| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Multi-Cultural : Development News

18 Multi-Cultural Articles | Page: | Show All

GR Poet Laureate & KFG Embark on National Poetry Tour

Two poets. Five months. A bevy of cities.

Utilizing poetry as the vehicle to explore the topic of mental health, recently named Grand Rapids poet Laureate Marcel 'Fable' Price and business partner and fellow poet KFG are about to embark on a nation-wide spoken-word poetry tour. Named, "The Unpacking Tour," the two poets aim to perform their poetry for audiences interested in mental health, spreading a message of self-confidence and self-care and inviting everyone to increase their mental health awareness.

"It's a pretty broad journey," says KFG, who notes that the tour will begin on the East Coast, and reach to Washington State. But why this specific message for such a broad audience? Excited to kick start another poetry tour (this is Price's second), but wanting their art to communicate an important message, the two poets sought a common thread.

"The two of us are different in very many ways," says KFG, but despite their differences, they are also very similar. The poet notes that they both had tumultuous childhoods, and were raised under various forms of abuse, leading them to experience mental health issues. "This is something that we're both really passionate about," says KFG.

KFG also feels that discussing these issues honestly is very important for both poets and the diverse groups they represent. "To have that kind of visibility for him as a black man, a biracial man and to have me as a queer, non-binary person to be translucent with our experiences [is important]," the poet adds. "Often have to keep those things shoved down just in order to survive."

KFG and Price will begin their tour in early August. Though they have settled on most of their performance locations, they are still seeking to fill a few gaps in the schedule. Most notably, KFG is excited to perform at the Green Mill in Chicago in September. "That is one of the longest standing, most historical spots for poetry…where poetry really began in America," the poet adds.

Finalizing plans for the trip and continuing her fundraising efforts, KFG can't wait to reach audiences with a positive message about mental health.

Most importantly, the poet wants to communicate, "There is strength through vulnerability."

To stay up to date on the tour, visit KFG or Price's Facebook pages.

To donate to their GoFundMe campaign, click here.

Two West Michigan video companies take new direction on Grand Rapids' West Side

Deborah Johnson Wood

Two West Michigan business competitors, Kharmai Video Productions and Fresh Look Video & Multimedia, have discovered that collaborating on projects and sharing resources is a great way to make money and have fun doing it.

And now, owners Navin Kharmai and Casey Stormes have moved the video production companies from individual home offices to a shared space at the Goei Center's International Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence, 818 Butterworth St. SE, Grand Rapids. The Goei Center is a renovated furniture factory that houses Eastern Floral, a banquet facility and collaborative workspaces designed to provide growth opportunities for startup businesses owned by women and minority entrepreneurs.

"I am the first generation East Indian-American born here, and I was born in good old Butterworth (Hospital)," says Kharmai. "I grew up in Grand Rapids, so I like to tell people that I'm as Dutch as the next guy. Ninety-five percent of the time my skin color is not an issue with clients, and I've been really able to expand my interests in the film and video industry."

Stormes operated Fresh Look for seven years in Hudsonville before moving to Grand Rapids on September 1. "Navin and I met about 10 years ago, and we've found it's beneficial to collaborate and share resources and equipment. We hire each other when we need help on projects, and offer advice on projects and a second set of eyes."

Both companies provide similar services, such as HD video production for corporate clients, public relations videos, and live event production services, like video recording and playback, projection, and staging, sound and lighting.

"We're a one stop shop in terms of creative new media storytelling," Kharmai says. "We looked at office spaces downtown, but they had very stark spaces with white walls, and we really liked the feel that's here – an old building that's very artsy with an urban feel."

Source: Navin Kharmai, Kharmai Video Productions, LLC; Casey Stormes, Fresh Look Video & Multimedia, LLC

Related Articles
Abandoned GR furniture factory now bustling International Entrepreneurial Center

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com. Development News tips can be sent to info@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Grand Rapids nonprofit plants seeds of hope with new urban fruit orchard

Deborah Johnson Wood

Gilda's Club Grand Rapids has planted seeds of hope for cancer sufferers and their families for many years, and in a couple of years, those efforts will bear fruit – literally.

Thanks to the online votes of supporters, the club was one of 25 nonprofits nationwide selected as winners of Communities Take Root, a national contest sponsored by Edy's Fruit Bars and The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. The prize was a fruit orchard – 10 peach trees, 10 apple trees and 10 blueberry bushes – which volunteers planted this week on the Gilda's Club grounds, a six-plus-acre former farm at 1806 Bridge St. NW.

