Conference to address issues of race and racism

EDMONDS — A day-long conference to discuss minority access to fair housing, health care and healthy food, among other issues, is scheduled May 17 at Edmonds Community College.

The conference, which is free, “is open to anyone interested in learning more about the issues of race and racism in our community,” said Kinuko Noborikawa, co-chair of the conference.

The third annual North Puget Sound Conference on Race will include discussion of factors contributing to quality of life for people of color in Snohomish County: health, food and housing.

“Our challenge is to show how race and racism play a part in dealing with these issues here today in our community,” said Ben Young, conference co-chair. The conference will discuss what can be done to bring about positive, effective change for the community as a whole, he said.

As one example, fair housing groups have sent out “testers” — people of different ethic backgrounds but with similar incomes — and found that people of color were sometimes asked for more references or higher damage deposits, Noborikawa said.

“One of the things they try to give people who attend the conference is tools they can take away to know what their rights are, and who to contact, if they’re asked all these questions,” she said.

A panel on food will consider access to culturally significant food and getting access to healthy food regardless of culture, Noborikawa said.

Lack of neighborhood grocery stores or lack of transportation to get to stores can create “food deserts,” she said. People may know what they need to eat to get the proper nutrition, but without access, “you won’t get it even if you know what you want to eat,” Noborikawa said.

Young said that as he travels through Snohomish County, he see differences in both the quality of food and the upkeep of grocery stores in various communities. In lower income communities, “it’s a different world,” he said.

The keynote address will be given by Paul Pitre, dean of Washington State University’s North Puget Sound campus in Everett. Others participating include Carl Zapora, superintendent of the nonprofit Verdant Health Commission; Hoa Appel, a research consultant whose studies include mental health and health disparities; Esi Quaidoo, a Seattle dentist; and state Rep. June Robinson, D-Marysville.

The purpose of the conference isn’t to dwell on the negative, Young said, but to focus on what can be done as a community to ask for changes.

There also will be discussion of issues such as lack of access to health care, discrimination and how they have affected the Asian and Latino communities, Noborikawa said.

Sponsors of the conference include the Communities of Color Coalition, the Snohomish County Chapter of the NAACP, the Verdant Health Commission and the Edmonds and Everett community colleges.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486;

The conference

The North Puget Sound Conference on Race is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. May 17 at Edmonds Community College’s Woodway Hall, 20000 68th Ave. W in Lynnwood.

The event is free, but registration is required. Breakfast and full lunch are provided.

More information:, 425-258-8828 or Facebook. Register at

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