Authentic Asian Food at Cravings
Historic Houses to Love
Gabriel Giron’s Next Chapter Forging Forward after Devastating Losses
The Sound of Healing
Meet Kevin Ford
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ENCORE EDITOR'S NOTE
From the Editor T
here’s something about sunshine that helps us right now. We are coming off a year of loss — we’ve lost people we love; we’ve lost opportunities to celebrate momentous events with friends and family; we’ve lost our sense of normalcy and stability. But then we go outside, see the sun and remember the world keeps spinning and we have to go with it the best way we can. For Gabriel Giron, the focus of this month’s cover story, 2020 was a “sledgehammer” of a year. He lost his best friend and business partner, Kirk Latimer; his nonprofits lost their home and clients; and he lost a close relative to a drug overdose. The work of Giron and Latimer’s spoken-word duo Kinetic Affect and the related nonprofit Speak It Forward was aimed at helping youth transform their lives, and the positivity and passion required were enhanced by their unique pairing. But Giron is like sunshine, and writer John Liberty captures just how he shines light where there is darkness and remains motivated and dedicated to his work. In this issue we also meet Anson and Xin Liu, who have opened Cravings, a deli in their Asian market, Pacific Rim Foods, that serves traditional Asian foods, from Chinese to Thai to Malaysian and more, all made inhouse. Xin Liu tries to instill the “grandma touch” — making things as her grandmother did — and it has been wildly successful. Another story that will make you feel good is our Back Story interview with Kevin Ford, coordinator of Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo, the city’s effort to reduce poverty within our community. That’s a big charge, but Ford’s background growing up in Kalamazoo’s Eastside neighborhood, his insatiable drive to learn and his determination are soundly in his corner. And so are we. Finally, to give you a moment of calm, writer Jordan Bradley tells us about Wind Willow Consortium, created by six local sound therapists to elevate awareness of the practice and its beneficial health effects. These pragmatic women strive to overcome skepticism with science and create healing environments using sound and vibration. It sounds just lovely. As always, stay safe and healthy and take care of one another.
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Historic Houses to Love
Authentic Asian Food at Cravings
The Sound of Healing
Meet Kevin Ford
Gabriel Giron’s Next Chapter Forging Forward after Devastating Losses
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Jordan Bradley While speaking with the owners of Pacific Rim Foods and Cravings for this month’s Savor story, Jordan was thoroughly captivated by this specialty Asian market and deli in Portage. "It's such an inviting space," Jordan says, "and the concept behind it, of returning to your grandmother's kitchen, is phenomenal." If you like a little bit of spice, she highly recommends the beef Thai wrap for takeout from the deli. Jordan also wrote a story about Wind Willow Consortium, a group of sound therapists working to elevate awareness of and esteem for the practice. A lover of sounds, Jordan was excited to learn what sound therapy was all about. “Listening to Julie (Chase) explain what sound therapy does for the recipient gave me chills, and I wasn’t even in session,” she says. “And it’s amazing how much we have yet to discover about healing our bodies.” Jordan is a Kalamazoo-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to Encore.
April Donor Spotlight WMU Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine Proudly Recognizes Kalamazoo Philanthropists and Medical School Benefactors
John was first introduced about a decade ago to Kinetic Affect’s Kirk Latimer and Gabriel Giron during his time as an entertainment reporter at the Kalamazoo Gazette John followed the duo’s career closely, reporting occasionally on Kinetic Affect’s growth. He was intrigued by how two seemingly opposite personalities moved so powerfully together and was honored to write about a small part of their journey. His story in this month’s issue looks at how Giron has dealt with devastating losses, including the death of Latimer. John is a freelance writer and the general manager of West Michigan Beer Tours.
Marie Lee Marie, the editor of Encore, interviewed Kevin Ford, coordinator of Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo, for this month’s Back Story. SPK is the city’s initiative to reduce the poverty that affects nearly a third of our community’s residents. An automatic question Marie had was, “Is this possible?” Kevin’s answer was, yes, but it’s not simple. “There are many organizations working to alleviate some aspect of poverty so it’s not about a lack of resources,” says Marie. “Kevin says it requires a focus on families, youth and jobs and bringing together and leveraging those community organizations to make it happen.”
Dr. Keith Kenter & Mrs. Patty Kenter We salute Dr. Keith Kenter and Mrs. Patty Kenter for their active involvement with the medical school, our students, and our residents. We are honored by their transformative leadership for both the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and the WMed Medical Engineering Program and their genuine support to deliver comprehensive and patient-centered care for our patients in the community. Keith and Patty’s tireless advocacy for the mission and programs of WMed, their creative leadership, and their generous financial support continues to play a vital role in advancing the mission of the WMU Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine and the medical needs of the community. Thank you, Keith and Patty!
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FEATURE Gabriel Giron’s Next Chapter
The co-founder of Kinetic Affect and Speak it Forward on forging ahead after devastating losses
DEPARTMENTS 3 From the Editor 5 Contributors 8 First Things A round-up of happenings in SW Michigan
12 Five Faves
Historic Houses — Historian Lynn Houghton opens the door on her favorite Kalamazoo abodes
The ‘Grandma Touch’ — Pacific Rim Market’s deli serves up authentic Asian foods
28 Good Works
Good Vibrations — Sound therapists aim to ease stress and help bodies heal
Meet Kevin Ford — He’s spearheading Kalamazoo’s efforts to reduce poverty
Events of Note
On the cover: Gabriel Giron. Photo by Brian K. Powers.
w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 7
FIRST THINGS ENCORE
First Things Something Poetic
Festival features acclaimed poets
With a theme of “From the Wreckage,” this year's Kalamazoo Poetry Festival aims to examine what’s next for the community and the world through poetry. The festival, set for April 16-17, will be online, with livestreamed workshops, readings and craft talks. The festival kicks off at 6 p.m. April 16 with its Celebration of Community Poets, emceed by Ed Genesis and featuring poets from across the community, including The Diatribe and Gabriel Giron of Kinetic Affect. An open-mic event will begin at 8 p.m. via Zoom. On April 17, nationally acclaimed poets Patricia Smith and Danez Smith will present a livestreamed craft talk at 2 p.m. Patricia Smith is an award-winning author of eight critically acclaimed books of poetry and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her book Incendiary Art (2017). Danez Smith was a National Book Award finalist for Don’t Call Us Dead (2017). Workshops will also be offered that day. The festival, being held during National Poetry Month, is free. To register or for more information, visit kalamazoopoetryfestival.com.
KSO presents pianist-composer Michael Brown Pianist and composer Michael Brown, whom the New York Times describes as “one of the leading figures in the current renaissance of performer-composers,” will premiere a new work during the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra’s April 30 Digital Concert Hall performance. Titled “A New Concerto for Piano,” the program will feature Brown on stage with KSO string, woodwind and brass musicians in a one-hour performance livestreamed from Comstock Community Auditorium. In addition to the premiere of Brown’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Strings, the performance will include selections by composers Béla Bartók and Franz Schubert. The program will also be recorded for ticket holders to view at their convenience. Tickets are on a name-your-price basis, with a minimum price of $20, and can be purchased at kalamazoosymphony.com. Michael Brown 8 | ENCORE APRIL 2021
ENCORE FIRST THINGS
Foodways Symposium goes virtual The Kalamazoo Foodways Symposium, an annual week-long exploration of the history and
Chef Abra Berens
heritage of local agriculture and food and a promotion of healthy eating, will be held virtually April 5-10. Live sessions presented by educators, chefs, home cooks and food activists from the community will be held via Zoom at various times each day. Topics will range from making your own soda syrups and building habitats for native bees to vegan cheeses and at-home sustainability practices. The event kicks off at noon April 5 with a cooking demonstration by Abra Berens, a chef, former farmer and writer based in Three Oaks who advocates that meals should change with the seasons and feature ingredients grown close to home. She is the author of the teaching cookbook Ruffage: A Practical Guide to Vegetables. Berens will also close out the Foodways Symposium with a live question-and-answer session from 11 a.m.–noon April 10. This event is free and is a collaboration between the Kalamazoo Valley Museum and the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Bronson Healthy Living Campus. To see the full schedule and to register, visit kalamazoofoodways.org.
