All month long, the Grand Rapids Historical Society and I will be sharing Black History facts that have taken place right here in Grand Rapids.

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If you missed the last one, you can learn about Cedric Ward, an actor, performer, social activist, and Co-Founder of The Giants Awards and Symphony of Soul.

Grand Rapids Historical Society
Grand Rapids Historical Society

Today's Blackity Black History Fact is all about Dr. MaLinda Prince Sapp – educator, pastor, women’s and community advocate.

Grand Rapids Historical Society
Grand Rapids Historical Society

MaLinda Prince was born on March 1, 1967, in Mobile, Alabama to Baroneece and Cornelius Prince. Her family soon relocated to Grand Rapids. MaLinda met her future husband, Marvin Sapp, at Grand Rapids’ Alexander Elementary School, where they both attended. They later went to the same middle school and both graduated from Ottawa Hills High School.

The couple married in 1992 and had 3 kids: Marvin II, Mikaila, and Madisson.

The Sapps founded Lighthouse Full Life Center, located at 2415 Madison Ave SE in 2003. Abundant in their vision and favor, the Sapps were able to lead Lighthouse into its expansion to multiple locations in Grand Rapids and around the state of Michigan. MaLinda served in ministry for more than 20 years, including her time as the Administrative Pastor and beloved First Lady of Lighthouse. 

Blessed with the gift of teaching, MaLinda was a National Board Certified Counselor, a licensed psychologist, and taught classes as a psychology professor at Grand Rapids Community College. 

Her passion for developing the youth and belief that every student is a learner was her vision behind building the Grand Rapids Ellington Academy for Arts and Technology (GREAAT) Inc., an extended learning after-school K-12 program she founded to introduce the study of the Arts and Technology to over 300 Grand Rapids area students each year. Dr. Sapp was tapped to be the first principal.

MaLinda took an active role in her husband's music career, serving as his manager and as executive producer of several of his record albums as well as a producer on many of his audio and video recordings.

She was the driving force behind encouraging her husband Marvin to record and release his groundbreaking song, “Never Would Have Made It”, propelling his career and solidifying his success as a solo gospel artist. 

MaLinda was an active member of her community and sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, frequently receiving awards for her volunteer work.

Following a battle with colon cancer, which she fought into remission after her initial diagnosis, MaLinda sadly passed away on September 9, 2010 – not long after learning the cancer returned. She was 43.

Months before her passing, in February 2010, MaLinda and Marvin Sapp were honored with the Grand Rapids Symphony's Celebration of Soul Legacy Award, highlighting accomplishments and commitment to the advancement of the black community in West Michigan.

Today, the Legacy award is now named in her honor as the Dr. MaLinda Prince Sapp legacy award. According to the Celebration of Soul, The Dr. MaLinda P. Sapp Legacy Award gives the community the opportunity to recognize honorees for their commitment to diversity, education, and bridging cultural differences.

We extend our gratitude to our ancestor Dr. MaLinda Prince Sapp for her dedication and love to her family, her church, and the Grand Rapids community. May her legacy of service, character, and heart continue to bless our city and live on through every life she touched.

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