Black History Month calendar creator hopes project will create wider awareness

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Whittney Wood-Gaines remembers attending Black History Month events in her Columbus childhood and seeing mostly Black residents in attendance time and again.

She long wished there was a way to at least build a wider sense of awareness for such happenings and remind the community that Black history was linked to all.

Here, Gaines echoes the heart cry of such local Black history aficionados as Paulette Roberts and Brenda Pitts, who assembled the month’s first of more than 50 events slated in February a local Black history exhibit opening at The Commons at 4 p.m. today with an informal reception.

“Black history IS American history,” Wood-Gaines said.

Therein lies much of the theme of the new, year-round website, filled with a myriad of events, plus a listing of Black-owned businesses, not to mention an overview of local Blacks who have been key community leaders such as the late Mindy Lewis. She was the school board member who helped make the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day national holiday a local school holiday.

Southport resident Wood-Gaines, 36, a special education teacher at Central Middle School in Columbus, is the one who initiated in November the idea for the central website and calendar effort that quickly gained momentum.

“This was a passion project,” she said of her volunteer work.

A core committee of Tom Harmon, Lori Thompson, Frank Griffin, Tatum Downing, and Yoonji Jung helped, along with an overall 12-member committee. Harmon recruited financial support for the work that included paying Jung of Good Creatives for her extensive design, graphics and marketing work.

“I think there were a lot of people who wanted to see something like this for a long time, and I believe you can see that in the overall level of participation,” Wood-Gaines said.

For more on this story, see Wednesday’s Republic.