Portage holds Green-A-Thon
Make a fleece blanket for a child
Increasing signs of climate change have
given many of us a new appreciation for our planet. We can all show our love for it by participating in the annual Green-Athon in Portage April 25. This free event, set for 11 a.m.–3 p.m., is Portage’s annual Earth Day celebration. After being canceled last year due to the pandemic, it returns with some new twists. It will be held in front of Portage City Hall, 7900 S. Westnedge Ave., rather than at Celery Flats, where it has been in previous years, and will include a mini-version of the summertime Portage Farmers Market, with about 20 vendors selling their wares. There will also be games, seedling giveaways and local organizations and businesses providing education about being friendlier to the environment and the importance of "going green." The event is hosted by Portage’s Youth Advisory Committee in cooperation with the city’s Environmental Board and Park Board. For more information, visit portagemi.gov/441/events.
You can make a fleece blanket for a child in need — no needles required — through the Kalamazoo Public Library’s Fleece, Love and Kindness program. The program, which began in March and runs through May 31, is a blanket drive in which you create the cozy comfort. Free, no-sew fleece blanket kits are available for pickup at the KPL locations. Bring the finished blanket back to the Central Library or one of its branches and it will be passed along to a charity for a child, or pass it on yourself to someone in need of kindness. To get a kit, call KPL at 553-7800. w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 9
FIRST THINGS ENCORE
Exhibit highlights accordion books There’s more to the art of a book than the words inside, and the concept of books as art will be at the heart of the “Illustrated Accordion” exhibition at the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center Gallery, 326 W. Kalamazoo Ave. The exhibition, set for April 9–June 18, focuses on books created in the accordion form, in which a long piece of paper is folded into pages that can be read like a book or spread open and displayed like a banner. This nonjuried exhibition will include works by book artists from across the globe. The KBAC gallery is open 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Friday. For more information, visit kalbookarts.org/events.
Green Door debuts new spirits, logo A new head distiller, a new lineup of spirits and a new look — it’s been a busy spring
for Green Door Distilling. In 2020, Green Door brought on Tyler Glasser, from Chicago’s Few Spirits, as its head distiller, and this month the distillery rolls out a new portfolio of spirits made from Michigan-grown ingredients, including an amaro (an Italian bittersweet liqueur), a blueberry liqueur, a botanical gin and a vodka. According to Michael Jeffries, Green Door’s head of growth, these creative changes also made it the perfect time for the 7-year-old distillery to create a new visual brand identity. Gone is the logo with the green type and juniper tree. It’s replaced by a modern graphic reminiscent of an antique keyhole. “We're excited to be making these transitions and continuing our mission to offer our community intriguing and adventurous spirits,” says Jefferies. The new spirits, as well as Green Door’s other products, are available in the distillery’s tasting room, at 429 E. North St. Availability at Kalamazoo area restaurants and retailers is expected in the coming months.
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FIVE FAVES ENCORE
Opening the door on favorite historic houses LYNN HOUGHTON
has an abundance of many things, including older homes, which are seen by many to be an asset of our community. To be designated “historic,” a residential structure must be at least 50 years old. We are fortunate to have quite a collection of such structures all over the community, especially in our national and local historic districts. These houses present a cornucopia of colors and architectural styles, along with connections to the region’s history. Choosing my top five is a challenge, since my list of historic houses has many favorites, including my own house in the Westnedge Hill neighborhood. My choices change, daily, but here are my current favorites.
The Johnson House 211 Woodward Ave.
The Boudeman House 515 W. South St. Not long after coming to Western Michigan University, I drove down South Street, saw this house and was captivated. Built in 1905 by Dallas Boudeman for his son Donald and his new wife, this Neo-Classical Georgian-Colonial Revival house has an imposing front portico with a triangular pediment and massive columns. The symmetrical house has pilasters at the corners and dentil molding and porte cochere on the side. Donald Boudeman later built an addition to the rear of the house for his and his second wife’s collections, which included a suit of armor and an Egyptian mummy that both resided at the house before moving to the former location of what is now the Kalamazoo Valley Museum. The W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research has owned this house for a number of years.
This house, designed by Jackson architect Lemuel D. Grosvenor, was completed in 1864, during the Civil War, and became the home of William and Louise Johnson and Louise’s daughter, Madeleon Stockwell. This brick Italianate house is a classic example of this style, with its cubic shape, long, narrow windows, paired brackets below the roof and a side bay window, in addition to a cupola at the top. In 1870, Madeleon became the first woman to enter the University of Michigan. She returned to live here with her husband, Charles Turner, a fellow U of M student. Through its long life, the house has been divided into apartments and been a home for both a sorority and fraternity. It now is a single-family residence. 12 | ENCORE APRIL 2021
ENCORE FIVE FAVES
The Potter Octagon House 925 S. Westnedge Ave.
Not only was Allen Potter a Kalamazoo businessman, banker and politician, he also could be called a trendsetter for his taste in
The Prouty House 302 Elm St.
architecture. When he decided to build a house in 1855, rather than choosing a square or rectangular structure he went with an octagon, popularized by national author and lecturer Orson Fowler, who maintained that these houses were cheaper to build, provided more natural light and were easier to heat and cool. Situated on five acres at the edge of what was then the village of Bronson (now the city of Kalamazoo) and in the middle of a burr oak grove, this brick, eight-sided house was set back from the street and topped with a cupola, which lets light into the central living space. A second octagon house, built by James Clapham in 1856, is only a few blocks away, on Rose Street, also in the Vine neighborhood.
It’s hard to envision this house, which sits on the northeast corner of Elm and Eleanor streets, in a more rural setting. But before being moved to this site, this Gothic Revival, built by Amariah Prouty for his family and completed in 1852, could be found not far from its current location and in the midst of spruce trees and the first nursery of the village, where Prouty sold evergreens, fruit and flowers. This house, which was home for him, his wife and six of their 13 children, has a front gable roof decorated with gingerbread or tracery, dormers at the roofline, and an expansive porch with Gothic arches. This style became less popular for houses and more popular for churches for many years. At some point, and it’s not clear when or why, the house was moved from its original location on a triangular piece of land bordered by Kalamazoo Avenue, Elm Street and the railroad tracks. There are some Kalamazoo Gazette articles that appeared in the summer of 1880 discussing an extension of Willard Street that went through the Prouty property, so the move may have been to allow expansion of the village. w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 13
FIVE FAVES ENCORE
About the Author
The Crane House 2125 Crane Ave. The first time I saw this house I fell in love with its wide, wrap-around front porch. Little did I know that I would eventually move to the Westnedge Hill neighborhood and have a chance to see the porch daily. This Queen Anne house, completed in 1895, was built for Edgar and Nancy Crane. It has a rounded side tower, and that spectacular porch must have provided the Cranes with wonderful views of the city. Edgar also donated 15 adjacent acres for a park that now bears his surname. In 1914, three years after the house was sold, a fire nearly destroyed it. The tower is gone, but three new dormers were added, giving the house a distinctive Colonial Revival feature. The house and porch have survived more than 125 years.
Lynn Houghton is the regional history curator at the Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections. She leads the Gazelle Sports Historic Walks, a series of free architectural and historic walks at various locations in Kalamazoo County during the summer and fall, and is the co-author of Kalamazoo Lost and Found, a book on Kalamazoo history and architecture. She also participated in the PBS series 10 that Shaped America. She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from WMU and a master’s in library and information science from Wayne State University.
Historic images courtesy of the WMU Archives and Regional History Collections.
