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MLK in the city: Four ways to celebrate Dr. King’s Legacy

For the 2018 MLK day celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, we present these four events for your consideration.

18th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Breakfast
Steelcase Ballroom at DeVos Place, 303 Monroe NW, Jan. 15, 7:00 a.m.

On Monday morning, you can join area business leaders at the The Urban League of West Michigan’s 18th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Breakfast at DeVos Place. 

The theme of this year’s breakfast, presented by Premiere Title Sponsor Steelcase, is The Time Is Always Right To Do What’s Right. Expect to be seated with more than 1000 attendees who will join our local Urban League in honoring Dr. David Pilgrim and the Jim Crow Museum with the Drum Major for Justice Award, an honor bestowed upon an individual or group whose life’s work embodies the spirit of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

The event also includes a fireside chat with Jacob Maas of West Michigan Works (Employment/Training), Patrick Lonergan of Fifth Third Bank (Housing/Community Development), Dr. Justin Jennings of the Muskegon Public Schools (Education), Tasha Blackmon of Cherry Health (Health) and Dr. David Pilgrim of Ferris State University (Racial Equity/Diversity/Inclusion – REDI). 

Tickets for this fundraiser can be purchased in advance from this website.


Beverly Daniel Tatum in Celebration of MLK Day
Calvin College Covenant Fine Arts Center, 1795 Knollcrest Cir SE, Jan. 15, 12:30 p.m.

On the eve of the 20th anniversary re-release of the book “Why Are All the Black Kids Still Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” comes author Beverly Daniel Tatum who will be a guest speaker at the Calvin College January Series. 

Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum is a psychologist, administrator, and educator who has conducted research and written books on the topic of race, focusing specifically on race in education, racial identity development in teenagers, and assimilation of black families and youth in white neighborhoods. 

From 2002 to 2015 she served as the ninth president of Spelman College, the oldest historically black women’s college in the United States. Tatum’s important book “Why Do All the Black Kids Sit Together in the Cafeteria” and other thoughts on race will be the topic of this special day’s lecture commemorating MLK Day. 


MLK Day Celebration 
Fountain Street Church, 24 Fountain St NE, Jan. 15, 6 p.m.

The 32nd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration is one not to be missed if you are seeking a blending of the spoken word with music as Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Community College, Davenport University, and Opera Grand Rapids all come together for this special community celebration of Dr. King’s life and long legacy. 

This event is really a double feature-like program with the celebration kicking off at 6 p.m. with keynote speaker and #OscarsSoWhite creator April Reign addressing the attendees at this downtown church. 

April Reign is one of the Top 15 accounts on #BlackTwitter according to The National Journal and is cited as one of social media's most influential voices on race, politics, and pop culture, with more than 70,000 Twitter followers. Learn more at http://www.reignofapril.com/

Immediately after at 7:30 p.m. the audience is then treated to a special performance of "I DREAM" from Opera Grand Rapids.

“I Dream” shares the inspiring story of the famous preacher and iconic civil rights leader from Atlanta in an opera infused with the blue, jazz, and, of course, gospel-tinged rhythms. The opera captures the intimate moments shared with wife, Coretta Scott King, as well as with his close friend Ralph Abernathy. To learn more about this opera, please visit http://www.operagr.org/i-dream/.

And while this is a time of celebration as we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this year is also the 50th Anniversary of his tragic assassination.

The MLK Day Celebration is a free community event. Seating is on a first-come basis at the door. Doors open at 5:30 PM. Parking is available at the GRCC Bostwick Ramp.


MLK Day 2018: Where Do We Go From Here?
Millbrook Christian Reformed Church, 3661 Poinsettia Ave SE, Jan. 15, 6:30 p.m.

For those seeking a more contemporary approach to the message and legacy of Dr. King, please consider Hillbrook Christian Reformed Church’s MLK Day lecture with special guest Rev. Jim Wallis of Red Letter Christians and Sojourners.  

Organizers of the event share that Wallis will be addressing the topic: In a time of strife, racism, and poverty, what will we choose? Will we choose a way that makes for prosperity and peace for all? Will we loose the chains of injustice?

In addition to the lecture by Rev. Wallis, there will be a special musical reflection by local artists Maurice Townsend, Satrina Reid, Emmanuel Phillips, Kenneth Henderson, and Nate Glasper.

It's A Wonderful Life: The flop that became a Christmas classic

It is hard to imagine that when director Frank Capra’s popular holiday film, “It's A Wonderful Life” made its debut in 1946 that it was actually a cinematic bomb. And this is despite all it had going for it including starring one of America’s biggest stars of this era, James Stewart.

