Artwork highlights a People’s History in Grand Rapids – Print #21: The First Pride Celebration 1988

Last semester, art students in Brett Colley’s GVSU class on printmaking, invited me to come talk about the Grand Rapids People’s History Project. The intent of the class was to have students investigate their own part of a People’s History of Grand Rapids and then make a print based upon an individual social movement or a particular moment in Grand Rapids history.

The following print is from Michael Morey and celebrates the first Pride celebration in Grand Rapids in 1988. After activists from the LGBT community had traveled to DC to participate in a national march, they returned to Grand Rapids and created the first openly gay organization called The Network.

The Network had as some of its initial goals the first celebration of Pride in Grand Rapids and getting the city to pass an ordinance, which included sexual orientation as part of their anti-discrimination ordinance.

The video at this link is 90 minutes of the first ever Pride celebration in Grand Rapids, which includes comments from the stage, interviews with organizations tabling at the event, music and even footage of the spiritual violence that was perpetrated against those in attendance by a group of self-proclaimed Christians who tried to disrupt the event.

 

Advertisements
Posted in LGBTQ Movement, People's History Artwork | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Artwork highlights a People’s History in Grand Rapids – Print #20: Ecological consequences of logging and the furniture industry

Last semester, art students in Brett Colley’s GVSU class on printmaking, invited me to come talk about the Grand Rapids People’s History Project. The intent of the class was to have students investigate their own part of a People’s History of Grand Rapids and then make a print based upon an individual social movement or a particular moment in Grand Rapids history.

The following print is from Katie Spence, which depicts one of the consequences of logging that was tied to the furniture industry in Grand Rapids in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The quote on the print is from former City Historian Gordon Olsen, from his book A Grand Rapids Sampler.

Jeffrey Kleiman, in his book on the 1911 Furniture Workers strike in Grand Rapids, entitled Strike!, cites Mayor Ellis who was frustrated by the wealthy developers who were buying up property along the Grand River.

“Encroachment of the river channel by factory owners, carelessly at best and unlawfully at worst, was only the most visible sign of the power of the special interests, according to Ellis. “The rich men have stolen property on both sides of the river,” he argued, making the channel too narrow, so that flooding could occur any time. “The men who have stolen this land should give it back to the city.”

For more on the 1883 log jam, see our post The Grand River: Flooding, Forests and Factories.

 

Posted in Environmental Movement, People's History Artwork | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Artwork highlights a People’s History in Grand Rapids – Print #19: 21st Century Animal Rights Movement

Last semester, art students in Brett Colley’s GVSU class on printmaking, invited me to come talk about the Grand Rapids People’s History Project. The intent of the class was to have students investigate their own part of a People’s History of Grand Rapids and then make a print based upon an individual social movement or a particular moment in Grand Rapids history.

The following 2 prints are from Kelsey Wittenbach (right) and Taylor Zagrzebski (below). Both of these prints are based on the organized through the group Grand Rapids for Animals

Grand Rapids for Animals is a more recent attempt by people in West Michigan to organize in support of animal rights or animal liberation. Grand Rapids for Animals has focused primarily on doing educational work and awareness building by protesting the circus when it comes to GR and sometimes around puppy mills and other animal welfare activism.

In the late 1980s and part of the 1990s, there was a group called West Michigan for Animals, which also focus on education, awareness building, but also more direct action at fur stores, slaughter houses and rodeos. West Michigan for Animals used street theater and other non-violent tactics to get their message across. In the early 1990s, some members of the group wanted to do more direct action, especially around animal liberation, but these tensions eventually led to the group disbanding by the late 1990s. 

Posted in Animal Rights/Animal Liberation, People's History Artwork | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Artwork highlights a People’s History in Grand Rapids – Print #18: Anarchist and Feminist Voltairine De Cleyre

Last semester, art students in Brett Colley’s GVSU class on printmaking, invited me to come talk about the Grand Rapids People’s History Project. The intent of the class was to have students investigate their own part of a People’s History of Grand Rapids and then make a print based upon an individual social movement or a particular moment in Grand Rapids history.

This print is by TJ Mathieu, honors the legacy of Feminist and Anarchist writer, Voltairine De Cleyre. De Cleyre lived in Grand Rapids for several decades from the late 19th century through the early 20th century.

