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The Diatribe launches anti-racist art project to shift narrative of southeast, southwest Grand Rapids

The 49507 Project will transform POC/LGBTQ-led education into large-scale murals and youth poetry performances, aiming to uplift perceptions of the city's 49507 neighborhood.
Diatribe teacher and GR poet laureate Kyd Kane leading "Writing to Right Wrongs" course at Godwin Heights High School.

Diatribe teacher and GR poet laureate Kyd Kane leading "Writing to Right Wrongs" course at Godwin Heights High School. /The Diatribe

“If you had art that reclaimed your neighborhood, what would that look like?”

This question will be asked of young residents from Grand Rapids’ southeast and southwest sides, as part of a new anti-racist project bringing large-scale art murals and minority-led programming to the city’s 49507 neighborhood.

Launched by local nonprofit The Diatribe, the49507 Project” will commission seven local Black and Brown artists to create murals on prominent buildings in predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods. The project starts with education in area schools, incorporates community listening sessions, and concludes with a youth-organized community art unveiling.

The Diatribe, a poetry and performing arts education group led by POC/LGBTQ+ community members, cites shootings, lead paint, and asthma as negative associations often made with the city’s south sides. These sides are home to the city’s highest concentration of minority residents.

Through the 49507 Project, The Diatribe aims to supplant this narrative with themes of resilience, beauty, and empowerment.

Across the nation, we continue to see social injustice against people of color,” said Marcel “Fable Price, Executive Director of The Diatribe and Grand Rapids’ former poet laureate. “Art is power. Listening is healing. We can truly provoke impactful change, but only if we listen to our community and understand their struggles, their pain points, and their dreams.”

Students in several West Michigan school districts will kick off the project, completing The Diatribe’s “Writing to Right Wrongs” curriculum. The course teaches youth about gentrification, redlining, and housing discrimination, while bringing in artists to encourage them to find their voice, respond through poetry and other performing arts, and empower their neighborhoods.

Black and Brown muralists participating in the 49507 Project will ask participating students from Ottawa Hills High School what their neighborhoods, reclaimed through art, would look like. Responses will then be used toward the end of the project to create life-size murals throughout the 49507 ZIP code, which generally spans from Franklin St. to 28th St., east of U.S. 131 and west of Plymouth Ave.

Confirmed mural locations and their corresponding artists are:

With the support of Garfield Park Neighborhoods Association and Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses, The Diatribe has already assembled more than 100 Black and Brown community stakeholders to attend organic listening sessions for the project, according to a Monday statement from the organization. Stakeholders range from business owners to nonprofit professionals, community advocates, pastors, elders, parents, and artists.

We must bring out our neighbors and community stakeholders. We must listen to our young people,” said Ericka “Kyd Kane” Thompson, spoken word artist and Diatribe teacher. “If community members are expecting to see ‘nice’ art, be mistaken now. It will be disruptive, challenging, but beautiful.”

Thompson is also Grand Rapids’ current poet laureate, and the first Black woman and openly queer person to be named for the role. She succeeded Price in the role this year on Jan. 1, with Price himself being the city’s first person of color and first person under the age of 40 for the role.

We hope the project will further activate our fellow neighbors, shift power dynamics in historically under-resourced areas, and, more importantly, change narratives,” Thompson added.

The 49507 Project is slated for three years, with the goal of the project being extended to create long-lasting impact for southeast and southwest side residents who can see themselves in the art.

Work on the murals confirmed for year one is planned to start in late Aug. or early Sept., according to The Diatribe. Local youth poets of color or LGBTQ+ identity will also be featured during the community art unveiling happening around this time.

Financial supporters for the 49507 Project include the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Wege Foundation, and Southtown Corridor Improvement Authority, among others.

More details about the 49507 Project, including its participating artists, businesses, and stakeholders, are available at

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