FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Alan Jennings
REGIONAL GROUPS COMBINE ON EFFORT TO NEGATE THE IMPACT OF RACISM
Multi-year Strategic Plan Will Bring Socio-Economic Justice and “Make the Lehigh Valley a Better Place”
An impressive array of Lehigh Valley’s key regional organizations have come together to confront what may be the most divisive issue of our times: racism. The project is called “Color Outside the Lines” and is intended “to identify and remove the systemic and structural barriers to racial equity and inclusion,” according to David Jones, a health benefits consultant and former three-term Lehigh County commissioner who will be co-chairing the project. “This effort will distinguish the Lehigh Valley from too many communities whose scars can’t seem to heal. Addressing the issue of how we deploy and even celebrate our diversity and actively seek to include rather than exclude is a labor supply issue, an economic development imperative, an educational challenge and a moral obligation,” Jones said in announcing the project.
The coalition is seeking groups of people who are willing to assist them in developing a five- to seven-year Strategic Plan for Diversity and Inclusion. Their hope is to engage hundreds of Lehigh Valley residents in a “conversation on race” that would lead to the creation of the plan. He introduced Kumari Ghafoor-Davis, Director of the Campaign for Racial and Ethnic Justice for the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, which organized the project and is providing staff support for the planning process. Jones encouraged those interested in participating to contact Ghafoor-Davis at 484-893-1033 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The group’s planning process has been endorsed by some of the leading regional organizations in the Lehigh Valley. The coalition felt that these organizations’ participation would serve to both send a signal to their constituents that racism will not be tolerated in this community and that its presence harms the region’s economy. Don Cunningham, CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, who will co-chair the development of the plan, pointed out that a community that respects and celebrates its diversity is far more attractive to companies looking to locate in a new place than one that is intolerant and homogeneous.
Other speakers at the news conference offered their own explanations of the importance of the Color Outside the Lines initiative. They included William Spence, Chairman and CEO of PPL and chairman of the Lehigh Valley Partnership, Vivian Robledo, Director of Student Services and Minority Affairs in the Bethlehem Area School District, Marci Lesko, Executive Vice President of the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley and Easton Mayor Sal Panto.
The intent, according to the group, is to complete the plan by June. It will go back to each of the participating organizations for a new endorsement. Then, the group will enter a new phase of implementing the plan.
The following organizations have endorsed the project and will participate in its development: Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation• Lehigh Valley Partnership• Greater Lehigh Valley Consortium for Excellence and Equity (school superintendents)• Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce• Lehigh Valley Arts Council• United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley• Workforce Board Lehigh Valley• My Brother’s Keeper Lehigh Valley• Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley
Because this is a local project, only county and city elected officials were asked to participate. They include: Ray O’Connell, Mayor, City of Allentown, Robert Donchez, Mayor, City of Bethlehem, Sal Panto, Mayor, City of Easton, Phillips Armstrong, Lehigh County Executive, Lamont McClure, Northampton County Executive