But over time as the film became part of the public domain in 1974 (thus freeing up its copyright and having to pay royalties), “It's A Wonderful Life” would become beloved through its free viewings on numerous TV stations over the years.

This would last for many years until finally the copyright was restored along with the film’s rights thus limiting its broadcast to just NBC. 

So while some of the other most popular holiday films can be viewed across a wide array of streaming platforms, “It's A Wonderful Life” has a far limited offering via NBC.

Lucky for us, the film distribution rights are far more liberal, and so locally you will have a weekend’s worth of opportunities to see this beloved film at our local Celebration Cinema Woodland.  

“It's A Wonderful Life” is actually a pretty dark film as holiday features go. The story is set in post-war America and features a self-doubting savings-and-loan manager whose battle against a greedy banker tries to change his life despite the challenges he finds life throws his way.  

The story moves into the fanatical once an odd, trainee-angel named Clarence arrives in town. 

Folks have often drawn comparisons to the works of Dickens, who also used dark imagery to help propel the narrative forward to its eventual happy ending. 

But just like life, getting to what one calls happiness often takes twists and turns and this is the enduring charm of this holiday classic.

So while you have plenty of Christmas films to select to stream, this one is best viewed in the theatre—unless of course you like your “It's A Wonderful Life” with commercial breaks that are sure to destroy the mood and charm of this Capra movie classic. 

Founders Christmas Eve Pickin' Party: Mark Lavengood & Friends light up downtown

While others are dashing to get those last minute gifts, those who have been good at pacing themselves are in for a real treat this Christmas Eve.  Founders, one of downtown's most popular destinations, welcomes Michigan’s Earthwork Music label artist Mark Lavengood for a special music showcase with friends joining him on stage. 

Lavengood is a Grand Rapids native with international touring cred and a body of work to back it up. 

Described best as an multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter, Lavengood is an emeritus member of Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys and known for his stage energy that is hard to ignore when he is playing. 

On Friday local community radio station WYCE welcomes Mark Lavengood, as well as musician Kaitlin Rose, to the Local Spins In Studio program. The live broadcast begins at 11 a.m. on 88.1 FM. 

To learn more about his music and his latest Earthworks Music 2017 release, “We’ve Come Along,” please visit his website

Christmas Eve Ugly Sweater Contest: Last call for your garish apparel

Time is running out for you to showcase your ugly sweater this Christmas and so on Sunday Christmas Eve night, you could wear it one more time while you attend any one of the numerous  candlelight services this Christmas Eve.

Or you could roll the dice and take a chance that your beloved mess of acrylic (a.k.a. your ugly holiday sweater) is actually a true hidden winner. 

To find out, drag your gay apparel down to The Apartment Lounge, who will be offering a special night of Happy Hour drink pricing until midnight as they hosting a Christmas Eve Ugly Sweater contest

The evening's festivities and contest are hosted by the lovely and talented Miss Jasinya Sanchez, who will be there to ensure your night is full of laughter and light. 

So while you have a lot of options to wear that sweater this Christmas season, your best chance of winning the top prize as the ugliest happens only at The Apartment Lounge this December 24. 

Encaustic Painting for Beginners: Learning something new this holiday

While folks try to work the week after Christmas, at night you can be certain that they will still be blazing out in the city as they seek any one of the many watering holes that are sure to welcome your friends and family who might be visiting. 

But for those who are seeking something different to engage with others during the holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, why not give your life the night off to flex your creativity by taking a class at Light Gallery + Studio on S. Division’s Avenue for the Arts. 

Many folks may already be familiar with the gallery’s commitment to showcase local artisan creations and fine art within their charming space, fewer know of their small education events like the one they are hosting on Thursday, Dec. 28: Encaustic Painting for Beginners.

Encaustic painting is a technique that blends melted beeswax with paint pigment to create a luxurious media that you apply in layers to create your art piece. 

Light Gallery + Studio’s workshop will cover a brief history of this ancient medium that is the favorite of contemporary artists like Ernst Ludwig and Jasper Johns.

The class sets up the student with info they will need to set up your workspace, how to mixing colors, as well best practices when working with other media like paper and thread.

For the cost of just $35 per student, you will receive all mentioned above as well as a 5”x5” panel and all material needed to create a work of art during your class. 

No worries if you miss this class, because Light Gallery + Studio offers classes all year round. Like their Facebook page to keep informed of future class offerings.