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The ‘Grandma Touch’
Market’s deli serves up authentic Asian foods by
BRIAN K. POWERS
The first day that Cravings Deli opened, in
2018, it sold out of everything by 3 p.m. “The community definitely embraced us,” says co-owner Anson Liu. With a staff of about 20 employees, including three chefs, and help from family, the husband-and-wife team of Anson and Xin Liu have created a special space dedicated to authentic Asian foods in a community that was, by the Lius’ estimation, a bit of a desert. Their deli is located inside their specialty Asian market, Pacific Rim Foods, at 229 W. Kilgore Road, which opened in 2012. 16 | ENCORE APRIL 2021
“I came to Kalamazoo from Grand Rapids 15, 16 years ago,” Xin recalls. “I love particularly to eat. I was like, ‘I can’t believe there’s no Asian market!’” Three years after opening Pacific Rim Foods’ original location, at 1926 Whites Road, the pair realized they would eventually need to expand into a larger space. They played with the idea of serving prepared food alongside their favorite Asian ingredients, snacks and other food items. When Tot to Teen Village, a locally owned and operated children’s clothing and furnishings store,
closed its doors in 2017, they knew it was the right space for them. With the move, they were able to add a new element to their Asian market: Cravings Deli. “Anson came up with the name Cravings after we talked about concept,” Xin explains. “The whole concept is that we want to do food that's a little authentic,” though they do embrace fusion trends, she says. Cravings Deli’s poke, for example, is a Hawaiian dish influenced by Japanese cuisine and contains rice, raw fish such as tuna, soy sauce and
she says. “But I feel like that’s the whole idea of Cravings. I try to make things that are from how my grandmother used to make them rather than be so 21st century, where everything’s mechanical and everything’s moving away from the original grandma touch.” But don’t be fooled by the “grandma touch.” Preparation of ingredients, like the dough used to make potstickers, is not for the faint of heart or sore of back. In fact, the process is so intense that the deli is closed Mondays and Tuesdays to allow the staff to prepare what will be needed that week. “The amount of work that goes into each potsticker is fun when you're doing 30 for your family,” Anson says. “But when you're doing 500 in a day, it's a lot of work and you can't stop. It's like a production line. Once you get going, you can't think, 'Oh, I'll take a break from here.’” Passion for good food Clockwise from far left: Owners Xin (left) and Anson Liu at the Cravings Deli counter in Pacific Rim Foods; Charles Love prepares food in the kitchen; and a plate of the deli’s very popular potstickers.
sesame seeds, among other ingredients, and is a popular menu item. “Chinese-American food is always kind of the trend in America,” Xin says. “We felt like there was so much missing out of the truly Asian cultural foods. We’ll cook whatever the customer craves or whatever our chefs crave.” The deli menu offers everything from Chinese to Thai to Malaysian dishes and more, all made in-house. The ramen, a Japanese noodle dish, along with the poke dishes, is particularly popular. Xin estimates that after six months the deli had sold about 50,000 potstickers, filled Chinese dumplings, all of which were handmade. This harkening back to traditional Asian dishes is something Xin is adamant about. “Sometimes, you know, my chefs say, 'Just stop doing that. No one does that anymore,’”
It’s no accident that the pair have put so much love and dedication into the market and deli — food was the foundation of their relationship. “I got him through his stomach,” Xin says with a laugh. Both Anson and Xin grew up in China before moving to the United States at 16 and 13, respectively. When Xin moved to Kalamazoo from Grand Rapids for a job as a banker with JP Morgan Chase, she rented living space from Anson’s parents. Over time, the smell of her cooking drew him to her door. Eventually they started having dinner together, and the rest, as they say, is history. The pair married in 2008 and opened Pacific Rim Foods four years later. When Xin gave birth to their son seven years ago, she took a step back from working in the store and Anson picked up the slack, working 50 to 60 hours a week. “I feel like he's very much the visionary,” Xin says. “He always keeps on pushing the w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 17
Above left: Pacific Rim Foods sells hundreds of authentic Asian products like this fish sauce. Above right: The crew running the market and deli include, front row, from left (first names only, by request): Alejandra, Beatrix, Yu Chan and Hua; back row, from left: Nigel, Chris,Yi and Charles Love.
whole entire business, even me, saying, 'Let's move on to the next project. How do we do better? Let's keep going.’” Xin says she focuses more on the efficiency of the day-to-day operations, maintaining the quality of the products they supply and managing the kitchen. Xin was also responsible for supplying the majority of the recipes for the deli’s offerings. “I would say Xin is the one who manages the quality of the food, the quality of our selection,” Anson agrees. “She has the unique tastebuds. I often ask her opinion on what’s the best product. If I have six products, which two would she choose?” It’s not always easy to work together, though, Xin says, as Anson’s visionary nature often takes him “flying to the moon,” whereas Xin is more grounded in her approach. It “has been a fun journey,” she says. “On the bad days, I’m like, ‘I’m never going to do this again!’ But then two days later, I’m like, ‘So, what are we going to do next?’”
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Details on the Deli and Market Pacific Rim Foods is open 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. every day. Cravings Deli is open from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. To see a full menu or for more information, visit pacificrimfoods.com.
‘Next level’ Having experienced a taste of the culinary world with Cravings, the pair have set their sights on a sit-down restaurant with that “grandma touch.” But, as is the case in every facet of life these days, Covid-19 has made that venture a bit more complicated, Anson says. “We have made a commitment to build a new location (in Texas Township). The architect expects 12 to 14 months for completion,” he explains. “We were expecting the Covid situation would die down towards the end of the year, but it seems to be doing exactly the opposite. So we want to wait until the health code comes out (regarding): What is the post-Covid regulation for building a restaurant?” Still, he and his wife are looking forward to expanding on what they’ve started with Cravings.
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“We're trying to avoid the term ‘high-end,’” Anson says of their vision for the restaurant. “For us, we didn't get brought up in the environment of going to a fancy restaurant, so we don't really know what people's expectations are. We just want to do our food the best way we can while maintaining a reasonable price.” “I feel we’re only 70 percent of where I want (the food) to be,” Xin says, explaining that the deli atmosphere requires quicker turnaround for every order than what she thinks is ideal. Dishes like lamb chops, for example, take more time to reach the high quality that she aspires to serve. “There’s a next level we couldn’t do in this location,” Xin says. “Higher quality, high presentation — that’s what we’re trying to go for.”
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NEXT CHAPTER After a year of devastating losses, Gabriel Giron forges forward with passion and purpose by
Gabriel Giron has dedicated himself to coaching people through hard times for well over a decade, but he had no way of anticipating the “sledgehammer” that was 2020 or how it would test him. Over and over and over. Spoken word. Yoga. Meditation. Mindfulness techniques. These were skills the U.S. Army veteran and cancer survivor studied and practiced to better reach troubled youth, motivate corporate audiences, and uplift communities and organizations as the executive director of the nonprofit organization Speak It Forward and co-founder of spoken-word performance duo Kinetic Affect. Giron has needed all of these skills and more to navigate a year of devastating losses, professional turmoil and an uncertain future in the midst of a pandemic. “I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through this last year without those tools in my bag,” Giron admits. During nearly four hours of phone interviews, Giron thoughtfully reflected, cursed, laughed, breathed deeply and frequently sobbed. When asked at one point if it was all too much to discuss, Giron chucklegrunted between tears and said, “It’s still in there. It’s got to come out one way or another. God, I’ve told this story a hundred times too.”
‘I JUST LOST IT’ The soft-spoken, cherub-like Giron and the chiseled, intense Kirk Latimer met at a Kalamazoo poetry competition and discovered they each had experienced trouble and trauma as teenagers and young adults. They joined forces to create Kinetic Affect in 2007 and the nonprofit organization Speak It Forward in 2009. They gained statewide attention in 2011 with their viral “Michigan Poem” and quickly become an auditorium-filling powerhouse of positivity. As Kinetic Affect, they performed at schools, universities, foundations and in communities across the country. Corporate clients included Stryker Corp. and General Motors. Kinetic Affect competed on America’s Got Talent and Amateur Night at The Apollo, while Speak It Forward garnered grant support for its community-based efforts to help others share their stories. 20 | ENCORE APRIL 2021
“Kinetic Affect was when we got to share our stories. Speak It Forward was when we had the honor of supporting others in discovering and sharing theirs with power and purpose," Giron says. The duo lived their lives as open books. They called each other brother. On Sept. 3, 2020, Latimer wrote on his personal Facebook page: “There is one person who would never let me escape. Who would never let me hide behind my excuses and self-hatred. A man who would teach me not only how to love others, but how to, most of all, love myself. We have been through so much after all these years. Such beautiful highs and such horrifying lows. And yet, no matter what, no matter how hard or painful, he stood there with me. Even when I didn’t deserve a helping hand, he showed me the power of unconditional, difficult as hell, love. I wanted to share this because I share a lot of surface stuff. I joke; I complain. I do a great job of pointing out all the s---, I neglect to shine a light on what blessings there are. That’s exactly what Gabriel Giron has taught me. Showed me. Done FOR me. Held on and grew through the worst and best of times. And I feel like we are only just getting started.” Latimer and Giron met every Monday to discuss the work of Kinetic Affect and Speak It Forward, and their routine meeting on Sept. 7 went well, says Giron. Despite the ongoing pandemic’s effect on their work, they were preparing to announce a restructuring of Speak It Forward to include longtime collaborator and local activist Ed Genesis as a co-director. The move would involve more community-level work with local youth to try to prevent them from ending up in the juvenile justice system. “(Kirk) looked fine,” Giron says. “We had a great meeting. I gave him a big-ass hug, and I told him I loved him. I’m really glad that’s the last thing I said to him in person.” The next morning Latimer called Giron to say he didn’t feel well. Latimer thought he was having a panic attack and was checking himself into a hospital. He texted later that morning that he experienced atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat, had received intravenous therapy, was improving and should be
Gabriel Giron in his Kalamazoo home.
