The Rapidian

Live art, music create win for equity at Race Together

A diverse crowd gathered at CityFlats on Thursday evening to raise money for anti-racism work that saves lives.
Artist J.A. Medcalf creates a colorful cityscape of Grand Rapids during the Race Together fundraiser

Artist J.A. Medcalf creates a colorful cityscape of Grand Rapids during the Race Together fundraiser /Amy Carpenter-Leugs

Vox Vidorra entertains the crowd with a long energetic set

Vox Vidorra entertains the crowd with a long energetic set /Amy Carpenter-Leugs

Faye Richardson-Green, Executive Director of PRFC-GR, addresses an audience excited to work for equity

Faye Richardson-Green, Executive Director of PRFC-GR, addresses an audience excited to work for equity /Amy Carpenter-Leugs

Surrounded by party-goers with cocktails in their hands, artist J.A. Medcalf worked steadily at his easel with a palette of browns, reds and blues for over three hours. The music of Vox Vidorra played in the background, spirited and soulful, followed by the mixes of DJ SuperDre. As people watched, the canvas revealed a creatively colored cityscape of Grand Rapids along the river -- a fitting symbol for ongoing racial justice work in West Michigan.

The Race Together fundraiser on Thursday night at CityFlats hosted more than 100 people from various backgrounds, all eager to come together for racial equity. The fundraiser was for Partners for a Racism-Free Community (PRFC). As Amy Tzintzun said about her attendance, “I was invited by my group, Latina Network of West Michigan. I originally came here, like a lot of other people, to network. But the more I heard the more I thought I should be more involved, especially after recent events. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed meeting and connecting with other people."

Given the increased incidences of racial harassment after the November election, many at the event felt that the work of PRFC is even more important now. Andrea Aranguiz said, “For me, this event means that change can happen, through honest conversation with each other and understanding why people don’t know how they’re being racist. If they don’t know, how can we stop it? And not everyone does it out of a bad place in their heart -- they’re not evil. They do it because of a lack of understanding.”

Executive Director of PRFC, Faye Richardson-Green, addressed the audience. “Our primary focus is on race and racism. The reality is that in the United States of America, that is a foundational issue. 2015 and 2016 have ripped the veil off what most of us have not wanted to believe was really true in our country. Racism is deep and pervasive in this country. It is our mission to confront it, to say the words, to talk about what it means. We don’t just focus on the individual issues of race. Where racism can be most destructive is in institutions and between institutions. If we don’t address racism in its most vicious form, which is embedded in institutions and structures, people die. Racism kills. ...Our work saves lives.”

Proceeds from the night will support community-based work such as #RacismInGR Conversations, in which community members can safely and openly discuss their own experience with racism and bias in the Grand Rapids area.

And the painting created by Medcalf over the course of the evening? It was auctioned off the same night, with 30 percent of the proceeds going to PRFC.

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