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Diversity in Action

The gap between whites and people of color in this country exists in all facets of life, including education, earning ability, and health care. Yet the existing fixes, including affirmative action and minority set-asides, are under increasing political attack by those who see such measures as unfair.

So how will our society close this all-too-obvious rift? This weekend's Second Annual Florida Conference on Diversity and Disparity explores this question -- and not merely through idle rhetoric. Organizers are shooting for real and practical change, with the help of such corporate sponsors as Coca-Cola, American Express, Sprint, and AutoNation.

Issues that affect people of color will be addressed under three broad themes: "Youth and Education," "Family and Community," and a "National Power Summit." Each aspect of the conference focuses on developing specific solutions and helping set goals. Want to buy a house? Attend the seminar on saving for the down payment and learning about government home-buying programs; yes, the government will help you buy your home. Sick of battling corporate America? Try the "Small-Business Administration Programs" workshop, where you can learn strategies to make your small business grow. Want your child to get a better education in a public school? Go to "Connecting Parents to the Schools" or "Extending the Learning Day out of the Classroom," both of which are designed to show how to give children the best education possible.

But the conference isn't just for adults. Thursday features a "Teen Town Hall Meeting," the highlight of which is a lively discussion on the impact of hip-hop music on today's youth. "Some of that impact is definitely violent," conference organizer Kevin Mitchell says.

Other seminars are led by representatives from the National Council of Negro Women, 100 Black Men of America, the Urban League, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the South Florida Puerto Rican Cultural Committee and the Latin Chamber of Commerce of Broward County. Conference representative Denise Baker Lawrence wants people to leave with tips and ideas they can apply to their day-to-day lives.

But everyone needs to have fun, too, and crossover gospel artist Kirk Franklin performs Saturday night at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts for just that purpose. Dancing in the aisles is encouraged.

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Karen Dale Wolman

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