"We have a little grove of mature pear trees, and behind them there was a nice open orchard area and that's where we put the 20 other fruit trees," says John Brott, buildings and grounds manager.

"We're putting in a huge healing garden, and we're putting the blueberries near it," he says. "In part of the healing garden are some older cherry trees that produce beautiful cherries. This spring we'll add 10 raspberry bushes."

Brott says a peach orchard used to be on the property, so it's fitting that peach trees were included in the award.

Gilda's Club serves dinner every night and snacks every morning and afternoon for members and visitors who come for a variety of programs. Volunteers and members pick the fruit and turn it into nutritious meals and snacks. Brott expects the new fruit trees to bear fruit for picking in about two years.

"Everything we do here is organic. The trees put out a healthier amount of oxygen and will help nourish the people here," Brott says. "Anyone in Grand Rapids can come here and experience nature in a very natural setting and it costs them nothing to come here. I think that's one of the best gifts we can offer Grand Rapids."

Brott says Gilda's Club Grand Rapids serves some 15,000 people each year, and every program is free.

Source: John Brott, Gilda's Club Grand Rapids

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com. Development News tips can be sent to info@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Proposed $1.5 million downtown Grand Rapids concert venue clears first major hurdles

Deborah Johnson Wood

A new concert venue complex proposed for downtown Grand Rapids has received the stamp of approval from Grand Rapids' Planning Commission and Downtown Development Authority.

A couple more hurdles to clear and Pyramid Scheme at 68 Commerce Ave. SW and a restaurant, brewery and pub in the adjoining 62 Commerce can begin construction for a projected 2011 opening.

Pyramid Scheme is a partnership between brother-sister duo Jeff and Tami VandenBerg, owners of The Meanwhile bar, and HopCat owner Mark Sellers. They plan to develop 68 Commerce into a 400-person capacity concert venue and a neighborhood bar. The DDA awarded a $50,000 Building Reuse Incentives Program grant earlier this month toward the redevelopment of the building and also approved liquor licenses for both buildings.

Mark Sellers is the sole developer of the adjoining building, 62 Commerce. He proposes development of Beatnik Brewing, which includes a restaurant, banquet facility, and, according to the brewery's Facebook page, a bowling alley. A rooftop deck atop the concert hall next door at 68 would be accessed via a door from the second level of 62.

The planning commission approved the redevelopment of both buildings this week.

Sellers said in an email that he still needs to procure funding for 62 Commerce and get approval for the rooftop deck from the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC).

The HPC has approved the concert venue's new façade, says Tami VandenBerg.

VandenBerg says the purchase and development of the concert venue will run about $1.5 million.

"This is something we (Jeff and Tami) wanted to do even before we opened The Meanwhile," she says. "We love music and have gone to shows in Detroit and Chicago and have always wanted to bring shows and bands here. We're doing this to bring more jobs and activity downtown, and to make the city a better place to be so that people stick around."

Lott3Metz is the architect for the project.

Source: Tami and Jeff VandenBerg, Pyramid Scheme; Mark Sellers, HopCat

Related Articles
Rock solid: entrepreneurs propose Pyramid Scheme for downtown Grand Rapids

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com. Development News tips can be sent to info@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Pikositos Authentic Mexican Tacos & Salsas opens on South Division Avenue in Grand Rapids

Sharon Hanks

A new Mexican restaurant opened last week in downtown Grand Rapids, Pikositos Authentic Mexican Tacos & Salsas, adding to the growing number of businesses opening shop along the once-abandoned South Division Avenue. 

Owner Norma Jazwinsk, an architect and Mexican immigrant, says Manuel Medina,  a well-known supporter of the Mexican Heritage Association and its annual celebration, Fiesta Mexicana, is the cook at the new place located in the former Foodsmith eatery at 122 S. Division Ave. that closed last year.    

Pikositos offers quick and affordable authentic Mexican cuisine featuring tacos, burritos and quesadillas served with homemade salsas and corn tortillas. Jazwinski says the dishes also come with a Mexican bean soup made with pork. There are vegetarian versions of each dish and soup as well, she says.

"We've been busy," Jazwinski says. "The neighbors have been great. They've already tried the food." Besides the freshly prepared cuisine, another attraction at the eatery is the display of art work by area artists, starting with Hugo Claudin's colorful paintings of figures wearing Mexican wrestling masks, she says.

