Lakeshore Alliance Plans New Summit

April 28, 2008
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HOLLAND — The Lakeshore Region Summit on Racism is back by popular demand. Starting in 2001, the summit, which is run by the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, was originally scheduled as a five-year program that concluded in 2005. But an overwhelming response came from the community to bring the summit back.

The alliance used the two years in between to reorganize the office and staff and look at the summit model.

“What we wanted the community to understand is that racial segregation is not another social ill, but it is a root cause of many other social ills,” said Gail Harrison, executive director of the alliance.

“When we look at schools that are failing, when we look at urban areas that are blighted, when we look at economic decline, when we look at why do industries move into or move out of communities — racial segregation is often a root problem. We end up creating our own worst-case scenario because of discomfort, because of fear, because of lack of cultural competency, because we as a nation are so influenced by our social traditions and by our history in ways we don’t recognize.”

Harrison said Michigan is one of the more racially polarized states in the U.S., with five of the most racially segregated cities in the nation — none of which, she added, are doing well economically. Harrison believes racial inclusion is vital to economic prosperity for a region.

“What we wanted to say with this summit is, inclusion is our future,” said Harrison. “If we don’t build a social compact that is based on inclusion, where everybody is invited to fully participate in the life of the community, where we do not exclude certain segments of our population — if we do that, then nobody is going to invest economically in our region (and) then we are going to see continual decline.”

The summit will feature keynote speakers David Rusk, an internationally known expert on urban policy who will present “A Social Compact Built on Inclusion,” and George Herrera, president and CEO of Herrera-Cristina Ltd. and former head of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce who will speak on “The Value of Diversity.”

Rusk and Herrera will be part of a panel discussion that also will include Brian Walker, president and CEO, Herman Miller Inc.; Dorothy A. Johnson, president emeritus of Michigan Council Foundation; and Kenyatta Brame, senior vice president of Cascade Engineering.

The panel will focus on a blueprint for a new social compact based on inclusion and will reflect, according to Harrison, on four main questions/topics: “What is the cost if we do nothing to foster a more inclusive region; comment on the strengths that we can build on to achieve a social compact based on inclusion; what are the most important things that need to be put in place to achieve this vision; and what ideas excite you about future action in this regard.”

The summit is Tuesday, May 20, from 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m., at the Dimnent Memorial Chapel at Hope College. Registration is $20 (includes lunch). For more information/registration: www.ethnicdiversity.org.

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