Oral history, in African culture, was performed by the griots or storytellers. They kept the history and traditions of the family, tribe and nation, but was generally considered a masculine job. When Africans were brought to the Americas, that duty shifted to our womenfolk. In recent times that person was a grandmother, granny, nana, grandma or GRAAMA. The Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives' acronym describes much about our mission: collecting and retelling the rich, colorful stories which composes the historic African American tapestry of living in Grand Rapids.
GRAAMA's logo is derived from one of the many Adinkra symbols originating from modern-day Ghana. The first collected piece of Adinkra cloth was recorded in 1817, meaning that the symbols existed as early as the 1800s, and possibly prior to that. The intricate symbols represent concepts or proverbs, as well as serving as decorative artwork on fabrics and pottery. GRAAMA's symbol name is nea onnim no sua a, ohu meaning, "he who does not know can know from learning."
Director & Curator
A native of Delaware, Maryland, George A. Bayard III completed De La Warr High School to pursue a Bachelor’s in Art and Education at the former University of Delaware. This lead to working within the Wilmington Public School system prior to becoming the regional manager for one of Philadelphia’s largest art and picture frame franchises. Moving to Michigan in 1988, George established the award-winning Bayard Gallery of Fine African American Art & Books, one of West Michigan’s largest galleries devoted to artists of color.
George officially opened the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives, better known as GRAAMA, in December, 2015. Since its inauguration the museum has been well-received by both citizens and the arts community being recognized as an integral addition to the cultural offerings within Grand Rapids. As its executive director, George has personally overseen the many galleries and exhibits already hosted by the museum garnering excellent reviews as well as receiving ArtPrize's 10th Anniversary Juried Award for best Art Venue.
Board Directors & Staff