ETHNIC COMMUNITIES IN THE SPOTLIGHT • At the First MultiEthnic Indiana Conference in Indianapolis

Nearly 300 guests, community leaders, and dignitaries representing many ethnic communities and cultural, civic, and service organizations gathered at the Sheraton Hotel in Indianapolis on April 22, 2008 for the First MultiEthnic Indiana Conference. The culturally and ethnically diverse audience of many nationalities included several Tibetan Monks in their traditional orange robes and Hoosier Sikh Americans with their faith-mandated colorful turbans. We were in the midst of an ethnic and cultural renaissance.

The stated aim of the Conference: “Discovering and understanding our common ground” was to learn about the size and make-up of the ethnic communities in Indiana, and the major concerns of the recent immigrant Hoosiers as they adjust to life, language, culture, opportunities, and expectations of their new environment

The Conference offered several workshops in the morning and afternoon where many diverse perspectives, recent studies and in-depth community profiles, successful programs and initiatives, and the major concerns and problems facing Indiana’s growing ethnic communities were highlighted and discussed. These break-up sessions, led by experts and community leaders provided an opportunity for the participants to share their experiences, exchange ideas, network, and learn about what all is being done across Indiana to mainstream this emerging and growing segment of our population.

Committee organized an Interfaith Prayer Service to introduce the Conference attendees, and to many for the first time, the changing spiritual landscape in IndianaThe Native American, Christian, Catholic, Tibetan Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh faith traditions were represented at the Interfaith Prayer Service. The Prayer Service followed the lunch and keynote speech by Mr. Jerome Peribere and performed on an elevated space created in the middle of the Ballroom.

The First MultiEthnic Indiana Conference, sponsored by the Office of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, and planned and presented by a Committee of dedicated volunteers. The Committee members, representing ethnic, cultural, civic, educational, and business organizations and institutions came from around the State. Ms. Carmen Derusha of Economic and Community Development, Purdue Cooperative Extension served as the General Chair and Ms. Juana Watson, Senior Advisor for Latino and Immigrant Affairs in the Governor’s Office, served as a representative of the State. Eli Lilly, OCRA, Indiana Civil Rights Commission, Purdue Cooperative Extension, and CICF were among the major financial sponsors.

Kanwal Prakash “KP” Singh • Indianapolis, Indiana USA