2003-02-07 Holland Sentinel "Links between art and race will be explored at summit "

Links between art and race will be explored at summit
Ottawa Area Summit on Racism featuring speakers, discussion about many issues
The Holland Sentinel

Does art have a racial connotation? Participants in the third Ottawa Area Summit on Racism will have an opportunity to discuss that topic and other questions dealing with race in the Holland community at the annual meeting Tuesday at Hope College.

The discussion on art adds a new topic to the lineup at the annual event, where workshops this year will explore historical perspectives on race, the influence of the media, and the link between racism and poverty. The summit will also update the work of action teams formed in the first summit in 2001 to discuss racism in business, community, education, faith communities, government, media and health care and develop strategies to remedy its effects.

"We're excited about the opportunity to explore and discuss what does art mean to different people and to exchange information on what does it mean for the future and what does it say about our past," said Deborah de la Torre, founder of the Tulipanes Latino Art and Film Festival. She will moderate the art discussion with C.J. Grier of Maple Avenue Ministries.

The summit, sponsored by the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, will again be held at Hope College, beginning with registration at 8 a.m. Activities include action team reports and meetings, workshops on racism, a theatrical performance and a keynote address by Colgate University professor John Dovidio, the author of numerous books and articles on psychology and racism. Registration is available until Monday at www.ethnicdiversity.org.

Leaders of the action teams say the work of the first two summits has yielded tangible results.

Eleanor Lopez, a volunteer on the health care action team, works at Holland Community Hospital's library and is a member of the cultural diversity steering committee at the hospital. In the last three years, she said, the hospital increased its Spanish-language library material by 50 percent, hired a full-time bilingual lactation consultant, is translating marketing materials to Spanish and has offered conversational Spanish classes to its staff.

The hospital's integration and diversity efforts go hand in hand with better serving its customers, she said.

"Our collection development is based on consumers' needs. They ask for materials in Spanish," she said. "We've had 17,000 consumers use the library. That's incredible."

The hospital's efforts have extended beyond its employees and clients. Marsha Mayor of Haworth Inc. said the company wanted to start training its employees in diversity, but was not familiar with the resources available, so the company borrowed material from the hospital's library and recently purchased its own diversity training video.

"At Haworth our members are the heart and soul of our company," said spokeswoman Susan Wray. "Diversity is healthy, it makes us open to change. It strengthens and riches us.

"The more diverse our members are, the more diverse ideas we get, the more choices and solutions we have."

This year's summit will include workshops on four areas: Understanding racism in a historical perspective and the role it plays in the community; the role of racism in poverty; the influence of the media in perpetuating or dispelling racial stereotypes; and understanding the Arab world from a historical and cultural perspective.

The event will include the theatrical performance "The Usual Things" by the KMR Diversity Theater. The play is about a loan officer who, while talking to his psychiatrist, realizes his prejudices and stereotypical thinking.

The summit is designed as the centerpiece of a five-year effort to address racism in Ottawa County. The first summit in 2001 drew 600 people, with 665 attending the 2002 meeting.

The Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance is sponsoring the event in collaboration with the Alliance for Cultural and Ethnic Harmony, Core City and Latin Americans United for Progress.

Summit information

* Ottawa Area Summit on Racism

* Tuesday at Hope College

* Workshops, theatrical performances, speakers

* Registration is until Monday at www.ethnicdiversity.org