The work of the Race Relations Council is structured around five standing committees: Education, Employment, Housing, Criminal Justice, and Social Attitudes & Behavior. Each committee focuses on its particular area of concern to develop and implement action plans. Past projects have included:
Two studies of mortgage lending patterns in the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor area, one in 1999 and a follow-up 2003 study. The studies have prompted a series of meetings with area lenders about increasing borrowing opportunities in Benton Harbor.
A survey of 300 individuals in Benton Harbor, St. Joseph and nearby communities which uncovered striking differences between the racial attitudes, feelings and social behaviors of Blacks and Whites. This survey has provided important information for a variety of community education efforts.
Creation of a racially diverse childrens choir, All God’s Children, which has performed in a wide variety of community events on both sides of the river.
Neighborhood Impact Project (NIP) June 2005 - RRC partnered with Citizens for Progressive Change (CPC), Harbor Habitat for Humanity, and other some other local donors, to assist longtime homeowners in the Jimmy Carter Work Project area, in rehabbing their homes. Stabilizing this neighborhood can virtually bolster the community's confidence and stimulate other neighborhood investments.
- The most recent Race Relations Council initiative involves the Council collaborating with Lakeland Healthcare to create dialogue around the issue of understanding area residents perspective on health care, and how patients will benefit from a diverse workforce.
The Council has become a member of the Michigan Campaign for Justice, a broad-based coalition of individuals and groups fighting for a fair and effective public defense system in the state of Michigan. The goal of this coalition is the establishment of Public Defenders Offices throughout the state, funded at the same level as Prosecutors offices. The Race Relations Council plans to partner with other local organizations and individuals to bring a high-quality Public Defenders Office to Berrien County.
Each year, volunteers from the Council organize and host a Community Celebration and Awards Program. At this event, recognition is given to pioneers, innovators, and unsung heroes whose efforts to provide services, combat racism, build bridges and increase understanding have had a significant impact on life in Southwest Michigan. In addition to honoring these special people, the program features the enthusiastic and inspiring voices of the All God’s Children Community Choir.
Proceeds from the Community Celebration and Awards Program are used to sponsor two scholarships for students at Lake Michigan College. The Race Relations Council Emerging Leaders Scholarship is given to a student who best expresses, in an essay, the importance of positive race relations in our communities and the student’s vision of the role he or she anticipates playing in building more positive race relations. The Race Relations Council Service Award Scholarship is given to a student in recognition of his or her participation in events or service projects that have contributed to building more positive race relations.
Race Relations Council Board
Angelique Joseph-Burnside, Chair
Scott Elliot, Vice Chair
Patricia Payne, Secretary
Dr. Larry Feldman, Treasurer
Dr. Gladys Peeples-Burks
Dr. Eric Lester
Dr. Bill Mutch
Dr. Patricia Mutch