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Anti-racism task force connects in Ottawa Co.

Community members mingling outside shops in Grand Haven for an Anti-Racism Task Force meet and greet
Kylie Ambu
Anti-racism task force gathers in Grand Haven

Community members in Ottawa County are joining together to fight racism on the lakeshore. The area’s Anti-Racism Task Force launched more than a year ago but met for the first time in person this week, with new ideas and initiatives.

"It’s really exciting after having a whole year of virtual meetings to be able to meet each other and talk about the importance of this work,” organizer Barbara Lee VanHorssen said.

Dozens of community members met in downtown Grand Haven for a meet and greet with task force members. The group has hosted a series of townhalls on racism and bias over the past year as a way to invite voices of color to the table, and implement ways to combat racism in the area.

“This (racism) is not rhetorical. It is not theoretical. It’s real it’s happening.”

Vanhorssen shares while support for the initiative has been great, discussions on race and inclusion haven’t been welcomed in by everyone in the county.

“There’s a small group of people who are speaking in commission meetings about dismantling the DEI initiatives that have been established," she said adding "to dismantle it after establishing it would be worse than having never established it at all."

Part of the evening’s event included a statement of support for Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives in Grand Haven, which community members were asked to sign. Vanhorssen says the taskforce also crafted a letter to share with city commissioners.

As talks push forward, task force town halls are set to resume in October with a series on race and religion. The group will host an Expo and inclusion training opportunities in the coming months.

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