The 49507 Project Team

Marcel “Fable” Price (He/Him/His)

Executive Director

…Is a North American writer, teaching artist, community advocate, motivational speaker, and is Executive Director of The Diatribe.

Fable is the 2016 recipient of a Community Advocate Award, a 2017 40 Under 40 Honoree, and is a 2020 Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses Black Bottom Community Builder Award winner, and was the 2017-2020 Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids, Mi.

He is the author of “Adrift in a Sea of M&M’s” (2016) and is currently working to finish his second collection of poems titled New American Monarch; an extroverted caterpillars guide to becoming an introverted butterfly. Among other goals, Fable hopes to launch a youth center focused on preforming arts, writing, and community advocacy in the 49507. 

As the youngest, first person without a college degree, and only person of color to hold the title of Poet Laureate in Grand Rapids, MI his work has been heavily influenced by contorting personal experiences into a kaleidoscope used to examine glass ceilings for points of fragility.

He lives to be a beacon of vulnerability for those that can relate to his work.

His work has previously been used by PBS, The Flynn Foundation, Mental Health America, and Habitat for Humanity. His poems have appeared in Missouri Review, The Grand Rapids Grass Roots Anthology, The Spoon Knife Anthology, Button Poetry, and Write About Now.

Your connection to GR- I moved to Grand Rapids in 2009, because I honestly needed to hit reset on my life. At the time, I was driving weekly to Grand Rapids to experience an Open Mic that really have me my first sense of belonging outside of my close friend groups. I moved to Grand Rapids because I was about to get Evicted from my apartment in Kalamazoo, I was falling deeper into self-destructive behavior, and I was climbing deeper into debt with each passing month.

Grand Rapids at first, was a major culture shock – but not in a positive way. In Ypsi, Ann Arbor, and even in Kalamazoo I felt like diverse spaces were not something I had to strive for – in Grand Rapids, that was not the case. But, I soon realized that if you wanted organic and powerful spaces here – you simply had to create them. The lack of what existed here, originally glued me to this city. The people were amazing, the resources weren’t abundant, but they felt like they could one day be within reach, and the possibilities seemed endless. With the possibilities seeming limitless, being so close to the lakeshore, nature, and with a growing group of truly amazing people around me, I knew this was the place I wanted to call “home” and plant my roots.

Where you are from- Honestly, Grand Rapid is my home. I take a lot of pride in being a “local” but when it comes to where I am from, I was/am truly a pure Michigan kid. I was born in Lansing, grew-up in Kalamazoo, I was raised in Ypsi, and now I proudly call Grand Rapids home.

What the words “Liberation” and “Reclamation” mean to you- In my mind Liberation is about the shedding of chains, not only individually but collectively. I think liberation work, liberated art, and our journey to living truly liberated lives; begins with breaking away from social norms and unfair expectations rooted oppression. Be that oppressive living situations, relationship dynamics, careers, governments, ideas of sexuality, opinions on gender identity, unhealthy communication styles, or a culture that opposes rest – we need to shatter these false expectations and the pressures reach these unreal standards if we are going to truly shed our shackles.

Reclamation in my opinion is about taking back what has been and should be collectively “ours”, be that neighborhoods that individuals fled from because they couldn’t imagine themselves as “equal” to those they saw as less as themselves, or working to capture what we never were truly given a fair opportunity to grasp in the first place. Reclamation is an important act, that trickles into so many other important areas that entice us with the vision of living liberated lives, places such as representation, reparations, and true equity. Necessities that many have tried to trim down to buzz words and free samples. 

They say if you give a person a fish, they will eat for a day, and if you teach a human to fish, they will eat for a lifetime. That lifetime of eating is Liberation, fishing how and where we want on places that are rightfully ours is reclamation – and we have been starving for far too long.

And a little bit about who you are etc- I would say my last answer describes who I am, and how I think in a nutshell.

Your social media/website info 


Instagram: @fableistruth

Twitter: @fableistruth


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Candy Isabel (She/Her/Hers)

Project Manager

As an Afro-Latina from the Dominican Republic, Candy Isabel has a passion for social justice and a drive to see people take a hold of their futures and outcomes. Candy has a Master of Arts in Family Life Education with 10+ years of experience. Realizing her privilege of being welcomed to various “tables” she uses her influence to advocate for the Latinx and African American communities of Grand Rapids, MI focusing on social welfare, and the K-12 education system.

Candy is a Mother, Wife, Veteran, Business Owner, Social Educator, and Community Advocate. Growing up in both the 49507 and 49503 area codes, Candy experienced firsthand the inequities that she fights to dismantle every day.

