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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended September 29, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 28Sep00

Summarized by Rosemary Pollock

Gilbert Stake President in Diversity Effort

GILBERT, ARIZONA -- Gilbert, Arizona residents, Arnette Ward and John Lewis have been appointed to lead the town's first Diversity Task Force. The town held a Summit to End Hate and Violence  following assaults by a teenage White supremacists group.  They hope to encourage more than 40 participants to take meaningful personal diversity messages home to the community.

Arnette Ward, 62,  is the president of Chandler-Gilbert Community College. She grew up in a segregated neighborhood of Jacksonville, Fla. When she moved to Arizona in the 1960's she was "shocked I had to find my own folk, and there weren't that many."  Surviving the death of Martin Luther King as a teacher at a South Phoenix elementary school nearly caused her to give up teaching.  "The kids were walking across the school grounds, chanting racial epithets insulting King," she said.  "That night I told my husband, 'I don't think I can go back'." The will that she found to return was "to find out who taught them to say that, and can I un-teach them?"

John Lewis, 42, is the Stake President for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Gilbert. Lewis has stated that some families don't build friendships outside of the church and won't let their children play with non-Mormon youth. More than a year ago he organized Mormon and Catholic teenagers in an effort to revitalize the neighboorhood. "We should all be more tolerant and accepting," he said.  "There seems to be a lot of people in Gilbert who really love Mormons or really hate Mormons," Lewis said.

"You can't sit around and think your world is a utopia, because it isn't," added Ward. Lewis remembered his two years spent in Japan serving a mission for the church.  "When I arrived in a large airport in Toyko, everyone looked alike," he said.  "After months of making friends in the country, I noticed how different they looked."

Communication with members of the task force and with the other 100,000 plus residents of Gilbert will have to be worked out.  Town officials hope to put contact information on Gilbert's web site and cable broadcasts. After four months of dialog circles the force will go out into the community and hear from residents.


Diversity co-leaders living roles
(Phoenix) AZ Republic 26Sep00 P2
By Edythe Jensen: The Arizona Republic

Diversity group's goals get personal
(Phoenix) AZ Republic 22Sep00 P2
By Edythe Jensen: The Arizona Republic


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