ARTICLE

North Liberty church hosting proactive forum on diversity

'Any town can be Ferguson. We have neglected conversations and building relations over the years,'

(File Photo)



(from left) Andy Garcia of North Liberty translates for Leno Padilla of Muscatine as Padilla tells a story from his childhood in Mexico while lead pastor Alecia Williams looks on during a bilingual service at North Liberty Methodist Church in North Liberty on Sunday December 15, 2013. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
(File Photo) (from left) Andy Garcia of North Liberty translates for Leno Padilla of Muscatine as Padilla tells a story from his childhood in Mexico while lead pastor Alecia Williams looks on during a bilingual service at North Liberty Methodist Church in North Liberty on Sunday December 15, 2013. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

NORTH LIBERTY — Diversity in North Liberty will be the topic of a coming event.

Hosted by North Liberty’s First United Methodist Church, the Community Diversity Public Forum will be held at the church, 85 N. Jones Blvd.

The forum was born from a December sermon by First United Methodist’s the Rev. Alecia Williams, who said community discussion on racial diversity needs to take place.

That sermon was focused on recent racially charged events in Ferguson and New York City.

Lyle Muller, forum moderator, former Gazette editor and executive director-editor with the Iowa Center for Public Affairs, said open conversations not only can help bring the diverse community together, but also can help residents better know each other.

“Those are the kinds of events you don’t prepare for, they happen because of a moment in time,” Muller said. “What were to happen if a moment in time came to our community? How would we respond? Do we even know each other in our community of North Liberty, second fastest growing community in the state, well enough to have a dialogue if our moment in time comes? We think this is an important start.”

William said the first step will be opening up that conversation.

“Any town can be Ferguson. We have neglected conversations and building relations over the years,” Williams said. “We need to be talking, and we need to be building those relationships now.”

The form’s five panelists will include Sabrina Shields, a social worker and North Liberty resident; North Liberty Community Pantry executive director Tina DuBois; Diversity Focus executive director Chad Simmons; North Liberty Police Chief Diane Venenga; and Omar Paz, Hispanic lay minister with First United Methodist.

The forum will not focus exclusively on police-related issues, Muller added, but rather will take a look at how diversity affects the entire community.

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In North Liberty, which has expanded from about 5,000 residents in 2000 to an estimated 16,000 people, the population has grown more diverse, with a greater number of African Americans and Latinos.

“I think the unique situation in North Liberty is it is a rapidly growing community, and the community is willing and ready to meet people where they are, and they want everybody to be successful,” DuBois said. “They’re really working toward having a very inclusive community that works well together.”

While the forum plans to open up discussions on race, Muller said the conversation must be ongoing to be successful.

“It’s not the end-all session, if it were the end-all session it would be a very sad failure. Rather it’s to move the conversation forward so we know who we are,” Muller said.

If You Go

What: North Liberty’s Community Diversity Public Forum

Where: First United Methodist Church, 85 N. Jones Blvd., North Liberty

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Details: www.nlmethodist.org

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