Celebrating diversity in the wake of hate

A participant at the 2012 Elk Grove, California, Multicultural Festival signs a "Diversity Pledge." (Source: City of Elk Grove)

A participant at the 2012 Elk Grove, California, Multicultural Festival signs a “Diversity Pledge.” (Source: City of Elk Grove)

After two Sikh grandfathers were shot and killed while on their daily walk in a suspected (and yet, unsolved) hate crime in Elk Grove, California, in March, 2011, the city council sought to promote the diversity of and among its residents:

In October 2011, each council member appointed two of the more than 30 applicants to serve on the 10-member Elk Grove Multicultural Committee…

“I thought the creation of it was very timely, not just because of the shootings but because of the gradual change in the ethnic and cultural composition of the city,” Chair Orlando Fuentes said. “Anything we can do to celebrate our diversity, to come together for good music, good performances, and good company should be encouraged.”

The initiative by the Sacramento suburb was partly as a result of the drive-by murders of Surinder Singh and Gurmej Atwal, with the hope that increased awareness of the various communities living in the city will prevent future hate crimes in the city from occurring again:

“It’s likely the shootings of two Sikh gentlemen would have been prevented if people were more culturally aware,” [Committee member Scott Matsumoto] said. “This was an example of how far we, as a people, still need to go to ‘form a more perfect union.’ I think a combination of Elk Grove’s changing demographics, [founding member] Mr. Ekpo’s vision, and the shootings all played a factor into creating the Multicultural Committee.”

“…I believe the overall goal of the Multicultural Committee is to be a resource for the public and to broaden the community’s understanding of our surroundings,” Matsumoto said. “Elk Grove is a unique place without any one ethnicity or group centrally located in one area of the city. It’s something not typically seen in other cities and should be celebrated as an example of 21st century America.”

It is heartening to see local governments be involved in addressing hate within their community by fostering more awareness and appreciation among its residents. After the 2012 festival last year, the City has organized its second annual celebration for August 24.

Read more at The Elk Grove Citizen and find out more about the Elk Grove Multicultural Festival at the City of Elk Grove website.


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