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Black History Month 2023: Black Resistance

The theme for this year’s observance of Black History Month is Black Resistance.

We are reposting the following from The Association for the Study of African American Life and History

African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms, and police killings since our arrival upon these shores. These efforts have been to advocate for a dignified self-determined life in a just democratic society in the United States and beyond the United States political jurisdiction.

The 1950s and 1970s in the United States was defined by actions such as sit-ins, boycotts, walk outs, strikes by Black people and white allies in the fight for justice against discrimination in all sectors of society from employment to education to housing. Black people have had to consistently push the United States to live up to its ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice for all. Systematic oppression has sought to negate much of the dreams of our griots, like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, and our freedom fighters, like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Septima Clark, and Fannie Lou Hamer fought to realize. Black people have sought ways to nurture and protect Black lives, and for autonomy of their physical and intellectual bodies through armed resistance, voluntary emigration, nonviolence, education, literature, sports, media, and legislation/politics. Black led institutions and affiliations have lobbied, litigated, legislated, protested, and achieved success.

In an effort to live, and maintain and protect economic success Black people have organized/planned violent insurrections against those who enslaved them, such as in Haiti,, and armed themselves against murderous white mobs as seen in Memphis, TN (1892), Rosewood, FL (1923), and New Orleans, LA (1900). Additionally, some Black people thought that the best way to resist was to self-liberate as seen by the actions those who left the plantation system, of Henry Adams and Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, when they led a mass exodus westward in 1879 and Bishop Henry McNeal Turner of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, who organized emigration to Liberia.

Black faith institutions were spaces where Black communities met to organize resistance efforts, inspired folk to participate in the movements, and offered sanctuary during times of crisis. To promote awareness of the myriad of issues and activities media outlets were developed including radio shows, podcasts, newspapers (i.e. Chicago DefenderChicago Beethe AfroThe California Eagle, Omaha Star, the Crisis, etc.). Ida B. Wells used publications to contest the scourge of lynching. These outlets were pivotal in sharing the successes and challenges of resistance movements.

Cultural centers such as libraries including George Cleveland Hall Library (Chicago, IL), Dart Hall (Charleston, SC) and social, literary, and cultural clubs, such as Jack and Jill, Phillis Wheatley Literary Societies, fraternal and sororal orders, associations (i.e. Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, National Association of Colored Women, etc.) worked to support the intellectual development of communities to collect and preserve Black stories, sponsor Black history and literature events, and were active in the quest for civil, social, and human rights.

Black medical professionals worked with others to establish nursing schools, hospitals, and clinics in order to provide spaces for Black people to get quality health care, which they often did (and do not) receive at mainstream medical institutions. For economic and financial independence businesses, such as Binga Bank, Johnson Publishing Company, Parker House Sausage Company, Soft and Sheen, etc., were developed to keep funds within the community. In order to resist inequality and to advocate for themselves Black men and women formed labor unions based on trades and occupations, some examples, include the Colored National Labor Union, Colored Musicians Club, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and Negro American Labor Council.

Education, whether in elementary, secondary, or higher education institutions have been seen as a way for Black people and communities to resist the narrative that Black people are intellectually inferior. When Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week (NHW) in 1926, he saw it as a way to provide a space and resources to critically educate students about their history. The grassroots network of Black teachers used this week not only to lionize individuals and narratives, but also to teach students about racial progress, and as well as shared and collective responsibility. They developed assignments and curriculum to provide students with the tools to succeed. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), were developed by Northern white philanthropists, but they emerged as a space for the formation of activists, artists, business owners, educators, etc. and their continued operation have stood as testament to Black investment and creative thinking in the face of the changing landscape of higher education. Furthermore, students at HBCUs were at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power Movements, and social justice movements from the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries.

African American spirituals, gospel, folk music, hip-hop, and rap have been used to express struggle, hope, and for solidarity in the face of racial oppression. Music has been used to illustrate societal issues including white and state sanctioned violence (i.e. Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit), sexual politics (i.e. Salt-N-Pepa’s Let’s Talk About Sex), as motivation, for strength against harassment, and to experience freedom. The Black artists, writers, photographers, and musicians who participated in the Black Arts Movement, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Chicago Black Renaissance were the soundtrack and the visual representation of resistance movements. These individuals created art that supported the resistance movements, but also provided a space for Black people to express love and joy. Creatives used poetry, fiction, short stories, plays, films, and television to counter stereotypes and to imagine a present and future with Black people in it.