She says the restaurant's name, Pikositos, comes from the Spanish word "picoso" which means hot and spicy.

The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday  and from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday. It is closed on Sunday. The owner is hoping to primarily attract the lunch and late-night crowds. More information can be found on Pikositos's Facebook page.

Source: Norma Jazwinski, owner of Pikositos Mexican Authentic Tacos & Salsas restaurant, Grand Rapids

Sharon Hanks is innovations and jobs news editor at Rapid Growth Media. Please send story ideas and comments for the column to Sharon at sharon@rapidgrowthmedia.com. She also is owner of The Write Words in Grand Rapids.


Monroe North business district gains new law firm with immigration law focus

Deborah Johnson Wood

Tim Emmerson is an attorney with a passion for helping people, so it's not surprising that his new law business aims to help immigrants navigate the confusing waters of immigration law.

Emmerson, 26, passed the bar in February and officially opened Emmerson Law, PLC at 820 Monroe North on May 12 – the same day he received his bar card.

"It's a full service law firm, but I do a lot of immigration law work," Emmerson says. "I've been helping out a lot with temporary visas for three clients who are Haitians and are here as refugees (following the January 12 earthquake). Without a work visa, they can't even work; they need it so they can get a green card so they can work."

Emmerson says that people often lose a lot of money trying to get visas because it can be a shady business. A visa is $500 and a green card costs more than $900.

"It's all time sensitive," he says. "Shady attorneys know the people only have two or three months left on their current green card and that it takes five to six months to get a new one. Their visa runs out, and they either have to stay here illegally and they can't work, or they have to go home. Either way, they lose their money."

The new office is about 1,000 square feet of converted warehouse space. Emmerson says that although the space used to be strictly for two nonprofit businesses he launched – Sixth Street Bridge Community Coalition and Hands On Hunger – now that he's established the law business, the firm donates space to the nonprofits.

Emmerson often uses translators who help him communicate with clients who speak Spanish or Creole French. He also teaches a class to help émigrés prepare for the U.S. Naturalization Test.

Source: Tim Emmerson, Emmerson Law, PLC

Related Articles
Hands on Hunger to grow fresh veggies at Blandford Nature Center for those in need

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com. Development News tips can be sent to info@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Madison Square Church undertakes $1.3M renovation of former caster shop

Deborah Johnson Wood

Grand Rapids' Madison Square Church is in the throes of renovating a $1.3 million former caster factory into a space where its youth group can give musical and dramatic performances and spend time socializing in a casual, Christian environment.

The building at 1401 Madison Ave. SE, dubbed Madison Place, is just a few doors north of the church. Communications Manager Bill Wiarda says the undertaking is in answer to God's call for the church community to take the gospel to the city.

"Our pastor David Beelen took a sabbatical in 2006 to do some planning, and when he came back, we developed this idea we call Making Room – New Faces, New Places to meet people where they are. There was a lot of redevelopment and revitalization in the neighborhood at that time, so we bought the building."

Volunteers from the congregation worked together to demolish parts of the interior. Wiarda says that once construction is finished, the 8,500-square-foot main level will feature a multipurpose room complete with a stage, sound system, lighting and projection for the youth group; a game room; offices for the youth department; and a kitchen that will supplement the full service kitchen in the church, when needed.

A food pantry, currently housed at Restorers, Inc., 1413 Madison Ave. SE, will have a dedicated space with greater food storage capacity, freezers and refrigerators and direct access from outside.

One surprising feature is a planned woodworking shop for the church's Cadets group of fourth through sixth grade boys.

"They meet once a week to do woodworking projects," Wiarda says. "Right now they meet in the church office basement, which is really cramped. The new space will have equipment and improved ventilation."

Source: Bill Wiarda, Madison Square Church

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com. Development News tips can be sent to info@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Former Huntington Bank building gets new look, new occupants on Grand Rapids' northeast side

Deborah Johnson Wood

A $1 million-plus renovation is transforming a former Huntington Bank building on Grand Rapids' northeast side, preparing it as permanent offices for the Michigan nonprofit Migrant Legal Aid.

"For 37 years we've rented space and moved three times," says Executive Director Teresa Hendricks. "We've outgrown our space at 648 Monroe NW. Our office is hard to find because it's a suite within a downtown building and our clients speak very little, or no, English. They find it intimidating to navigate cities."

