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Local Town Meetings Will Precede
Hope-Hosted "Summit on Racism"

Posted September 12, 2000

HOLLAND -- Two Lakeshore-area "town meetings" this fall will precede a community-wide "Summit on Racism" that Hope College will host in February.

Members of the Hope community are invited to participate in one of the meetings, which are designed for all area residents.

The first meeting will be held in Holland, on Thursday, Sept. 28, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church, located at 13th Street and Maple Avenue.

The second will be in Grand Haven, on Thursday, Nov. 2, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Grand Haven Outreach Church, located at 17 S. 2nd St.

The town meetings will provide an opportunity to identify and discuss problems related to racism in the community. Each meeting will feature a panel representing various sectors of the community in addition to emphasizing audience participation.

The meetings will lead into the community-wide Ottawa Area Summit on Racism, which will be held on campus throughout the day of Tuesday, Feb. 13, during the college's Winter Recess. The February summit is being planned with the goal of involving all sectors of the community in identifying and implementing action steps to foster racial inclusion in the Ottawa County area, and is the beginning of a five-year initiative dedicated to the process.

"This summit will give all voices an opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue on this age-old sensitive issue," said D. Wesley Poythress, who is assistant dean of multicultural life at Hope.

"We have to allow the authentic voices and experiences to be shown for all to see so that we can truly become a harmonious community," he said. "Even though utopia doesn't exist, there's nothing wrong with wanting to get as close to utopia as possible."

Ottawa County is becoming increasingly diverse as a community. Between 1990 and 1998, the number of Hispanics in the county increased more than 40 percent while the Asian population jumped by more than 55 percent and the African- American population grew by 30 percent.

According to Poythress, hosting the conference was a natural step for Hope in keeping with the college's Comprehensive Plan to Improve Minority Participation at the college.

The Ottawa Area Summit on Racism is sponsored by the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, of which Gail Harrison serves as executive director. The alliance was established in June of 1996 to increase understanding between people of different ethnic groups and to foster appreciation for cultural diversity.

Other organizations collaborating in the summit are the African American Support Group, the Alliance for Cultural and Ethnic Harmony (ACEH), and Latin Americans United for Progress (LAUP).

Admission to the two town hall meetings is free. To help offset expenses, there will be a nominal fee for the February 13 summit. Also related to the events is a Leadership Conference that will be held during the morning of Friday, Dec. 8, for invited participants.

Additional information about the town meetings or the Summit on Racism may be obtained by contacting Gail Harrison at (616) 846-9074, e-mail gailharrison@novagate.com.

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