Monday, November 18, 2013

Celebrating 10 Years, Honoring our History

Enoch-and-Deborah-Harris (6K)

Enoch and Deborah Harris were among the very first settlers in Kalamazoo.
Their descendants were honored Sunday, October 20th at the 10th Anniversary Celebration.

We are pleased to say that The Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society has been a part of Kalamazoo and the surrounding areas for one lovely decade!

Marking 10 years in October, let me be the first to say that I feel honored as a new contributor to the Society to have been present at the celebration, which took place October 20th. The Celebration included a tour of some of the most influential black men and women presented throughout the Kalamazoo Valley Museum's exhibits, showing African American contributions in our city spanning from the agriculture of William Ampey, to the music of Gilmore Phillips and the Civil Rights and social justice work of  Moses Walker and Duane Roberts. The tour was followed by a presentation of awards to some of the descendants of the founding families of Kalamazoo, including the Ampeys, the Hackleys, the Harrises and the Sanders--all of whom put together tables of information on their families for visitors to explore in the reception. 

We shared the day with dozens upon dozens of wonderful community members, who not only contributed to the celebration by bringing their own stories and experiences, but also imparted a sense of warmth, curiosity and appreciation that showed me how the SMBHS has created a sincere following, a true community of patrons and people who care to preserve the past. 

As a young lady in her mid twenties, the celebration was an incredible opportunity for me to hear stories of the past and connect their meaning to the present. At the risk of speaking too boldly for my generation, I'll just say that for myself, it is all too easy for me to get caught up in the speed of today's age and disregard the very people, places and events that have brought me to this present day. As young people, we are connected at every minute, every second through facebook, twitter, email, texting. Forced, it seems, to give in to the instant gratification of the world of technology. Forgetting, all too often, about the roots that feed our forests. Spending my Sunday afternoon at the celebration reminded me that whether we believe it or not, whether we ignore it or not, we wear our histories on our bodies. We carry the very experiences, successes and failures of our ancestors. We cannot simply shrug off history. It is quite literally a part of our fabric. The bones that hold me up, the skin stretched over my muscles is in part a collection of all the parents and grandparents and great, great, great, great grandparents that have come before me. Celebrating the SMBHS's 10th Anniversary was a good chance for me to check in on this. 

All in all, it was simply inspiring to hear people so connected to their roots, and it is exciting to imagine my own tree--not only from the past and present, but the future, as well. How electrifying, the thought of feeding my tree, nourishing myself with my grandparents stories, nourishing future branches and limbs with my own stories. On and on, up and up. 

Below you'll find a link to an article written about the event.