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Partners for a Racism-Free Community brings culture, cocktails, comedy to event

The local organization asks what you would give to end racism in an event geared towards getting attendees comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
Unity in Laughter

Unity in Laughter /Courtesy of Mojet Photography

Want to join the fight to end racism in Grand Rapids?

Join Partners for a Racism-Free Community on December 15 at the Baxter Community Center for their #RacisminGR Essential Themes and Recomendations for Action as community members gather to hear and speak on dialogues circulating in the city about how individuals and instiutions can address concerns to move needle on racial equity in Grand Rapids. 

Fable the Poet

Fable the Poet /Courtesy of Mojet Photography

What would you give to end racism?

What would you give to end racism? /Courtesy of Mojet Photography

Partners in a Racism-Free Community’s held a night filled with culture, comedy and cocktails at the City Flats Hotel Ballroom this past Tuesday at their event "Race Together: Culture, Cocktails and Comedy."

“Our work can often be heart wrenching and so we wanted to find a fun way to raise awareness, build consciousness and raise funds,” says Breannah Alexander, Program Administrator for Partners in a Racism-Free Community.

Grand Rapidians gathered to see performances from The Intellectual Writers, Fable the PoetDeborah Delk and Gueterrius Jackson- more commonly known as T-Murph- a famous Black Entertainment TV comedian.

Ericka Thompson, otherwise known as Kyd Kane, and Marquis Lee of the Intellectual Writers Collective opened the performances with pieces titled "I am a Woman" and "I am a Man."

“My agenda is always to awaken and to share knowledge with people who may be unfamiliar with some of the issues that plague our society, like racism and knowledge of self,” says Thompson.

“I want to reconstruct the negative mindsets that are being programmed in today’s society,” says Lee. The Intellectual Writers Collective has been performing since April 2015 and can commonly be found at the Drunken Retort at Stella’s Lounge.

Dj Composition spun R&B tracks in between each act as attendees mingled and decompressed.

“We hope to expand our reach in the community and more functionally engage millenials in particular. This was a great way to build bridges between folks in the community who may not often cross paths,’ says Alexander.

Partners in a Racism-Free Community was created to "achieve a standard of excellence in racial equity and create the critical mass necessary for community transformation."

Champion sponsors included Jack and Rita Kirkwood. Advocate sponsors consisted of Downtown Grand Rapids Incorporated, Williams Group and Cascade Engineering. Promoter sponsors included Heart of West Michigan United Way, Madison Square Church, Pyramid Scheme, Betty Zylstra and David Baak and Strong Beginnings. Each business and organization made it possible for the event to occur, along with attendance from many other local organizations such as HQ, The Spoke Folks and Grand Rapids Community Foundation.  

“One of our goals is to provide an open space to make sure we are doing everything we can to fight racism and to make people aware of it,” says Chad Patton, Manager of Customized Workplace English with the Literary Center of West Michigan. “Personally, I like to surround myself with people that look different than me, that have different backgrounds than I do, with the hope that I can be uncomfortable to the point of understanding where people are coming from while being ready and able to have an empathy for other systems and other groups of people.” Patton is committed to expanding his knowledge of other cultures and pulling himself out of his comfort zone.

Deborah Delk, of Atlanta, Georgia had the crowd falling out of their seats with laughter as she took experiences of her own life and, simply, laughed about it. Fable the Poet took the spotlight. More commonly know for his work with Mental Health America, Marcel Price travels performing spoken word to cast light on mental health hurdles. Touching on experiences with his own struggle with mental health, he hopes to shed more light on shared similar experiences.

“My own life and professional experiences taught me the importance of building my autism service in a way that is accessible to everybody. This means we invest in understanding race, in understanding poverty, in understanding class, and Partners for a Racism-Free Community is where I come to re-energize and to sharpen my understanding, so that we can truly do right by our entire community,” says Mira Krishnan, Director of the Center of Autism of Hope Network.

Crafted after a decade of Summits on Racism and sponsored by Grand Rapids Area Center Ecumenism (GRACE), Partners in a Racism-Free Community envisions a world where all races and ethnicities are accepted and included, disparities are eliminated, collaboration is not competition in the workplace and organizations are racially equitable.

If you were unable to attend this event but are interested in donating to Partners for a Racism-Free Community, be sure to check out their holiday campaign #Give2EndRacism.

Disclosure: Breannah Alexander is close friend.

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