Cultural Diversity Awards Recognize 7 Cities

By Wilson, Mary | Nation's Cities Weekly, March 26, 2001 | Go to article overview

Cultural Diversity Awards Recognize 7 Cities


Wilson, Mary, Nation's Cities Weekly


The National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials (NBC-LEO) honored diversity in America's cities with the presentation of the sixth Annual City Cultural Diversity Awards to seven cities, Sunday, March 11, during the annual Celebrate Diversity Breakfast at the Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C.

Top awards, given by population category, were presented to Opelika, Ala., (population less than 25,000); North Miami, Fla., (25,001-100,000); Newport News, Va., (100,001 - 400,000); and Boston, Mass., (over 400,001). Cities chosen as runners-up include: Page, Ariz., (population less than 25,000); Southfield, Mich., (25,001 - 100,000); and Rochester, N.Y., (100,001 - 400,000).

NBC-LEO President Carol Clark, councilmember of East Orange, N.J., and Cynthia McCollum, councilmember of Madison, Ala., who chaired this year's awards competition, presented the awards. "The value of these outstanding local programs, which have already enriched their own communities, is that they can also serve as examples for others and each year we receive so many innovative programs," said Clark.

Opelika, Ala., was recognized for its "Race Relations Improvement Initiative," which was formed as a response to one of the major issues identified in Opelika's recently adopted Strategic Plan, which is guided by the principal that only through education, increasing communication and breaking down barriers between groups can race relations be improved and cultural diversity encouraged. The Race Relations Improvement Initiative developed six goals: 1) increase diversity training workshops for city employees and other citizen groups; 2) increase communication between minority and non-minority groups; 3) support minority-owned businesses; 4) encourage the cooperation of all the city's religious organizations; 5) better address the needs of minority teenagers; and 6) encourage diversity in civic programs.

North Miami, Fla., was recognized for its "Music @ The Plaza" Concert Series of free-admission, free-food concerts, offered the second Friday of each month, which feature a different genre of music each month, with corresponding cuisine, designed to high-light the cultural diversity of the city. The Music @ The Plaza concert series was born in 1999 with free noon-time concerts featuring a different genre of music each month, and was catered (free to concert-goers) by local restaurants with similar foods as the music of the month. The inaugural series featured Brazilian, Flamenco, classical, jazz and R&B music, and the concerts were successful in fulfilling their intent -- residents, visitors, and businesses were flocking to the Plaza for some noon-time "food for the soul" to go with their helping of "food for the stomach." By the following year, the city officials decided to use the same formula to lure residents to "Downtown at Dusk."

Newport News, Va., was recognized for its "Framework for the Future," the city's citizen-based planning process to to create a community-derived consensus from diverse viewpoints to ultimately reflect the citizens' visions on the future economic, physical, and social development of their city. The Framework for the Future articulates their vision and goals for Newport News, and recommends the policies, strategies, and methods of implementation necessary to accomplish them. It deals with issues that are important to citizens, including crime and public safety, drug abuse, traffic congestion, public education, environment, air and water quality, housing for low and moderate income people, health care, AIDS, and job opportunities, in addition to the usual planning concerns of land use, economic development, transportation and community facilities. …

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