Positive Black Women hosts annual Valentine’s Day event

GVL/Jose Rodriguez
Student Jazmin McMullen performs a dance in tribute to the late Josephine Baker.

GVL/Jose Rodriguez Student Jazmin McMullen performs a dance in tribute to the late Josephine Baker.

Alyssa Rettelle

Grand Valley State University’s group Positive Black Women held its 5th annual Valentine’s Day event from noon until 1 p.m. on Friday in the Pere Marquette room in the Kirkhof Center. This year’s event was titled “A Tribute to Black Women: Strong, Fierce and Dynamic Divas.”

Members of the student organization Positive Black Women, in collaboration with You Beautiful Black Women and I Promise, highlighted black women who have made notable contributions to history. They recognized and honored black women through poetry, song and dance.

Women such as Fannie Lou Hamer, Ida B. Wells, Carol Simpson, Josephine Baker and Ruby Dee received tributes. An interactive live museum allowed students to stand on boxes and act out a script about various women like Phillis Wheatley, Maya Angelou, Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry and Slone Stevens.

Sharalle Arnold, a faculty member in the Children’s Enrichment Center, gave a tribute to Veta Tucker. Tucker is an associate professor in the department of English. Her main research focus is historical and literary representations of 19th century African American women, both enslaved and ‘free’, and African American involvement in the Abolitionist and Underground Railroad movements.

“I want to say thank you for that glowing tribute; it really didn’t even sound like me,” Tucker said. “I wasn’t a founding member of Positive Black Women, but I started in 1995, a year after it was founded. I was a very early member, and one thing I thought about as I was thinking about coming here is that being at Grand Valley as an African American woman, you go through many stages.”

Tucker also emphasized the importance of Positive Black Women and the work it does at GVSU.

“It’s an interesting relationship, because students that we work with are always young. I mean, they never get old because every few years we get a new group, but we who work here age, and Positive Black Women is that organization that helps those of us who age here on campus feel at home and feel comfortable.

“So the work that Positive Black Women does is important to those of us who work here. Thank you for making me feel young at the age of 66. It’s because of Positive Black Women and those students who stay young that really give you the motivation and the meaning of your life here at Grand Valley,” Tucker said.

According to its GVSU page, Positive Black Women was founded in 1994 when a group of African American women started having lunch together to create a supportive environment for one another. Faculty, administrative staff and clerical employees met once a month at different locations on and off campus. Believing that some departments on campus were not as racially sensitive as they should have been, the group gave encouragement to women to discuss issues they were encountering.

They eventually raised enough money and started a scholarship. Takeelia Garrett, a faculty member at GVSU, said the original intent of the scholarship was for African American women to develop and achieve their goals. Now, however, it’s offered to any GVSU student who has had a successful contribution to African American women or girls and to African American women’s issues.