Sports are a world pastime, and it both brings people together and separates them. Black athletes have used sports as a way to advocate for social issues and for political agendas. Serena Williams, Flo Jo, Jesse Owens, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Jackie Robinson, Colin Kaepernick, Simone Biles, and many others have used their public forum to bring awareness to issues that affect society as they resisted the idea that they cannot or should not speak about political, cultural, or social issues. Black athletic activists have often suffered personal and economic consequences due to their stances, speech, and actions, but to them it has been worth it to see changes.

Historically and today in the 21st century, Black people have worked the political angle to seek their rightful space in the country. Where race is concerned, legislative or judicial action to deal with controversial issues has often come late. The historic Executive Orders 8802 and 9346 were responses to A. Phillip Randolph and the all-Black March on Washington Movement’s threat to lead a 50,000-strong Black worker’s march into Washington, D.C. And all three of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act were concessions to the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. Every advance, improvement in our quality of life and access to the levers of power to determine our destiny has been achieved through struggle. John Lewis advised, “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

Lewis’ advice is true not just for the 21st century, but also during the antebellum period, as seen in the narratives of the enslaved, such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, to testimonials about lynchings and ongoing police violence against African Americans. With the murders of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, and thousands of other Black women, men, and trans people there are new movements (i.e. #Sayhername) and organizations (i.e. Black Lives Matter) that are pushing for the justice system to investigate police involved shootings and white supremacist vigilantes. Nearly 179 years ago, the Rev. Henry Highland Garnett proposed that the only path to freedom, justice, and equality; self-determination; and/or social transformation is resistance. In thunder tones, Garnett shouted, “Let your motto be resistance! resistance! RESISTANCE!

By resisting Black people have achieved triumphs, successes, and progress as seen in the end of chattel slavery, dismantling of Jim and Jane Crow segregation in the South, increased political representation at all levels of government, desegregation of educational institutions, the passage of Civil Rights Act of 1964, the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History in DC and increased and diverse representation of Black experiences in media. Black resistance strategies have served as a model for every other social movement in the country, thus, the legacy and importance of these actions cannot be understated.

As societal and political forces escalate to limit access to and exercise of the ballot, eliminate the teaching of Black history, and work to push us back into the 1890s, we can only rely on our capacity to resist. The enactment of HR 40, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the Breathe Act, and the closure of the racial wealth gap is not the end. They too will require us to mobilize our resources, human and material, and fight for “freedom, justice, and equality”; “self-determination”, and/or “social transformation.”

This is a call to everyone, inside and outside the academy, to study the history of Black Americans’ responses to establish safe spaces, where Black life can be sustained, fortified, and respected.

Click here to download a printable pdf

GRFD announces Fire Cadet Program

The program is projected to provide a resource to “grow its own” and to diversify the hiring pool.

The Grand Rapids Fire Department’s (GRFD) Fire Cadet Program provides a path for community youth to discover what it takes to be a firefighter. The City Commission approved the program, vetted by the Civil Service Board, for up to six part-time paid internships.

Cadets will work 16 to 20 hours a week providing general assistance to the fire department in administration, station maintenance, and special projects. Cadets will receive fire training, Medical First Responder training, and the opportunity to interact with top-notch firefighters, as well as the community. 

GRFD recognized a need to provide a program that provides a direct, equitable, and accessible introduction to firefighting as a profession and public safety career. GRFD is an all-hazard response team that requires constant training to protect its community.

The program is designed as an up to one-year long curriculum with the fire department, and it is projected to provide a resource to “grow its own” and to diversify the hiring pool.

Requirements:

Graduation from high school or GED 

18+ years of age 

Possession of a valid driver’s license

More information and the application materials are available here. You can also contact the City of Grand Rapids’ Human Resources Department at (616) 456-3176.

Screen Before School!

Protect your child from the risk of lead poisoning by signing up for a home screening today at tinyurl.com/NidoEnroll.

Kent County has the second highest number of children (330 children) who tested positive for Elevated Blood Lead Levels in the State of Michigan, with 49503, 49504, and 49507 being our hardest hit zip codes. It is important to know the signs to look for lead in your home.

Lead in the home is a silent and prevalent danger in Kent County. The numbers are staggering. According to Kent County’s Lead Taskforce, this is a county-wide issue. Four out of every five homes in Grand Rapids were built before 1978, the year lead paint was banned. Homes with exposed lead-based paint – whether on an interior surface or paint that has chipped from exterior surfaces – pose possible health risks to children. We also understand the disparities with this issue, as households in the city ZIP codes of 49507, 49504, or 49503 are particularly affected.

