Informational statement on the Valparaiso Diversity Network Association
The Valparaiso Diversity Initiative began as a solicitation of interest in forming a group of representatives of Porter County organizations that would be willing to stand in opposition to racism in the community and to promote diversity and cross-cultural understanding. The initial activity was led by the Rev. Greg Jones of Union Community Church (UCC), and was supported by a planning grant from the Porter County Community Foundation. Valparaiso University, the Human Rights Commission of the City of Valparaiso, the Porter County Community Foundation, Union Community Church (UCC), The United Way of Porter County and Porter Health Systems were early partners in the planning and initiation of this effort in the early fall of 2009. Its start followed several months of incidents of vandalism, threat and harassment of a racial nature. Along with the above groups, representatives of the Valparaiso Community School Board, the Valparaiso Police Department, the Porter County Sheriff’s Department, and the Valparaiso Ministerial Association were at the initial formal meeting in October, 2009. At that meeting the representative resolved to draft a mission statement, to hold monthly meetings, and to invite other community organizations to join.
The initial meetings were facilitated by Dan Lowery of Calumet College.
In subsequent meetings, the group heard a report by Dr. Larry Baas of the Department of Political Science at Valparaiso University on racial incidents in the community, heard regular reports from the representatives present of activities in their own organization, approved a mission statement, and authorized the writing and production of several short plays that would raise awareness of prejudice and intolerance. Also, a group from the Valparaiso Ministerial Association began to meet separately to plan their response.
This group also met monthly and ended up drafting a strong statement condemning racism in the community. Plans are afoot to give this statement more public exposure.
Over the eight months since the group was formed, other organizations have been represented at the meetings. These include the Center Township Trustee, the Northwest Indiana Times, the Catholic Diocese of Gary, the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce, Project Neighbors, Purdue North Central, First United Methodist Church of Valparaiso, the Valparaiso International Center, ValpoLife, the Community Renewal Society, Ivy Tech Community College, and Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.
As racially-based incidents still occur, the need for the Valparaiso Diversity Initiative is continually manifested. The Initiative’s role in the community is evident in its mission statement:
“The Valparaiso Diversity Initiative is committed to raising awareness of issues related to diversity and racism in the greater Valparaiso community and to promoting inclusiveness in the community so as to create an environment in which all people can feel welcomed and engaged. The Valparaiso Diversity Initiative will provide a forum to bring together diverse groups within the community as partners, working together, building upon each other’s strengths, pooling and coordinating resources efficiently and effectively.”