The new location at 1104 Fuller NE has on-site parking and is accessible with only one turn off either US-131 or I-196.

Migrant Legal Aid provides civil legal services to migrant workers across Michigan. Hendricks says they serve clients at the office and at the camps where the attorneys monitor the workers' living conditions, help them maintain their income, find health care, and get food, shelter and clothing.

The nonprofit intervenes to prevent crises between the workers and the farmers, police, schools and others, and represents the migrant workers in court when needed.

"We've seen families living in chicken coops, sleeping on a mattress covering the drain on the bathroom floor, and open sewer pits," says Hendricks. "Some of the women want to speak to us about their rights when it comes to domestic violence. They're afraid of the police, of their husbands, of the system."

The new offices include "an extremely private office designated for domestic violence cases, so we can address the problem out of earshot of the husband," Hendricks says.

The former drive-through banking area is now a learning center for tax clinics, immigration clinics and employee training.

A combination board room/conference room/legal library incorporates an existing vaulted ceiling and skylights. Eight offices will provide enough extra space for the firm to bring on an immigration attorney and a paralegal.

Hendricks says the building will be LEED certified.

A $1.9 million capital campaign goal is underway.

"By owning the building, we will save about $50,000 annually in rent," Hendricks says. "That's money we can put into programming instead."

Source: Teresa Hendricks, Migrant Legal Aid

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com. Development News tips can be sent to info@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Grandville Avenue's Clinica Santa Maria soon to showcase $120K renovation

Deborah Johnson Wood

Saint Mary's Health Care has nearly completed extensive renovations of its Clinica Santa Maria, adding exam rooms in anticipation of serving more patients.

Clinica Santa Maria, 730 Grandville Ave. SW, specializes in providing health care to Grand Rapids' Spanish speaking community and logs some 22,000 patient visits annually. The renovation of one-third of the 10,000-square-foot facility adds two patient examination rooms, expands the pharmacy and medical records areas, and improves patient flow within the office.

"We now have about three-and-a-half full-time-equivalent (FTE) physicians," says Bradford Mathis, Saint Mary's director of community benefits. "The two new exam rooms will allow us to accommodate five FTE physicians. That translates into accommodating about 2,000 additional patients a year."

The two new exam rooms bring the total number to 15, plus two private consultation rooms: one for financial assistance services and one for handling doctor referrals.

"Last fall we had two dental chairs, but we partner with Cherry Street Health Services for the dental so patients now go there," Mathis says. "We also had a maternal/infant health program that the Kent County Health Department provides at the patient's home, so we moved out that staff. Those changes freed up space."

Mathis says 95 percent of Clinica's staff members speak Spanish.

"A lot of our clients come from the neighborhood, but many come from farther out," Mathis says. "If they don't feel comfortable enough with their English, especially for medical care issues, they're willing to travel for that convenience."

The renovations include wiring the clinic for electronic healthcare records capabilities that will tie into the Saint Mary's Health Care system. The date for launching the service is undecided.

Some $110,000 in federal stimulus money funded most of the $120,000 renovation. The clinic is open during construction. The renovated space will open by February 1.

Source: Bradford Mathis, Saint Mary's Health Care

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Minority interns relocate to Grand Rapids in pursuit of careers, find city welcoming

When Miller Johnson PLC offered Cheyne Scott a clerkship last summer, she wanted the opportunity, but wasn't sure she'd like living in Grand Rapids. Scott, a 24-year-old African American, had grown up in Ann Arbor and was living in Lansing attending Cooley Law School. She had visited Grand Rapids a few times and didn't see it as a good fit for her – at least, not at first.

High gas prices convinced her to get a temporary apartment rather than commute, and her job at Miller Johnson inspired her. When they offered her a part-time position during the school year, Scott decided to transfer to Cooley's Grand Rapids campus.
 "There's something about Grand Rapids that you don't get in a big city, and that's that you get to have a life here," Scott says. "In a big city, you don't get as much time to yourself."

Bike trails, the Riverwalk, Festival of the Arts and the nightlife are some of the things that attracted Scott, she says. Lansing students are younger, Scott says, and she's found that Grand Rapids has more people her age. She meets other young minority professionals through BLEND and through the Chamber of Commerce Multiracial Association of Professionals (MAP).

On June 4, MAP welcomed 32 minority interns to the city with an annual dinner. MAP has over 340 members and a section just for minority interns with a web site featuring videos, chat and an interactive event calendar. There is also a Facebook page.