According to the Lead Task Force, two out of every three children in Kent County with elevated blood-lead levels live in these three zip codes. The fallout of lead poising in young children is often long-term, especially if the issue is not identified early. There is no known safe blood lead concentration. Exposure to low amounts may be undetectable but a cause of irreversible neurological, developmental, and long-term health issues. As lead exposure increases, the range and seriousness of symptoms and effects also increase – children may be left with severe intellectual disability and behavioral disorders for the remainder of their lives.

Early identification and remediation are key to preventing lead exposure and ensuring all children in Kent County have the full opportunity for long-term health and success. First Steps Kent is proud of Healthy Home Coalition’s proactive efforts to identify homes with potential lead and environmental health risks and how they support families in learning how to reduce or remediate homes with such risksOur team is enthusiastic about Screen Before School because we wholeheartedly believe that every child, regardless of race or economic status, deserves to grow up in a safe and healthy home.

Screen your home for health hazards before school starts!

Every family in Kent County deserves to grow up in safe healthy homes. But too many families are living in homes where they are at risk of health hazards, due to lead poisoning, asthma triggers, or preventable accidents.

As you prepare your kids to go back to school this fall, you will want to get your home ready too. Contact the Healthy Homes team at (616) 500-0488 or sign up tinyurl.com/NidoEnroll for a free home screening.

Most lead poisoning in Kent County results from lead paint hazards, so preventing lead poisoning requires removing those risks. In 1978, lead paint was banned in new homes, but the homeowners of these older houses were never informed or given the resources to correct the problem.

Asthma is incurable, but it can be controlled. Get your home screened for asthma triggers to improve your indoor air quality and reduce the chances of asthma attacks in your home. Protect your family from the risks of asthma by signing up for a home screening.

Grand Rapids has an aging housing stock that remains unregulated due to structural discrimination. Healthy Homes wants to advocate for you and your family.

Healthy Homes works with families to identify potential home environmental hazards and address them through education, navigation services, and advocacy.

$30/month internet subsidy now available

APPLY HERE for AFFORDABLECONNECTIVITY.GOV

Or, go to GETINTERNET.GOV to learn more.

The announcement of partnerships with internet providers plus a $30/month subsidy for high-speed internet makes it free, or nearly free, for a large portion of Michigan families. The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a U.S. government program run by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help low-income households pay for internet service and connected devices like a laptop or tablet.

You are likely eligible for the ACP if your household’s income is below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line, or if you or someone you live with currently receives a government benefit like SNAP, Medicaid, SSI, WIC, Pell Grant, or Free and Reduced-Price Lunch. If your household is eligible, you could receive:

  • Up to a $30/month discount on your internet service
  • Up to a $75/month discount if your household is on qualifying Tribal lands
  • A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer (with a co-payment of more than $10 but less than $50)
  • A low cost service plan that may be fully covered through the ACP

Today, several internet providers, including AT&T, Charter-Spectrum, Comcast-Xfinity, Frontier, WOW!, Verizon, and more, have announced high-speed internet plans for $30/month or less. If you apply your ACP benefit to one of these plans, you will have no out-of-pocket cost for your household internet.

APPLY HERE for AFFORDABLECONNECTIVITY.GOV

Or, go to GETINTERNET.GOV to learn more.

Volunteer attorneys needed to assist at April 2 Grand Rapids expungement event

The City of Grand Rapids Office of Oversight and Public Accountability is seeking attorney volunteers to assist with its Free Expungement Event on April 2. As more than 400 community members have registered in hopes of obtaining an expungement, OPA is seeking assistance from lawyers across the State of Michigan to help during the event to address the overwhelming response.

Brandon D. Davis, director of oversight and public accountability for the City of Grand Rapids, said Michigan lawyers can volunteer for the April 2 clinic by clicking here or visiting: https://www.grandrapidsmi.gov/Government/Departments/Office-of-Oversight-and-Public-Accountability/Clean-Slate-GR-Volunteer-Form.

The expungement event takes place between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation, 1530 Madison Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49507.

The Expungement Clinic will welcome and work with whomever arrives before 4 p.m. Attorneys are welcomed to work shorter shifts based on their availability. The volunteer form has three shift options:

  • Morning Shift (8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
  • Afternoon Shift (12:30 to 5 p.m.)
  • All Day Shift (8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

Any attorney can volunteer, regardless of practice area.

“Any amount of time that one can give to this effort would be greatly appreciated,” Davis said. “We thank those who have stepped up or are considering volunteering for helping us to change the lives of the members of our community.”

