Kari Bassett ’98
Growing up in Des Moines, Kari Bassett ’98 experienced Black church through her grandfather, who was the bishop of the Church of God and Christ for the state of Iowa.
“This is the Pentecostal section, which is the holy-spirit, lots-of-dancing style of Black church,” Bassett explains. In 2017, just before her grandfather died, his Cedar Rapids church was designated an historic place of interest. “This was a fitting ending to his 45-year career,” Bassett says. “I wanted to do this for more Black churches.”
Bassett channeled this desire into reality, forming a nonprofit called the Black History Research Collective (BHRC), an organization committed to identifying Black churches that might be eligible for historic recognition. Starting with the Des Moines area, the research focuses on churches that have been around at least 75 years.
Last summer, the collective welcomed their first interns: Grinnell students Evelynn Coffie ’24 from New Orleans and Amani Alqasi ’25 from Bethlehem, Palestine. The research was challenging, as Bassett, Coffie, and Alqasi had to piece together many details due to lack of information.
“In the future, I would like to expand our scope to other Iowa churches as well as neighboring states,” Bassett says. “I also want to connect with the church elders who came here during the Great Migration to learn their stories.”