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“100” soon. Not one to disappoint others, he apologized for needing to miss the next day’s meeting with Giron and Genesis. That afternoon, Kirk’s wife Gretchen called Giron to say Latimer needed to be intubated. Giron says he was concerned, but that she sounded optimistic and told him it was “mostly for observation.” He planned to visit Latimer the next morning. Before bed, Giron says he meditated, sending positive energy to Latimer. Giron woke up around 7 a.m. the next morning, and noticed a series of missed calls from Latimer’s dad. “I knew that couldn’t be good,” Giron says. “I called him immediately, and he was, as you can imagine, he was like, ‘Gabe, I don’t know what to tell you. Kirk didn’t make it.’ I just lost it. I fell on the floor and was just crying.” Thyroid complications caused the 40-year-old organs to fail, Giron says doctors told the family. Late Tuesday night, as Latimer’s condition worsened, doctors attempted to put a catheter in his heart to stabilize him for a helicopter transport to a Grand Rapids hospital. Each time they tried, his heart stopped. Doctors told the family they were keeping him alive by machine. “(Kirk) told me several times he never wanted to be a vegetable. ‘Don’t ever let me be hooked up to a machine. That’s not how I want to live,’” Giron says.. Latimer’s family knew that as well and honored his request shortly after 2 a.m. “They all got to be on speaker phone and to tell him that …” Giron says, before going silent for several seconds, “… tell him that they loved him. And then he passed.”
LOSING ‘HOME’ Don Nitz, who had worked in the Kalamazoo juvenile justice system since the late 1970s and was the CEO at Lakeside Academy for 12 years, until his retirement in 2018, recounts how much he loved working with Latimer and Giron. Nitz knew he wanted to bring them in to work with the kids at Lakeside after seeing the duo perform at Chenery Auditorium in 2010. Nitz thought the duo’s authenticity, energy and honesty would mesh well with the anger management and counseling services offered at the residential youth treatment facility for young people ages 12 to 18. Coincidentally, Giron and Latimer’s new nonprofit, Speak It Forward, was in need of a consistent home. Coming off the heels of the economic difficulties of 2008-09, they watched as other nonprofits struggled to find adequate, reliable funding. They didn’t want to be in a similar situation so they sought out a consistent, renewable contract. Speak It Forward and Lakeside Academy entered into what became a 10-year partnership. Giron says Lakeside was the first organization to embrace Speak It Forward’s work over the long haul. “I don’t regret a minute of it. Not one,” Nitz said in an interview in February. “It’s really about turning around lives and they were significant in the nine to 10 years they were there to turn around a lot of lives. They had a tremendous impact on hundreds of lives. I loved Kirk, and I still love Gabe. And they know it.” 22 | ENCORE APRIL 2021
THERE FROM THE START One of Kinetic Affect and Speak It Forward’s earliest and loudest cheerleaders has been Judah Gesmundo, Giron’s mother. She serves as the secretary of Speak It Forward and her pillar-like presence helped Giron following Latimer's death. "There's literally no Kinetic Affect or Speak It Forward without her and I genuinely mean that,” says Giron. “Kirk was a son to her and he leaned on her like a second mother. When he passed it was devastating for her but even in her grief she was a rock for me and a huge help to Kirk's family. She helped draft his obituary, she was a huge part of putting together the memorial service and made sure I didn't fall apart while my world was crumbling around me,” he says. "She was our biggest supporter throughout our entire career and she absolutely loved Kirk, even with the crazy s--- he would say sometimes. She wasn't just my mother, she was a mother to Kirk, Kinetic Affect and Speak It Forward. And when Ed joined us, she took on a third son and he refers to her as 'mom' as well."
Clockwise from top left: Latimer, left, and Giron perform as Kinetic Affect; Kinetic Affect entertains a packed house at WMU; the duo performs at Eastern Michigan University; and Giron (center) flanked by Ethan Latimer, Kirk’s son, right, and Giron’s mother Judah Gesmundo, left, celebrating what would have been Kirk’s 41st birthday in February. Photos courtesy of Gabriel Giron.
Gina Huffman, a Lakeside student from 2009-12, remembers the day Speak It Forward came to campus. Latimer beamed smiles in his suit and tie, and Giron wore an outfit that matched head-to-toe. They told students they would help them use poetry and spoken word to heal.
“I was so happy. I felt like I was their star pupil. I was given so many opportunities from that,” Huffman says. “There were a lot of ups and downs, but that was an outlet that made everyone feel like they were at home — you didn’t feel judged.” Huffman, now 26, lives in Flint and runs a residential cleaning company with her mother. She says she makes a point to hire women who need a second chance, a lesson absorbed from her time with Latimer and Giron. "Lily" is the title of one of the first poems she wrote with Latimer and Giron
while at Lakeside and when she married last year, she wore lily of the valley in her hair. Her email address also references the flower. “They are with me always,” she says of Giron and Latimer. In March 2020, Covid-19 arrived and Speak It Forward’s work with the more than 120 students at the 48-acre Lakeside Academy halted. Then, on May 1, barely a month after a statewide lockdown in connection with Covid-19 took effect, 16-year-old Lakeside student Cornelius Fredericks died two days after going into cardiac arrest while being restrained by facility staff. Police reports say Fredericks was restrained after throwing a sandwich. The Kalamazoo County Medical Examiner's Office ruled his death a homicide, and three Lakeside staffers were charged with involuntary manslaughter and seconddegree child abuse and ordered to stand trial in circuit court. (As of press time, no trial date has been set.) The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services opened an investigation into the facility. The story made national headlines and calls to shut down Lakeside Academy intensified through the spring. Police told MLive.com they received a spike in reports about the facility in the days following Fredericks’ death and that Lakeside had shown a “pattern of being out of control” since the start of the year. Police reports show an increase in calls to the facility for fights and runaways. On May 7, the facility reported 37 students and nine staff members tested positive for Covid-19 (Fredericks had also tested positive). An extensive investigation by Michigan Radio into troubles at Lakeside showed yearly increases in incidents in which staff members restrained students. On June 2, in the midst of the state’s investigation into Lakeside, Giron’s cousin, Taylor Gesmundo, died of a drug overdose. He was 32. Gesmundo joined the U.S. Marines in 2006 and served two deployments, including one to Afghanistan. Giron says Gesmundo struggled with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and had lived off-and-on with Giron over a 9-year span. “He’d come stay with me when he was really struggling, and I’d get him on his feet, providing a supportive and healthy w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 23
environment,” Giron says. “He’d feel good enough to go out on his own again. Inevitably, he’d struggle with drug use — heroin, specifically. It was really tough to see someone that you love and care about so much go through that. He was such a kind, sweet and caring individual that I think he was never able to forgive himself for what he was asked to do in Afghanistan.” “I think it’s important to talk about these things,” Giron says of his cousin’s overdose. “There’s a lot of shame in our country around drugs and mental health. But we’ll never be able to heal if we can’t acknowledge the wounds.” The pandemic had created a backlog of veterans’ funerals at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta, but eventually
Gesmundo’s family was able to hold a service for him there. As fate would have it, it fell on Friday, Sept. 18 — the day before Giron was to participate in the memorial service for Kirk that the Latimer family was holding in Detroit. But months before those services, Giron experienced yet another major loss. On June 19, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services terminated its contract with and funding for Lakeside Academy, resulting in the facility’s closure. “The system really had an opportunity to make a change in that facility, and instead, they just kicked the can down the road,”
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Giron says. “The kids scattered. I’m sure some of them went to better facilities, but I’m also sure some of them went to worse facilities. Some of them went into environments that were extremely dangerous.” One of those students was 17-year-old Daimair Bowden, who was shot and killed July 5 in Columbus, Ohio, following a fight, according to media reports. Giron believes other former Lakeside students they worked with met similar violence, but, because of privacy laws, the pair could not get contact information for their former students. Giron also says he watched good, hard-
Top: Ed Genesis, bottom, and Giron now helm Speak It Forward. Above: Giron and Ethan Latimer on a weekend excursion. Left: Giron and Shiva, his beloved pitbull.
