GV celebrates African Arts with Positive Black Women

Courtesy / GVSU

Courtesy / GVSU

Sheila Mwanda, Staff Reporter

Positive Black Women was founded in 1994 to create a supportive space for the African American Woman here on the Grand Valley State University campus. Their goal is to be a system of support for women of color here at Grand Valley, both through the forming of relationships, professional development and by working together to enrich the community. With time, the group continued to grow and now offers several scholarships to Grand Valley students. In addition, they host several events such as Sista Chats and support mulitple mentorship programs.

In celebration of Black History Month, Positive Black Women hosted their “Celebration of the African Arts” event on February 14.  This was one of several on campus events that is a part of this year’s “Our Roots Run Deep” Black History Month celebration. The goal of this event was to educate the audience on the African contributions to in the origins and forms of art, dance, and acting.

To begin the event, there was a live museum where several students had prepared pieces to share. Following the live museum, they had five presentations highlighting different aspects of Black art, as well as individual artists like choreographer Alvin Ailey, founder of one of the most successful dance companies in the world, and Sengelese-American singer Akon. Each presenter gave a speech highlighting the importance of that aspect of art and followed it with a video to serve as a visual aid. To conclude the program, Dr. Beverly Grant, a former Associate Professor at Grand Valley, was presented with the Dr. Doris Rucks Trailblazer Award.

Friday’s event was attended by students, faculty and members of the community. While many students were encouraged to go for a class, others had heard about the event elsewhere. Third year student Christine Corbett was one of the many students in the audience.

“I thought it was interesting. We learned about kente cloth from the people at the live museum, and about African dance,” Corbett said.

Kente cloth is a colorful silk and cotton fabric made by the Ashanti ethnic group in Ghana, made by weaving thin strips of fabric together on narrow looms. The variety of colors and intricate patterns have specific meanings that stem from centuries of tradition, stemming from more ancient Akan weaving techniques dating back to the 11th century.

“I think it tied in well in terms of Our Roots Run Deep, especially the dancing portion,” Corbett said. “Obviously, everything started somewhere, and we continue to do that.”

Grand Valley’s Black History celebration continues with two more events; a special edition of “Conversations of Color” on Wednesday, Feb. 19 from 12-1 p.m., and a presentation on the “Taste of Soul” from 6-9 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20.