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Fifth annual Grand Rapids Neighborhood Summit to feature performances by Mixed Roots Collective

This year's Summit theme, Connecting Our Stories – Connecting Our Power, reflects the power of reclaiming and sharing our personal and community stories and will feature performances by Mixed Roots Collective instead of the traditional keynote address.

Sammy Publes began Mixed Roots Collective partly as a form of activism, but mostly to provide opportunities for people of color within the theater and film industries. “There was little representation of people who looked like me and my opportunities were limited due to my color,” he recalls. It also
gave him the creative space to tell stories that weren’t being told, which often meant addressing subject matter that did not align with dominant narratives. This made venues hesitant to host his shows and eventually Sammy shared these frustrations with his mentor. His mentor replied “What are you waiting for?”

Today, Mixed Roots Collective describes itself as “a collective of artists from multiple disciplines committed to pushing the envelope of performance art.” Together, actors craft and tell stories via live skits and stage performances. They tackle complex issues like racism, honoring diverse experiences, and the importance of unity among marginalized communities. Their play, The Talk, debuted as a time-based performance art piece in ArtPrize 2017 and focused on the conversation Black parents have with their children about racism in our society. Written by Aquinas professor and playwright Randy Wyatt and co-produced with Actor’s theater, The Talk also included a “talk back” style community engagement component.

Sammy made another ArtPrize appearance the following year in a collaboration with Cultura Collective and Rumsey Street neighbors. That entry, Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Stories, featured a video installation of stories on the history of the surrounding community. It also included an ofrenda to the stories, both told and untold, of the neighborhood.

Sammy’s ability to authentically curate stories is why we are most excited to have Mixed Roots Collective participate in the 5th Annual Grand Rapids Neighborhood Summit. This year’s Summit will take place on Saturday, March 2, 2019 on the downtown Pew Campus of Grand Valley State University. The theme, Connecting Our Stories – Connecting Our Power, reflects the power of reclaiming and sharing our personal and community stories. While each person and community has unique realities, most stories are connected and when leveraged strategically, allow communities to build power through solidarity.

Instead of the usual opening keynote, Summit 2019 will open with a welcome song by a local Anishinaabe community drum, followed by short skits of neighborhood-based scenes by Mixed Roots Collective. Between scenes, attendees will share takeaways in small groups. Building on the theme of
connecting our stories, this activity will set the stage for them to make meaningful connections throughout the day.

Summit’s closing session will include a special recognition of Grand Rapids residents who led projects supported by the City’s Neighborhood Match Fund as well as a drawing for prizes. The post-Summit Community Celebration will immediately follow in the same location and will recognize volunteers,
sponsors, and others for their contribution to this year's Summit. We are still accepting raffle prize donations. Those interested in donating a raffle item should email [email protected].

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