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Largo plans events to celebrate diversity

Susan Sinz's father hails from the jungle area of Bandung, Java, in Indonesia.

At one time, members of her family lived in an island hut.

Yet because of her complexion and features, most people guess she has Sicilian blood coursing through her veins.

"You can't sum people up anymore," said Sinz, Largo's human resources director. "You can't tell their heritage."

With that in mind, Sinz has been planning an employee appreciation luncheon for Feb. 24 with the theme "Celebrating Diversity through Unity."

It's an extension of the city's first Diversity Week, which starts Tuesday with educational events leading up to a candlelight vigil honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at 7 p.m. Jan. 15 at Largo Central Park.

Although the event is billed as Diversity Week, the city has events relating to diversity that run through March.

They include, among other events, a Tribal Pow wow at the Southwest Recreation Complex, a Latin Fest at the Highland Recreation Complex, an International Confectionary Ball for seniors at the Largo Community Center and a No Fear Friday Festival of Cultures for children in grades 2-6 at the Southwest Recreation Center and the Highland Recreation Center.

Largo planned the week after years of racial tension and a controversy over a racial slur at the Fire Department.

The idea is to honor King by examining various cultures and traditions of residents in Largo.

Tony Welch, executive director of the YMCA of the Suncoast, Greater Ridgecrest branch, said Ridgecrest will have its own activities to commemorate King, including a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. Jan. 16, a march at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 17 and a breakfast immediately afterward.

Rodney Woods, possibly Largo's first black candidate for office, is running against Andy Guyette and Commissioner Charlie Harper for Seat 2 in the March election.

He is optimistic that racial tensions will ease with his candidacy and programs such as Diversity Week.

"I would hope it's a sign of things to come and the city can move forward and get racial problems and issues and tension behind them," he said.

"It appears we are moving in the right direction."

Eileen Schulte can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or schultesptimes.com.

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