GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Born and raised in the the city’s Southeast side, Ericka “Kyd Kane” Thompson says this is her home.
“We’re doing beautiful things,” said Kane.
However, the way in which she thinks of her community doesn’t always align with the way in which other people think of it.
Grand Rapids’ southeast side, which is majority minority, has long been associated with violent crime and other issues related to inequality and inequity.
“When you leave a neighborhood behind and isolate them from opportunities, quality education, and something that so many areas of the city have, you will see more things like crime and poverty… something that’s going to breed less-than-optimal things,” said Kane.
The stigma associated with the area is why The Diatribe recently launched the 49507 Project.
The Diatribe is a local performing arts group and nonprofit organization. Its goal is “to empower young people to share their stories, raise awareness on social issues and create change within their communities.”
“This area is speaking out now and is talking about the injustices that it’s going through,” said G Foster II, a member. “It’s talking about the blight that it has to face, it’s talking about the overpricing of the neighborhood. It talks about just wanting change.”
Beginning at the end of the summer, seven artists of color will create large-scale murals on the sides of local buildings.
The designs will be based on input from students and community members.
The Diatribe is partnering with local schools to teach its “Writing to Right Wrongs” curriculum, which teaches classes about issues like housing discrimination and gentrification.
Volunteers will canvass local neighborhoods for feedback and listening sessions will be held.
According to a news release, the project will take place over the next three years. The Garfield Park Neighborhood Association and the Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses has helped the Diatribe assemble more than 100 Black and Brown community stakeholders, ranging from business owners to pastors.
“I believe that these murals are a chance to change that narrative and tell these success stories and ideas of achievement,” said G Foster II.
The hope is to create a multi-cultural art district that changes the landscape of the place they call home.
“What we get to do with the 49507 project is try to shift the trajectory to what I know has been there all along - peace, love, and what we want is more equity and respect - in a neighborhood where people have been doing their best to thrive despite adversity,” said Kane.
Volunteers are needed to help with the canvassing efforts. To get involved, email Angela Cluley at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (989)824-6926.
To learn more about the 49507 Project or to donate, click here.