City plans diversity celebration with local racial tension in mind

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COLUMBIA - The city's Office of Cultural Affairs is in the planning stages of its Columbia Values Diversity Celebration, an annual event honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sarah Dresser, The Office of Cultural Affairs Program Specialist said racial tension in Columbia, including protesters at MU's homecoming parade, and students being called the "N" word on MU's campus last week, will help them decide what speakers and programming to have in order to spark important conversations. 

"It's both kind of a way to celebrate all the different groups in Columbia, but also to reflect and continue that dialogue of issues that might be happening currently," Dresser said.  

The committee is doing this by seeking out thought-provoking speakers like Reverend Starsky Wilson who has firsthand accounts of the racial tension in Ferguson as an appointed co-chair of the Ferguson Commission.

Dresser said she thinks his message will be applicable to the racial issues currently going on in Columbia. 

"It's a good opportunity for all of these people to get in the same room together, and to be mixing and mingling and also to step away from that with maybe a new perspective and more understanding of what Columbia has in terms of its cultural diversity," Dresser said. 

The Columbia Values Diversity Celebration will be Thursday, January 14 2016, from 7:00 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. The office will sell tickets to the event starting in November.