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


There truly is no reclamation because it was never ours. We must first take claim of what belongs to us. Push for the unraveling of the education system, for more of us in positions of power to make the best decisions for us. Pushing for the power to just be. To be ourselves in our world where we are constantly defined by how we interact with a system that was designed against us. The power to break the generational cycles that exist within our communities.


Liberation is seeing our children empowered and nurtured by society instead of broken down and judged. Liberation is owning our neighborhoods, businesses, and holding positions of power. Liberation is a journey we must all make together. Free of the shackles of oppression and the weight of hatred and fear. Where everyone has what they need to truly thrive and change the outcomes of their families for generations to come.

Your social media/website info 


Facebook: @khamaistrategies

Instagram: @khamaistrategies 

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Gleason (They/Them/Their)

Director of Education

Gleason is a Michigan poet and performer, whose sharp tongue and soulful heart educate, encourage, and inspire. They are the Director of Education of The Diatribe, a nonprofit organization dedicated to uniting, inspiring, and empowering the youth through poetry. Gleason’s work has been commissioned by local and national organizations, including The Hope Network and The National Fair Housing Alliance. They have represented Grand Rapids in poetry slams on national stages and co-coached The Retort United Slam team from 2017-2019, which took home the third-place trophy for Group Piece Finals at the 2018 National Poetry Slam. Raised in a fundamental, evangelical church where their faith was often at odds with their soul, Gleason’s art is rooted in the idea and that poetry is a way of seeing the world, a way of seeing God in unexpected places. They believe in pipe dreams and that words have the power to change the world. They have spoken at TEDx events, education conferences, and universities across the country and their work has been featured by NPR,, Curve Magazine, and DivaMag UK. They love kayaking and biking and spending time with their partner and two pups.

What the words “Liberation” and “Reclamation” mean to you- To me, the word Liberation means the ability to exist, move, create, and thrive without interference. The ability to dream and manifest without limits.

Reclamation means to take back. It is about ownership, empowerment, and pride. 

Who I am: I love people- meeting new people, laughing with old friends. I’m passionate and outspoken and brave. I’m also kind of goofy and dorky. I love the outdoors, camping, kayaking, and biking. I also love reading, writing, and cuddling with my fiancé and our dogs.


Instagram: @Gleasonrising 


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Kyd Kane (She/Her/Hers)

Teaching Artist

Ericka “Kyd Kane” Thompson is Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids, Mi, a self-taught, multi-disciplined visual artist, arts educator, and most importantly, beacon of peace and love; born and raised on Grand Rapids Southeast Side. 

For Kyd, creativity has always been a source of joy, an origin for clarity, and a means for survival. Through childhood trauma, adulthood pain, and everything in between, each creation allows her to fill holes, to feel whole, to feel real, and to connect with others. Kyd uses self-expression to generate social dialogue about the good and bad of the human experience, by exploring themes such as; poverty, privilege, gentrification, resilience, and identity through community conversation, poem, installation, video, and photography. 

Kyd’s work has taken her to stages, institutes, galleries, and theatres including, Detroit Masonic Temple, the Michigan State Capitol building, Kalamazoo Institute of Art, Unity Center of Peace in Chapel Hill, NC, Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, and SiTE:LAB in Grand Rapids, MI, among others. Her voice has been featured on NPR, WYCE Electric Poetry, TEDx, and on the intros, interludes, and outros of various musical artists from all over the country. 

You can find her intentionally connecting with the community as the co-host of Creston Vibes: a themed open mic series, sparking conversation with the “Challenge Privilege” movement and engaging young people as a teaching artist with The Diatribe Inc. 

Kyd believes that her art has the power to generate vibrations that inspire, heal, challenge, affirm and provoke. She’s grateful for the opportunity to live a life filled with passion and purpose. 

Your connection to Grand Rapids- I was born and raised in Grand Rapids. I spent most of my days living in the 49507 area. I set intentions to move back there soon, to take up space as a homeowner, business owner, and change maker. 

What the words “Liberation” and “Reclamation” mean to you- Liberation started in the mind for me. There are so many things that I can’t change about the condition of the world, but I could change myself. While the world is set up to be against all parts of my intersectional identity; Black, Queer, Woman, raised in a low-income neighborhood with a single mom, I decided that I will have all the desires of my heart.  Liberating my mind empowered me in such a way, that I won’t take the “NO’s” that white supremacy and systemic racism planned for me to have. I’ve reshaped and reclaimed my narrative with passion, mindfulness, art, and education. With this liberation, I’ll channel the spirit of Harriet Tubman and lead myself to the freedom of my wildest dreams. I set the intention for my pathway to empower others to find their own! We deserve land, property, opportunities, financial equity,  safety, quality education and to have communities that value us for more than diversity clout or to ease their guilty consciences.

