaching tolerance, emphasizes the Alliance. A second summit is planned for Feb. 12, 2002.
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