(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 21, 2017)
Rochester Hills, MI – Nearly 200 residents of the Rochester Area met on April 18 for a potluck to share updates about the five committees of the Great Rochester Area Inclusion Network (GRAIN).
The group is a non-partisan, non-religious affiliated group with a vision “to ensure we have an inclusive, safe community through non-partisan issue advocacy, education and community building.”
Imam Aly Lela of the Islamic Association of Greater Detroit located in Rochester Hills welcomed members of all different ethnic and religious backgrounds to the community meal. “We’re here to celebrate our diversity and complement one another,” Lela said. “We are so fortunate to be able to enjoy the American Dream. Part of our love is to celebrate the good and criticize what we can make better.”
Joanna Van Raaphorst is one of GRAIN’s organizers. The group has been having meetings hosted by various religious organizations. “We found 58 different faith communities in the Greater Rochester Area,” she said. Because the group aims to be nonpartisan, working with faith-based organizations is a logical start.
The group has Action Committees with focuses that include a Bias Incident Team, a Steering Committee, Listening and Learning, Public Relations and Marketing, Advocacy and Action and Building a Community that Knows Each other.
Steve Spreitzer, President of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion also spoke at the dinner, sharing ideas for how to approach discussions of diversity. He said that many communities have their own distinct history of exclusion that remains part of the culture even when it is not overt. He said often communities are “relationally delayed” because of past exclusionary practices such as redlining, sundown towns, deed restrictions, and other reasons why people have tended to live close to others of their own backgrounds. “People say ‘bigoted,’ but I prefer the word ‘relationally delayed,’ because I think about 85% of the people are just waiting to be cultivated into allies.”
Spreitzer’s advice focused on going slow and meeting people where they are. “It doesn’t matter where you start as long as you are on the path,” he said. He suggested bringing together as many people as possible including police, officials, clergy and the business community. “Build a broad base of support.”
Those who want to be part of GRAIN can get involved by joining their Facebook Group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1829386123944336/
Rochester Hills recently showcased their diversity in the Mayor’s State of the City Address. Read more about that at https://oaklandcounty115.com/2017/04/11/rochester-hills-mayor-touts-diversity-in-state-of-the-city/.