GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Monday marked the first Martin Luther King Jr. Day that Grand Rapids had its own African-American Museum.
The man behind the museum, George Bayard III, said he was thrilled it was open in time to reflect on the iconic civil rights activist.
“We have Dr. King exhibit because we are celebrating his legacy today,” he showed 24 Hour News 8.
He pointed out some of the showcased memorabilia, including a matchbook from the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, where King was assassinated in 1968.
The museum’s current location at 87 Monroe Ave. NW near Louis Street also includes a store and donation drop-off center.
Bayard is looking forward to plans to expand, creating a permanent home for the history and culture of African-Americans in Grand Rapids. He said many of those stories haven’t been told.
“I think the history here, while it’s not hidden, it just takes a little bit more digging,” Bayard said.
He anticipates opening the museum’s permanent home, which he hopes will include a performance hall, in 2018. He said it would also include national history exhibits.
“This small part of history is a part of a bigger picture,” Bayard said.
Bayard showed 24 Hour News 8 some of the donations to the museum, including a baseball bat from the city’s African-American softball team in the 1960s. He also touched on the darker side of history, pointing to an application for the Ku Klux Klan.
Bayard said he hopes the museum will serve as a place to help future generations understand where they came from.
“He (Dr. King) kind of changed the history of America. And I mean, we should all take a day to celebrate him and what he’s done for us,” said one child from children’s organization Jack and Jill of America, Inc., which brought a group to the museum Monday.
“We talk a lot about civil rights, we talk a lot about their history. They can tell you a lot about the strides that we’ve made and I just want to keep that at the top of their heads,” said Tracey Brame, a mom and the recording secretary for the Grand Rapids chapter of Jack and Jill.
Bayard said the museum is looking at a building in the 1000 block of Division Avenue for its permanent location, but is still in negotiations. It is also taking monetary donations for construction.