Holland oral history project gives Black residents a platform for their stories

When Tiara Johnson moved to Holland from California in the eighth grade, her parents prepared her: It would be like a completely new world.

Her’s is one of four oral history videos being produced for Black History Month by the city of Holland. During her interview, Johnson mentions both how welcomed she felt as well as incidents of racial profiling.

“Holland has changed in terms of demographics, in terms of understanding, in terms of the different programs that are available. I’m really encouraged with Holland. There’s so many different types of people here now. And I think people at the end of the day really just want to live the best life that they can,” Tiara Johnson says in the first oral history video.

The videos are available on the city’s YouTube channel.

Black History Month and beyond

The city’s media team plans to put out four videos to celebrate Black History Month, but the project will be ongoing, says Holland Human Relations Director Esther Fifelski.

“We have so many people who come settle in Holland for so many reasons, but when you listen to these stories, you’ll see it was always for opportunity,” Fifelski says.

The city’s media team interviewed Black residents of Holland who have served on city boards and commissions and asked them what brought them to Holland and to talk about their experiences.

Both sides of the story

“It’s about Holland welcoming other people to the community, but we also know we have our challenges. Let’s put it out there. I think it’s important to know that story,” Fifelski says.

The city has collaborated with community partners in the past to highlight the voices of Asian American and Latino residents. Sharing the stories of Black residents, Fifelski says, “is long overdue.”

Read more articles by Andrea Goodell.