Archive for July 2008

• Circle Theatre Presents “Crowns”

CrownsIf you attended our tour of the Newcomers Exhibit at the Public Museum earlier this year and learned about the significance of hats in the African American church, you will be interested in play that just opened in Grand Rapids.  Circle Theatre, on the campus of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, is presenting Crowns through August 9 Crowns explores black history and identity through the experience of a young black girl sent south to live with her grandmother following a tragedy at home.   The hats worn by churchgoers dressed in their Sunday best are their “crowns.” Cast members use their crowns to tell tales of everything from etiquette to history to society behind a soundtrack of spirituals, blues, hip hop and rap.   Box office information is available on the Circle Theatre site on line at

The Multiracial Association of Professionals will be reserving a block of tickets for Tuesday, August 5.  Tickets are $20 if ordered through MAP.  If you would like to attend as part of MAP, let Rodney Martin know by Thursday, July 31 so he can make arrangements.

• CNN Series – “Black in America”

CNN - Black in AmericaThis week, CNN is airing a documentary series titled Black in America.  On Wednesday evening at 9:00 p.m. , in a show called The Black Woman and Family, reporter Soledad O’Brien explores the varied experiences of black women and families and investigates the disturbing statistics of single parenthood, racial disparities between students and the devastating toll of HIV/AIDS. O’Brien reports on the progress of black women in the workplace and the status of the black middle class.

 The series resumes on Thursday night at 9:00 p.m. with The Black Man.  In this episode, O’Brien evaluates the state of black men in America and explores the controversial topics of black men and fatherhood; disparities between blacks and whites in educational, career and financial achievement; and factors leading to the dramatic rates of black male incarceration. The documentary also examines the achievements of black men and the importance of the positive influences of black fathers.

The series is accompanied by a website with additional resources on the topic, including a guide parents can use to discuss the programs with their children.

Here is the trailer for the series:

• August 7 One Book, One Firm Celebration

One Book, One FirmPlease join us on August 7, from noon to 1:30 p.m. for a special luncheon presentation in our One Book, One Firm program.  The luncheon will feature Alice Kennedy in a performance of three scenes from her play Inside the Model Minority.  In addition, the luncheon will feature a belated celebration of Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, with special food, presentations and activities.

The presentation will be broadcast over the Internet to participants in each of our offices, who will also get to enjoy the special food and activities.  It is not necessary to have read the One Book, One Firm selection to participate in this event.  Everyone is encouraged to attend.

Alice KennedyMany of you will remember that Alice Kennedy was a panelist at our May 30 discussion of this year’s One Book, One Firm selection, Stealing Buddha’s Dinner.  Ms. Kennedy is the founder of Diversity Theatre in Grand Rapids.  Her family immigrated to the United States following the fall of Saigon.  She was recently profiled in The Grand Rapids Press.  (Click here to read the profile.) 

The scenes Ms. Kennedy will perform from Inside the Model Minority bring to life the issues some funny, some poignant faced by Asian immigrants to the United States.  Portraying a Korean child adopted by a white American family, Ms. Kennedy will take us along on a quest in search of her identity.  She will portray a young Chinese American male, whose family has been in this country since the mid-1800s, and who struggles with bigotry and the question of what it means to be American.  And as a recent immigrant from Asia, she will bring to life the challenge of learning a new language and new customs.  

Please mark your calendars today and RSVP to Robin Keith as soon as possible.  We need a solid estimate of participation by Monday, July 28 so all the arrangements can be made for this event.

• Gordon Parks Exhibit at the Grand Rapids Public Museum

Gordon ParksThe Grand Rapids Public Museum has organized an important exhibition of photographs by photographer Gordon Parks.  Parks was the first African-American photographer to gain an international reputation in the twentieth century.  He was a fashion photographer for Vogue magazine and then worked for Life magazine for fifty years.  Much of his work in the middle of the century documented the events of the Civil Rights Movement.  In addition to being a photographer, Parks was an author, composer and filmmaker.  He died in 1996.  The exhibition, called “Black and White: Gordon Parks Photography” was organized in cooperation with the Gordon Parks Foundation.  

American GothicThe exhibiton, which runs until October 12,  includes thirty-five photographs, including rare vintage prints recently acquired by the museum.   The photographs span three decades from 1940 to 1970.  Included among them is “American Gothic, Washington DC” a photo of an African American cleaning woman for the Farm Security Administration standing in front of American flag.  Parks was moved to create the photo after encountering the racism that was prevent in the capital city in the 1940s.  The exhibit also includes Parks’ photo of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.,  as he gave his “I Have a Dream Speech” before the Lincolm Memorial in 1963, and photos of noted artists Alberto Giacometti and Alexander Calder, composer Aaron Copeland, musician Duke Ellington, and boxer Muhammad Ali.  

You can see a video about the exhibit on the Museum’s homepage by clicking here.