working people employed in what can be a challenging, thankless occupation, lose their jobs. “It was tough,” he says. “It was emotional for Kirk and I on multiple levels. It was financially stressful for the organization. We weren’t sure what was going to happen. It was emotionally upsetting because one of the students in our classroom passed away. It was emotionally upsetting because this home we had for 10 years was getting shut down, and a lot of people we had built close relationships with were now trying to find out what they were going to do.
“We really loved being with those kids. Of all that stuff, that was the hardest. We didn’t get to say goodbye.”
TIME FOR ‘KIRK WORK’ Latimer’s Kalamazoo memorial service at the Arcadia Creek Festival Site in downtown Kalamazoo on Oct. 19 celebrated the former English teacher turned motivational speaker, mentor and community advocate in generous fashion, Giron says. Much of the costs associated with the festival site, including rental, sound and video equipment, tents and food, was covered by friends of Kinetic Affect. Giron created and edited the memorial video remembering his partner-in-poetry, and attendees, including Latimer’s 12-year-old son, Ethan, shared stories and performed. “Everybody showed up and were like, ‘We’re here.’ I want to say ‘incredible,’ but it was more than that. I couldn’t have done it without Kalamazoo,” Giron says. “I think the only thing Kirk ever really wanted was to be seen and be loved. To watch the response from his passing, it made me realize how much we were, but how much we didn’t know it at the time.” One of those who loved them was Kalamazoo community activist and rapper Ed Genesis. When Latimer and Giron surprised him by naming him co-director of Speak It Forward, Genesis says, “I about fell out of my chair.” Genesis met the duo at an event at former Kalamazoo City Commissioner Shannon Sykes' house, started mentoring students at Lakeside Academy and over time became Speak It Forward’s lead mentor. Genesis says he’s a three-time felon who turned his life around and wanted to help youth avoid that path. People’s perception of his criminal record made that difficult, but Latimer and Giron helped get him there, he says. “Gabe and Kirk gave me a chance to speak to these young guys and ladies, and they looked just like me,” Genesis says. “I knew immediately this is where I had to be.” Genesis encouraged Speak It Forward to become more active with Kalamazoo’s Black community on a neighborhood level, an
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effort that went into overdrive with Genesis’ new position with Speak It Forward. The trio had big post-pandemic plans, Genesis says. Genesis and Latimer bonded over being “unapologetically ourselves,” says Genesis, and he drew inspiration from Latimer’s work ethic. He equates watching an exhausted Latimer take the stage for a performance with Michael Jordan’s famous “flu game,” in which the star excelled under the lights despite being less than 100 percent — a memory that serves as fuel for Genesis’s future. “Even if I don’t feel like bringing it or I want to shut it down,” he says, “I know I owe it to my brother. I’ve got ‘Kirk work’ to do.”
GOING FORWARD As part of their work together last summer, Genesis asked Giron to bring his camera to an event. Giron double majored in film, video and media studies and creative writing at Western Michigan University and had mothballed his camera years earlier, but was excited to take it out and reacquaint himself with visual arts.
“This has been one of the toughest, most lifeshattering years of my life but I’m trying to find the positive in all this.” – Gabriel Giron After graduating from WMU in 2008, Giron had planned to pursue a master’s degree in film editing at Columbia College in Chicago. Then he met Latimer, who was teaching high school English in Portage. Giron says it was Latimer who made the initial move to make Kinetic Affect a reality. “Then Kirk, being who he is, took a sabbatical from his job,” Giron says, “and I was like, ‘Oh s---, I can’t leave. This dude is like 100 percent committed to what we are doing.’ I ended up staying and turning down a scholarship to get my master’s degree.” Giron returned to video-editing for Latimer’s memorial video. As a form of
emotional support shortly after Latimer’s death, Giron drove to New York City, picked up his father, Ruben Giron, and drove back to Kalamazoo. Ruben Giron, an avid nature photographer, brought his editing equipment, and the two took photos together. Giron says it was therapeutic and strangely circular. “I had no idea what I was going to do in my life when I met Kirk. Now Kirk passes. I’m older, with a lot more experience and connections in the community. I have Speak It Forward, which I love and want to continue doing, but there’s this Kinetic Affect-sized hole in my life,” Giron says. “Here I am again, back almost to the same point where I was in college. ‘Maybe I’ll do something in film and photography?’ There was something that just tickled me about it. No matter how far you travel, life brings you back to the things you were meant to be in touch with.” Giron has found solace and joy in photography. Some of his favorite subjects are Shiva “Handsome” Giron, his 10-yearold pitbull terrier, and Latimer’s son and his
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godson, Ethan, whom Giron has spent several weekends with since the fall. They go on hikes, play video games and remember. “I’ll never replace Kirk,” Giron says, “but to just be there as a positive male role model in his (Ethan’s) life and as Kirk’s best friend, to be able to be there and just tell stories — it’s healing for both of us. I get to stay connected to Kirk in such a profound way.”
ANOTHER GOODBYE On Nov. 24, Giron shared a “goodbye letter” to Kinetic Affect followers through social media, an email blast and the group’s Facebook page. It featured a video tribute to Latimer and thanked the community for the duo’s 14-year journey. It read, in part, “I am forever grateful for the lessons I’ve learned from Kirk. I will always be in awe of his dedication to the youth in our communities, of his passion to inspire others and for helping everyone dream larger than we ever could have without him.” Giron, who recently accepted the role of lead facilitator with Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Kalamazoo, says Speak It Forward’s work will continue, shifting its mission to be more community focused. The nonprofit is staying “small and nimble” with workshops and virtual events until the pandemic allows for group activities. It is on stable financial ground for the rest of this year, thanks to grant support and a “generous and encouraging board,” he says. “All this comes with a tinge of sadness, but I’m excited about what we are going to do in the future,” Giron says. “I never saw myself doing this without Kirk. I’m glad I can do it with someone who is just as passionate and loud as Kirk was, but in a different way.” “This has been one of the toughest, most life-shattering years of my life but I’m trying to find the positive in all this,” he says. “Speak It Forward was all about teaching people how to turn their scars into beauty marks. Now I have to figure out how to do that in a way I never imagined.”
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GOOD WORKS ENCORE
Sound therapists aim to ease stress and help bodies heal JORDAN BRADLEY
any of us may be unaware that during the past year of living through the Covid-19 pandemic we have all been employing sound therapy to keep us sane and healthy. When you call a friend or family member, you’re using sound therapy, says sound therapist Julie Chase, president of Wind Willow Consortium. “When you talk or hum and put your hand on your upper chest or diaphragm, you feel the vibration and naturally relax,” Chase explains. “Tuning-fork vibration uses a calibrated frequency that also brings about 28 | ENCORE APRIL 2021
stress relief in a much deeper way, but what people don't realize is that their voice, like tuning forks, can elicit a relaxation response to stress-compromised individuals, even over the phone. Their voice becomes the instrument. That's why virtual sound therapy works.” While many people are aware of the positive impacts of music therapy, sound therapy is a newer practice in this country. Using instruments like Tibetan singing bowls, medical-grade tuning forks, gongs and RAV Vast drums, a sound therapist plays tones
with the intention of slowing down a client’s brainwaves to create calm in the mind, encourage stress reduction and facilitate healing within the body. Chase, who teaches sound therapy and certifies sound therapists, founded Wind Willow Consortium with five of her former students in late 2018. The purpose of the nonprofit organization is to create opportunities for sound therapists to spread the word about their practices through workshops, events and other educational happenings.
