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2021 Grand Rapids Neighborhood Summit kicks off new 5-day series

This year's theme is "Moving Beyond Diversity..." Expanding from previous years, the five-day event will include three summits at neighborhood parks this week.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The 2021 Grand Rapids Neighborhood Summit kicked off downtown Tuesday with an opening session at Studio Park. 

This year, the summit is organized a little differently, with five sessions spread out between Tuesday and Saturday. The opening and closing sessions are at Studio Park, while the other three are at neighborhood parks. 

The Neighborhood Summit is an experience for Grand Rapids residents, business owners and stakeholders. Throughout the week, speakers, workshops and more aim to bring the community together, strengthen neighborhoods and advance equity. 

"The ultimate goal is folks walk away from Summit having met new people, their neighbors from across the city," said Stacy Stout, director for the Grand Rapids Office of Equity and Engagement. "That they are a little bit more aware of lived experiences that are different from theirs. Also, learning some skills, strategy and even words to use, to continue to advocate for equity."

Wednesday, the Summit takes place at Richmond Park, Thursday at Riverside Park and Friday at McKay Jaycees Park. All the locations were chosen to be along bus routes and inclusive of the city's three wards. 

Credit: 13 OYS
The event began with an Anishinaabe drum and opening.

This year's theme for Summit is "Moving Beyond Diversity..." Organizers say it reflects the power of the social justice events of 2020, but also continues the conversation beyond just using buzz words. 

"When we say moving beyond diversity, it’s not just filling the seat with the face," said Jordoun Eatman, Summit director. "But do I see and embrace all of you? All the talents you bring? How do we make that all work in good synergy to move things forward."

Keynote speaker Tempest Robinson hopes to speak to that theme, moving beyond diversity, and how it ties directly to Grand Rapids. 

"To look at the talent we have, and look at different innovative ways that folks can be retained," said Robinson, "and how people won’t feel like they have to move or get away from some of the systemic or managerial racism we have here in Grand Rapids."

Organizers said it was important to expand the Summit this year, and bring it directly into neighborhoods. This was something discussed at previous year's events. 

"Community is stronger when we know each other and listen to each other," said Stout.

The summit is open to all residents, no pre-registration is needed. This is the seventh year for the event, though the first to be expanded to multiple days.

To learn more information, and to see a schedule of events, visit the Neighborhood Summit's website.  

RELATED VIDEO: Tree planting event helping Grand Rapids get closer to urban canopy goals

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