2003-01-28 Grand Haven Tribune 2003 Summit on Racism to focus on strategies

2003 Summit on Racism to focus on Strategies
Grand Haven Tribune

Educators held monthly meetings to review curriculum and instructional practices with respect to diversity issues. Tri-Cities residents planned a local film discussion series to address racism and its roots. Those in the business and health care fields have studied ways to recruit and retain an ethnically diverse workforce.

Looking back over the past two years since the first Ottawa Area Summit on Racism, Gail Harrison is thrilled with what has been accomplished. “I think the summit has identified eliminating racism as a pressing community issue,” said Harrison, summit coordinator and the executive director of the lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance (LEDA), which sponsors the event.

“I think we have done a tremendous amount of work,” agreed Paula Kendra, a member of the LEDA Board of Directors. “I’m amazed at how it has made concrete changes in the community.” But there is still more work to be done. The third annual Ottawa Area Summit on Racism is planned for Tuesday, Feb. 11 from 8a.m to 4 p.m. at Hope College in Holland and is open to everyone.

During this year’s summit, attendees will look back at the accomplishments of 2002 and will look ahead to develop new strategies for overcoming racial barriers in their communities. Compared to previous Ottawa Area Summits on Racism, this year’s summit will give participants more time to determine those strategies, Harrison said. “What we heard from people loud and clear is we need more time in our breakout sessions,” she explained, referring to the part of the summit when representatives of the business, community, education, faith communities, government, health care and media sectors meet in workshops to look at ways they can defeat racism.

Summit participants are asked to make a year-long commitment to work on action teams and implement these strategies. Kendra explained that, for example, area residents on the Tri-Cities Community Action Team will sponsor a film discussion series at the Grand Haven Community Center I coming months that will focus on issues of racism.

She added that she hopes their film choices will prompt discussions about what is happening here in the Tri-Cities. “Our goal was to do some educational work here in the Tri-Cities area,” she said. This year will be the first time that the summit offers a community workshop specifically for the Tri-Cities, added Kendra, who will serve as the facilitator for the group. “Hopefully we’ll get more people who are interested in moving things forward and raising awareness here” Kendra said.

Harrison explained that there are many Ottawa county residents interested in creating a community that is free of bias and prejudices. “The best thing the summit has done is to give a voice to that desire,” she said. In addition to workshops that will focus on taking action against racism, Harrison said, there will also be four workshops that focus on learning about it. She explained that these workshops will be available for people who feel they need to better understand racism before they can work to defeat it.

Those workshops will include, “Understanding Racism,” “Exploring Racism and Poverty,” “The Power to Heal or Divide: The Influence of Media in Race Relations” and “Understanding the Arab World.” Registration forms are available on the Web site, www.ethnicdiversity.org, or by calling 616-846-9074. Due to limited space, Harrison said they are asking that registrations to be made by Tuesday, Feb. 4.The cost to attend the summit is $25 per person, which includes lunch.

Dr. John Dovidio, who has published over 100 books, articles and chapters on the topics of stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination, social power and nonverbal communication, will serve as the keynote speaker at the summit. Dovidio is a Charles A. Dana professor of psychology at Colgate University, where he is also provost and dean of the faculty. He is also the editor-elect of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology-Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes.

In addition, KMR Diversity Theatre of Grand Rapids will present a theatrical performance, “The Usual Things,” during the summit. The performance is about a loan officer’s realization of his own prejudices and stereo-typical thinking as he talks about a typical day at work with his psychiatrist. “It creates awareness-raising for all of us. So we make those same kinds of unintentional choices?” Harrison said of the performance.

In addition to LEDA, organizations collaborating on the summit are Latin Americans United for Progress, Core City and the Alliance for Cultural and Ethnic Harmony. This will be the third Ottawa Area Summit on Racism and will be part of a five-year initiative to hold these conferences.