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Posted on Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 9:06 a.m.

The Root Beer Summits: conversations on race and ethnic diversity across Michigan today

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama invited African American Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Caucasian police Sergeant James Crowley to sit down at a picnic table and have a beer with him and talk casually in what has become known as the historic “Beer Summit” at the White House.

Inspired, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights is hosting a series of "Root Beer Summits" today, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009, across the state to also get people to sit down together in a relaxed setting with cool refreshments and talk. Times and locations available here.

In an invitation, New Detroit writes, “trained facilitators will lead local citizens through a series of thought-provoking questions and exercises. The goal? To increase our understanding of each other, to appreciate our state’s diverse people and communities, and to think about next steps we can take collectively to improve our dialogue and interactions moving forward.”

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights will also be pre-empting the controversy that erupted over the foreign beers that were to be served at the White House Beer Summit by serving Michigan-made Faygo Root Beer at the Michigan Root Beer Summits.

To learn more, go to or call 517-241-3986 or 313-456-4694.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Ann Arbor and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is editor of Asian American Village, lead multicultural contributor for, and a contributor for New America Media's Ethnoblog. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her website at, her blog at, and she can be reached at


Jennifer Shikes Haines

Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 6:51 p.m.

I think they should have held one in Ann Arbor - I think Ann Arborites think themselves more enlightened than they actually are. I wish I'd read this earlier. It's an intriguing idea. I'm also loving your articles.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 3:32 p.m.

That would be nice. That is the goal. You should go to one of these Root Beer Summits and help bring us one step closer to an America without racism and discrimination. The responsibility lies with all of us. --Frances Kai-Hwa Wang