Organization that wants to build African-American cultural center in Grand Rapids hires new executive director


GRAND RAPIDS, MI – NIA Center, a nonprofit organization that wants to build an African-American cultural center in Grand Rapids, has a new executive director.

Sierra Hatfield oversees the organization’s programming, events, day-to-day operations, and donor and community partner relationships. The small nonprofit organization occasionally hosts events focused on black culture, the arts, health, and other topics.

“As a rural Appalachian woman of color, I know the value of community and collaboration,” said Hatfield, 24. “Running the NIA Center is an opportunity to connect with the West Michigan community and develop life enriching resources. I don’t see this job as a job – it’s a partnership with a much bigger purpose than any of us.

The NIA Center is the outgrowth of an organization founded by Ruth Coleman. Coleman, who now lives in New Jersey, opened the Center of African American Art and History in the Netherlands in 2012. The museum closed in 2014, but at the time she indicated she wanted to reopen the museum of Grand Rapids.

In 2017, his group’s mission changed. It renamed itself NIA Center and focused on opening a cultural center in Grand Rapids, not a museum.

Robert Upton Jr., who sits on the board of directors of the NIA Center, said there was no estimate of the cost of the cultural center, where it was built, when it was built or how it would be paid. . At this point, the board simply examines the idea further.

“Once the board of directors makes a final decision, we will make a major announcement,” he said.

Hatfield is the only employee of the NIA Center.

She replaces Gloria Huddleston, who served as the organization’s executive director from October to December 2019.

She was born and raised in Harlan County, Kentucky. She then attended the University of Kentucky, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. After graduation, she worked at the Council of State Governments in Lexington, Ky., Where she focused on access to behavioral health and workforce issues.

As Executive Director, one of Hatfield’s goals is to focus on youth and community engagement.

“We have a huge mission here – we want to build a world-class cultural arts center that celebrates African-American culture,” Hatfield said. “It’s not something we’re going to be able to do on our own. So it’s my job to invest all of Grand Rapids, as much as possible, in something like that.

She said it means presenting the mission of the NIA Center to the community.

“When I say invest, I also mean emotionally invested,” Hatfield said. “Just get people to talk about it, get people involved, maybe volunteer. Because it will be something that will be just as much for the community. “

Its goal is for the community to “own” the idea of ​​the cultural center and “maybe help us build and participate in something like that”.

Another goal is to create an internship program for the NIA Center.

“I’ve spoken to representatives from local universities, and I really want to bring young adults here, help them develop skills so they can go on and become the next leaders, whether it’s management. non-profit or business management, ”she said. noted.

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