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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Grand Rapids Community College honors local leader for her volunteering efforts

India Manns

It was not the change in weather that India Manns was most surprised about when her and family moved from Oakland California to Grand Rapids, Michigan  -- but the lack of racial equity she witnessed.

“Because we're native to Michigan you know the shock of the weather wasn't a big deal but I can say that was the 2013-2014 winter where we got 100 inches of snow so that was quite a welcome back to Michigan, but what I was surprised about in terms of the community was just the lack of equity and opportunity given to people of color.”

Manns wasn’t always a community advocate – that is until she came to Grand Rapids and she was forced to advocate for her then 13-year old son who was experiencing racism at a local school. 

“It was clear that it had something to do with the color of his skin just the way that he was treated. He was never included anything, he left out the stuff he had, he had ridiculous things said to him, and then as I spoke to other African-American families I found out that it just was not uncommon. That was something that happened more often than not to children of color.”

After that, Manns says she couldn’t just sit and do nothing – today and five years later Manns sits in 22 boards to ensure Grand Rapids is a welcoming place for all.

“There are plenty of people of color in this community a lot of talented people that you know could have opportunity extended to them if we just realized that they're here and acknowledge that they're here.”

Manns will be 1 of 13 local leaders honored at the Giants Awards scheduled to take place on Saturday, February 23rdat Devos Place. Tickets can be found on the website of Grand Rapids Community College. 

Michelle Jokisch Polo, WGVU News.