TUBACHRISTMAS: Hot brass in the city

It is not just because it is fun to say out loud, but for the last 11 years, TUBACHRISTMAS audiences members can attest that this annual festive and unique holiday music-filled event arrives back in Grand Rapids for a stellar 12th time!

Unlike other festivals that appear each year, TUBACHRISTMAS seems to attract an eclectic set of musicians and fans from all over the state who descend on the stage at Downtown Grand Rapids’ Fountain Street Church. 

One never knows who will be performing according to one local organizer and tuba player extraordinaire Karen Dunham, who has seen everything from junior high students to seasoned classically trained players pimp their hot brass on stage. 

This free program packs in a lot of holiday music favorites, as well as finds ways to debut fresh, new material. 

In addition to the return of the popular TUBACHRISTMAS’ rendition of "Jingle Bells,” which includes an opportunity for the audience to join in the performance, is the debut of "Santa Wants a Tuba for Christmas," with Rebecca Findley Barnhard joining the band on the vocals.

So while locally there are plenty of traditional holiday events to scratch your nostalgia itch, TUBACHRISTMAS, even at year 12, still has the power to feel fresh and new with each and every year it arrives in our city. 

10th Annual Santa Crawl: St. Nick takes a night off to party on the town

It is hard to believe that we are celebrating 10 years of the annual Santa Crawl. 

Each December, the Grand Rapids Bar Crawl (GRBC) hosts a special St. Nicholas edition of their popular pub-hop touring event, where attendees are encouraged to dress up like jolly ol’ St. Nicholas.

What can only be described as part pub crawl/part pure live theatre, this annual GRBC event sets the stage for a night of memory-making as you and your friends tour bars and clubs throughout the city in a festive and fun themed event. 

Over the years, the GRBC has built solid relationships with area venues and watering holes thus creating a no-waiting-in-line experience as you are whisked inside like the VIP Santa truly is. 

And while Rapid Growth has sworn not to reveal what they're planning, since it is a surprise for attendees, one thing is certain: GRBC always find interesting places to land.

In the past, the Santa Crawl guests have ended up on a mechanical bull, roller skating, and even bowling. 

Since you don’t have to drive (because you’re a bus that departs and then later returns to The Rezervoir), your holiday spirit is not limited to just your stops; in between you and your fellow Santas participate in some really festive group games.

If you want to attend, please don’t delay as seating is limited with reservations being secured in advance at this link.

May Erlewine: “Michigan’s Songbird” in Creston on Sunday

While the city has no shortage of brew pubs offering something unique from great tap rooms, to award-winning pizza, to gaming nights, one neighborhood venue has managed to create something truly rich in their expansive, glass-walled space: a pub where you can enjoy a beer while building a connection to a vibrant community.

This is the charm of the Creston Brewery, whose impressive first year has included some incredible nights of original programming in a space filled with local contemporary art. 

One area in which they excel  is their commitment to the arts though the offering of their space to many local musicians and DJs to entertain locals and those who take a walk on the funky side of this Creston Neighborhood gem. 

On Sunday afternoon as the sun begins to hover on the horizon, Creston will welcome singer/songwriter May Erlewine to their tiny stage for an intimate two-hour performance of her music. 

Referred to as “Michigan’s Songbird,”  Erlewine’s songs are intimate and accessible, vulnerable and inspiring, as she taps into musical genres of traditional folk roots, old time country swing, soul, and rock and roll. And her music is always delivered with the warmest of heart. 

Since Creston Brewery eschews distractions like big screen TVs within its brew pub, a different vibe takes over the space as folks freely engage in dialogue. 

Those who venture out this Sunday will be rewarded with a set that is certain to match the fitting beauty of a busy weekend winding down, set to a live performance that is certain to provide relaxation over some incredible beers. 

Joining Erlewine at this intimate, free concert will be Max Lockwood on bass and guitar.

To learn more about May Erlewine’s music and all the incredible musicians at the Michigan-based Earthwork Music Collective, please visit their website.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi roars into Grand Rapids

After two years of waiting, “The Last Jedi,” the newest and 8th installment of the popular George Lucas created “Star War” saga that began 40 years ago, arrives on the big screen.  

Since no advance screenings were available at press time, we can share that from the initial reviews starting to trickle out, this one is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

Following in the footsteps of episode 7, “The Force Awakens,” in “The Last Jedi” you will experience another journey with familiar characters like Finn, Poe and Luke Skywalker, as they continue on their quest as a battle of good and evil plays out throughout the universe. And as has been the case with the last film, be prepared for heartbreak as well with this one.

