Nonprofit to highlight African American women


The NIA Centre will unveil a new art exhibit featuring 20 African American women at an annual event.

The nonprofit is hosting its fourth annual My Story event that will showcase an exhibit by visual artist Jon McDonald from noon-7 p.m. Oct. 29 and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton, 710 Monroe Ave. NW in Grand Rapids.

“The concept behind My Story 4 is inspired by the movie ‘Hidden Figures,’” said Sierra Hatfield, executive director of the NIA Centre. “We recognize that in many instances, the incredible achievements of African American women are historically overlooked, unrecognized or not celebrated.”

McDonald’s artwork features 20 watercolor portraits of local, national and international women such as Aretha Franklin, Simone Biles and local community members including Laura Moody, vice president, Grand Rapids Black Nurses Association and Helen Claytor, the first Black president of the YWCA.

“It’s profoundly valuable to see someone (who) looks like you in a place or a position you want to be in,” Hatfield said. “We’re creating a space where community members can appreciate iconic women, honor them and, at the same time, find the light in themselves.”

The 20 women are:

  • Amanda Gorman, national youth poet laureate who spoke at the 2021 inauguration of President Joe Biden
  • Aretha Franklin, recording artist known internationally as the Queen of Soul
  • Rep. Barbara Jordan, first Black woman elected to the Texas Senate after reconstruction
  • Breonna Taylor, icon for social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement
  • Dianne Durham, first Black senior national gymnastics champion
  • Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, first Black woman to become a doctor of medicine in the U.S.
  • Hattie Beverly, first Black school teacher in Grand Rapids (Congress Elementary School)
  • Helen Claytor, first Black president of the YWCA
  • Laura Moody, who helped found the Grand Rapids chapter of the Black Nurses Association
  • Mae Jamison, first Black woman to travel into space
  • Marian Anderson, first Black artist to perform at the Metropolitan Opera
  • Marley Dias, founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks, a campaign to find 1,000 books with Black girls as protagonists
  • Misty Copeland, first Black principal dancer in the American Ballet Theater
  • Rosalind Brewer, first Black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company (Walgreens Boots Alliance)
  • Serena Williams, internationally known as one of the greatest female tennis players of all time
  • Sha’carri Richardson, one of the fastest female track and field athletes in history (19 years old)
  • Rep. Shirley Chisholm, first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress.
  • Simone Biles, most decorated Olympic female gymnast in history and mental health advocate
  • Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement.
  • Thasunda Brown Duckett, second woman to lead a Fortune 500 company

More information is available at

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