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

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