With a great deal of enthusiasm, but for the benefit of only a sparse crowd, the Association for Universal Racial Harmony kicked off the first Universal Racial Harmony event Tuesday at the University of Utah.
Representatives from several Utah minority groups and the U. administration spoke to a small crowd at the Union Ballroom about the presence of racism in Utah and measures to curb prejudice in the state."Almost everywhere we look in the world today we see some kind of conflict," said Tracy Williams, president of the Black Student Union, one of four organizations forming the racial harmony coalition.
"What we want to do here today is open the door to a better understanding between all races," Williams said in welcoming students to the two-day event, which was to conclude with an outdoor celebration Wednesday.
Entertained by the band "New Vision" from California and the Faith Temple Junior Choir from Salt Lake City, those in the audience heard messages embracing the event's theme, "Unity within diversity."
"Racial harmony in today's world is not a luxury, it is a critical necessity if we are to survive," said Ramona Adams, associate dean of students and an associate professor of social work.
Adams said the university has made an "investment in racial harmony" through hiring practices, enrollment standards and educational programs that further the cause of equality.
Racism exists in Utah, said Michael Wu, director of the State Office of Asian Affairs, pointing to activity in the state on the part of the Aryan Nations and an incident involving a Salt Lake store owner who posted a sign prohibiting blacks from entering the business.
"As you know, racism is real . . . , but the only answer is understanding and education, what we are doing here today," Wu said.
But Tlingit Indian Tom Pittman, a BYU student from Alaska, seemed to bring the message home for the audience.
"Nothing will be as powerful as going out and living what we're talking about here today. . . . There's really only one race, the human race," he said.