Humans of Muskegon Archive

Humans of Muskegon is a story telling project, where Muskegon County residents share their stories about what it means to be them in the community and how they defy stereotypes. Featured are lesser told stories, from people who have experienced prejudice or discrimination because of who they are, based on their lifestyle, a diagnosis, disability, belief, gender, language, ethnic or racial origin, or occupation.

These individuals are Open Books—sharing their experiences to help break down stereotypes and create a more human, kinder world.


2024

Thomas Shaffer and Steve Neubauer
Gay, Married, and Christian
Thomas Shaffer and Steve Neubauer both came from a strict, conservative Christian upbringing, but have been together since 1979. They discuss their relationship and how they have navigated challenges to stay in the church throughout the years in West Michigan.

Jeffrey VanDyke
Life in a Wheel Chair: Standing Tall from a Sitting Position (and a Flat Tire)
Born three months premature and with Cerebral Palsy, Jeffrey VanDyke requires a wheelchair but stands tall. He discusses both challenges and how he stays positive, which includes advocating for others with disabilities.

William Kitchen
Life Post-Incarceration: Emerging from Darkness
At the age of 14, William Kitchen was charged as an adult with armed robbery and possession of a firearm. He discusses his incarceration, how he is transitioning into a normal life he's never experienced before, and the outreach he's engaged with since his release in 2021.

Robert Bowyer
A Veteran of Two Wars: Misfit
Robert Bowyer suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury from his deployment to Afghanistan in the US Army. Since his return to civilian life, he realized his need to do good in the world and founded Operation Black Sheep for veterans.

Nex Wilson
Surviving Sexual Assault
Nex Wilson experienced sexual assault at the age of 13, resulting in depression, anxiety, and PTSD. They have been helping support other victims and work to break down the stereotypes regarding sexual assault and PTSD.

Eric Carballido
Hispanic in Higher Ed: Trailblazing in Academia
Eric Carballido shares his life experience, coming from humble beginnings and working hard to become a first generation college graduate and a member of Muskegon Community College's faculty.

Tonette Brown Garner
How to Stay Sane While Living Black
Tonette Brown Garner discusses her experience as a Black American and how race relations have regressed in recent times.

Michelle Grenell
Managing a Medically Complex Family
Michelle has spent the last ten years in and out of hospitals after her son Nathan was diagnosed with Schwachman-Diamond Syndrome. She discusses what the family dynamic is like when you have a medically complex family member.

Jim Fisher
Being Jewish in Muskegon
Jim grew up in Muskegon, MI, which is a predominantly Christian community. As a Jewish man he shares the challenges his family and community have faced and continue to face in our current climate.

Sherri Coulibaly
Living Beyond Cancer
At the age of 52, Sherri was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. She shares the struggles of a devastating medical diagnosis and how her battle has informed her outlook on life.

Rikki Ridout
Surviving Family Secrets
Rikki's childhood seemed normal from the outside, but at home she was dealing with a mother battling addiction and depression. She discusses how this impacted her upbringing and her path to a healthier mental space as an adult.

Jackie Hallberg
More Than Skin Deep
Jackie Hallberg shares the stigma of having visible tattoos as a professional and shares her story of self-acceptance and becoming comfortable in your own skin.

Kenneth McCallum
Out in the Business World
Kenneth discusses his journey to coming to terms with being gay and the challenges and fears he faced about his identity impacting his professional life.

Jeffrey Scott Pienela
Child of Three Moms
Jeffrey's upbringing with three moms may be unconventional, but also filled with love and support. Jeffrey shares the challenges of growing up gay, the women who were his champions, and his life now as an LGBTQIA+ advocate.

Kimi George
Finding Life Beyond Shame
Having grown up in poverty, Kimi George shares her journey of moving beyond the shame of growing up disadvantaged and the associated feelings of "otherness" due to those circumstances.

2022

Scott Teichmer, Suicide Attempt Survivor
Scott is compelled to share his story as a survivor of a suicide as it is not a topic often talked about and wants to correct some of the misconceptions surrounding suicide.

Michele Gordon, Finding Sobriety-Discovering Myself
Michele shares her life experiences on relationships, discovering her identity, how faith has helped maintain her sobriety, and her adoptive Native American family.

Diana Casey, Minority in a White Wrapper
Growing up in American culture and presenting as white, Diana Casey discusses her experiences as a Mexican American with white skin. 

Jill Bonthuis, Long Covid
As an individual who has suffered from Covid-19 symptoms lasting over a year and developing Lupus, Jill Bonthuis discusses the physical and emotional effects caused by living with long-Covid-19. 

Amanda Miller, Toxic Masculinity
A Chef and Instructor for the Culinary Institute of Michigan and a US Army veteran, Amanda discusses her experiences in finding success in male-dominated fields

Allie Alarcon and Hannah Meyers, Working in a Man's World
Licensed funeral directors and embalmers, Allie and Hannah share their experiences as young women in roles that hold their own stereotypes. 

Jube Rodriguez, From Sorrow to Joy: Being Hispanic
Local artist Jube discusses how he adapted as a child growing up in Muskegon after moving from Chicago, IL after his father died. Jube’s story includes his evolving faith, family life, discrimination, challenges he has faced, how he focuses on moving forward towards joy, and supporting the next generation.  

Danna Pittman, Living with Blindness
Diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at 18 years old, Danna grew up believing that she could see the same as everyone else. She shares the challenges she has faced in this community, including those as a working professional.  

Georgia Moss, Beating the Odds: From Childhood to Adulthood
Author Georgia Moss discusses growing up in public housing and how she was able overcome the systemic barriers poverty creates. She discusses how everyone has struggles and tells how she has worked to overcome them. 

Jim DeWald Jr., Tattooed Librarian Biker
In the past, tattoos were usually associated with sailors, criminals and bikers. Jim acknowledges that people may judge him, but he does not judge others. He encourages others to get to know people different from themselves to dispel stereotypes.  

Jan and Jim Johnson, International Adoption and Raising Kids with a Disability
Pastors Jan and Jim Johnson adopted and raised Karen and Matthew, Korean children with blindness. They discuss prejudice and stereotypes they have faced as a family and share their experiences parenting these remarkable children.  

Rufus Kilgore, Racism
Rufus is a lifelong resident of Muskegon Heights and Muskegon. He shares his experience with racism, from his early childhood to today, addresses racism in the present day, and gives ways we can respond individually to charge society.  

Sax Mahoney, Different Than Planned
Growing up, Sax knew they were not a girl. They share experiences being non-binary and bisexual, including coming out to their parents, stereotypes, and advice for others struggling with their identity.  

Karen Wynne, African American Woman with Albinism
Lifelong Muskegon resident Karen Wynne shares what it’s like to live with Albinism, discrimination she has received from both Whites and African Americans, and how she stays positive. 

Maria Zaverl, First Generation Hispanic Family
The daughter of Mexican immigrants who crossed the border illegally, Maria shares her family’s immigration experience, stereotypes against Hispanics, how things are different now, and how others can learn about and experience Hispanic culture.