This year, Miller Johnson has nine interns; three of them are minorities.

"Miller Johnson's purpose is to recruit and retain. We're looking at people who can come in and become productive associates and ultimately become our partners," says Tom Wurst, professional development. "We attract them to the lifestyle of West Michigan."

Source: Cheyne Scott, Miller Johnson and Cooley Law School; Tom Wurst, Miller Johnson; Sonya Hughes, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce

Related Stories
GR Chamber leads initiative to attract and retain multiracial professionals

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.


Citizen journalism debuts in Grand Rapids, media center to develop four neighborhood news bureaus

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Grand Rapids will soon become part of a nationwide movement enabling everyday citizens to report local news via radio, television and the Internet. The endeavor, a joint development between the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and the Community Media Center, is part of a $24 million initiative to help community foundations keep communities informed through the creative use of media and technology.

“Citizen Journalism is a new wave of news reporting that enables everyday folks to become more than consumers of news—they become the providers of news,” says Laurie Cirivello, CMC executive director. “Traditional news sources are quickly taking note that citizens can share information really close to the source in their communities.”

Bloggers and people who provide feedback to news sources are familiar aspects of citizen journalism. The citizen journalism project takes it several steps further, providing technical training, equipment, and connectivity to produce news via television, radio and web.

The CMC operates two community television stations, GRTV and LiveWire, and a community radio station, WYCE. However, the primary source of citizen journalism distribution will be through the web.

“Each neighborhood news bureau will publish to a custom designed web site, and the CMC will aggregate all of that into one combined neighborhood news site that we will create and maintain,” Cirivello says. “We hope it will be constructed in such a way that the news comes to where people are.”

Four neighborhood news bureaus—locations to be determined—will help the CMC develop quality citizen journalists.

“We’ve invited the traditional media, people interested in citizen journalism, educators and students to become part of a task force to get this going,” says Roberta King, GRCF marketing vice president. “They’ll meet for the first time in February.”

Source: Laurie Cirivello, Community Media Center; Roberta King, Grand Rapids Community Foundation

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.


Diversity key for religious conference with $1.3M potential impact now, $15M later

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

The Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention & Visitors Bureau expects the Religious Conference Management Association conference to generate $1.3 million for Grand Rapids businesses next week alone and another $15 million in convention business over the next five years.

CVB leaders say the RCMA conference is the most coveted in the religious market.

“As Grand Rapids seeks to attract more national conventions, it’s vitally important that the hospitality industry prepares to welcome more diverse visitors to our community,” says CVB President Doug Small. “RCMA is more than just another convention; it provides a springboard for Grand Rapids into a national convention arena.”

Some 1,200 attendees representing 1,000 religious groups of diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds will gather at DeVos Place for the January 27 - 30 event. In order to better serve the diverse crowd, the CVB hired KMR Diversity Theatre to conduct a diversity workshop for 160 desk clerks, hotel managers, wait staff, concierges and others in the local hospitality industry.

Owner Alice Kennedy hires actors of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds to enact skits created to address all aspects of diversity, including, race, gender, sexuality, religion and age. After each skit, Kennedy engages the audience to identify and discuss inappropriate behavior or conversations the skit portrayed.

“Sometimes it’s just a look or glance, or folding our arms,” Kennedy says. “The skits help the audience understand elements of exclusion, identify unintentional discriminating behaviors, and recognize the micro-messages we all send and how they affect others."

After the discussion, the actors reenact the skit. Audience members ring a bell to identify prejudices or discrimination. The actors immediately change their actions, but not always to the appropriate behavior; the actors test the audience to see if they recognize that the new behavior is also inappropriate.

"We help the audience members assess where they’re at with diversity,” Kennedy says.

Source: Alice Kennedy, Kennedy Management Resources “Home of Diversity Theatre;”

Related Articles
Religious planners conference at DeVos Place will generate millions of dollars locally

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.


Holy Trinity church moving forward on $1.6M addition, bell tower

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

On June 1, the 80-year-old Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church community in Grand Rapids celebrated the groundbreaking of its 2,250-square-foot expansion with a traditional Ayiasomos—a service of the Blessing of the Waters.

The church building at 330 Lakeside NE was constructed in 1976 and is “bursting at the seams” on Sundays, says George Stamas, parish council president. The $1.6 million addition brings 140 more seats into the sanctuary for the 210-family congregation, bringing total seating to 350, and adds a lobby and coatroom, an updated choir loft, and a traditional bell tower, something the church does not currently have.

