In 2003, Yvette Harper-Bey incorporated as Urban Unity. Yvette secured funding from a community foundation to lease, renovate, and operate as a non- profit organization. With volunteers, she supervised and participated in the cleaning and renovation, of 4976 sq. ft. of commercial space, to implement, the organizations programs.
Yvette is a native of Flint, MI and has been a resident of Grand Rapids, MI for nineteen years. For the past twenty years her interest, has been in community organizing and cultural endeavors. Before moving to Grand Rapids, she founded a youth organization ( STICK) Support The Inner City Kids; Targeting young African American males, between 10-16 years old.
Before the program was launched, Yvetteís youngest son age sixteen substained an almost fatal attack. At the time of his injury, her life and her sonís lives were headed in a positive direction. Two sons were launching a singing and rap career, another son was a student at the same college that she attended, and worked as an academic receptionist.
Due to the family tragedy, they had to relocate to Grand Rapids, where her son Melvin spent seven months in Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. Melvin now works for Zondervans, Christian Book Store, and is permanently disabled, but in spite of the un-fortunate circumstanceís her family encountered, Yvette has remained strong, and her drive for positive change continues!
As director of Urban Unity, she sought out opportunities to develop creative programs to enhance the educational, cultural, and social skills, of families and individuals in urban communities. She organized board members and advisors, secured a teacher that was proficient in English, math, and Spanish, and consulted with a small business consultant that would teach the business plan classes, and contacted an artist for the cultural center. At this point, there were three objectives on the table.
Phase One of the Program Objectives: To prepare clients for the business world, through math, English, and interviewing preparatory classes.
Phase Two: To teach urban adults the fundamental skills of business plan development so they could open their own businesses and be self- sufficient.
Phase Three: To open a cultural center that would offer cultural enlightenment classes. African American History, Art History, Creative Writing, Literature / Poetry, Lectures, Photography, & Plays.
Before moving forward, Yvette consulted with other agencies and organizations in her community. After meeting with community and business leaders, it was determined that we would refer clients to already established business and educational centers as a collaborative effort, and focus on the cultural aspects of the community; which led to the vision of an African American Museum and Cultural Center.
For the past five years, Yvette with her team has done research on how to develop and implement such a plan. She has an operating foundation that is used solely to raise funds for the Museum and Cultural Center. She has a Chief Advisory Board, which consist of an Urban Planner/Landscape Architect, Business Administrator, Retired Attorney, MEP Electrical Engineer, a Historian and now she has developed an African American Historical Website with a Community Forum.
She has also researched funding and accumulated an abundance of resource information, graduated from (CAP) Contractors Assistance West, MI Program, consulted with, educators, artist, downtown economic developers, Radio Talk Show Host Robert S. and George Heartwell Mayor of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The response from the majority of people she met with, were positive. So plans to move forward and build or renovate a building to house a Cultural Center, inclusive of an African American Museum were implemented.
African American Museums in particular, can be beneficial when it comes to a comprehensive view of the world. In many class-rooms in America, African American History is not a required course, thus leaving important parts of history out of our school-books and society as well. A museum could close this gap, until schools reform, and realize that African American History is also American and World History, and a vital part of our school curriculums. When this epiphany becomes a reality, schools and museums can collaborate and become partners in educating our youth and their families about African American History.
If reformed properly it could dispel the myths, that African people did not play a significant role in developing the world, and did not have the aptitude of other progressive cultures. When the fact is, Africans were the architects, of civilization. In addition, integrating African American History into our class-rooms, could build self- esteem in African American children and adults who are still striving to learn more about their heritage.
Our Vision is to build a State of the Arts African American Historical Museum, and Cultural Center, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that will preserve African History, and tell the stories of cultural connections, from ancient civilization to modern times. We want to open up dialogue for all cultures to learn and grow in an environment that is inclusive and respectful to humanity, and truthful about the contributions of all nationalities through- out, the world!
Our Mission is to enhance the educational, social and cultural experiences of families through museum tours, cultural center classes, lectures, literature, historical- research, the arts and via the world -wide web. In addition, the African, American History Museum and its Multi- Cultural component promotes diversity, within our communities. It also complements Governor Granholms Cool City Initiatives.
Furthermore, we are proud to be a part of making Grand Rapids and Michigan an inviting community to visit and live. We believe this experience has the potential to attract a diverse audience, such as university, college, elementary, middle and high school students, community organizations, families and tourist. It is our hope that each person can come away with a renewed sense of heritage that will increase cultural awareness, and ultimately decrease racial divide.
Our original plan was to focus solely on African American History. However, after research and careful assessments, we have discovered, there is vital information in history that is not in our history books pertaining to the inter-actions of cultures, which need to be shared, by all nationalities.
For centuries, people have interacted through procreation, communities, marriages, wars, attempts at peace, and other social encounters. Though some situations were forced and others were voluntary, the factís still remains many cultures define our social structures. Although our cultural differences and similarities may be different, we all have one thing in common, which is the human migration of all people, and some of us still do not know, our connections. Therefore we cannot tell one story without including, the others. Metaphorically speaking, the world is not just black and white, it is a vast multi- cultural sphere; filled with unexplored territories and universal laws!
When it comes to history, comprehensive research must be the ultimate goal. This will allow everyone involved a chance to make a concise and intelligent decision. After all the facts are concluded then we can move forward collectively, to distribute our information. Some historianís, educatorís, community activist, and parentís believe African American history should be implemented into our school curriculums, so all students can get a balanced view on the contributions of all cultures!
