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Grand Rapids Selected to Join Initiative to Strengthen Racial Equity

For Immediate Release                                                                                                    
May 26, 2016
Contact: Steve Guitar
Communications Director
(616) 456-3773
Grand Rapids selected as one of five cities to join new intiaitive to strengthen racial eqity
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids is one of five U.S. cities selected to partner on developing strategies to achieve racial equity and advance successful outcomes for all. The City will join Albuquerque, Austin, Louisville, and Philadelphia as part of the Racial Equity Here effort. Living Cities and the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) provides funding for the national
Racial Equity Here selected Grand Rapids and the other communities based in part on a demonstrated commitment to strengthen racial equity and improve outcomes and opportunities for adults and youth.
“One our City’s top priorities is to address inequitable access to opportunities,” said Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. “This initiative will strengthen our efforts to increase racial equity. It will help make our city a more welcoming and inclusive place for everyone. These changes will come through structural and systemic change for long-term impact. This will benefit the entire Grand
Rapids community with targeted impact for adults and youth of color who endure disproportionate negative unemployment and graduation rates.”
The Grand Rapids project team consists of: Rosalynn Bliss, mayor; Greg Sundstrom, city manager; Patti Caudill, diversity and inclusion manager; Mari Beth Jelks, managing director of administrative services; Stacy Stout, assistant to the city manager; and Shannon Harris, project coordinator Our Community’s Children.
The team will start by completing a racial equity assessment of core Grand Rapids government operations. This assessment will include an intentional focus on operations as it relates to both adults and youth of color ages 16 to 24 -- this group represents those who statistically on the negative end of racialized disparities and structural racism. By understanding how and where government affects young people of color, the City will gain a better understanding of its role in perpetuating these disparities. Results will also provide a better foundation for how to transform operations. Over two years, Grand Rapids hopes to develop a blueprint of government-wide strategies. It also expects to begin execution of the blueprint by applying the skills, tools, and processes it develops through this work.
According to Bliss, Grand Rapids embraces the chance to lead this charge in our region and to improve the cultural, gender and age diversity of city government. Recent initiatives at the City – including succession planning, updates to its Supplier Diversity Program, the Strong Neighborhoods Strong City Summit, Youth Master Plan and To College Through College – give Grand Rapids a firm foundation to begin institutionalizing racial equity into how it does business.
According to Caudill, Racial Equity Here builds on the work of GARE, a joint project of the Center for Social Inclusion and Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society.
“This national network of governments is working to achieve racial equity and advance successful outcomes for all,” Caudill said. “GARE’s approach is based on the experience of early adopters of racial equity within government. The Racial Equity Here team will strengthen the evidence-based efforts around this work and blaze a trail for even more cities to follow.” 
Julie Nelson, director of GARE, stated, "GARE is excited to partner with Grand Rapids and Living Cities on this project. We expect the Racial Equity Here cohort to be a national leader in making transformational change toward racial equity within government and to achieve equitable outcomes for our youth. We look forward to working with this cohort and are excited to see what changes will happen."
Living Cities CEO, Ben Hecht, said, “Cities participating in Racial Equity Here are part of a leading national network of jurisdictions embracing racial equity in a systemic and structural way. This is one of the most important issues of our time, and these five cities have made an important commitment not only to their residents but also to advancing racial equity across the country.”
Each city will receive an initial stipend from Living Cities of $25,000 to support the work and an additional $50,000 to implement the Racial Equity Action Plan developed by that city. Each will also receive tools, resources, and training from GARE. This support will enable the five cities to better understand and address the many issues tied to racial inequity – including segregation, exclusion, concentrated poverty, and inequitable access to opportunities – that are within the power of government to change.