Your social media/website info:

Facebook: kydkanepoetry

Instagram: kydsaidit

Twitter: kydkanepoetry


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Foster (He/Him/His)

Teaching Artist

Foster aka AutoPilot is a professional orator who can be seen capturing hearts on movie sets, moving minds on panels, igniting spirits with spoken word, and commanding the city’s largest stages. 

Foster is rich with humor and brings that joy into his work as a teaching artist with one of the cities premier arts and culture non-profit organizations “The Diatribe,” which he co-founded.

He is a dedicated father that currently resides in Grand Rapids, but this Michigan Native was born in Detroit and raised in Muskegon. 

AutoPilot is a graduate of Grand Valley State University, a lyricist, nightlife extraordinaire, and is the brainchild that co-curated “The Drunken Retort” one of the “Must Experience Events in the City” – Grand Rapids Magazine.

Autopilot breathes impromptu truths and truly lives to connect people; be that through community organizing, officiating weddings, or The Original Back to the 90’s party (which he co-founded) that has sold out nearly 30 shows.

Where you are from- I was born in Detroit, Michigan, and spent most summers there but I grew up living in Muskegon and Detroit. I attended Muskegon Public Schools, Wayne County Community College, and Grand Valley State University.

Your Connection to Grand Rapids- I’ve called Grand Rapids home now for close to 15 years, but I’ve always had ties to GR through my father working for The Veteran’s Home over on Ann Street, as well as having a small amount of family and friends sprinkled throughout the city, and through sports growing up. If you were to ask someone how they know me in GR today, it would be because of nightlife, events, music, poetry, The Diatribe, and my positivity. I hope that the latter portions always speak for and about me first.

What the words “Liberation” and “Reclamation” mean to you- Liberation to me means freedom from limits on thoughts and/or behaviors.

Reclamation to me means claiming or taking back, whether it’s a right, thought, or idea, etc. Creative writing, poetry, and music have given me the power to share the aforementioned with everyone that I come into contact with.

And a little bit about who you are etc.- Getting to know me means that you know I love my family, friends, kids, animals, my community, performing, writing, jokes, poetry, music, movies, and that if I am capable of helping that that’s what I am going to do especially if it helps you achieve a goal or better yourself. I’m also a new dad and I love every bit of it minus diapers and attitude. 


Your social media/website info 

Instagram: @IAmAutoPilot


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Jocelyn Barnes (She/Her/Hers)

Communications Lead

Jocelyn Barnes grew up in West Michigan. In her lifetime, she has lived through a pandemic, two impeachment trials, the legalization of marijuana and gay marriage, and the devastating realities of white supremacy in America. As these are her lived experiences, her poetry focuses on topics ranging from the power in lifting others as you climb, finding hope through struggle, coping with trauma and mental illness, dating/living/loving as a queer, fat, black woman, and finding love for herself and her community, despite colonizer standards of existence in her hometown, and country. Jocelyn is the newest host of the Drunken Retort, an open mic hosted in Grand Rapids, MI,  she is the Communication Lead & a Teaching Artist with the Diatribe, and she was Retort United Grand Slam Champion of 2020. Her main goal in life is to empower those without the ability to do so themselves and to give as much love as she wants to be given.  She says she’s proof that art saves lives, and wants you to say “thank you” to a black woman today!

Your Connection to Grand Rapids- I’ve lived in Grand Rapids my whole life, it’s my home for better or worse. Tryin’ to make it better with every chance I get!

Where you are from- born & raised in GR, live joyfully in the 49507 area now with my fiancé, dog, and 2 cats

What the terms “Liberation” and “Reclamation” mean to you- Liberation means setting something free. Reclamation means taking back what was rightfully yours.  Liberation & reclamation in action looks like babes of any & every color, gender identity, & persuasion being empowered to spread their magic where they wish, instead of having to live a life centered around oppression. To liberate ourselves & reclaim our neighborhoods, we must come together as a community to fight against our common enemies of white supremacy & systemic racism. 

