The Rapidian

Black Lives Matter starts local conversation about race

Black Lives Matter Grand Rapids meets to start a conversation about race in the Grand Rapids community.

Get involved!

If you would like to get involved, be sure to come to BLM GR’s next meeting on Thursday, January 22 at 6:00 at City Life Church at 574 South Division. Also, be sure to find out about ALL of the upcoming BLM GR events and news by following their Facebook page.

/Kiersten Quilliams

With Martin Luther King Day this week, nothing seemed quite as apropos as spending an evening with those in the present day front line battle for equalitarianism. This is exactly where I found myself Thursday January 15th with the Grand Rapids chapter of Black Lives Matter (BLM), who held their first planning meeting of the new year. With close to 30 people in attendance, love, support, anger and concern consumed the air. Event organizers Anita Moore, co-founder of BLM GR, and Chaka Holley set out to make it clear that this was an event and cause dedicated to honoring and respecting Black lives. 

According to Holley, Black Lives Matter is an “affirmation of black people’s importance and contribution [to society.]"The evening began by getting to know Holley and Moore, while learning some of the ins and outs of BLM GR. Topics shifted somewhat to the immense influence Martin Luther King has had on the African-American community: many potent and touching quotes were shared, while exchanges went back and forth commenting on King’s incredible importance. It was brought to our attention, however, that his legacy has largely been hijacked by the “free-market” rulers of the United States. Holley referenced the incredible irony of having Ronald Reagan, a political opportunist known for his race-baiting campaigning, sign the holiday into law in 1983.

MLK Day was thus given life by a president whose stalwarts include such white supremacists as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Then, in 1994, came the King Day of Service, which put an emphasis on civil action, further obfuscating the true importance of Martin Luther King. As Holley puts it, “serving soups dumbs down the social change of MLK.” While it is of course obvious that Martin Luther King would have supported lending a helping hand to disadvantaged community members, his message of systemic change must not be forgotten. His oft-overlooked dream of reworking a political and economic apparatus based on the exploitation of those that are oppressed must be kept front and center.

Towards the end of the night, several community members were joking about the extensive list of MLK Day blowout sales that are now being advertised. These are corporations that, wittingly or unwittingly, partake in a system that exploits those members of the community that MLK himself sought to unshackle. Let us keep these thoughts in our minds as we approach this day commemorating a true hero of liberation and emancipation.

If you would like to get involved, be sure to come to BLM GR’s next meeting on Thursday, January 22 at 6:00 at City Life Church at 574 South Division. Also, be sure to find out about ALL of the upcoming BLM GR events and news by following their facebook page.

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