It is 2007, and we remain divided, when it comes to being educated on race or history. Our view of the world and each other is often shaped through television programs, movies, out dated books, hear say, and of course the media. We need collective dialogue in our schools, on our jobs, and in our communities, on cultural differences and diversity. Most people get offended when accused of being prejudice, however we all are influences, by learned behavior. If we do not make an effort to be enlighten on these matters, we will remain stagnated. There will always be those among us who are resistant to change, however, there are also those of us who choose to grow!
Our journey will take you back to ancient times, and bring you forward to the here and now, and long after we are gone, there will be a blue print for all children to follow. Especially, African American children, whose ancient and modern history has not yet had a chance, to make an impact, on mainstream society!
Our children are our future. As we pass our legacy to them, we must make sure they are equipped with truth. We intend for them to know the inter-connections of the human race, and African Americans, contributions to the world!
CDP PROGRAM MANAGER: Yvette Harper-Bey
This message is for the brave, the concerned, the mis-in-formed, the human rights and civil rights activist; the social conscious, the educators, preachers, entertainers, writers and actors, Corporate America, business institutions and everyday people.
We, corrigibly invite you to embark upon: A Journey of a Forgotten Past. We begin our journey with the migration of African Culture linking our ancestry from ancient civilization to modern times.
Thank You for visiting our website: I will be your guide:
Together, we will re-discover the contributions made by Africans , African Americans, and all nationalities who support us in our struggles throughout the world! We plan to focus on how we can integrate these learningís into social, economic, and cultural structures, therefore, producing a community that has self determination, motivation, kinship and collective purpose.
We also propose to create venues at the Museum and Cultural Center that will serve as a model institution for our state. In our opinion, there is no need to re- invent the wheel, so we plan to partner with organizations, who feel as we do, and love humanity enough, to let the programs reach the hearts and minds of those, who would not ordinarily get a chance to interact, outside their homes, or neighborhoods. Starting with the African American Historical Museum and Cultural Center, of Grand Rapids Michigan, we plan to instill, pride, hope, and encouragement in the African American community, because we are disconnected as a people.
In ancient Africa, African men and women ruled their continent with convention and authority, and had many resources to sustain a lifetime of royalty. According to historical records and scientific research, the first recorded human, was found on the continent of Africa, which is the cradle of civilization, the core of the human race, and the home of the African family.
Africanís cultural roots have been altered or destroyed. This is due to the forced migration and disbursement of indigenous people, throughout the world.
Marcus Garvey said, "A people without knowledge of their history, is like a tree without roots."
African Americans of the Diaspora, share a history that is linked back to Africa and other parts of the world. These cross- cultural connections has been lost. To remember the richness of our past, we need to reconnect historically, tell the stories of the prosperity our ancestors achieved; and resurrect the mind set, of collective productivity.
In our opinion, if we do not begin to tell and share our stories openly, and develop our communities "together" we will not grow! We plan to tell and preserve our stories through museums, books, historical exhibitions, schools, communities, religious organizations, literary expressions, art, dance, photography, healthy living, love for one another and most of all, love for humanity. When we tell the stories of our heritage, we cannot start in the middle. If we do, our history will remain fragmented.
When we were in school, did our teacherís give us an assignment, and tell us to read our books, starting in the middle, and to tell our stories from the beginning to the end ?, probably not, because we would not be able to give a complete report. Every story has a beginning, middle, and an ending. In order to be effective at what we were assigned to do, we would need to know who, what, where, when and how the story unfolds. So we must tell our history from the beginning." It is not always, what we think we know that brings healingí it is sometimes, what we donot know, that opens old wounds." We must draw on the strength of our ancestors, in order to heal!
We must reach back, to the gold coast, and ancient kingdoms of Egypt, Ghana, Benin, and the invasion of the Portuguese ships. To our African royalty, and move forward to the Diaspora, reconstruction, the civil and human rights movement, and the fall of the human family, to the undying creative and inventive gifts of African society, to the crisis we face in North America today! We must come together and do these things, in order to understand the stories of our past, and to give hope to our future!
Unfortunately, before we came to North America, the ports of the Motherlands, were opened for human trafficking and trade. Commodities such as, diamonds, gold, and minerals, were stolen by greedy invaders, and some misguided Africanís; Thus, the once stately society diminished. Families were separated, cultural identities were lost, and the lives of Royal African Kings, Queens, Tribal leaders and families, were reduced to servitude and humiliation.
One of the most Degrading Journeyís were the Human Cargo Ships, filled with African, men women and children, headed for North America, known as the The Middle Passage.
When Africans arrived on the shores of the Americaís, through brutal and oppressive means, names and minds were changed, spirits were broken, and life for Africans, would never be the same! We were stripped of our nationality & birthright and forced to build empires without restitutions, in a foreign land.
We must not forget our plight or the disasters of Hurricane Katrina, in New Orleans, We must collectively, create opportunities for better education, economic development, healthcare, quality living conditions and prison reform. We need to return to Our Roots, and the dignity we once had, when we were warriors, kings and queens, tribal leaders and families! We have billions of dollars in spending power. We must care about each other. Other nationalities do; why canít we! Our people and the poor are suffering!
We must tear down the walls of racial, cultural, and social barriers, and build bridges of hope , to collective success!
"When we were stripped of our culture, and forced to forget our heritage, we were also stripped of unity, self determination, self-worth, and a true sense of who we are!"
The realistic approach to social, historical and spiritual healing, begins with knowing yourself, your culture your history, and your God given right to be treated equally, and with respect and dignity.
We visualize a world, that is knowledgeable, and excepting regardless to nationality, social status ,or origin.
Sincerely: Yvette Harper-Bey, CDP Manager of: The Culture and Art Development Foundation
historyfound.org presents The African American Museum of World History and Multicultural Affairs website copyright 2007. All rights reserved excluding public domain content.
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Content development - Yvette Harper-Bey