2010-05-03 Holland Sentinel "MY TAKE — The 2010 Summit on Racism needs you"

MY TAKE — The 2010 Summit on Racism needs you
Holland Sentinel

Holland, MI — As we close in on the final weeks leading up to the 2010 Lakeshore Summit on Racism on May 20, there is considerable interest and activity in the community.

Faith communities are talking, pastors are meeting, presentations are being conducted at governmental meetings, educators are excited, business leaders are committing time and treasure, and community advocates and non-profits are finalizing the last details for this remarkable day. We have never had such a high number of registrants this early. It appears, from all indications, that this summit will be outstanding in terms of speakers, topics, presenters and audience. We are excited!

But the work of the Summit will not be a success without your help. We need you. Please let me explain.

Last year, as the team of planners began to grapple with the 2010 Summit, we challenged ourselves to identify the benefit of the Summit. Did the Summit really make a difference in our community and how we embraced principals of diversity? Was the community a more comfortable place for all people, as a result of the years of Summit conferences, action plans and participation? Why do problems of racial polarization, neighborhood and school segregation, disparate minority graduation attainment, lack of diverse representation in positions of leadership and other barometers of successful integration of peoples and cultures, continue to elude our greatest efforts to achieve a place that welcomes and embraces people from all backgrounds?

And then we were introduced to the words of the Dalai Lama and realized what is needed to truly transform our region. World leaders were attending a week-long think tank in Stockholm, Sweden, that set out to answer the question: “What is the greatest challenge of our time?” Although answers like “weapons of mass destruction” and “climate change” were brought forward by others, the Dalai Lama responded by saying people know how to solve problems like hunger and environmental degradation but they don’t act. Therefore the biggest challenge of our time is getting bystanders to take action.

And that, my friends, is the help we need from you. Each of us who cares about racial justice and equal opportunity; Each of us who would love to live in a place where people from around the globe and throughout the region feel valued and welcome; Each of us who is committed to the basic belief that all people are created equal and should be treated, so please join us!

Come to this day, wherever you are in this journey to eliminate racism, and join us in taking the next step. The day will be comprised of opportunities to get involved with organizations and efforts throughout the community. Join just one such effort — commit to work on one step, small or large. But join us.

Collectively, if each of us did just one thing to improve race relations, our community would be transformed. You are the answer and we cannot do this without you. Please. Join us.

— Gail Harrison is executive director of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance.