Story by Grace Vanhaitsma, Reporter
When you think of February, you might think of several different things: Valentine’s Day, the Superbowl, or that it’s the shortest month of the year. But perhaps the most important thing about February is that it is Black History Month. For the month of February, we celebrate the many wonderful contributions that Black folks have made for American culture, and consider the tumultuous history, and current systemic racism, they have had to endure.
Although things are a bit different this year due to the pandemic, there are still many amazing ways to celebrate Black History Month in the city of Grand Rapids and at Aquinas. At Aquinas this year, there are many great opportunities for education this Black History Month thanks to the planning of the Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity, as well as Student Activities. If you are interested in watching people speak about their experiences, Byron Hurt did a seminar about hip-hop and combating toxic masculinity as a Black man. If you want to watch some great movies with important messages, there are free showings of “Becoming” and “Just Mercy.”
If you want to help support a local Black-owned business, and just eat some good food, Daddy Pete’s BBQ will be providing free grab-and-go boxes this Sunday night, Feb. 21, at the Cook Carriage House. There are also plenty of resources for education, including Aquinas’ “Black History: The Celebration of Resilience” hub, which has lots of information about economic entrepreneurship, political representation, and community health.
Outside of Aquinas, there are many events this year to celebrate Black History Month in Michigan as a whole. One of the biggest events is the ability to view the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives to explore material honoring the lives, history, culture and art of the Black community in West Michigan.
You can also stroll downtown to see sculptures commemorating former Grand Rapids Mayor Lyman Parks, civil rights icon Rosa Parks, and Helen Claytor, the first African American president of the Grand Rapids YWCA and national YWCA. There is also a Black History Walking Tour of downtown Grand Rapids on the app “GR Walks”, where an audio-only guide will highlight significant people, places, and events that have impacted the culture of Grand Rapids.
Additionally, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is holding two virtual events: “Slavery in the President’s Neighborhood: The Complicated Past and the Paradoxical Relationship Between Slavery and Freedom in the Nation’s Capitol,” and “A Terrible Thing to Waste: Arthur Fletcher and the Conundrum of the Black Republican.”
Another virtual event is “Rhythm in Black: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” which invites you to interact with speakers from the local community and enjoy performances from local musicians and artists.
There are many versatile ways to celebrate Black History Month in the city of Grand Rapids, as well as right here on campus. As our nation continues to grapple with systemic racism and inequity, we can all learn more about the rich history of Black Americans this February and every month of the year.