Grand Rapids Symphony holds virtual concert, gala celebrating diversity, local impacts

Allison Rafferty

Combining a concert and a gala into a completely virtual event, the Grand Rapids Symphony was able to host their Celebration of the Soul: Soul of the City event — a blending of two of their annual staples.

Taking place on Feb. 27 at 7:00 p.m., Celebration of the Soul honored recipients of the Dr. MaLinda P. Sapp Legacy Award and featured musical performances by the Grand Rapids Symphony, Debra Perry and Majestic Praise, and Bishop Marvin L. Sapp. 

The event was also held to help support the Mosaic Scholarship Program, a program designed to give African American and Latinx students the opportunity to have private lessons with a Grand Rapids Symphony musician, music supplies, and tickets to Grand Rapids Symphony performances.  

The Dr. MaLinda P. Sapp Legacy Award is given to individuals and organizations in the West Michigan community who have been recognized for their efforts and accomplishments in celebrating the importance of diversity, cultural awareness and inclusion. 

This year’s recipients were the Grand Rapids Black Nurses Association; Keli Christopher founder and executive director of STEM Greenhouse; and Jermale and Anissa Eddie, owners of Malamiah Juice Bar. 

The Grand Rapids Black Nurses Association promotes nurses advocating for Black community members to have access to high-quality healthcare and to seek equity in the field of healthcare for underserved populations. 

In order to address health care disparity in communities of color, the Black Nurses Association partners with local organizations to offer health and wellness seminars, resources, workshops, scholarships and mentors.

President of the Grand Rapids Black Nurses Association, Aundrea Robinson, said the award and the evening meant a great deal to them. 

“It was very humbling and we were very, very grateful and very honored to be receiving this award in her name because of how much MaLinda Sapp contributed to the community,” said Robinson.

Christopher also said the award meant a great deal to her, having known Sapp personally. 

“It’s an honor to receive any award,” Christopher said. “But, this one is particularly meaningful because I knew Malinda Sapp as my sorority sister. I’m just also happy to be recognized by an organization like the Grand Rapids Symphony.”

Christopher founded her STEM Greenhouse in 2014 to help children in grades K-12 from vulnerable communities prepare for a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The STEM Greenhouse is an organization committed to developing relationships and growing with children. 

Malamiah Juice Bar also thrives on the desire to help young people in the area, but in this case, with nutrition. 

Launched in 2013 and located in downtown Grand Rapids, the juice bar was founded to make the nutritional benefits of fresh juices and smoothies more accessible to the community and to provide jobs for youth in the city. 

We are always in awe of the impactful work of the recipients, never imagining that we would be amongst them one day,” Jermale said.

Celebration of Soul: Soul of the City started off the night with a performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” by the Grand Rapids Symphony. 

Performances throughout the rest of the evening included Debra Perry and Majestic Praise performing “I’ll Bless the Lord” and “King of Glory.” Bishop Marvin L. Sapp read “Psalm 23” and performed, “Thank You For It All,” and the Grand Rapids Symphony presented the Mosaic Scholars Spotlight. 

Award recipients said they greatly enjoyed the concert, and all the celebrations it entailed. 

I always really enjoy the singing of the Negro National Anthem,” Christopher said. “I really enjoyed the Symphony’s rendition of that song. My children and I were at home watching it and it’s just a good lesson for them to know about that song and what it means.”

Jermale said that his favorite part of the event was the Mosaic Scholars Spotlight. 

I love seeing the work of the youth and I am a big fan of storytelling,” said Eddie.

The celebration spotlighted the presentation of the night’s largest award. Being a recipient of The Dr. MaLinda P. Sapp Legacy Award is not only an honor for these individuals and their organizations, but it also helps raise awareness for what they do in the community. 

“It gets the word out about our organization, it can help increase the number of people who are aware of what we’re doing and it can help support us and give us a bigger voice,” said Robinson.