Her writings, both essays and poetry, focused heaving on anarchist themes and the 1886 Haymarket riot in Chicago. For at least 15 years, she would travel and give speeches on May 1st, the anniversary of the Haymarket Riot, throughout the country.

In the speech she delivered in 1906 in Chicago, De Cleyre shared these eloquent words:

Voltairine De Cleyre was an astute observer of the world. She wrote about anarchism and the particularly anarchism in America. She wrote about Direct Action, Crime & Punishment and the Paris Commune. In 1911, the year before she died, she also wrote about the Mexican Revolution.

 

Posted in Anti-Capitalism/Labor, People's History Artwork | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Artwork highlights a People’s History in Grand Rapids – Print #17: People Resisting Nuclear War in Grand Rapids

Last semester, art students in Brett Colley’s GVSU class on printmaking, invited me to come talk about the Grand Rapids People’s History Project. The intent of the class was to have students investigate their own part of a People’s History of Grand Rapids and then make a print based upon an individual social movement or a particular moment in Grand Rapids history.

This print is by Shelby Lijewski, reflects the organizing that was taking place in the late 1970s, 80s and 90s against the threat of nuclear war. The bulk of the anti-nuclear organizing in Grand Rapids was centered around the national Nuclear Freeze Campaign

The Nuclear Freeze Campaign was mostly organized through the Institute for Global Education, which involved educational campaigns, ballot initiatives and direct actions against nukes. The direct action campaigns were also organized autonomously across Michigan and in Grand Rapids. Some of the direct action work involved civil disobedience and civil resistance, such as people going underground to avoid the police after being arrested at an anti-nuclear action. Therefore, this print is a great contribution that honors the anti-nuclear work that has been done in Grand Rapids.

Posted in Anti-Nuclear Movement, People's History Artwork | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Artwork highlights a People’s History in Grand Rapids – Print #16: Remembering the 4,000 people displaced from building US 131 in Grand Rapids

Last semester, art students in Brett Colley’s GVSU class on printmaking, invited me to come talk about the Grand Rapids People’s History Project. The intent of the class was to have students investigate their own part of a People’s History of Grand Rapids and then make a print based upon an individual social movement or a particular moment in Grand Rapids history.

This print is by Devin Gordon, reflects the devastation brought about by the construction of US 131 through Grand Rapids. In an interview we conducted with local historian Fr. Dennis Morrow, we discovered that roughly 4,000 people were displaced because of the highway construction, mostly working class families and communities of color. 

State Highway Commission at the time, John Mackie said, “The new system will enable Grand Rapids to realize its full economic and industrial potential.” Mackie’s comment is instructive, since it makes clear that the intention of the highway through Grand Rapids was not about realizing human potential, but that of industry and capital. As with all modern capitalist projects, there are some who benefit tremendously, while others are left out or even punished in the process.

As Fr. Morrow stated in the interview we did with him, “Things like tearing down homes, cleaning things out, tearing down buildings, but they went about it with a zeal. It was not originally the plan of the Interstate system as I understood it, but many of the urban planners saw this as an opportunity to clean out some of the undesirable areas.”

Posted in People's History Artwork | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Artwork highlights a People’s History in Grand Rapids – Print #15: Honoring the First Earth Day Action in Grand Rapids

Last semester, art students in Brett Colley’s GVSU class on printmaking, invited me to come talk about the Grand Rapids People’s History Project. The intent of the class was to have students investigate their own part of a People’s History of Grand Rapids and then make a print based upon an individual social movement or a particular moment in Grand Rapids history.

This print is by Joey Parks and depicts an action taken by students in Grand Rapids in 1970, during the first Earth Day

Students, from the then Grand Rapids Junior College:

“chose to protest at a meat factory, because of the pollution the business was emitting as a result of how the company cured the meat. The factory had been the target of complaints from neighbors for years because of the pollution.

The owner of the business was cited as saying that he was in the process of addressing the air pollution, but didn’t know what kind of timetable there would be to address the issue.”

Like most of the early Earth Day protests across the country, this student action chose to focus on the perpetrators of pollution, cruelty and ecological destruction.

 

 

Posted in Environmental Movement, People's History Artwork | Tagged , , | Leave a comment