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  Calvin hosts 800 at the third annual Summit on Racism  

The GRACE (Grand Rapids Area Center for Ecumenism) "Summit on Racism 2001: From Reality to Reconciliation" was held on Calvin's campus Friday, March 23, during the college's spring break. Inspired by the shared vision of a racism-free Grand Rapids, nearly 800 people gathered to be "recharged, revitalized and reinvested" in a five-year effort promoting cultural and ethnic diversity throughout every level of this Western Michigan community.

After opening remarks by Rev. David May, Coordinator for the GRACE Racial Justice Institute and a thought-provoking performance by Diversity Theatre, participants divided into 18 action teams to work on issues specific to six major sectors—business, community, education, government, media and religious congregations. For example, one of the action teams concerned with effecting racial equity in housing examined an analysis of home lending patterns and discussed how to reduce predatory lending. Another team in the "religious congregations" sector shared the successes and challenges of trying to reach their goal of increasing the number of faith-based Institutes for Healing Racism.

At the end of the day, keynote speaker Juan Williams, of NPR's "Talk of the Nation" and author of Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary and Eyes on the Prize: American's Civil Rights Years, told stories of ordinary people whose acts of courage and obedience set the stage for more famous civil rights figures such Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.

He bemoaned the current state of affairs where society is becoming more segregated, with advertisers catering to very specific markets. In the media, broadcasting has become "narrow-casting" with each interest or ethnic group having its own television channel. Williams is also concerned that the main message coming through today's popular television shows seems to be "there's nothing anyone can, or needs, to do for the larger community—so just take a sleeping pill."

However, Williams complimented those who are participating in the Grand Rapids effort and the Summit's long-range plan: "There are many who will turn away from the hard work of moving from reality to reconciliation. You are courageous enough to take the first steps on this complicated's breathtaking."

He asserted that the Summit and the work of the action teams was unlike anything he has seen in the country, putting Grand Rapids on the cutting edge of national efforts to eliminate racism.

Plans are in the making for the next GRACE Summit on Racism to be held once again at Calvin on Friday, March 15, 2002. This will be the third time in the four years of the Summit that Calvin partners with the Racial Justice Institute by hosting this significant event on its campus, and, by so doing, furthering the missions of both organizations to be agents of renewal in God's world.

Summit on Racism
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Racial Justice Institute

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