Locally you will have plenty of options to as to how to experience this thrilling film from 2D, 3D, D-Box,  and even IMAX (and IMAX 3D.)

However you choose to view this newest film, keep in mind that this series is a huge reason why cinema in America experienced a comeback introducing to modern audiences the concept of the blockbuster - a format that we still enjoy so many decades later as we thrilling escape from our reality.  And a force that continues to inspire even our local filmmakers to attempt bold moves in the quest to tell their stories on the big screen. 

Grand Rapids Grassroots: A Panel Discussion

When we think of the advances to the culture of West Michigan, we often begin with those who have stepped forward to place their names on our buildings and street signs.

But that is only a part of the advances made here over the years and, lucky for us, a new book that Rapid Growth covered in “Voices of the people: New book to showcase Grand Rapids' activist community” last spring is finally completed and is ready for release (and just in time for the holidays.)

This anthology from various points of Grand Rapids' grassroots moments features area activists whose contributions have helped us see who we are but through their actions have enriched our knowledge of others often left out of our vision.

These members of our city featured in “Grand Rapids Grassroots: An Anthology” include activists, community leaders, and neighborhood organizers who have lent their talents to create a more socially just place that so many call home. 

On Thursday, at the Grand Rapids Public Library main downtown location, will be a chance to hear from a few members of the community who contributed to this scholarly work at a special panel discussion.

In addition to learning about the process of creating this new anthology, the event will provide space for us to center on the works and perspectives of Grand Rapids activists Breannah Alexander, Shannon Garrett, Michelle Jokisch Polo, and Jes Kramer, as well as co-editor Dani Vilella.
 
So regardless of where you are in your journey to know your city, the “Grand Rapids Grassroots: An Anthology” is a great way to begin to understand those voices whose contributions have made us truly Grand by advocating for others. 

Stranger Tidings: A Holiday Sketch Revue

When one is thinking of the holidays, these thoughts often accompany a sense of dread. And with good reason.

Amidst the family drama, the political talk (we all try to avoid), and the unexpected dietary matters that pop up at the dinner table more and more and without warning, is the recipe for disaster that we gladly show up for year after year.

But what if we could let a little air out of this season with humor?

Lucky for us seeking a little levity this year, Late Night Grand Rapids (LNGR), a local performance group in our city, is hosting “Stranger Tidings: A Holiday Sketch Revue” at Dog Story Theater on Saturday night.

LNGR presents a fresh sketch show with never-before-seen material. But the night is so much more than just a night of sketch comedy as the performance will feature live music via an onstage band and with a series of fresh videos.

The best part is that the host for this one-show-only event is Grand Rapids’ funniest female comic, Sarah Jean Anderson, who will be the featured host for the night’s festivities. 

It is advised since Dog Story Theater is a small venue to secure your tickets in advance here.

In addition, be prepared to chase your buzz with drinks which act as a great lubricant for your candy cane flavored funny bone (so pack some extra cash).

Late Night Grand Rapids is attempting to bring their comedy to our region via these pop-up performances devoted to the art of sketch, music, film, stand up, and so much more.

West Michigan Gay Men's Chorus: A free holiday concert with community benefits

There is no greater joy in the city than to see artistic community-focussed groups advance. And one group this for nearly 10 years is our West Michigan Gay Men's Chorus, who now joins a long list of area choirs that celebrate the art of song via the performances they deliver to our region. It is nice to have so many options!

On Sunday afternoon, take a stroll downtown to Fountain Street Church for the return of the festive and fun holiday musical showcase from our West Michigan Gay Men's Chorus.

Prepare yourself for classics like “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night,” but also for those comic gems like a new number for the chorus, “The 12 Days After Christmas.”

The songs play off the wintery themes of our season too, with classical tunes lining up nicely alongside contemporary gems like The Beach Boys “Little Saint Nick.”

In addition the “boys” will be welcoming Lady Oak, a local choir that is an offshoot of our Grand Rapids Women’s Chorus, who will be performing a set during this special, free holiday show. 

And while the event is admission-free, the West Michigan Gay Men's Chorus asks that, during their intermission, to please consider a donation to the Grand Rapids Community Foundation's Our LGBT Fund.

We have plenty of ways to celebrate the holidays, and we at Rapid Growth are pleased to witness the ever-widening acceptance of people who were once marginalized but now are such a beautiful addition to the fabric of our city. 

‘70s Punk Night: Power to the raging voice of rock and roll

Rock and roll is a powerful force for change with roots that stretch over time but also to those pockets where the human voice often struggles to be heard.

