2008-05-18 Holland Sentinel "Residents hope racism issues will be brought to the forefront"

Residents hope racism issues will be brought to the forefront at Tuesday's Summit on Racism
The Holland Sentinel

Holland, MI —


WHAT: Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance’s 2008 Summit on Racism

WHERE: Hope College

WHEN: 8 a.m. Tuesday, May 20, concludes at 4 p.m.

COST: $20 includes lunch

INFORMATION: www.ethnicdiversity.org
The lakeshore still has work to do before it eliminates segregation and accepts diversity, said Gail Harrison.

To bring these and other issues facing the lakeshore area up for discussion, the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance will hold its sixth Summit on Racism at Hope College Tuesday, May 20.

The summit begins at 8 a.m. at Dimnent Memorial Chapel, 277 College Ave., with other events taking place throughout the campus. The summit concludes at 4 p.m.

 The summit will focus on the impacts of inclusion versus segregation on a community, said alliance Executive Director Gail Harrison.

“We’re looking at increased segregation at our schools, segregation of urban areas and a disparate in household incomes between people of color and Caucasians,” Harrison said.

The summit will feature two keynote speakers, George Herrera and David Rusk, focus sessions examining best business practices, immigration in West Michigan, diversity in education, space and race and models for ministry.

The summit is the first in three years, Harrison said.

Originally it was a five-year plan, with five summits planned, with the final summit taking place in 2005.

“People asked us not to let it end and so we regrouped and raised funds,” Harrison said.

Organizations throughout the community see a need for the summits, saying they play an important role in helping the lakeshore become more accepting of different cultures.

There’s a growing minority population in the area and people should learn from mistakes other diverse communities made so the Holland area can create a positive future, said Bert Jara, Latin Americans United for Progress executive director and part of the summit’s planning committee.

Jara said it takes time to learn about racism and diversity and it’s not something that can be done in a day.

“Even a one-day summit can’t bring everything to light. Hopefully, it gives other people an opportunity to study and grapple those problems,” Jara said.

Summit organizers hope to bring different components of the community, such as faith-based groups, education, businesses and nonprofit, to work together.

The church and the community should work together in a collaborative effort to examine racism in a serious manner, said Mike Pitsenberger, senior minister at Christ Memorial Church.

“Diversity is highly important for a church. Diversity’s the world we live in,” he said.

In recent years, the church has become multicultural, with an influx of different minority groups attending services.

The church decided to participate in the summit to help it in its process of diversification.

Mary Ann Wierks, the church’s minister of reaching out, working on the summit’s planning committee, realizing how important the summit is to the church in understanding it multicultural congregation.

“It’s in our fiber now. Our fiber is multicultural instead of one culture,” she said.