February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by Black Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. It's vital to honor the successes of Black Americans, while also celebrating Black culture and life. Read on for the many ways to celebrate and learn during Black History Month in West Michigan.
Located right on Monroe Center, the Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives (GRAAMA) honors, uplifts and celebrates the culture and history of African Americans locally and nationally. During February, GRAAMA is offering plenty of exhibits, videos and interactive events, including KEEPING IT REAL, artifacts from real Grand Rapids people and families; ART OF PROTEST, items chronicling uprisings past and present; BLACK FAMILY MATTERS, an art exhibit of family portraits by Lester White, and much more.
To explore Black history specific to Grand Rapids, take the self-guided Black History Tour of Grand Rapids—a walking tour which highlights some of the historical moments of the Black experience and legacy in the city. The tour encompasses two miles and is narrated by City Commissioner and Grand Rapids Urban League President, Joe Jones.
Though currently closed due to the pandemic, the Gerald R Ford Presidential Museum is offering virtual programming in celebration of Black History Month. You could also take a video tour of a Ford exhibit: Brian Washington's The Continual Struggle: The American Freedom Movement and the Seeds of Change, which documents the Civil Rights Movement and America's historical struggle against segregation and other race-based injustices.
Virtual events abound in 2021, and Grand Valley State University's programming is no exception. Get involved and learn/discuss topics like the impact of prejudice within the classroom for Black students at GVSU, Black masculinity, and more.
Grand Rapids Public Library is also hosting a plethora of virtual events all month long. Don't miss Black History Month Story Times; "Anne and Emmett" presented by Ebony Road Players; community spotlights on Black-owned businesses, We Are LIT and Luxe Artisan Preserves; Taste of Soul Sunday featuring a talk with Shannon Cohen and music from Serita Crowley of Serita's Black Rose; and more.
Windows GR is a public activation project, led by artists of color, that was created to highlight Black voices and stories in response to the death of George Floyd, police brutality and systematic racism. The summer of 2020 saw artists painting the boarded-up windows of businesses throughout downtown Grand Rapids and now, Grand Rapids Public Museum purchased the three paintings from artists Jalexia Stoutmyre, DeVante Barnes and Guillermo Sotelo to be part of the museum's permanent collection.
In addition to events during the month of February, remember to continue to support the many Black-owned restaurants in the area.
For more information on Black History Month events (both in-person and virtual) for 2021, see Experience Grand Rapids.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.