OPA will be offering a one-hour virtual training session at 3 p.m. Friday, April 1 to provide attorney volunteers with the information needed to assist community members. Training is not required, but it is available for those who desire to attend.  OPA can make other arrangements to provide volunteers with the necessary information if they cannot attend training.  Attorney volunteers will review both Certified Records of Conviction, and ICHATS.  Attorneys will also assist participants with completing SCAO approved expungement forms.  Attorneys will not be expected to represent participants in court or in any other representative capacity.

Those who have questions about the event and their role as a volunteer can contact Davis at (616) 456-4OPA or via email at bddavis@grand-rapids.mi.us.

MLK Jr. Day 2022: Democracy Now posts “MLK Day Special: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in His Own Words”

Please enjoy this video and excerpts from Dr. King’s April 4, 1967 and April 3, 1968 speeches reposted from Democracy Now.

WATCH HERE

Today is the federal holiday that honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was born January 15, 1929. He was assassinated April 4, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was just 39 years old. While Dr. King is primarily remembered as a civil rights leader, he also championed the cause of the poor and organized the Poor People’s Campaign to address issues of economic justice. Dr. King was also a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy and the Vietnam War. We play his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, which he delivered at New York City’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, as well as his last speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” that he gave on April 3, 1968, the night before he was assassinated.

COVID-19 Vaccines Available to Children 5 to 11


The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) is currently taking appointments for the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for this age group. In addition, extended clinic hours at all locations will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021 and Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021 from 8 a.m. until 11:45 a.m. and from 12:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. Appointments can be made for all three KCHD clinic locations during regular business hours by calling (616) 632-7200.

A parent or legal guardian is required to attend the vaccination appointment or send an attestation form with an adult who is at least 18 years old, stating they are legally allowed to sign on behalf of any minor child for the vaccine. This adult should be familiar with the medical history of the child.

“We are tremendously excited to be able to provide this next wave of vaccines to younger children,” says Mary Wisinski, KCHD Immunizations Supervisor. “We have seen an increase in the number of children being infected with COVID-19 since this summer. This vaccine not only protects them, but it will help slow the transmission of the disease in our community. Vaccinating just one child has the potential to save many lives.”

Like the adult version, this vaccine entails two shots of a vaccine, given at least three weeks apart. However, the dose is approximately a third of what adults received. Also, different packaging will be used to guard against mix-ups and smaller needles will likely be used.

Among its findings during clinical testing, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that the Pfizer vaccine was 90.7 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in children 5 to 11. The vaccine safety was studied in approximately 3,100 children aged 5 to 11 with no serious side effects detected in the ongoing study. Currently, only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for use in children ages 5 to 11.
El Departamento de Salud del Condado de Kent (Kent County Health Department) ofrecerá la vacuna contra el COVID-19 a niños de 5 a 11 años
El martes, los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC) de EE. UU. autorizaron el uso de emergencia para la vacuna contra el COVID-19 desarrollada por Pfizer y su socio BioNTech a partir del viernes para los niños de 5 a 11 años.

Como resultado de este desarrollo, el Departamento de Salud del Condado de Kent (KCHD) actualmente está programando citas para la vacuna contra el COVID-19 de Pfizer BioNTech para este grupo etario. Además, todos los centros tendrán un horario extendido el martes 9 de noviembre y el martes 16 de noviembre de 2021 de 8 a. m. a 11:45 a. m. y de 12:45 p. m. a 6:45 p. m. Las citas pueden programarse para los tres centros del KCHD llamando al (616) 632-7200 durante el horario de atención habitual.

Se requiere que el padre, la madre o el tutor legal asista a la cita de vacunación o que envíe una certificación con un adulto de al menos 18 años de edad que indique que este cuenta con la autorización legal para firmar en nombre del menor para la vacuna. Este adulto debe estar familiarizado con los antecedentes médicos del menor.

“Nos complace enormemente poder ofrecer esta próxima ola de vacunas a los niños más pequeños”, expresó Mary Wisinski, supervisora de vacunación del KCHD. “Detectamos un aumento en la cantidad de niños infectados con COVID-19 desde este verano. Esta vacuna los protege a ellos y también ayudará a disminuir la transmisión de la enfermedad en nuestra comunidad. Vacunar a un solo niño tiene el potencial de salvar muchas vidas”.

Al igual que la versión para adultos, esta vacuna requiere dos dosis, que se administran con una diferencia de al menos tres semanas una de otra. Sin embargo, la dosis es aproximadamente un tercio de la dosis para adultos. Además, se utilizará un empaquetado diferente para evitar confusiones, así como es probable que se usen agujas más pequeñas.