KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Tuesday kicks off Black Empowerment Week in Kalamazoo. It’s an effort led by the group Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation in hopes of uplifting the Black community.

Organizers say they want to make sure everyone has a voice.

“If we start to focus on what’s working for us, we can start to grow and heal,” said Sholanna Lewis, the director of Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation of Kalamazoo.

After a long and hard year for the Black community, Lewis says it’s important that everyone has a seat at the table.

“It’s a real big issue and we want to make sure that folks are able to feel that they have some sort of space to talk about these issues in a meaningful way,” Lewis said. “I think just having that support can mean the world to folks.”

The organization is hosting Black Empowerment Week beginning on Tuesday through Zoom. They’re focusing on topics such as history, entrepreneurship and responses to racism and reparations. 

“Our perspective has been erased or disregarded or pathologized, the whole nine,” said Dr. Michelle S. Johnson, the public scholar for Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation of Kalamazoo.

Johnson says the Black community needs to take its power back.

“We know what’s right for ourselves. We know what’s right for our community. We know what’s right for our spirit,” Johnson said.

These women hope that acknowledging the past will lead toward a better future.

“When we put energy into ourselves and put our efforts toward growing something beautiful, then that’s when you get a garden,” Lewis said.

More information on Black Empowerment Week can be found online