2005-06 Grand Haven Tribune Forum aimed to take stand on flier

Forum aimed to take stand on flier
BY LEN PAINTER
Grand Haven Tribune

For members of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, the flier circulating in the Tri-Cities urging residents to attend a “whites only” gathering was repulsive.

The group, under the direction of executive director Gail Harrison, has been working diligently for years in promoting diversity.

And to make clear of its stand, the Alliance is conducting a community forum at the Lakeshore Middle school auditorium in Grand Haven on Thursday, June 2, from 7-9pm. Harrison said leaders from local organizations – including government, education, business and churches – will be present.

“What we want to say is that ‘whites only’ organizations are not acceptable in this community,” she said.

Last week, fliers were circulated in the area, advertising an upcoming “White Voices of American Family Picnic and Political Discussion.” NO date, time or location for a meeting was mentioned.

It read: “WVA is a small group of people wishing to unite fellow white kindred to discuss and find ways to help problems facing white America..” The flier went on to say that to attend the pinic “you must be of predominant white ancestry,”

That message was particularly upsetting to LEDA Board member Joel Toppen. “They (WVA) have First Amendment rights, but we want to make it clear that this is the wrong place to deliver that message,” he said.

LEDA members were to meeting this afternoon to lay the groundwork for the June 2 forum. Harrison said WVA representatives can attending the forum, but they won’t be allowed to start a debate.

Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Chief Roger DeYoung indentified Cory Traxler of Nunica as the primary person behind the fliers. No one answered the phone this morning at the number listed on the flier.

Harrison said her office has been inundated with phone calls from news organizations from throughout the state.

“If we are silent on this, is that not an indictment of our apathy?” Harrison said of the need for the forum.

The Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, which a few years ago changed its name, has been in existence since 1996. The group completed its fifth summit on combating racism in March.

“We had a meeting three days before the cross burning on Rev. Ron James’ lawn in June 1996,” Harrison said.

Both Harrison and Toppen said they want to quell any perceptions that this community tolerates racism.

“I’m proud of this community and we want people to know that we clearly reject any group promoting whites-only meetings,” Toppen said. “We have a vision of a community that embraces diversity.”

Harrison and Toppen said their organization will be coming out with a statement rejecting whites-only organizations and will ask residents to sign it.

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