“For this summit, my belief is that if people come to it, we will have a common understanding about the barriers we can deconstruct,” said Gail Harrison, executive director of the alliance.
Harrison said the summit would identify steps for overcoming the existing barriers that limit people individually, in organizations and institutions, and as a community.
“The changes are coming,” she said. “We have to be able to understand in order to move us from fear to being more inclusive.”
Over the past 16 years, Harrison said she has heard more and more that the community is wonderful, but there is a lack of diversity.
“It’s not from a lack of goodwill," said Harrison, who is from the Tri-Cities area. "It’s from a lack of knowledge about what is getting in the way.”
Event organizers expect more than 600 people from the community to attend the conference. They will include participants from businesses, nonprofit organizations, faith communities, government and educational institutions.
The format of the event includes a morning and a luncheon session, and four focused topics for breakout sessions, which will repeat following each keynote address. The opening session will feature speaker Terry Keleher, director of the Midwest office of the Applied Research Center.
The conference comes on the heels of a May 8 incident of racial intimidation at a Grand Haven apartment complex and an ongoing racial intimidation of a Spring Lake restaurant owner.
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