A mission of awareness: The story behind the permanent Black History exhibit at the Carnegie Center

The phrase “Knowledge is power” has been around for quite some time in our society. Knowledge opens the door for opportunity and growth, for understanding and clarity. For some it's just an ideal, for others it's a passion that drives them to advocate for change in their communities. A shining example of that can be seen in one local woman’s drive for awareness and education in her community.

Meet Haran Stanley, 36, of Port Huron. Stanley is a Job Developer for a local nonprofit, and mother to her daughter. In partnership with the Port Huron Museum, Stanley, who is also Chair of the Black History Project Committee, is putting together an effort to install a permanent Black History exhibition at the Port Huron Museum’s Carnegie Center.

When she isn’t being a mother, Stanley is in her community advocating for change through means of education and spreading awareness. Her subject of choice? African American History, to promote unity and healing for race relations in our community and country as a whole.

Haran Stanley created the new Black History Project at the Carnegie Center“The project kind of came about last year actually. I initially approached the museum because I wanted to honor my grandmother in some kind of way. She's worked with the museum for years; she's kind of the creator of the Collections in Black program that usually happens every year in February (Black History Month),” says Stanley. She attributes her grandmother as one of her main role models and influences in her passion for African American advocacy and history.

After initial conversations regarding the honoring of her grandmother at the museum, Stanley says the conversation then turned to talks of honoring the Black community as a whole. “We really don't have anything honoring the Black community at all, so the project kind of expanded from there,” said Stanley.

The project seeks to highlight the stories of resilience and success experienced by the Black community in Port Huron, through a variety of views and perspectives. Those include neighborhoods, businesses, art, journalism, community and religious organizations, health professionals, military personnel, sports, music, and literature, as well as educators and administrators.

Stanley feels the project is necessary due to the nation's climate and lack of understanding between racial groups. Stanley also seeks to empower millennials to pick up and carry the torch that was held by their relatives and ancestors during the Civil Rights Era.

“The baby boomers really benefited from what their parents, aunts, and uncles did. They were able to kind of relax a little bit, reap the benefits, go to school, do those different things because their parents, aunts, and uncles fought for that,” Stanley says.

“Now the millennial generation, we are back to having to pick up that torch and fight again.”

Port Huron has a deep history from days gone by, from being an important terminus for the underground railroad, to seeing Black owned businesses developing and flourishing in today's era. When asked what advice she would give to the younger generation concerning today’s climate, Stanley says, “It's important to know it (history). It's important to understand it so that you can apply that even to yourself. Give yourself the motivation to keep going.”

A soft opening of Black History Project: 'From Whence We Came: Black History in the Thumb Coast Region’ is scheduled to open Saturday, Feb. 13, at Port Huron Museum’s Carnegie Center. The exhibit will be available to the public during regular museum business hours.
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