Your social media/website info:


FacebookYour Fave Fat Poet



Headshot of Adnoris Bo Torres

Adnoris “Bo” Torres (He/Him/His)

Community Outreach

Adnoris “Bo” Torres is a lifelong educator with a passion for the Latinx Community. During his professional career, he has served as an experienced program coordinator, manager, supervisor, and executive director with a demonstrated history of working to remove barriers for all historically marginalized persons. Working in the city of Detroit for 15 years he honed his skills and developed a keen sense for working towards the greater good. Skilled in Community Organizing, Student Development, Policy Analysis, Comparative Politics, and Organizational Development, Bo utilizes his Political Science background and Chicano/Boricua/Latino studies focus to affect the issues of importance to the Latinx community.

Bo has been instrumental in the co-creation of the Padres Fuertes Initiative, an initiative within the National Healthy Start Program Strong Beginnings – Healthy Start which aims to affect the lives of Latinxs Fathers/Father figures in Kent County. He currently serves as the Strong Fathers / Padres Fuertes project’s supervisor. He has served as the Executive Director of the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, forging an understanding of the importance of the organization in the community and impacting those in most need during the most crucial stages of the cov-19 pandemic.

Focusing on social determinants of health as a foundation, Bo has developed outreach and educational opportunities for the Latinx community of Western Michigan to engage with their community in new and dynamic ways.  

For Bo equity is not just a concept, an idea, or some trend; it is a way of living life. Creating spaces for those in society to thrive and grow in a way that truly represents who they are, that removes barriers and amplifies the voices of those who have for too long not been allowed to be heard. As a member of the Latinx community, he sees a profound duty to be of service to those who in his community do not share his privilege. An objective in this work for him is to be a voice from the chorus of Latinx peoples whose true representation is inaccurate, whose lives are not fully valued, and who are otherized to a caricature or a bowl of food. He envisions the opportunity to develop ideas and actively engage not only his racial-ethnic community but all communities whose equity lenses are focused on systemic change.

Your connection to Grand Rapids- My connection to Grand Rapids is service. After moving here six years ago from Detroit to become a part of the Strong Beginnings – Healthy Start team, it was to serve and walk alongside community men. Men who have been disregarded and whose presence was diminished by systems that chose not to engage them. Men were overlooked by the legal, health, and educational systems. As part of a dedicated team of health practitioners, equity educators, and community health workers, we serve to directly focus on interventions, social determinants of health, and policy that will make a true difference in the lives of our community members. That is how I connect to GR. 

Where you are from- … that is a deep question… 

Boogie jive and rap is life where I’m from 

I was born in Mayaguez Puerto Rico, but I grew up in Battle Creek, Michigan. I arrived in 1986. We left the island for a better life and found cold and struggle. Music has always served as an outlet and a way to express myself. I’m from where music and thought meet.

Where I’m from, I might play with Izzy where I’m from ( My sister’s name is Nelysha , but we called her Isha, so this lyric always resonated. Son of Nelson and Lilliam. I am the oldest of four. Nelson and Alexis are my brothers. Where I’m from family is everything.

Where I’m from, it be like, “run your coat black”
Jupiter, keeps her fat beats by the pack (Rittenhouse avenue was home, then East Lansing, SouthWest Detroit, Hamtramck. Home has always had a rich culture and history, something I have sought here and found in those I associate with.)


Where I’m from, nappy hair is life 

We be reading Marx where I’m from (My father was a political science major and i followed in his footsteps at M.S.U and Wayne State
The kids be rockin’ Clarks where I’m from ( I graduated high school in 1997 , Wutang era, Nas Era, the era of Biggie, Pun, A Mixture of Salsoul, Reggaeton, 90’s soul a great time.)
You turn around your cap, you talk over a beat
and dig some sounds boomin’ out a jeep

Where I’m from, cocoons hide the youth, swoon units hundred proof
You want some beef, they will cut you some

Where I’m form… (A proud Boricua and a student of postcolonialism, international relations, lived experience in poverty, homelessness, a student of the world, and lifelong educator.)

Digable Planets, Where I’m from…

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


The great Steven Biko once said,   “The revolutionary sees his task as liberation not only of the oppressed, but also of the oppressor. Happiness can never truly exist in a state of tension.” Liberation is happiness, joy, and making sure that you don’t lose what brings you that. 


A long process of learning, unlearning, seeing, unseeing, believing, and denying. Reclamation is about understanding that many of those things that we have learned need to be dissolved to understand o’rings. Medicine, literature, agriculture, civilization, all of these things we have understood from a perspective that is not, in the end, the truth. Relating to our origins, reclaiming our full selves as worthy, and understanding our history, is reclamation.  