From curiosity to career
Clockwise from left: Sound therapist Julie Chase sings a Tibetan bowl over a client; Chase spent two years training and learning the science and practice of sound therapy; and just a few of the instruments sound therapists will use with a client.
Chase first began learning about sound therapy when she retired from teaching American Sign Language at Kalamazoo Valley Community College in 2012. Her son, who lived in California at the time, mailed her a Tibetan bowl as a retirement gift, sparking Chase’s curiosity. That curiosity led Chase to learn from certified Tibetan bowl sound therapist and teacher Diáne Mandle at her Tibetan Bowl Sound Healing School, in Encinitas, California. Chase’s sound journey then took her to the East Coast, where she learned more about the science behind sound healing and tuning forks from Dr. John Beaulieu in upstate New York. “I just felt like I needed to get as much education under my belt as possible,” Chase says. After educating herself through workshops and classes spanning two years, Chase began practicing in earnest and teaching students. With her background as an ASL instructor and guidance from both Mandle and Beaulieu, Chase created a course consisting of six levels — which she has since expanded to nine — that certifies students in sound therapy. “I hold a high standard,” Chase says of her curriculum. “There's a 200-hour minimum requirement for students to graduate from my course." In-person classes cost $230 per level and include a textbook and nine hours of instruction. Chase has been offering virtual classes for free during the pandemic. “Primarily, the way that I teach it (sound therapy) is as stress-reduction therapy, as helping the body to do what the body knows how to do,” Chase says. “In other words, we're not in there trying to push something on a person. We're not trying to heal them. We are not healers. We are practitioners. The body's the healer.” Overcoming skepticism Wind Willow Consortium had just been getting into a groove when Covid-19 hit,
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disrupting planned events and requiring WWC’s founders to roll with the punches and adapt, as many businesses and organizations have had to do. But beyond that, sound therapy has faced unique challenges in Kalamazoo that it hasn’t on the East and West coasts, say Chase and WWC Secretary Judy Huxmann. They say because the practice is relatively new to Western medicine, many people are skeptical of its validity. Scientists have only begun to delve into the impact of sound and music on healing. And sound therapy’s ties to traditional Eastern medicines can be alienating to many potential clients in the Midwest, a situation that WWC actively works to correct and address. “The consortium is this outgrowth of Julie’s school and our combined interest in making this a very high-integrity practice,” says Huxmann, who worked as a massage therapist from 2001 to 2017, before becoming a sound therapist. “We’re taking the ‘woo-woo’ out of it, but yet there’s still magic in what these instruments do to our bodies. We’re facilitating a space for people’s bodies to find their own way of healing.” “It’s important for people to understand that there really is some science behind this,” Chase adds. Some scientific studies have linked sound therapy and sound meditation — sometimes
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GOOD WORKS ENCORE
Learn More For more information on Wind Willow Consortium’s sound-therapy practices and upcoming events and for contact information, visit windwillowconsortium.com. Above: Wind Willow Consortium board members are all sound therapists, from left, Judy Huxmann, Dana Smoker, Kathryn Heldreth, Diane Waddle, Nancy Krane and Julie Chase. Top right: Chase uses a handheld crystal bowl over a client's head during a sound immersion session. Bottom right: Chase’s home studio where she has been working during the pandemic.
called sound baths — to a reduction in pain, tension and anxiety in fibromyalgia patients, a disorder characterized by intense, widespread pain. And Beaulieu has produced studies on the positive effects tuning forks have on brainwaves.
“Science is still catching up to understanding how sound heals, but the current research is promising,” Dr. Marlynn Wei wrote in a Psychology Today article from July 2019.
ENCORE GOOD WORK
Because it’s so new, there is no government-regulated licensing agency for sound therapy, but that is part of why Chase and her organization adhere to strict practices based in integrity, she says.
Treating with sound A typical session of sound therapy begins with an intake survey, as in any other reputable medical or therapeutic practice. Clients are asked about their history with anxiety and depression, arthritis, and other conditions. The client is then guided to a table in a separate room, as in massage therapy practices, and asked to lie down. The sound therapist then spends 90 minutes playing tones on about 20 different bowls and instruments and, depending on the client’s needs, placing singing bowls and tuning forks strategically on the client’s body to amplify the sound vibrations, facilitating healing within the body. “Using tuning forks, using these different instruments, actually helps the body to produce nitric oxide,” Chase explains. “We need that to stay healthy.” Nitric oxide — not to be confused with nitrous oxide, which is more commonly known as laughing gas — is essential to the body’s functioning, since it is responsible for
the dilation of blood vessels, which helps regulate blood pressure and circulation. Sometimes clients will disclose that they’ve recently suffered a traumatic loss of a family member, which is taken into consideration by the sound therapist. “If somebody comes in to me and says, ‘My mother just died,’ I am not going to bring out a gong necessarily for that person, unless I already know (from a previous session) that that might be a beneficial vibration for them,” Chase explains. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Chase and Huxmann have been able to help clients virtually, but the impact isn’t the same, they say. Although the sound is still beneficial, the intensity of the vibration is lost through the wires of a client’s headphones or phone. It is not uncommon for clients to fall asleep at the beginning of the practice, emitting a purr-like snore, something that both Huxmann and Chase say they look forward to hearing again when the pandemic subsides. “I call it ‘divine purring,’” Chase says, laughing. “That’s just the best sound in the world. To know that you’ve helped someone step out of their stressful life and achieve a state of deep relaxation. It doesn’t get better than that.”
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EVENTS ENCORE FILM
LIBRARY & LITERARY EVENTS
Herbology Presents: The Big Lebowski — Showing of the 1998 cult classic starring Jeff Bridges, 8 p.m. April 17, 404 S. Burdick St., State Theatre, kazoostate.com.
Kalamazoo Public Library 553-7800, kpl.gov
Page Turners Book Club — Zoom discussion of American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins, 6:30 p.m. April 5; registration required.
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts 314 S. Park St., 349-7775, kiarts.org
Please Note: Due to the Covid–19 virus, some of these events may have been cancelled or changed after press time. Exhibits Please check with venues and organizations Framing Moments — An exhibition highlighting for up-to-date information. PERFORMING ARTS THEATER
The Tempest — In this play by William Shakespeare, a crew of men are shipwrecked on a magical island and tormented by an old man and his slaves, April 2–11, recorded by the Kalamazoo Civic and available for viewing on demand, kazoocivic.com. Almost, Maine — Nine loosely connected stories explore love and loss in a remote, mythical town in this play by John Cariana, livestreamed performances, 7:30 p.m. April 30, May 1, 5 & 6; 2 p.m. May 2, kazoocivic.com. MUSIC Magos Hererra — The jazz singer-songwriter in a livestreamed performance as part of the International Women Rising Festival, 3 and 8 p.m. April 2, State Theatre, 404 S. Burdick St., kazoostate.com.
Russian Romance — The Battle Creek Symphony and Grand Rapids Ballet Virtual team up for this free virtual concert pairing romantic Russian folk tales with symphonic works by Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev, 7:30 p.m. April 3, yourmusiccenter.org. Student Musicale — Western Michigan University music department students perform in the WMU Convocation Series, available via the WMU YouTube channel, 1 p.m. April 7, wmich.edu/music/events. Student Recital: Composers IV — WMU student composers perform, available via the WMU YouTube channel, 7:30 p.m. April 8, wmich.edu/ music/events. Aaron Diehl Trio — The Gilmore Virtual Jazz Club features this group led by pianist-composer Aaron Diehl, livestreamed from the Wellspring Theater, 7:30 p.m. April 9, thegilmore.org. Dudok Quartet — An ensemble playing string quartets of Bartok and Brahms, available for viewing online April 17–May 16, fontanamusic.org. A New Concerto for Piano — Composer and pianist Michael Brown premieres his Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Strings with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra in this virtual performance, 7 p.m. April 30, with recording accessible to ticket holders through May 31, kalamazoosymphony.com. 32 | ENCORE APRIL 2021
how photographers create images that preserve moments, people and places, featuring photos from the mid-19th to the 21st century from the KIA’s permanent collection, through May 15.
