Black History Month in Grand Rapids
Each February, Grand Rapids celebrates Black History Month with a series of special activities and events exploring the local African-American experience. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the ways African Americans have helped shape the past and present of Grand Rapids – and how African-American culture is helping move the city forward in exciting new ways.
History Comes Alive
Visit the newly opened Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives, which is filled with artifacts, recordings and oral histories that provide a rich and diverse perspective on the lives of local African Americans. The Museum is hosting several special events during the month, including:
- Lift Every Voice: A Place for All People Poster Exhibit from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, opening Feb. 1.
- Kwanzaa Reboot, a discussion session on Feb. 4.
- Muhammad Ali Pop-Up Display, Photo Exhibit and Ice Sculpture unveiling in front of the Museum, Feb. 9.
- What’s Your History Worth?, offering advice on collecting African-American art, artifacts, books and dolls, Feb. 11.
- African American Art and Music Celebration Fundraiser, Feb. 24.
- Tracing Your Roots, a genealogy class for beginners, Feb. 25.
Browse African American-themed items included in Finders Keepers: West Michigan Collects at Grand Rapids Art Museum. Opens Feb. 5.
Head downtown to see bronze sculptures commemorating former Grand Rapids Mayor Lyman Parks, Helen Claytor, the first African-American president of both the Grand Rapids YWCA and the national YWCA, and civil rights icon Rosa Parks.
Take the Grand Rapids Civil Rights Tour, a free, self-guided tour of 12 significant historical sites, accompanied by podcasts featuring local high-school students.
Struggles and Triumphs
Choose from an incredible lineup of Black History Month events at Grand Valley State University:
- Grand Rapids and Social Activism in Today's Political Climate: Connecting the Broader Movement to the Local Experiment, a presentation on Feb. 1.
- Remaking History: The Civil Rights Movement in the Age of Trump, a cutting-edge lecture on Feb. 2.
- History and Culture of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, an interactive session on Feb. 8. Whatever Happened to Idlewild?, a film screening and Q&A session about the immensely popular African-American resort north of Grand Rapids. Feb. 9.
- Positive Black Women presents A Tribute to Black Women: Strong. Fierce. Dynamic Divas., featuring poetry, song, dance and lunch. Feb. 14.
- A Taste of Soul showcases the rich tradition of soul food. Feb. 17.
- The Fannie Lou Hammer Story is 60-minute journey of storytelling integrated with songs and video. Feb. 28.
See I Am Not Your Negro, a new documentary film based on an unfinished manuscript by civil rights author/activist James Baldwin. It will be screened at Celebration Cinema Woodland Mall, followed by a discussion facilitated by Partners For A Racism-Free Community. Feb. 10.
Explore strategies On Healing Black Girl Pain at a Grand Rapids Community College Diversity Lecture with Consuela Ward, Ed. D. At Fountain Street Church Feb. 22.
See Moonlight, the Academy Award-nominated film chronicling the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood. At Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts Feb. 3, 4 and 7.
Honor diversity at the Grand Rapids Public Museum Ethnic Heritage Festival, a daylong celebration of music, dance, crafts and food representing the various ethnic groups that call West Michigan home. Feb. 4.
Get your Rasta on at The Bob Marley Birthday Bash with bands Zion Lion and Reggaeloution. At Billy’s Lounge Feb. 4.
Check in with a hilarious lineup of African American comedy talents – including JJ Jimmie Walker – at the Love 2 Laugh Comedy Festival. At DeVos Performance Hall Feb. 12.
Bridge cultures through the shared language of music at Symphony with Soul, which teams Grammy-award winning R&B vocalist Lalah Hathaway with the Grand Rapids Symphony. February 18.
Enjoy the sweet a capella sounds of South African singing group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, performing with the Calvin College Gospel Choir. Feb. 18.
Listen, learn, create and eat at Taste of Soul Sunday, an annual free event held at the downtown branch of Grand Rapids Public Library. Feb. 19.
- 1-1:30 PM - Listen to gospel singer, Glenda Williams
- 1:30-2:15 PM - Enjoy Sound Proof, a Detroit-based group that combines elements of Motown, R&B, and Pop to their Jazz foundations.
- 1:30 - 4:30 PM - Kids can create an African tribal mask and other fun crafts.
- 1:30 & 3:00 PM - Experience the colorful, spiritual, and global practice of headwrapping, an art enjoyed by peoples of all backgrounds, ethnicities and continents.
- 2:15 PM & 3:30 PM - Join Dr. Benjamin Wilson, emeritus professor and former director of African American Studies at Western Michigan University as he examines the lives of "ordinary Black Folks" who lived in West Michigan between 1919-1950.
- 2:15 & 3:30 - Join David L. Head as he takes on the persona of the engineering genius, Granville T. Woods' life in 3-D, highlighting his pivotal role in modernizing our society in Looking Back, Facing Forward: African American Inventors in Focus.
- 2:30 PM - 3:15 PM - Local musician Kathy Lamar will perform
Join singer, storyteller and musician Reverend Robert Jones, Sr. for All of This is the Blues – a presentation that weaves together folk, blues, spirituals and other American Roots music. At Grand Rapids Public Library – Downtown Branch Feb. 22.
Enjoy browsing the library collection as Wu Zee, a lyricist with an upbeat style and choice samples. Wu Zee draws his influence from hip hop titans such as MF Doom8 and Wu-Tang Clan. Feb. 23 at 7PM
Be dazzled by the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre production of Ragtime, an epic musical that examines class and racial divides at the birth of the 20th century. Feb. 24-March 19.
Explore the work of emerging and mid-career African-American visual, performance and spoken-word artists in Here + Now at Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, throughout February.
'US IS THEM', a powerful exhibition of works by 42 international artists who confront issues of politics, religion, and racism will also be at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts throughout February.
Support the charitable works of The Grand Rapids Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority by attending its 29th Annual Delta Jazz Brunch Scholarship Fundraiser. At Watermark Country Club on Feb. 11.
Attend Endless Opportunities “Evening of Excellence” a Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses event that shines a light on local student standouts and raises funds for mentoring programs. At Lafontsee Art Gallery Feb. 15.
Don your finest attire for The Grand Rapids Legacy Ball 2017, which celebrates Black History month while raising money for local student scholarships. At JW Marriot Hotel on Feb. 24.
Catch the Daddy Pete’s BBQ food truck to partake of some delicious, Southern, slow-smoked meats served with a sweet, homemade, finger-lickin’ BBQ sauce.
Discover a healthier ethnic fusion of traditional soul food staples prepared with an urban twist at Linc Up Soul Food Café.
Head to The Candied Yam for delicious soul food recipes that are rich in heritage and prepared with fresh, authentic ingredients.
Get a taste of the Caribbean at Jamaican Dave’s Restaurant, which showcases authentic chicken, goat, beef, fish and vegetarian dishes.