Community speaking out about diversity
Huntington Univ. Pres. talks about inclusion
Updated: Wednesday, 31 Aug 2011, 9:47 PM EDT
Published : Wednesday, 31 Aug 2011, 8:43 PM EDT
- Don Austin
Huntington, Ind. (WANE) – Community leaders in Huntington are speaking out about inclusion and diversity after allegations of racial tension at a Huntington North football game last Friday.
Blair Dowden, president of Huntington University, is the chairman of the Harmony Initiative Task Force that organized in 2008.
Leaders from education, local government, and business are involved with the group.
He said its goal is to foster an environment in the city and county that embraces people from all types of backgrounds.
“The leaders in the community recognized that the past reputation– maybe 50 years ago– was not the reality of today, “Dowden said. “And we wanted to, in some way, put out a welcome mat to those of different ethnic or racial backgrounds and say we are an inclusive and welcoming community.”
Dowden said the Harmony Initiative Task Force has the support of the mayor and city council.
“They passed a city mission statement that indicated the city was inclusive. That was also passed by the county council,” he said.
They’ve organized an event called the Harmony Feast to help highlight some of the ethnic diversity within the community.
“Having this Harmony Feast that would have foods from a variety of diverse backgrounds– ethnic and racial foods– attracted about 400 people last year,” Dowden said.
This year’s feast is scheduled for September 23rd.
Dowden said the community has also placed a greater importance on celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., especially on MLK Day.
Because of some of the actions of the Harmony Initiative Task Force, he said things are changing.
“I hear members of the city council, the mayor, and members of the county council frequently refer to this and indicate it is a very positive thing for our community,” Dowden said. “So, there isn’t any measurable objective to say we’re making progress, but there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that says yes we are making a difference.”