2002-02-06 Holland Sentinel Second racism summit keeps focus on local issues

Second racism summit keeps focus on local issues
Holland Sentinel

When organizers of the first Ottawa Area Summit on Racism saw interest for the event pushing 650 registrants last year, they decided they had to shut the doors because they just didn’t have enough room to accommodate so many people. This year, they’re better prepared. “We just didn’t expect to get the turnout we had last year,” said Gail Harrison, head of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, which is sponsoring this year’s second annual conference.

“We’re better prepared for a bigger crowd this year. We can accept up to 800 people.” The summit, which will run from 7:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hope College on Tuesday, is designed to address racism in Ottawa County and to lessen its effects, if not eradicate it altogether, over five years. The event will continue to work accomplished last year, Harrison said. At the 2001 summit, attendees broke into small groups in which they addressed issues in specific areas of local life and developed plans they hoped would begin the process of dealing with racism locally.

At this year’s summit, organizers hope to carry on what was accomplished in the groups last year and move forward. Learning workshops will be used this year as a way to do that. “They’ll be designed on what was accomplished last year in that the groups will build on the strategies the groups came up with last year,” Harrison said. “But there will still be learning going on.”

While the groups from last year’s summit were charged with drawing up strategies to deal with racism, Harrison feels the basics of the problem still must be discussed. Hope professors Fred Johnson and Chuck Green will help with that in discussing what racism is at its base and how it manifests itself in subtle ways. “They’re going to do a workshop on the nuts and bolts of racism,” Harrison said. “There are still things we need to learn.

The summit’s keynote speaker will be noted journalist Ray Suarez, the longtime host of National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation” and now a Washington-based senior correspondent for “The NewsHour.” He won the 1996 Rune Salazar Award from the National Council of LaRaza.

Mail registration for the summit will be open through Friday, with a $20 fee attached. Harrison said she must have registrations by Monday for them to be valid. Those interested are also able to register online, then pay at the door when the summit begins at 7:15 a.m. Harrison, though, said organizers would prefer people register by the Monday mail deadline. Attendees are to meet I Dimnent Chapel Tuesday morning, where they will be given packets and assignments. Guides will take people where they need to go.

The Web address for the lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance is www.ethnicdiversity.org and is shared with blackhistory.com.