Your social media/website info

Facebook is my only social media, @Adnoris Geovanni

Head shot of Speedy

Lamar Marquel “Speedy” Casey (He/Him/His)

Community Outreach

Lamar Marquel “Speedy” Casey is a hip-hop artist, photographer/videographer, recording engineer, graphic designer, entrepreneur, and aspiring community activist. Born and raised in Saginaw, MI but also raised half of his lifetime in the city of Grand Rapids, MI as well. He goes by the stage name and releases music under the alias  “Gwopped Up $peedy” and has many projects available online. He is co-owner of the independent record label “Gwopped Up Records”. His music is about what he sees going on in the environment around him and about his personal struggles, wins, and losses and to spread a message about being dedicated to becoming the version of yourself and staying motivated through life. He also raps about social justice issues and speaks out about the injustices he sees happening daily. Lamar has been featured on many big shows in the Midwest region and was named “Global Money Worlds Top Artist To Watch In 2020” an award for artists on the rise in the country. Lamar also owns a filming/photography company named “Speedy Flicked It Visuals” specializing in music videos and anything else when it comes to camera services. Lamar owns a graphic design company titled “Gwopped Up GFX” and also a clothing line titled “Gwopped Up Apparel”.

My connection to Grand Rapids: As a creative in the Grand Rapids area I’m heavily connected to the city because of my music career and also growing up on the southeast side when I first relocated here from Saginaw, MI during my youth. I remember how different things were 20 years ago compared to now in Grand Rapids, especially in the areas where we are seeing gentrification take over and areas that are considered “high crime areas”. I’ve been involved with assisting the community with being a part of projects like the Grand Rapids Hip Hop Coalition summer program for the youth for their “Hip Hop Summer Class”. I’ve put together events to give back and help the homeless, and also helped in assisting on numerous occasions to take water to Flint, MI because of the poisoned water crisis going on.  I also assisted in going to city-county commission meetings with activists like Victor Williams, Rodney Brown, Jerry Bishop, and others to push for changes in the community. I’ve also had a heavy music presence in the community as well for over 10 years. I’ve opened for artists like Boosie, Young Jeezy, and numerous other big names in the industry.  I graduated from Ottawa Hills High School in 2006 as well. 

 What the words “Liberation” and “Reclamation” mean to you- “Liberation” to me is seeing people of color rise above white supremacy to be mentally, physically, and financially free. Liberation is getting real social justice and removing the systems that are in place to keep us down. Doing for self, taking accountability for doing whatever it takes to provide a brighter future and better world for our kids, grandkids, and for the communities and city, we live in right now. Liberation to me seeing my people escape the mental chains that have been placed on us over hundreds of years ago. Liberation to me is group economics, real ownership, and living with no fear. When I think about the word “reclamation” I think it’s what we as a people deserve. We’ve done so much for the country we live in, we’re always stepping stones for other people’s agendas. Reclamation to me is seeing black people really take heed to our value and seeing it in each other and taking everything that’s ours and that was meant for us. If we don’t, nobody else will give it to us. We need reclamation in the household, reclamation with families sticking together, reclamation with being strategic and building with each other like our ancestors. It’s time for a change. 

I’m a man who is very passionate about seeing a change in our city and helping to bring people together. With so much talent and potential here, I want to play my part in pushing the envelope and taking things to another level on all aspects that I can assist with. I’m honored to work with “The Diatribe” because I know great things will happen when great minds come together. 

Your social media/website info

Instagram: @gwoppedupspeedy@gwoppedup_gfx, @gwoppedupforever

Twitter: @gwoppedupspeedy

Facebook: Marquel Speedy Casey

TikTok: @gwopped_up_speedy


Headshot of Jose Garza

Jose Garza (He/Him/His)

Web Designer

Jose Garza is an American designer, animator, and illustrator, currently based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His interest in art and design started in high school experimenting with graffiti and comic books. This path would lead to earning a BFA degree in Digital Art and Design at Kendall College of Art and Design. He is inspired by popular culture such as hip hop, and comics. He produces Animation, Video, Graphic design, and Illustration. 

Your connection to Grand Rapids– Born and raised in the city of Grand Rapids, also went to Kendall College of Art and Design which is based in the city. 

Where you are from– Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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

Liberation is to be able to be the freest version of yourself. Reclamation is to be able to take back what has been taken from us and what has been used to hurt us and use it for our gain. 

