Building Bridges that Matter
For the last 4 years I have had the privilege of hosting several events with Bridge Builders of Anchorage, including their Unity Gala and Meet the World. They are a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote and celebrate harmony and respect among all cultures in order to make Anchorage the first city without prejudice. Which is a goal we should all be able to support.*
“In 1996 Mayor Rick Mystrom invited leaders from several African American and Caucasian churches to dinner. The goal was to open a dialogue on how to actively improve racial harmony and communication in our community. What began as a discussion on black and white relations soon expanded to a conversation about the multitude of cultures and ethnic backgrounds that make up our diverse population. The group at the Mayor’s home that night decided to start a new initiative. They called it Bridge Builders, and the remarkable success of this award-winning grassroots campaign continues to this day.”
On Feb 26, 2000, in the historic Forth Avenue Theater, The Pledge of Mutual Respect was formally signed. Since then it remains a cornerstone of the organization. The pledge reads: “We the people of Anchorage, Alaska pledge to respect one another, celebrating the differences that make us unique, our customs, our spiritual beliefs, cultures, colors, dreams, and ancestral traditions. Standing together hand-in-hand, young and old, we affirm that through mutual respect, we can build a stronger, more harmonious community, a more united nation, and a better, safer world.”
Today in Anchorage, with over 100 languages spoken in our school district, it is more important than ever to build bridges of hope through understanding and mutual respect. Moreover, the work of the Bridge Builders must now be brought into public policy, by firmly addressing the historic and institutional inequities which still persist. One recently highlighted example of a discriminatory policy are the racial covenants that many Anchorage deeds still have, that prohibit the sale of homes to blacks and Alaska Natives. Although federal law prohibits housing discrimination, and this practice has long since been abandoned, nevertheless, the covenants still exist and could be formally eliminated by local officials.
For more information on the Bridge Builders please visit: http://www.bridgebuildersak.org /
*Portions reprinted from the Bridge Builders website