The Rapidian

Free movie screening, project debut, celebrating natural hair

Wealthy Theatre, with support by Wege Foundation, presents "I Rock My Own" - a groundbreaking digital debut of 100+ portraits of community members with natural hair, in collaboration with Natural Hair GR and ArtPeers - Saturday at 2:00 p.m. (and free screening of Chris Rock's "Good Hair.")
Chavon McMurray

Chavon McMurray /ArtPeers

Underwriting support from:
I Rock My Qwn participant

I Rock My Qwn participant /ArtPeers

I Rock My Own participant

I Rock My Own participant /ArtPeers

Wealthy Theatre invites the community to a free event to celebrate natural hair, including the debut of a groundbreaking new video, and a free screening of Chris Rock's "Good Hair."
The event starts at 2:00 p.m. Saturday (doors open at 1:30 p.m.) with a 7-minute debut of "I Rock My Own" - a digital work created by local artists, featuring portraits of hundreds of community members with natural hair. 
"The theatre is part of the Baxter Neighborhood," said Wealthy Theatre Director Erin Wilson. "Natural hair is the predominant style in our community - this project celebrates the people who live here, and we're making an afternoon of it, with everyone invited to Wealthy Theatre on Saturday."
"Natural hair is not usually what you see on magazine covers at the checkout lane," said Natural Hair GR Founder Johannah Jelks. "So this is about more than a celebration of a style; it's about a cultural identity that is thread into our entire identity."
Wilson said he and Jelks have been talking about this project for years, and then Wege Foundation made it possible.
"The idea was to present the beauty of the people of our neighborhood with integrity," Wilson said. "We matched up several of Grand Rapids' most talented visual artists, and we aimed for the highest possible tier of photography."
Wilson was joined by Seth Thompson and Joshua Tyron, collaborating as nonprofit arts collective ArtPeers, and they converted Wealthy Theatre's Peter Wege Auditorium into a massive portrait studio.
"SideCar studios basically brought in a parachute, that we draped overhead, and it made the light wash over everyone in the most breathtaking way," Wilson said.
Jelks says the group invited the public at large to attend either of two photo shoots at Wealthy Theatre. She said hundreds of women, men and children showed up, and "it was magical, there was such joy in the room, as people saw the pictures of themselves, in all their beauty."
Wilson said Mr. Wege loved the Baxter neighborhood, and the theatre, making this project a perfect fit. 
"Mr. Wege has been there for the neighborhood, when we've needed him the most," Wilson said. "He's done selfless and strategic things at key points in time but without much fanfare, because he was not after recognition."
"It really was about doing all the good you can, for as many people as possible," as Mr. Wege used to say.
Wilson and Jelks said upcoming community projects at Wealthy Theatre aspire to be a continuation of this, creating meantingful activity that celebrates the people of the Baxter neighborhood. 
The first 100 attendees to arrive between 1:30-2:00 p.m. will receive vouchers for free popcorn, Wilson said, redeemable right before the screening of “Good Hair,” after the debut of the portrait slideshow.

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