Speakers at Kutsche Office roundtable focus on local communities

Ronald Stephens, professor of interdisciplinary studies at Purdue University, gives a keynote address about Idlewild at the Local History Roundtable March 29.
Ronald Stephens, professor of interdisciplinary studies at Purdue University, gives a keynote address about Idlewild at the Local History Roundtable March 29.
Image Credit: Bri Luginbill
Jo Ellyn Clarey, second from right, is the Kutsche Office of Local History's Gordon Olson Award recipient, recognizing her work with the Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council. With Clarey are, from left, Gordon Olson, Peg Padnos, Robert McArdle and
Jo Ellyn Clarey, second from right, is the Kutsche Office of Local History's Gordon Olson Award recipient, recognizing her work with the Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council. With Clarey are, from left, Gordon Olson, Peg Padnos, Robert McArdle and
Image Credit: Photos by Bri Luginbill

With a focus on West Michigan, speakers at the ninth annual Local History Roundtable highlighted a once famous vacation resort for African Americans and how Holland claims its Dutch heritage.

Hosted by the Kutsche Office of Local History, "Returning to Our Roots: Explorations of Western Michigan's Diverse Communities," was held March 29 in the Kirkhof Center.

Ronald Stephens, professor of interdisciplinary studies at Purdue University, introduced the audience to Idlewild during his keynote address. In the early 1900s, the Lake County community was a thriving resort for middle class and wealthy African Americans.

Stephens said developing relationships with other vacationers at Idlewild helped African Americans establish businesses, health care and law offices in their communities.

"Despite the Jim Crow laws of the times, they were able to come together in this unique space through their mobility and change communities," said Stephens, who taught sociology at Grand Valley and served as coordinator for African/African American Studies from 2003-2005.

He is the author of a book about Idlewild as well as co-curator of a traveling photo exhibit on the town, now housed at Michigan State University.

Kathryn Remlinger, professor of English, and a student gave a presentation about how Holland has been reimagined as a Dutch city through language use in signs, souvenirs and menus. Remlinger was the recipient of the Kutsche Office's Community Collaboration Grant and completed an ethnography project on how people create a sense of place and local identity through language.

Andrea Riley-Mukavetz, assistant professor of liberal studies, also gave a presentation, "Stories for the Next Generation: An Indigenous Approach to Oral History."