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Premiere of WMCAT student-produced documentary will highlight local social justice and equity

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Film Premiere

Check out the first screening of "Rhythm and Race: A History of African American Music in Grand Rapids"

Tuesday, February 28 6 p.m.

UICA, 2 Fulton St. W.

Following the hour-long film we will host a feedback session with the student filmmakers, Director Mike Saunders, and George Bayard from the African American Museum and Archives

THE FEED

The documentary, in partnership with the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives, will premiere on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. at UICA. Admission is free, and a panel discussion will follow.
"Rhythm & Race: A History of African American Music in Grand Rapids" student-production team

"Rhythm & Race: A History of African American Music in Grand Rapids" student-production team


"Rhythm & Race: A History of African American Music in Grand Rapids" event poster

"Rhythm & Race: A History of African American Music in Grand Rapids" event poster

Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported

Maybe you’ve cranked the volume up while listening to the latest post-breakup song, or you’ve listened to a song in remembrance of your childhood years or deceased loved ones; No matter what emotion you may be experiencing, music has the ability to surface emotions. All signs show that humans are high-wired to the power of music.

West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology (WMCAT) students recognized the influence music has on people from all walks of life. No matter one’s race, gender, or ethnicity, music is something that can unite the masses.

As a local organization whose mission is to provide opportunity and facilitate progress for students within Grand Rapids Public Schools, WMCAT strongly encourages its students to act on the power of music through their artistic abilities.

Thanks to the financial assistance of a Heritage Grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, and a partnership with the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives, seven WMCAT students had the opportunity to produce the documentary, “Rhythm & Race: A History of African American Music in Grand Rapids.” The public is encouraged to attend the documentary’s premiere on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts. Attendance is free.

Following the premiere will be a panel discussion featuring the student production team, WMCAT Teaching Artist Mike Saunders, and the founder of the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives, George Bayard III.

“Working on the documentary has been a really great experience for the students at WMCAT. We’ve been able to not only connect the students with elders and role models in the community, but also give them a chance to reflect and think critically about the history of the city,” said Mike Saunders, WMCAT Teaching Artist and Director of "Rhythm and Race: A History of African American Music in Grand Rapids."

The hour-long documentary explores how music genres have influenced the social justice system in Grand Rapids, post-World War II leading up to the 1970s. The purpose of the documentary is to bring awareness to the injustice and racism that occurred in our local community.

“After shooting a number of interviews we had to scale back our focus because covering the entirety of African American music would take quite a bit more time and resources,” said Saunders. “We focus on Blues and Soul music from Grand Rapids and the cultural conditions in which the music was created and the people who made the music.”

The seven-student production team worked on the documentary for over six months. Thanks to WMCAT’s state-of-the-art Video Production Studio equipped with materials only the ‘pros’ use, students were able to gain hands-on experience into the life of a film production crew.

“The students had the opportunity to explore the different positions that you can have on a film crew and experience the camaraderie that comes along with that,” said Saunders.

At a time when our nation seems divided by alternative facts and varying personal and political views, one thing is true for those living in the 616: We’re all Grand Rapidians. Unite over this commonality by educating ourselves on the history of the place we call, ‘home,’ all while supporting our local youth.

For more information on the premiere of “Rhythm & Race: A History of African American Music in Grand Rapids,” visit: wmcat.org/rhythmandrace.


WMCAT is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide a culture of opportunity for people to create social and economic progress in their lives and community. Through after-school and summer arts and technology programs, WMCAT engages high school students in creativity and civic engagement. WMCAT also provides career training in medical coding, medical billing and pharmacy technician fields to under and unemployed adults. Learn more at wmcat.org.

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