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February Celebrates African-American History. So Does Muskegon County!

While the month of February may be the shortest month on our calendar, it is packed full of holidays, famous birthdays and commemorations. Among these celebrations is Black History Month, which began in 1926 as “Negro History Week”.  Fifty years later, in 1976, the seven day celebration would become Black History Month.

The first weeklong event, falling between the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, was pioneered by “Father of Black History” Carter G. Woodson. Carter was an African American writer and historian. He was also one of the first scholars to study African-American history and founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

Muskegon County takes full advantage of the month long celebration, hosting many events recognizing and paying tribute to the contributions, struggles and history of Black Americans.

 

Celebrate Through Art, Culture, Museums and Lectures

 

Multimedia artist and metalsmith, Tiff Massey, was the first black woman to earn an MFA in metalsmithing from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Through February 20th Muskegon Museum of Art presents her 1980’s hip-hop fashion-inspired exhibition; where Massey uses the concept of adornment as an examination of African diaspora and issues of race, class, and popular culture. Jewelry Box is an immersive experience located in the Olthoff Gallery which has been transformed into a shiny and jaw-dropping display of massive hip-hop jewelry, gold, and mirrors.

*Don’t miss the MMA’ Facebook and Instagram series “Celebrating Black History Month” highlighting African American artists from the museum’s permanent collection throughout the month of February.

Take a look back at the NAACP’s 100+ year history in Muskegon County with video interviews of local residents. One of those residents will be on hand to share their experience. Norton Shores Branch Library 7 pm

United Way of the Lakeshore is hosting a screening of the documentary “Up from the Bottoms” and community conversation at the Muskegon Public High School Auditorium. Up from the Bottoms follows the personal stories of African-Americans, now in their 80’s and 90’s who migrated north in the 1940’s to the war factories of Muskegon Michigan. This documentary won “Best Film or Video Depicting the Black Experience” in the Berlin Black International Cinema Festival. 5 pm, RSVP at https://conta.cc/3GgNhSt

Take a look back at the NAACP’s 100+ year history in Muskegon County with video interviews of local residents. One of those residents will be on hand to share their experience. North Muskegon Branch Library 6 pm

Established in 1912, Michigan’s own Idlewild welcomed African Americans with no restrictions at a time when segregation was rampant. The small town eventually became one of the most popular African-American resorts in the Midwest. This online talk, presented by Muskegon Community College, will journey back through the decades when Idlewild offered rest, relaxation, and a respite from racism. Presented by Morris Thomas, professor emeritus of Geography, Environment and Spatial Studies at Lansing Community College and Michigan State University. 6-7:30 pm via Zoom https://muskegoncc-edu.zoom.us/j/94975087128

The White Lake Chamber Music Society’s Winter 2022 Lecture Series presents an engaging and stimulating presentation by Antione Hackney. Antione is a fine violist who has played with the chamber orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony and West Michigan Symphony. He will reflect on on “The Highway Philharmonic“ and and the challenges of being a freelance musician; especially during the Covid years. 7 pm at the Book Nook & Java Shop

Disney Studio film tells the true story of a young Ugandan girl whose world sees her world changes rapidly after being introduced to the game of chess. Admission is only $1 or a non-perishable food item. 2 pm at The Playhouse at White Lake

Muskegon Heritage Museum is home to an 1890 circa Corliss Valve Steam Engine. Industrial revolution steam engines relied heavily on the automatic engine lubricator invented by Elijah McCoy, whose photo and history are placed in honor near the six-ton, full sized, working machinery (which is a marvel to behold!).
Travel to the third floor for a photo display narrating decades of black owned businesses of Muskegon County.
* Muskegon Heritage Museum is open May – October

  • Visit the “Black Leadership” Mural

This mural by artist Elloy Villarreal honors figures of black leadership chosen by city youth members of the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP!). Featured are Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Barack Obama and local leader Charles Waugh. Waugh, who passed away in 2005, was an attorney, Muskegon Heights school board member, president of the NAACP and the only Muskegon member elected as grand master for the Michigan Masonic Chapter.
Location: Corner of Mason and Fifth St. in the Nelson Neighborhood

 

If you have not yet discovered this gem of a museum, Black History Month makes the perfect time to explore The James Jackson Museum of African American History.

The museum was named for, and cofounded by, Dr. James Jackson. Jackson was an ardent champion of civil rights who passed in 2018. Visitors can learn about contributions made to the growth of America by African-Americans. The collection brings the past to life as it takes viewers through the African diaspora. Visitors will develop a greater appreciation of African American history and culture. *Tours by appointment only. Call to schedule a tour at 231-343-8396

 

 

Artist Richard Hunt has been described as “one of the most important African American sculptors of the 20th-century” and this piece has become an iconic symbol for the City of Muskegon and resurgence of the downtown area. Sixty feet of welded stainless steel reach toward the sky in patterns resembling waves, wings, and arms.
Location: Traffic Circle at Western Ave and Third St.
“What Defines Muskegon” is a 65’ x 12’ mural is painted in oils on aluminum composite panels. The creator is award-winning artist Dr. Hubert Massey of Detroit, Michigan.
Location: Mercy Health Arena in Downtown Muskegon

The Hackley Library has a full schedule of events paying tribute to the African American community and contribution. The events range from music to crafts, food and more. The entire program is open to the public and is free of charge:

Learn a little about the rich history of textile making in Africa and how those roots manifested in African American quilting traditions. Pick up a no-sew quilt square kit home and create your own work of art. Return it to Hackley Library by February 25 for it to be added to a unity quilt. There will be a drawing on February 28 for 3 quilt square prizes!

Go on an adventure inside Hackley Public Library using fun clues and helpful tidbits. You’ll find and discover details about several African American authors in the library’s collection.  Every person who completes the scavenger hunt will be entered into a grand prize drawing.

Think you know your Black History? Find out at the Trivia Contest! Register your team for an in-person contest at Hackley Library! Teams will be asked questions relevant to Black History, and prizes will be awarded to the winners. Teams must be registered for this in-person event. If you’d like to view the contest, you can register virtually via Zoom. 2-3 pm

Delight in an evening of compelling inspiration and sweet poetry during Hackley Library’s Open Mic Poetry Night. Step up to the mic for this fun and casual in-person event to share your favorite poetry, poems you have written, or examples from favorite Black History/Black Experience/African American poetry. Registration is required to attend in person or opt to attend virtually via Zoom. 6-7 pm

Get your recipes out and create something sweet for Hackley Library’s Sweet Soul Food Contest. Bring enough for the judges and participants to taste. Registration is required to attend in person or opt to attend virtually via Zoom. 2-3 pm

Always wanted to write a poem but didn’t know where to start? You know your voice is there but you haven’t found the words…Drop in to the Hackley Public Library Young Adult room and create a poem/art/masterpiece! Using an existing text, you can eliminate words to create what you’ve always wanted. They provide the “words,” you provide the imagination!  Noon – 3 pm

Learn the secrets to beautiful black hair from expert Nietra Hood! During this in-person Black Hair Care Clinic, Nietra will share helpful tips and guidance on caring for your own hair, as well as for a young person’s hair.  Free. Registration is required to attend in person or opt to attend virtually via Zoom. 6-7 pm

“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history”

~ Carter G. Woodson