2008-08-29 Grand Rapids Press "Slur stirs backlash in area"


Racial slur stirs backlash from those proud of area's diversity
by GREG CHANDLER
The Grand Rapids Press

PARK TOWNSHIP --

Andy Snyder says he was "deeply saddened" when he read about a Park Township family who found a racial slur spray-painted on their driveway earlier this month.

Snyder's 10-year-old daughter, Madeline, is in a dance class with 13-year-old Daina Robinson, whose family was the target of the slur. The Robinsons moved to the Holland area from Jamaica three years ago.

"I felt so heartbroken for the Robinsons, and for our community," said Snyder, who is lay leader for First United Methodist Church of Holland and program director for the Holland Area Arts Council.

He and his wife, Lisa, were among 82 people from First United Methodist who signed an anti-racism pledge in response to the Aug. 17 incident.

"For our church family, social justice has always been a very important ministry," Snyder said.

"When something challenging comes long, you see that community come together."

As of Thursday, more than 2,300 people signed the pledge -- more than 2,000 online and about 300 in person -- in support of the Robinsons and to promote justice and diversity along the Lakeshore.

Avelock Robinson, Daina's father, described the community support his family has received since the incident as "tremendous."

"I don't think we could have asked for anything more than what we've received," Robinson said.

In addition to those who have pledged, more than $3,300 in donations have been collected. Those may be used to buy full-page newspaper ads next week.

"If we get 3,000 signatures, we're going to take out three full pages," said Gail Harrison, executive director for the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, which has worked closely on the campaign with the Alliance for Cultural & Ethnic Harmony and Latin Americans United for Progress.

The effort's theme is "Not Here. Not Now. Not Ever Again."

"It speaks very highly of the community and provides the framework for other communities to have organizations that are ready to respond," Harrison said.

No suspects have been arrested in connection with the slur or several other nearby incidents of vandalism, authorities said Thursday.

Park Township is offering a $150 reward per person for the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

And at least two individuals have offered at least $600 in additional rewards, Township Supervisor Stu Visser said.

Campaign organizers are planning a community picnic tentatively slated in late September at Winstrom Park, Harrison said.

The group also is discussing holding educational and awareness forums.

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