From Earth and Fire: Contemporary Japanese Ceramics from the Carol and Jeffrey Horvitz Collection — Some of the most cutting-edge works the Boston collectors have acquired in the past three years, through June 17. Unveiling American Genius — Abstract and contemporary works from the KIA’s permanent collection emphasizing stories that African American, Latinx and other artists have told about our culture, art and history. Events ARTbreak — Online presentations of conversations with artists: Resident artists in jewelry, fiber and photography discuss their Kirk Newman Art School residencies, noon April 6; artists featured in the Framing Moments exhibit discuss the inspiration they find behind the lens, noon April 20; kiarts.org. Richmond Center for Visual Arts Western Michigan University, 387-2436, wmich.edu/art
Eyes on Ukraine — Works by five contemporary Ukrainian photographers, Monroe-Brown Gallery, through May 2. Recent Gifts — Selections from the University Art Collection, Netzorg and Kerr Gallery, through May 2. Other Venues Art Hop — Art at various locations in Kalamazoo, presented by the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, 6–8 p.m. April 2, 342-5059, kalamazooarts.org. Edible Book Festival — This annual event and contest planned by the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, being held online this year, features books good enough to eat, April 2–4, kalbookarts.org.
Southwest Michigan Area Printers — An online exhibition featuring work from the Southwest Michigan Printmakers’ series Light and Dark and H2O, through April 30, kalbookarts.org. The Illustrated Accordion — An exhibition featuring books created in the accordion form, April 9–June 18, Kalamazoo Book Arts Center Gallery, 326 W. Kalamazoo Ave., Suite 103A.
All branches are open, with reduced hours and limited curbside service; see website for details.
Author Visit: Justin & Alexis Black — Meet the authors of Redefining Normal: How Two Foster Kids Beat the Odds and Discovered Healing, Happiness and Love, Zoom, 6 p.m. April 6; registration required. Baseball Books-on-Deck 2021 — Zoom discussions on books and topics related to baseball: The Shortstop from Kalamazoo: The Life and Times of Neil Berry, with author William Christiansen, 6:30 p.m. April 8; Havana Hardball: Spring Training, Jackie Robinson, and The Cuban League, with author César Brioso, 6:30 p.m. April 15; The All-American Girls After the AAGPBL and Isabel “Lefty” Alvarez: The Improbable Life of a Cuban American Baseball Star, with author Kat Williams, 6:30 p.m. April 22; Baseball in Kalamazoo 1880-1920 — A Contrast in Colors, a presentation by Keith Howard, 6:30 p.m. April 29; registration required. It’s Crime We Talk: A True Crime Book Club — Zoom discussion of Unspeakable Acts: True Tales of Crime, Murder, Deceit, and Obsession, edited by Sarah Weinman, 6:30 p.m. April 13; registration required. Classics Revisited Book Club — Zoom discussion of Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh, 7 p.m. April 15; registration required. African American Genealogy: Using Census Records — Learn how to conduct family history research using federal and state census records, schedules and rolls, 4:30 p.m. April 19; registration required. Urban Fiction Book Club — Discussion of Pray You Catch Me, by Dominique Thomas, 6 p.m. April 27; registration required. For Colored Girls Book Club — Discussion of First Comes Marriage, by Huda Al-Marashi, 7 p.m. March 26; registration required. Parchment Community Library 401 S. Riverview Drive, 343-7747, parchmentlibrary.org The library is open 1–5 p.m. Monday–Wednesday and 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Thursday–Saturday. Curbside service is also available; see website for details. Mystery Book Club — Zoom discussion of mysteries, 4 p.m. April 19; see parchmentlibrary.org/ mystery-book-club for Zoom link. Faith Perspectives on Climate Change — Watch videos by three local faith leaders online, followed by community discussion on Zoom, 7 p.m. April 20, parchmentlibrary.org/faith-and-climate-change; registration required.
Portage District Library 300 Library Lane, 329-4544, portagelibrary.info
YOU CREATE. WE FUND.
The library is open 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Monday–Friday and 10 a.m.–2 p.m Saturday; curbside service is available 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Monday–Friday. See website for details. Richland Community Library 8951 Park St., 629-9085, richlandlibrary.org
ACGK gave out $351,000 to 83 recipients last year alone.
The library is open at 50 percent capacity, and appointments are no longer needed; see website for details. April Trivia— Five rounds of April-themed general trivia in a live event on Facebook, 7 p.m. April 1. Michigan History Trivia — Five rounds of sportsand game-themed general trivia in a live event on Facebook, 7 p.m. April 22. Other Venues Jennifer Blackmer — The award-winning playwright and screenwriter reads from her work, WMU’s Gwen Frostic Reading Series, 7:30 p.m. April 2, Knauss Hall, Room 2500, WMU. Kalamazoo Poetry Festival — Online festival featuring workshops, readings, a celebration of community poets and craft talk by nationally acclaimed poets Patricia Smith and Danez Smith, April 16–17, kalamazoopoetryfestival.com.
KELLEN DEAU, Grant Recipient
Visual arts educator Kellen Deau received a MAGIK grant in partnership with KRESA to build 25 free library boxes across Kalamazoo neighborhoods most in need of access to literacy.
The Arts Council has 7 grant programs for individual artists, arts organizations and non-profits! We also offer:
• Free grant workshops - 12 each year. • Free 1-on-1 coaching to assist you in your submission. • Plus, ACGK members can apply for grants for FREE! How can we help you?
MUSEUMS Air Zoo 6151 Portage Road, Portage, 382-6555, airzoo.org The museum is open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday– Saturday and noon–5 p.m. Sunday, but there is limited occupancy because of Covid-19. Amusement rides are not available. Online ticketing is encouraged. Mondays 9–11 a.m. are for vulnerable people.
Panels Off! — Panels and cowlings are removed from Air Zoo planes, providing an in-depth look into their workings, through April 4. We Did It: The Riveting Real Rosies of WWII — Learn about some of the women called to fill defense plant positions in the 1940s in this exhibit. Gilmore Car Museum 6865 Hickory Road, Hickory Corners, 671-5089, gilmorecarmuseum.org Winter Lecture Series — Oakwood Park: Kalamazoo’s Coney Island, Keith Howard, April 11; The History of the Assembly Line, Don LaCombe, April 18; Gone with the Wind, Kathleen Marcaccio, April 25; all sessions begin at 3 p.m. at the museum, with registration required, and most will also be streamed via Facebook Live. Sheet Metal Fabrication with Matt Murray from Iron Trap Garage — A workshop with the renowned hot-rod builder, 9 a.m.–2 p.m. April 10; tickets required. w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 33
Kalamazoo Valley Museum 230 N. Rose St., 373-7990, kalamazoomuseum.org
Kellogg Bird Sanctuary 12685 East C Ave., Augusta, 671-2510, birdsanctuary.kbs.msu.edu
The museum is now open 10–11:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; registration required.
The trails are open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. WednesdaySunday. At press time the Resource Center was closed, but public restrooms at the back of the auditorium building were open.
Filling in the Gaps: The Art of Murphy Darden — Kalamazoo resident and nonagenarian Murphy Darden explores local history, civil rights, the enduring legacy of hate, and American’s forgotten Black cowboys, kvmexhibits.org/murphy-darden. Science on a Sphere — A new permanent exhibit developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows images of atmospheric storms, climate change and ocean temperatures on an animated globe, kalamazoomuseum.org/ exhibits/science-on-sphere.htm. The Walker Brothers — A virtual exhibit about Ryan and Keith Walker, who were afflicted with the rare genetic disorder Hunter syndrome, and their lasting impact on family, friends, inclusive education and civil rights in Kalamazoo, kvmexhibits.org/2020/ walkerbrothers. NATURE Kalamazoo Nature Center 7000 N. Westnedge Ave., 381-1574, naturecenter.org The Visitor Center remained closed at press time, but trails are open and programs continue with precautions.
Portage City Hall, 7900 S. Westnedge Ave.; call ahead to be sure the building is open, 329-4455.