One movement of rock and roll—punk—is a reaction to the status quo as it sought, through this music form, to have its point of view heard via the bands who perform it. And on Wednesday night, punk will be—for the first time in my memory—performed at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

This powerful form of music, showcased on Wednesday evening at ‘70s Punk Night, has always emanated from the subculture, challenging the dominant status quo to consider the other in our society.

For this concert event tied to the Ford’s “Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics” traveling exhibition from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame now on display, area musicians from Mustard Plug, Lokella, Shoebox, and Triumph Music Academy will form two musical supergroups, The Young and The Savage for a night of punk rock.  

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and Foundation’s partnership with the traveling Rock & Roll Hall of Fame exhibition explores how rock and roll has helped shape our views as well as change our attitudes about topics of patriotism, peace, equality, and freedom.

This energetic and informative exhibition explores how rock and roll artists exercise their First Amendment rights as they challenge societal assumptions and cultural beliefs as they usher  fresh voices that often lead to real change. 

It is nearly impossible to not think of music when we think of the momentous civil rights movements of the last decades from marches on Washington to protests moments like the Vietnam War and so this exhibition is sure to delight as well as challenge the viewer.

“Louder Than Words” highlights how artists have used their craft as a platform to express their views and shape public opinion,” said Greg Harris, president and CEO of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

This special concert event is free with refreshments and of course, ear plugs should you need them. (And you will need them if the bands are true to their roots.)

“Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics” will be open to the public during this special  Ford After Five evening event and runs from November 7 to February 11, 2018.

Register to attend '70s Punk Night here

Christmas for the Animals: A community celebration for our furry and scaly friends

There are no shortages of fun holiday themed events in our city that range from holiday artists markets to special dining opportunities with million dollar views. But what if I told you that there is an event in the city where the celebration involves characters who are known for wearing furry coats year round or for diving into chilly waters in search of a meal? 

Well, that is just part of the fun in store for folks who will venture to the Westside to visit the John Ball Zoo for their annual Christmas for the Animals.

True to the name, this holiday event focuses on providing space for the community to to return to the zoo and celebrate with a gift for the animals before the worst of West Michigan’s winter weather hits our city.

At this one-day only event, you will have a chance to see Santa and pet his reindeer, observe a thrilling ice carving, learn what animals like which enrichments in their treats, but also experience a thrilling exhibition of Santa’s aquatic diving elves!

Timed events include:
11 a.m. Tigers with a paper mache moose in the upper habitat
12 p.m. Otters “preparing” a meal of fish
1 p.m.  Bears unwrapping paper to get to their treats
2 p.m. Spider monkeys wrapping gifts

It is also a great time to make Christmas for the Animals really special via a host of ways.

One way is to support the zoo directly through a donation made at the event or consider sponsoring an animal at the Zoo. Both options are available at this link to their site.

However you choose to celebrate the animals of our zoo this holiday, just don’t forget to place them on your list to visit this weekend. It is also one of the last times to visit Amur tigers Yuri and Kuza who are slated to ship to another zoo in their quest to help propagate this endangered species. (We will be getting a couple “teenager” tigers in 2018 to replace our Yuri and Kuza.) 
 
John Ball Zoo is the fourth most attended cultural institution in the state, serving over 530,000 guests in 2017. 

1997 Tribute Show: Twenty years to this moment

If you live long enough you will soon  watch your childhood tunes become the stuff nostalgia shows re-discover and (often) repackage for a new generation.

One area of this revival trend that has roots in other cities as well as ours, is the tribute show. 

For the 1997 Tribute Show at the Pyramid Scheme our area’s performers from a variety of music acts have organized into popular acts. All told nearly 30 local music acts have contributed their talent to this night’s line up. 

Featured on Friday at this one night only performance will be the albums released in 1997 and will include “Spiceworld” by The Spice Girls, “Third Eye Blind” by Third Eye Blind, “Homogenic" by Bjork, “OK Computer” by Radiohead, and “Dude Ranch” by Blink 182. 

And while it is true that some will attempt faithful recreations of these popular albums, these tribute events often produce unexpected joys as modern advances in our sonic revolution opens new ways of sharing these classic albums from 1997. 

In between acts will be 1997-themed DJ sets spun by Scintillate, which is sure to include Hanson, so you will never have to leave the dreamy period of this year until the last act has finished around 1 a.m.

As someone who has attended numerous tribute shows from Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors” to Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” to the memorable 2016 tribute to David Bowie, don’t miss this opportunity to see so much good music in one place this Friday night. 

Friday's 1997 Tribute Show benefits the United Way of West Michigan.
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