Your social media/website info

Instagram: @josegarzaart


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Dave “Slick” Benoit ( He / Him / His)
Dave Benoit “ Slick” is a Haitian American self-made digital artist, videographer, and breakdancer whose passion for creativity, sincere love for others, and dedication to the success of BIPOC people are an unwavering compass for his work. With the example set by his parents, who were refugees in pursuit of the American dream, he strives to become a pillar in the community. In the Summer of 2020 he created “Mad Ethnic”, a multimedia company aimed at closing the gap for creatives and entrepreneurs of color by holding space for them to tell their stories unapologetically and in style. His shared love for breaking and hip-hop has also led him into volunteering and teaching kids at Teknique Academy, a local breakdancing school for children and adults in grand rapids Michigan, in order to help foster creativity and safe spaces.

Your Connection to Grand Rapids- I was born and raised here by my family who immigrated from Haiti during trying times in the country. I helped my parents chase their dreams, opening multiple businesses throughout the years, finally taking root in East Town with their restaurant Chez Olga–all while surviving the severely underfunded public school system. I attended Creston High school as part of the final graduating class before its untimely end in 2013. With my dissatisfaction between the school system and the local art scene politics. I began my work with the community to make changes.

What the words “Liberation and Reclamation” mean to you – To be truly free from not only the system that’s oppressing you but from oneself as well. To confidently take claim to what is yours and to build upon that foundation. Then to never relinquish it.

Social Media

Illustration Instagram: @slicklgp

Videography Instagram: @madethnicflm

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Esan Sommersell  (He/Him/His)

For artist Esan Sommersell, making is a living. In a world where it’s become increasingly more difficult to discern fact from fiction, Sommersell’s paintings remind us that what we see, hear, touch, and taste cannot be separated from what we feel. With bold forms and surreal color palettes taken from the landscape of lucid dreams, his work is an affirmation of humankind’s innate desire to create, to mold, to touch the raw nerve of experience, and discover for ourselves what it means to be alive.



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Juana Williams (She/Her/Hers)

Juana Williams is a community-based arts curator and writer residing in Detroit, Michigan. Her curatorial practice predominantly focuses on deconstructing cultural and social issues, transgressing traditional boundaries of art criticism and curation, and countering anti-blackness within the arts. Williams is passionate about engaging communities, elevating diverse voices, and giving a platform to artists for innovative expression. She also persistently advocates for supporting artists and preserving art-centered spaces.

Williams recently joined Library Street Collective as the Director of Exhibitions and Wayne State University as a part-time Art History instructor. She previously served as the Exhibitions Curator at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Prior to joining UICA, Williams held multiple positions at various art institutions including the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, the Wayne State University Art Department Gallery, the Elaine L. Jacob Gallery, and the Detroit Institute of Arts. She was also the 2021 Art Mile Inaugural Curatorial Fellow.

Williams has curated exhibitions at several galleries and museums featuring a roster of artists at various stages of their careers including Wangechi Mutu, Firelei Báez, Devan Shimoyama, Mavis Pusey, and Elizabeth Catlett, to name a few. She recently guest-curated at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, the Detroit Artists Market, and the Grand Rapids Art Museum. She has presented lectures at numerous venues such as Carnegie Mellon University, Central Michigan University, and the Westmoreland Museum of Art. She has also contributed to multiple exhibition catalogs. Her work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Wege Foundation, and the Frye Foundation.

She holds a BA in Art and an MA in Art History, both from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.

Your connection to GR – I lived in Grand Rapids for a few years when I worked as a curator at UICA. I’ve remained in touch with friends I made during my time living there and I’ve stayed connected to the art scene since moving away.

Where you are from – Detroit, Michigan

What the words “Liberation” and “Reclamation” mean to you
Liberation means freedom, which is open to many facets of understanding. I feel moments of liberation when I have freedom of time and decisions without dealing with the repercussions of shifting away from a capitalist lifestyle. Liberation means rest, in every possible way. Liberation means basking in the sun on a warm summer morning before the beaches are overrun with busyness. True liberation means simplicity, and freedom of vulnerability and authenticity, without judgment or consequences.

Reclamation is taking something back. I think of reclamation in terms of working on reconnections to my ancestral lineage and bringing forth cultural and spiritual memories that we were forced to separate from – reconnecting to a history that was stolen from me.

Your social media/website info:
Instagram: @curator_juana

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Carbon Stories is a multifaceted creative agency with roots in Grand Rapids, MI, along with Brooklyn, New York. With a primary focus on digital content via videography and photography, Carbon Stories continuously seeks to add value to other brands and organizations through impactful storytelling concepts.


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