Birds and Coffee Chat Online — Grab your morning beverage and learn about a new bird species in Southwest Michigan, 10 a.m. April 14; registration required. Happy Earth Day — Celebrate Earth Day with free admission to the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary for guests up to 18 years old, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. April 22. Other Venues and Organizations Audubon Society of Kalamazoo — Monthly Zoom presentation on a nature topic, 7:30 p.m. April 26, kalamazooaudubon.org.
Putting Together the Pieces of the Milky Way with Pictures — Presentation by Notre Dame physicist Timothy Beers, 7 p.m. April 9, via Zoom, kasonline.org. Alligator Sanctuary Program — Meet snakes, alligators and tortoises that you can touch and possibly even hold, 10 a.m. April 10, Schrier Park, 850 W. Osterhout Ave., Portage, portagemi.gov; registration required. MISCELLANEOUS
What’s In a Name? — Discover the history behind the names seen around Portage in this exhibit, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Monday–Friday, through April 30,
Walking Tour of Downtown Kalamazoo Breweries — Discover the stories behind downtown’s craft beverage scene, enjoy samples and get a goody bag, noon–4 p.m. April 3, 10,17 & 24; westmichiganbeertours.com. WMU International Festival — Take a trip around the world without leaving your home in this virtual event hosted by WMU’s Haenicke Institute for Global Education, 6–7:30 p.m. April 7–9, livestreamed on the WMU International YouTube channel. Food Truck Rally — A variety of street food options from local food trucks, 5:30–8:30 p.m., Wayside West Parking Lot, 3406 Stadium Dr., foodtruckrallykz.com Kalamazoo Astronomical Society Public Observing Sessions — The Great Nebula in Orion, April 10; The Moon & Double Stars of Spring, April 24; sessions begin at 8 p.m. but may be canceled due to inclement weather, kasonline.org. Green-A-Thon 2021 — A community event celebrating Earth Day, with games, a mini-farmer’s market and education about environmental sustainability, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. April 25, Portage City Hall, 7900 S. Westnedge Ave., portagemi.gov/441/ events. Kalamazoo Record & CD Show — New and used records and CDs, 11 a.m. April 25, Kalamazoo County Expo Center, 2900 Lake St., rerunrecords.com.
FROM THE WRECKAGE Join us for the Celebration of Community Poets, workshops, open mic, craft talk, and music
April 16 & 17 • Online
2021 kalamazoopoetryfestival.com 34 | ENCORE APRIL 2021
With guest poets Patricia Smith and Danez Smith
My Shirttail Cousin The day after I learned my great-great-aunts and –uncle had settled in Kalamazoo, I discovered my second-cousin-once-removed in an obituary.
Dick died just seven years ago. I text an old colleague to see if she remembers him. He was one of the good guys, she says.
Richard Nap—descendant of my great-great-uncle— worked for thirty-nine years at the Kalamazoo Gazette, the paper where I was an editor for twenty-two.
You went to him when you needed something done quickly and accurately. I’m pretty sure he stayed on after linotypes went the way of horse and buggy.
He was a linotype operator when that was still a thing. Maybe he stayed at the paper and retrained for camera work or other back-shop operations. Maybe I even met him.
I lost my job when the internet sent printed news and ads in the same direction. Dick was alive then. We could have had a beer at Harvey’s.
I used to walk from newsroom to back shop every morning to help paste-up people edit stories with X-acto knives, watch camera operators shoot newspaper pages. I could feel the hum in the hallway when the letterpress started up. By the time the paper bought an offset version, news pages went straight from editor’s screen to printing plate.
— Margaret DeRitter DeRitter lives in Kalamazoo and worked at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1988 to 2010, including stints as Entertainment Editor and Features Editor. She grew up in New Jersey and didn’t know until last year that a number of her relatives once lived in Kalamazoo. Her full-length poetry collection, Singing Back to the Sirens, was published last year by Unsolicited Press.
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ENCORE BACK STORY Kevin Ford (continued from page 38) saw anyone jogging. My mom died from complications of diabetes, and I knew the bad health aspects of the Black community and thought I would get a degree in physical sciences and use that knowledge to help my community. I was at Kalamazoo Valley Community College and took two government classes and changed my mind. I still wanted to help my community but learned politics was the way to do that. It was natural to me: a lot of reading, writing and formulation of arguments. I transferred to Western Michigan University and completed a bachelor's in political science with a public policy concentration and a minor in Spanish, all while working full time. (He ultimately earned a master’s in public administration from WMU as well.) I was hired by AmeriCorps to work one-on-one with low-income folks in Calhoun County, helping them to apply for state benefits. Because I was working with low-income folks, I was expecting — and this is to my detriment — to be working with Black people. But Calhoun County is more rural, and most of these folks are white. That was eye-opening for me. It made me really check my assumptions and recraft how I interact and engage with folks. After AmeriCorps, I worked as a 211 operator at Gryphon Place. 211 is a resource hotline to direct people to where they can get help with everything from food to shelter. I shared the room with those who worked the suicide hotline and learned from listening to them speak to callers about how to relate to people and to suspend judgment. While I was working there, I went to a Man Cave event that talked about issues affecting Black men. Kalamazoo City Manager Jim Ritsema was there, and I introduced myself and asked if we could meet. He said yes, kept his word, and at the meeting his first question was, “So what are you into?” I answered, “Poverty reduction. That's a passion of mine.” The city commission had recently established addressing poverty as one of the city's five priorities, and he offered me a paid internship in his office to work on that effort. When the Foundation for Excellence (which helps fund the goals of the City of Kalamazoo) emerged a couple of years later, I was hired as the coordinator for Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo.
What is SPK’s approach? We focus on jobs, families and youth in tandem and on the three neighborhoods — Edison, Eastside and Northside — where the amount of concentrated poverty is 40 percent or more. We have a two-generation approach that addresses the needs of adults and parents and children together. It sounds intuitive, but it’s not easy. This is a community problem, and, therefore, by definition, needs a community response. A lot of it is figuring out how the direct-service delivery organizations, each with their own dynamics and culture, can work together and partner smoothly to leverage resources. For example, SPK provided seed funding for a CNA (certified nursing assistant) program at Northside Association for Community Development. It was successful in providing neighborhood-based workforce development training — where the participants live, so it was easy to access. They were able to leverage this funding to get other support, including medical equipment from Stryker (Corp.) and involvement by Bronson Healthcare. Some of those who got their CNA (certification) even got jobs at Bronson. Another piece of this is leadership development within those neighborhoods. If SPK was to go away, those neighborhoods would still be there. We need to develop leaders in those communities that can advocate for their families and their neighborhoods, champion the changes they want to see, and have the skills to do it. What do people say when you tell them what you do? Honestly, I don't even think my mother understands what I do. Or my wife. They know I work and where, but they don’t know the depth of it. Even my wife — with the pandemic, we've been working a floor apart from each other — has heard me on Zoom calls and said, “I don’t know what you do. What do you do? I know you talk a lot.” “Well, I’m cultivating relationships one person at a time, woman,” (he says he told her, laughing), “changing the world, one cup of coffee at a time.” — Interview by Marie Lee edited for length and clarity
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BACK STORY ENCORE
Coordinator, Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo Kevin Ford will tell you one of his strengths is that he’s
a learner. That’s how he went from being kicked out of high school to spearheading efforts to reduce poverty in his hometown of Kalamazoo. “I always loved to learn, but I hated school,” says the 46-year-old Ford, who finished high school in the Kalamazoo Public Schools’ adult education program and ultimately earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. But he says he learned the most from his life experiences, and that learning set him on the path to becoming the coordinator of Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo, a 4-year-old initiative by the city to improve life for the nearly one-third of Kalamazoo residents who live in poverty. How did you get to where you are today? I had wanted to go in the military, but I acquired two felonies before the age of 21, which dissolved any military service aspirations. After being involved in the criminal justice system, it kind of settled on me that this wasn't what I was meant to do. That's one of those things where you are really all in or not, like “I was made to be in and out of jail and commit to some criminal lifestyle” or not. I chose not. I began working third shift at Covance Research Products, which did animal drug development. My oldest daughter was entering her first day of preschool at the same time that a friend I grew up with died from alcoholism. The convergence of these made me reflect a lot on my life, and I realized, “I want to go back to school.” When I was growing up on the Eastside, I never
(continued on page 37)
38 | ENCORE APRIL 2021
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