Huntsville officials guiding community on the road to unity

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)-- The road to acceptance and unity can be long. Huntsville's Office of Multicultural Affairs works every day to get us there.

"Step out of your comfort zone. Do something different," encouraged Kenneth Anderson, multicultural affairs officer. "Be comfortable with people who may think differently than you."

While many people in the Huntsville community are already doing this, he recognizes others may need a little help. He encourages the community to accept one another's journey.

Anderson was one of the Alpha Phi Alpha Unity Award recipients recently. He said tackling race relations and other important issues starts with meaningful conversation.

"It gives us a chance to expose people to information and to bring people together," he said of open and transparent talks, "and give them opportunities for resources."

Once those conversations happen, action can start, he said.

This year he's worked on a few community conversations about race in Huntsville. But there have been some challenges to overcome.

"You typically end up talking to the choir in these settings," he said. "The people that attend are people that already are on board." He encourages everyone to attend their next one on January 28, with the understanding that people with all kinds of opinions and questions are welcome to an environment that is not hostile, but warm.

He said there are many things Huntsville gets right when it comes to acceptance and race relations that make it a healthy community.

"This is one of the most resourceful communities on the planet," explained Anderson, naming organization after organization that works together to put on events that unite people of different beliefs and lifestyles. "There really are ways that people do come together in our community on a variety of initiatives, and it is working," he said.

We asked him what his dream is, reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his own dream. He said, "I ask people to take the opportunity to not fear the other," said Anderson, "And by other, I mean whoever that person is, whatever dimension of difference they have. We still in 2016 are challenged with gender issues... inequity issues. We have issues as it relates to sexual orientation and acceptance. We have disability issues that are not clearly understood. And we have more and more veterans coming back with PTSD and trying to readjust to a new normal. And we have to be in a situation where we are open and understanding of those challenges."