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: The South East Market Location 5

Diatribe logo

The 49507 Project: The South East Market Location 5

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?

The South East Market

The South East Market

South East Logo

We’re super stoked to see this area activated with some new energy around food and the community that food brings. So many people have fond memories of a food culture in Boston Square that was alive and well decades ago. We’re so grateful to have our corner on Earth continue to bloom with a project like this. It adds to the spirit of all the beautiful things that are going to be created in the space whether it be tacos, friendships, kinships, leaders…hopefully, all of the above.

1002-1006 Hall building photo

Business Description

South East Market is currently in the process of empowering a cooperative kitchen + event space that will bring local food businesses together to create and thrive together. The event space will be a community hub for education, pop-up markets, MLK Freedom School instruction and a rental space for networking events, art shows, etc. The driving force of the space is to be for us, by us (FUBU).

Picture of Alita and Khara together

Alita and Khara met in September 2020 in what they thought would be a contractual relationship. However, as they grew in sisterhood and a shared bond over the beauty, stories and healing property of real whole foods, partnership became clear. They have grown the South East Market together as co-owners of the retail store and food hub. The store sources food and products first from diverse and local producers. South East Market operates through a sustainable and equitable lens and is committed to empowering the diversity and resiliency of local farms and businesses as well as their customers and neighbors through access and education.

Picture of Khara and Alita together

What the word “Liberation” and “Reclamation” mean to you- Liberation for us means those who experience the most oppression have the freedom to explore their creativity, dreams, hopes and identity. It’s important to us to be unapologetic about speaking into what we need to be liberated and that looks like access to high quality education, food and land that is for us and by us. When we’re speaking about “us”, we are referring to a beloved community, a vision in which all people can share the wealth of the Earth.

 When we think of reclamation, we think of all of the land that was tended to by our ancestors and how little of it is owned by Black, brown and indigenous people today. We know our souls won’t ever be satisfied until we get our land. That might look like a business, a farm, art in public spaces, home ownership, etc. 

 When Martin Luther King Jr. summoned the prophet Amos and asked that justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream, he was calling for a love-driven justice so powerful that it could fundamentally reshape the land itself.

Business Social Media/Website info

Building Description

The building is presently divided into three individual spaces of 1,400, 1,020, and 750 square feet. These three spaces have three individual storefront entrances. Our plans are to renovate the building to accommodate three small businesses that offer beneficial products and services to the Boston Square neighborhood business community. This area is presently experiencing a rebirth. We are very committed to offering affordable lease rates to small businesses. We are hoping that a Women or Small Minority-Owned and operated businesses will find our lease rates affordable. It is our hope that these spaces can serve as business incubator spaces.

1002-1006 Hall building photo

Any cool history behind you getting it/what it means to you

I am a collector of art by local Grand Rapids Artists, so this is really exciting to me that my building can become a piece of art that makes a difference in how the black community is perceived and hopely appreciated. Art has the ability to teach and inform. I am looking forward to my building telling a unique story of truth, purpose, and a unified determination of people to sustain and succeed.

Renovated building

Business Owners: Alita Kelly and Khara DeWit

Alita Kelly

Bio-  Alita found strength and purpose through real food after struggling with dietary health related issues as a young adult. Eventually she went on to manage multiple nutrition programs and start a catering business before moving to Ann Arbor to complete her degree in environmental science and sustainable business from the University of Michigan (2020). Alita had been learning about and manifesting a sustainable and equitable store like South East Market for several years before taking the leap to see it into fruition. She was activated by how COVID highlighted the health disparities in communities like 49507 and the vulnerabilities present in our globalized food system. Alita serves as vice chair for the City of Grand Rapids Urban Agriculture Committee and the chair of the Boston Square Business Association.

Your connection to Grand Rapids- I was born and raised in Grand Rapids. Many times I have felt stifled by being Black and coming from humble means in this town. As I come to learn more about some of the amazing things happening here, like the 49507 Project, all the local artists involved and the fact that so many people come out to support something like the South East Market I have hope. Hope that our city can prioritize neighborhoods as diverse as ours and tangibly support the notion that Black lives and Black dreams matter.

