veway. The Diversity Alliance strongly opposes racial intimidation in all its varied forms.
The chair with racist graffiti, found in the David driveway the day after the election, appears to be a response to Mr. David’s display of chairs hung by ropes from trees in the Davids' yard. The display was erected following Clint Eastwood’s speech at the Republican National Convention in late August, in which Eastwood spoke to an empty chair representing President Obama. Mr. David’s hanging chairs are still on display.
On Oct. 4, the Diversity Alliance held a public community forum in response to concerns raised about the hanging chairs specifically to provide a safe, open space for all people to engage in civil dialogue. People who were in support and those in opposition to the hanging chairs were afforded the opportunity to speak and share their views. Community members of various ideological positions spoke at the forum.
At the closing of the forum, a group of attendees stayed to discuss ways to foster inclusion in the Tri-Cities communities. Work on that front continues.
The Grand Haven Tribune has reported on several occasions that Mr. David indicated he was not approached by the Diversity Alliance nor invited to the public forum. On Sept. 26, one week prior to the community conversation, the executive director of the Diversity Alliance went to Mr. David’s home and discussed with him the concerns that community members had brought to the Diversity Alliance. A request was made of Mr. David, in the spirit of humanitarianism and respect for the people whom the display negatively impacted, to consider removing the chairs from the ropes.
Discussions for a political statement that was free of racial implications included the suggestion to place the chairs on the ground next to the political signs. This action would have served to alleviate the controversy of the hanging chairs’ relationship to the historical context of lynching of black people in this country. Mr. David declined to change the display.
The community forum was a public event, for which an invitation was extended to the entire Tri-Cities region. Targeted invitations to specific individuals were not made, nor seen as necessary. The Grand Haven Tribune reported that Mr. David stated he had a conflict which prohibited him from attending the community forum.
In a Nov. 8, article, the Grand Haven Tribune stated that the Diversity Alliance did not immediately respond to calls for comment. The Diversity Alliance was not contacted until after 3 p.m. on the date referenced, and all staff members were out of the office facilitating workshops and/or attending a conference in Grand Rapids. The implication that the Diversity Alliance selected not to respond is inaccurate.
In the same article, the Tribune reported: “Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance hosted a meeting in Grand Haven on Oct. 4, saying the hanging chairs represented racist threats against the African-American president and should be removed.” At no time did the Diversity Alliance make this statement. The Diversity Alliance was and remains to be concerned with the impact of the hanging chairs on the Tri-Cities community, regardless of intent.
The Diversity Alliance clearly does not know Mr. David’s intent in hanging the chairs from ropes in a tree. We do understand the impact that this visual display has had on many members of the community.
The goal of the Diversity Alliance has always been to help promote and facilitate efforts to foster a community where all people feel included and welcomed. In asking Mr. David to remove the chairs from the tree, we were hopeful that he would consider the impact of his display on members of the community, and join us in fostering that inclusive and welcoming environment. We continue to ask for that consideration.
Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance
To read the story on the chair retaliation, click here.