2002-02-06 Grand Haven Tribune "Second Summit on racism opens"

Second Summit on racism opens
Grand Haven Tribune

Over 400 people currently plan to lend their voices and ideas to eliminating racism in Ottawa County during the second Ottawa Area Summit on Racism Tuesday in Holland.

Registration for the event will continue until Monday to allow as many voices as possible to be heard.

"We're pleased that people are responding, and we're hopeful that more people will come. It's going to be a great day," said Gail Harrison, executive director of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance (LEDA), which is sponsoring the event.

Last year at this time, LEDA officials were closing registration for the very first summit after an overwhelming number of people signed on to participate. About 650 people attended.

"We were thrilled with the turnout last year," Harrison said, adding that after all the interest last year, they have increased this summit's capacity to 800 people.

"We are prepared so any person who is interested will have a spot at the table."

Mail registrations for the summit will need to be received by Monday. Starting Thursday, people will be able to register online and then pay at the door of the summit. The cost is $20 per person, which includes lunch. Harrison said they will
accept online registrations until noon on Monday. Registration forms are available at the LEDA Web site at www.ethnicdiversity.org.

The summit will begin at Dimnent Chapel at Hope College in Holland and will be held from 7:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday.
During last year's summit, participants from the sectors of business, community, education, faith communities, government, health care and media met in break-out sessions to define racial barriers and design strategies to overcome those barriers.

Since then, hundreds of Ottawa County residents have been working on those strategies. At this year's summit, a video
will be shown on the accomplishments of 2001 before break-out sessions are held to plan action steps for the coming year.

In addition to the break-out sessions, Harrison said that a new workshop will be offered this year for those who would like to become better educated about the realities of racism, before they work on solving them.

"It's an important day. It will have an important impact on how this community moves forward, and we invite all voices to be a part of the process," Harrison said.

During the afternoon, attendees will hear from keynote speaker Ray Suarez, a Washington-based senior correspondent for "The Newshour," the PBS evening news program. Suarez has been a long-time member of the National Aisociation of
Hispanic Journalists and is a founding member of the Chicago Association of Hispanic Journalists. He also wrote the book ,"The Old Neighborhood: What We Lost in the Great Suburban Migration: 1966-1999."

"He's really excited about the summit. He's really excited about what we are doing here in West Michigan," Harrison said, adding that Suarez will be speaking about the changing national demographics.

LEDA is sponsoring this second of five summits, in collaboration with Latin Americans United for Progress, The Alliance of Cultural and Ethnic Harmony and C.O.B.B. Community Outreach.