The Rapidian

Partners for a Racism-Free Community to host historical foundations of racism event

Dr. Vanessa Holden of MSU will talk about early events that shaped the evolution of racism in America. Community members can also take part in PRFC's Race Reads series and #RacisminGR Community Conversations.
Unity in Laughter

Unity in Laughter /Courtesy of Mojet Photography

Dr. Vanessa Holden

Dr. Vanessa Holden /Used with permission from Dr. Vanessa Holden.

On Thursday, September 22 at 11:30 a.m., Partners for a Racism-Free Community (PRFC) will host Dr. Vanessa Holden at Rockford Construction for their September Learning Lab titled "The Historical Foundations of Structural Racism." General admission is $45. 

Dr. Holden, assistant professor of African American and American History at Michigan State University, will explore the construction of race in early America and how it developed over time. The lecture will delve into the root causes of racism in order to understand the context behind racism today.

“There’s always a ton of history lost because we don’t treat history like it’s significant,” said Breannah Alexander, director of strategic programs at PRFC. “We don’t treat history like it informs how we move forward. That’s why we hope doing sessions like these will help people embrace this idea that knowing the history is significant to addressing what’s happening present day and planning for the future.”

PRFC is also partnering with Celebration! Cinema for a free screening of the film “Birth of a Nation” at the Ladies Literary Club the previous evening, September 21 at 7:30 p.m. This event, called "The Historical Depictions of History and Race in America," will include a post viewing Q&A discussion with Dr. Holden, whose current book project takes a look at the Southampton Rebellion of 1831, the subject of “Birth of a Nation.”

“Our speaker does a really good job of trying to paint that picture of this rebellion that was slaves and indentured servants who partnered together, how race was then constructed as an official way of getting indentured servants to see themselves as being more than slaves and then how that evolves into what we see today which is racial hierarchy and disparities,” Alexander said.

Tickets for both events are available at

In addition to September’s Learning Lab, PRFC is in the midst of their Race Reads series. They have selected a book with a race related narrative for each month this year and will be posting questions to guide readers through their reflection as well as holding online dialogues about the stories. September’s Race Read is “A City Within a City: The Black Freedom Struggle in Grand Rapids, Michigan” by Todd E. Robinson. Beginning on October 1, “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie will become the focus.

PRFC, which aims to engage people with information about racial equity, has their next #RacisminGR Community Conversation on September 29 at 7:30 p.m. at the Grand Rapids Public Library—Main Library. Community members are welcome to share and reflect on experiences with inequities in an open and safe space.

For more information about events and resources available from PRFC visit their Facebook page

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