Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Kalamazoo is hosting a Black Empowerment Week from November 16-20, 2020 to celebrate and share stories of the resounding resilience, resistance and persistence of the Black community in Kalamazoo County.
"Black community members have always been crucially involved in shaping Kalamazoo, but that role has been repeatedly downplayed and erased from the narrative," said Sholanna Lewis, Director of TRHT Kalamazoo. "In these Black Empowerment Week conversations, we're not only bringing to light extraordinary stories from our past, but also ways Black residents are striving for healing and justice despite all of the challenges of this year."
TRHT will continue to focus on centering the stories and voices of community members and partner organizations in a series of online community discussions. Telling stories within their historical and cultural context is part of TRHT Kalamazoo's broader goal to change the narrative around local history.
“Narrative change begins with mining the past, not just for solutions to current challenges but also for our connections to one another that fosters empowerment,” said Tanya Bellamy, the TRHT Narrative Change - Education Design team lead.
The week's discussions cover several topics relating to Kalamazoo County's Black communities, including history, entrepreneurship, cultural empowerment, responses to racism and reparations.
“As a scholar who has focused on the facets of historic Black resistance for over 30 years, cultural empowerment stands as a pillar of our liberation strategies," said Dr. Michelle S. Johnson, public scholar, historian and Kalamazoo Historical and Cultural Landscape Project lead. "This resistance finds its roots in Black insistence that refuses to abandon autonomous vision and, at the core, contributes beautiful and awesome refrains of American Cultures.”
The full schedule for Black Empowerment Week is as follows:
November 17, 2020
4 - 5:30 p.m.
It's Our Black Business: Remembering the Entrepreneurial Spirit of the Northside
Current and former residents of Kalamazoo's Northside neighborhood will come together to discuss the past, present and future of Black entrepreneurship in the area. Discussion will cover different types of Black-owned businesses that have shaped the Northside, how these businesses have allowed cultural empowerment and how these businesses have responded to racism.
November 18, 2020
4 - 5:30 p.m.
Organizing Belonging: The Douglass Community Center and Interfaith Homes
This discussion will cover the creation of spaces for Black people in Kalamazoo's Northside neighborhood. Program participants, residents and other affiliates will discuss the many ways these organizations allowed for cultural empowerment and responded to racism over the last 100 years.
November 19, 2020
4 - 5:30 p.m.
TRutH Talks: Reparations
As part of a bi-weekly TRutH Talk discussion series, TRHT Kalamazoo and community panelists will share perspectives on how reparations can be addressed on a local level.
November 21, 2020
Your Park, Your Story: Memories of Spring Valley Park
This radio show will feature interviews about Spring Valley Park and its role as a beloved place of refuge, respite and reflection. Listeners can tune into Speak On It with Double A~ on 95.5 FM's The Touch.
As part of the week's celebrations, TRHT Kalamazoo and community partners will also be visiting the Black Arts & Cultural Center on November 20 to tour the Make Room exhibit, a multi-sensory collaboration of artists in the field of arts, music, activism and technology. The primary goal of the exhibit is to represent the underrepresented and propel narrative change.
Those interested in attending the week's events can register at bit.ly/blkempowerweek to join via Zoom webinar. The events can also be joined via Facebook LIVE at the start time of each event in videos section of TRHT Kalamazoo's Facebook page.