News & Blog - Ideas

Reflections on Community & Allyship

Curated by Andrea M. Eberle, Marketing Director

As a new Lambert team member, just a month into my new post, I was excited to participate in the firm’s first diversity, equity, inclusion, and allyship (DEIA) community activation at our headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Hosted by Lambert’s Office of DEIA in partnership with The Diatribe, a West Michigan-based nonprofit that unites youth and raises awareness through art, the event presented a unique opportunity to learn more about the work taking place in Grand Rapids to support Black and Brown communities.

I’m a Michigan native, currently based out of the firm’s Detroit office, but my experience in and around Grand Rapids is best categorized as that of a visiting tourist. This community activation allowed me to learn and shed preconceived assumptions about Grand Rapids through insider perspectives, thanks to The Diatribe and The 49507 Project.

Connecting art, community, and education to drive equitable change—that’s the purpose of The 49507 Project, organized by The Diatribe and brought to life through true community engagement and local investment. An artist and youth-led community celebration, The 49507 Project commissioned seven local Black and Brown artists for large-scale murals on prominent buildings owned by Black and Brown business owners throughout the Garfield Park neighborhood.

On-site QR codes that connect the art to its neighborhood roots and educate about fair housing rights.

Taking it a step further, digging deeper into the local history, all 49507 murals are accompanied by the digital education journey “Undesign the Redline” accessible via on-site QR codes that connect the art to its community, its people, and the impact of redlining practices. It’s an anti-racist project by and for people of color.

For Lambert’s community activation, staff toured three of the seven murals with The Diatribe’s founders and leaders, Marcel “Fable” Price and G. Foster II, aka AutoPilot, as our guides and educators.

For me, seeing the marriage of art and community hyper-focused on a distinct mission was amazing. This project encompassed the significance of community from start to finish. Business owners, residents, artists, and children who live in the community all participated in the ideation process. And when you have community involvement at this level, there’s more buy-in, and you start to see and feel exponential results.

But that’s just one perspective, my perspective. The beauty of this event is that the experience permitted me to connect with my colleagues—many of whom grew up in 49507 neighborhoods—in a meaningful way through their own stories alongside the tour’s specific learnings.

The following is a curated selection of reflections from our staff who participated in the 49507 experience.

This mural titled “Kinfolk” is located at The Old Goat. The artist uses a style of character building and letterforms to communicate that 49507 is worthy to be proud of.

“Of course, I was moved by the art itself. But something that really stood out, as we were standing by each mural, the cars driving by and the people honking and clapping and reaching out to The Diatribe leaders as they were telling us about the art. It made me think, when you give a community space to tell their story, how empowering that is and how much it can excite people and bring them together. That was cool to see.”

Megan Bowman // Associate

 

“I’ve been to Grand Rapids several times, but I saw a side of the city I’ve never seen before. And that’s the people. When you share the storyline from that human perspective, it opens up an entirely different world. This experience took me a little deeper into the heart of the city, the heart of the people, their lived experiences, and how that is celebrated in culture, which was phenomenal.”

Dexter Sullivan // Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

This mural titled “Generational Wealth” is located at Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses. The artist hopes that people gaze at this piece and leave with a smile.

“I thought it was really inspiring. I’m relatively new to Grand Rapids but was already somewhat familiar with the 49507 because I volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club nearby. Having a better understanding of that community will make me better suited to help and serve the kids that I see every week.”

Alli Cooke // Manager

 

“They [The Diatribe] want people to come out to the Garfield Park neighborhood. They want people to learn about these communities, see what redlining and gentrification have done, all the work to be done, and how we can be allies with one another. As a public relations professional, I remain committed to learning. I think there’s so much that I need to listen to.”

Brenda Hu // Director

This mural titled “Enjoying the Roots of Our Positive Struggle” is located at 40 Acres HQ. For the artist, inspired by community listening sessions, this mural represents what Black individuals don’t see enough of: togetherness, love, and laughter.

“I learned the ZIP code 49507 has a deep, deep history. Being able to scan the QR codes and read more has been an incredible experience and something I cherish as a lifelong learner. I want to learn about the history of the places where I live, and I appreciate the opportunity to have these resources.”

Jeremy Witt // Senior Associate

 

Team Lambert is committed to upholding its core values and serving as allies. While there is always much work to be done, we continue to actively look for opportunities to learn and grow together. I’m going to start by paying a visit to the other four murals the next time I visit Grand Rapids…and grabbing lunch at Hall of Fame Burgers. How about you?

Visit thediatribe.org to learn more about or contribute to The 49507 Project and the incredible work The Diatribe is doing in West Michigan and beyond.