Where you are from- My mom was raised in 49507 about 100 feet from where I live now. I watched my grandma walk from that house every day to Ms. Tracy’s Corner Store and get RC Cola and pork rinds, still one of my favorite treats. It was the only place in walking distance for food and she didn’t drive. She died of a heart attack about a decade ago but if she was alive she could walk to South East Market. That’s where I’m from and empowering access is where I’m going.

A little bit of who you are- Outside of this work you can find Alita fascinated with nature, gardening or admiring insects. She is the proud momma to her 10 year old daughter and enjoys traveling and exploring new cultures and food.

Headshot of Alita Kelly

Khara DeWit

Bio- Khara brings her aloha spirit to 49507 with a passion for building and empowering a generous community where all will flourish. She has a superpower – accounting wizardry combined with strategic thinking and systems development acumen, which she used to run a relationship-based consulting practice in GR for the last 10 years. Six years ago she healed from Crohn’s Disease after she discovered sustained health through food and herbs as medicine.  She knows connections of mind, body, spirit, and community is crucial in health and healing. 2020 unfolded as a milestone year for our society and the world in which we coexist; it is clear to her – our collective value system must evolve to see our interconnectivity and include an empathetic awareness towards our environment and each other.

Where you are from- I was born and raised on Oahu, Hawai’i in a predominantly Asian American context, my Japanese grandmother and grandfather both born to Waialua sugar plantation laborers. I grew up immersed in a rich, interconnected and diverse cultural heritage in the islands. This very connection is the foundation of the Hawaiian culture: understanding that we all have a mandate to malama, to care for the land, our environment and for one another.  

Your Connection to Grand Rapids- I moved to Grand Rapids with my partner 16 years ago after graduating from college. It was a thick culture to crack into. The need to assimilate was strong to my sense of survival. Through the years, I’ve grown to love the potential I see in the creative, entrepreneurial and generous humans present here. It’s through the sharing of our collective resources, that we’ll be able to cooperatively build a sustainable community where all flourish.

A little bit of who you are- On Khara’s down days, you can catch her with her 3 sons, out for her favorite bowl of phõ, chatting outside with neighbors, and day-dreaming about early morning surf sessions.

Headshot of Khara Dewitt

Building Owner: Isaac V. Norris

Bio-Isaac V. Norris, AIA has successfully owned and operated the architectural firm of Isaac V. Norris & Associates, P.C. for over 25 years. IVNA has served the City of Grand Rapids and State of Michigan with quality architectural design and planning services on a variety of project types.  Some of his most notable projects such as; The Ray and Joan Kroc Corp Community Center, The Silverline BRT Stations, and the remodeling and addition to New Hope Baptist Church. Isaac obtained a Master of Architecture Degree from the University of Detroit and a Master of Science in Construction Management from Western Michigan University.  Isaac has embraced the many opportunities to design and build in the community which he lives.   

Isaac is a native of Grand Rapids. He is married to his wife of 29 years. Together they have three adult children and two very-active pre-teen granddaughters.

 Your connection to Grand Rapids– I was born and raised in Grand Rapids. My family has been here since the late 1950s. Of course, we were a part of the great migration as many lead and followed the exodus or migration from the racial hatred of the south. My folks came from Louisiana and Mississippi.

Where you are from– GR-Creston High School Graduate. Our Family has been Business and property owners in the Boston Square Business District since 1973

Picture of Isaac Norris

What the word “Liberation” and “Reclamation” mean to you“Liberation”, to me, means that I am free to live out not only my dreams but also the dreams of my ancestors. “Reclamation”, to me, is a constant process of me realizing that God has blessed me with all that I need to be the best I can be in this life. I am even empowered to help someone else to understand that they too are blessed and that their gifts will make way for them.

And a little bit about who you are etc. Isaac Norris is also a smooth jazz saxophonist who enjoys performing live, writing, recording, and releasing music.

Your business social media/website info: 

Website: www.ivna-pc.com

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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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Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses
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