The 49507 Project is a POC-LGBTQ and youth-led project, rooted in collaboration, that teaches art and event organizing, and commissions community art for and by people of color in the 49507 neighborhood.

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Can Community Outreach Be Organic?

Can we use art to further activate neighbors, shift power dynamics in historically underserved areas, and more importantly, change the narrative?

The 49507 Project: La Casa de la Cobija– Location 1

Diatribe logo

The 49507 Project: La Casa de la Cobija– Location 1

Project 49507 is a POC-LGBTQ and youth-led project, rooted in collaboration, that teaches art and event organizing, and commissions community art for and by people of color in the 49507 neighborhood.

Can Community Outreach Be Organic?

Can we use art to further activate neighbors, shift power dynamics in historically underserved areas, and more importantly, change the narrative?

Can we plant seeds that will bloom into the south side becoming a Multicultural Arts District?

La Casa de la Cobija

Casa de cobija banner

I started my business at a flea market and transitioned into 2 others before landing on the Division Corridor. I was located inside the Mega Mall when I decided I wanted to find a different location. I traveled to Mexico to sell my home and used the funds to help purchase my store. This was around the same time that undocumented families were no longer able to have driver’s licenses. I knew that I needed to be somewhere that was easily accessible by my community. 

I saw the empty location on Division and Alger and I had a dream about it. At this point, I knew it was mine. It was vacant for a while so I prayed for it to not be purchased or rented by anyone. Finally, I had what I needed to make the location mine. We have been growing ever since. 

I felt blanketed by this community in 2020 when my windows were bashed in. People that I didn’t even know came out to help. They showed up with food, trash bags, brooms, etc. They also started a fundraiser and in 24 hours, I had what I needed to replace the windows for my store. This was community. This was what it meant to be blanketed in love and care.

picture of Casa De Cabija storefront

My business focuses on preserving our culture of life celebrations. This includes attire for baptisms, first communions, Baby Presentations, etc. Any life celebration and occasion.  The blankets tell a different story. When I arrived in Michigan my dream of seeing snow became a reality. After witnessing the amount of snow- I said to myself “I’m going to sell blankets”. Although they are great for the colder months, blankets represent a lot more. They represent a person’s comfort zone. To be blanketed in love and care. Blankets are kind of like therapy. It’s the first thing we wrap a newborn child in which then grows with them. You see a child with their same blanket till they are 5 or 6 years of age. I feel that my store is a little piece of Mexico within the US.

Business Description

Business Social Media/Website info

2355 Division Wall

Owner: Angelica Velazquez

Bio- My name is Angelica Velazquez and l am originally from Mexico, I have lived in Grand Rapids for more than 20 years.  I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit so when l relocated from California to Michigan I started a small business. 

I had been living in LA for 15 years when I was invited to a magical city- Grand Rapids, during 9/11. During this time, my sister passed away and left me with her 4 children. At that moment I knew I needed to make the best decisions for the children. 

When I arrived I felt like I had arrived where I was supposed to be. I felt that I had an opportunity to be in a smaller, safer, and healthier place for my kids to grow up. I was worried that I wouldn’t feel welcomed because I didn’t know how many people lived here or the diversity of the city. I remember when I walked into the church I had chosen to go to, it was so diverse and I was very welcomed by everyone. I believe that you can see someone’s soul through their eyes and their smile and I could tell I was in a safe space.

Headshot of Angelica Velazquez

Your connection to Grand Rapids- I have been living in Grand Rapids for 20 years. Over time, you start to form some of the family that you left behind in your country. I started to feel part of the neighborhood and people looked to me as the mother or grandmother of the neighborhood. I found it easy to transfer my peace and joy onto others. 

I have always been an advocate for the underserved communities and that led for my storefront to become a community resource center where our community feels welcome and safe.  

I have tons of stories on helping the community whether it be fundraisers for families in need due to illness or family members passing away or being the voice of reason and encouragement. I founded Grandma’s to the Rescue in an effort to help raise funds for those in need such as medical treatment, funeral expenses by selling food in the parking structure of my store, and donations from several different sources.

What the words “Liberation” and “Reclamation” mean to you- 

Liberation- Liberation of my community means to be included, to have the capacity to reach their dreams, the liberty to just be and to have. When I hear “black and brown people” I feel that we are an invincible community but we do not have access like others do. I also believe that you are liberated when you believe in yourself. There are imaginary chains that we create for ourselves and pass down to our generations. We have to cut those first to be liberated. You have to value and love yourself first. You have to believe that you have rights and that things were made for us too. Your dreams are reachable and there are no boundaries. In order to be liberated, we must never stop growing. You must cut the chains you are dragging because in reality they dont exist. When we crossed the border we did more than we had ever imagined. 

Reclamation- Reclamation is the 49507 project, reclamation is the opportunity to receive funds when we didn’t qualify before. There are a lot of ways to reclaim our community. We need to classify the needs from one to another. We need to work towards equality as humans and reclaim our liberty to access. The ability to bring our voices together gives us more power to make a change. We need to be more unified to be able to participate in these systems. Build our own platform. I believe reclamation can happen through education. Education so that our future generations can see their futures, not as migrant workers but to fly to the moon, to be architects, to be something bigger.

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Contact/Booking: info@thediatribe.org

We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations.

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Site Design by KCAD students & faculty as part of the EPIC Project.

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