From history to movies to jazz to a downtown tour, Bartholomew County’s Black heritage steps to the forefront beginning today via a new, first-of its-kind website and calendar to mark February as Black History Month.
The project was first unveiled at the recent Rev. Martin Luther King Day Annual Breakfast at The Commons.
“Out of more than 50 events, there’s something on there for everyone to enjoy,” said Lori Thompson, one of the organizers of blackhistorycolumbus.com.
Creators say the site is meant to be a way to build bridges among the area’s different ethnicities, and to strengthen understanding among a cosmopolitan community with international employers here. Input came from players as diverse as Exhibit Columbus, Columbus Regional Health, Cummins, the African American Fund of Bartholomew County, and elsewhere, according to organizers.
And response was swift when founder Whittney Wood-Gaines and her cohorts reached out to leading community agencies beginning in December.
“The excitement was immediately there,” Thompson said. “And I like to say that it went viral. It was a great idea.
” … And people were excited about being asked to be included.”
Thompson added that the website “is necessary as a landing pad to get the community’s various groups together to people ‘We have something worthy to share with everyone.’”
Bishop Johnnie Edwards, president of the Columbus/Bartholomew County Branch of the NAACP, loves the tool that the website can become.
“We have needed to find a way to educate all when it comes to Black history,” Edwards said. “And now having this calendar gives our community the opportunity to learn, engage and participate in our local Black history so that they can indeed become more educated on true history overall.”
The listed events are diverse and most of them are free, such as the Black Movie Series each Saturday in February at the nonprofit YES Cinemas in downtown Columbus.
The Bartholomew County Public Library is offering a mix of activities for free, including sessions highlighting Black authors, illustrators and characters. Also free and a departure from everyday events is Landmark Columbus’ free tour at 4:30 p.m. of “history and land usage by African Americans in downtown Columbus,” according to the listing.
Retired teacher Paulette Roberts, long an educator about Black history, compiled the self-guided tour. She also worked with Brenda Pitts to put together the exhibit “And Still We Rise” opening at 4 p.m. today at The Commons.
Wood-Gaines called the site and listings a way “of giving all people permission to be open-minded and to joining in and celebrate with us.”
A local business, Good Creatives, designed and is marketing the site. Justin Muse, brand identity designer for the company, mentioned that even the shapes in the month logo “give the brand identity a sense of versatility and range to showcase how multi-dimensional Black History Month can be.”
Organizers hope to keep the site active and functioning year round. Key supporters of the site include the African American Fund of Bartholomew County, Paths to Success, the Columbus/Bartholomew County Branch of the NAACP, Taylor Brothers Construction and the local African American Pastors Alliance.
For more information
Go to blackhistorycolumbus.com
Carla Clark | For The Republic Johnnie Edwards, president, introduces the guest speaker, Dennis Bland, during the 2023 annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Remembrance and Awards Gala hosted by the Columbus/Bartholomew County Area Branch of the NAACP at Mill Race Center in Columbus, Ind., Saturday, January 28, 2023.