“Greek churches traditionally have bell towers,” Stamas says, “and this one will also provide ingress and egress to the choir loft and space for a chair lift to the choir loft.”

A dome and cross, smaller versions of the dome and cross that tops the worship space, tops the bell tower. The tower will have at least one bell, possibly two, and an electronic bell system that interfaces with the church’s organ.

To accommodate construction, the church removed canvas medallion icons of nine women saints from the front of the choir loft, placed them in storage and will re-hang them when construction is finished, sometime in October.

Holy Trinity, perhaps best known for its annual Greek luncheons and dinners, will update the kitchen facilities and add a walk-in cooler and freezer.

The church’s congregation consists of members from many Orthodox ethnic groups including Syrians, Lebanese, Romanians, Serbians, Ethiopians, Eritreans, Albanians, Cypriots and Russians.

Constantine George Pappas AIA Architecture/Planning handled the expansion’s architectural design. Pioneer Construction is the construction manager.

Source: George Stamas, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church

Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.


New chapter of Rosa Parks Institute aims to prime young West Michigan citizens

The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development just launched its first West Michigan chapter, and though organizers haven't established an office location yet, they have moving ahead on the summer youth program.

The institute, founded in 1987 by Rosa Parks and her best friend of 45 years, Elaine Steele, uses its Pathways to Freedom program to teach 11- to 17-year-olds Mrs. Parks' philosophy of "quiet strength," based on her book of the same title.

Mitch Dennison, a Grand Haven resident, the institute's vice president, and Steele's son-in-law, was instrumental in founding the West Michigan chapter.

"Mrs. Parks was very Ghandi-esque in her leadership, teaching kids how to be non-violent and not overly vocal when trying to express their position," Dennison says. "It's all about how you treat people—your demeanor, your manners, your grammar."

The program takes a groups of youth by bus through Michigan and Canada for two weeks, following the Underground Railroad into the civil rights movement.

The children must address each other as "Mr." or "Ms.," eat healthy, and learn public speaking, etiquette, and proper dress.

"If it sounds very 1950s, it's because it is," Dennison says. "The kids are completely different when they're done with the program. They're more independent, more well behaved, and many come back home with a personal agenda about topics like voting rights."

Organizers are still determining this year's itinerary. Cost of the program is $3,500 per child and includes all expenses. Full and partial scholarships are available for those who need them. To request information and an application, click here.

Source: Mitch Dennison, The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.


Rockford retailer offers massage therapy and gifts to soothe the soul

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

When Joy Maulvi opened Elementals in downtown Rockford, she had a dream of establishing a therapeutic massage office. But when she saw the storefront at 67 E. Bridge she realized she could offer much more than physical healing.

With two medical offices in the back and a retail space in the front, Elementals is a massage therapy oasis that also features soul-soothing products— bonsai plants, fancy chocolates, candles, jewelry, kariza skirts, silk robes and more—all purchased directly from crafters in India, China, Hawaii and other places around the globe.

Maulvi's desire to help artists showcase and sell their works prompted her to offer works by local artists such as, Brian Buck's pointillism pieces and Stacy Niedzwiecki's photography.

"We're always looking for local artists who want to put their art in the store," Maulvi says. "We plan to expand the store in the next two years, so we want to build those artist relationships now."

A thriving eBay store, The Unique Gift Boutique, complements the retail store's sales.

"I try to sell items that represent the five elements of earth, wind, water, fire and metal," says Maulvi, a Certified Massage Therapist who specializes in therapeutic massage for clients suffering from ailments that create chronic pain, including fibromyalgia, sciatica, TMJ, and pregnancy.

"Each client receives an assessment to check their spine, gait, and posture before and after each session," Maulvi says, "and a wellness bag to take home, filled with soothing items selected just for them and their needs."

Additional massage offerings include hot stone treatments, castor oil packs to alleviate tight muscles and soreness, relaxation massage, and facials offered by Lizzie Mahaney, Certified Cosmetic Massage Therapist, and Aubrey Schultz, Professional Massage Therapist.

To promote the massage therapy aspect of the business, Elementals will give free chair massages in front of the store each Saturday that the nearby Rockford Farmers Market is open.

Source: Joy Maulvi, Elementals

Related Articles
Rockford artist marks year of successes one photo at a time

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

18 Multi-Cultural Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts