Multicultural News

Black Legacy Project shines light on Butler-Tarkington community history

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A nearly 100-year-old building is the canvas for a Midtown Indy art showcase, the Black Legacy Project.

The Concord building sits in the heart of the Butler-Tarkington community, bordered by North Meridian Street, West 38th Street and the Central Canal.

Starting the late 1950s, Black people could move north of 38th Street. Before then, it was the line of demarcation when it came to redlining, the practice of denying a creditworthy applicant a loan for housing in a certain neighborhood even though the applicant may otherwise be eligible for the loan.

Organizers have big plans for the art showcase and hope the Black Legacy Project breaths new hope into this community.

The faces in the project tell the story of this community: Doctors, lawyers, artist and journalists all at one time called this community home. Kenneth Simms’ dad, Leonard Simms, is one of them. He said, “This area here had nothing but doctors, lawyers, judges, state representatives.”

This project at the corner of 38th and Illinois streets has been two years in the making. Co-curator Sabae Martin said she was encouraged to do this after a youth football team, the Indy Steelers, was fenced out of the nearby Tarkington Park a few years ago. Williams Marquez is the co-curator.

“I knew that something was missing. And what was missing was the important part is what we were able to see as we grew up,” Martin said.

To understand that slight is to understand the past. About 60 years ago, Black people weren’t allowed to live in the Butler-Tarkington community. When it came to redlining, 38th Street was the diving line between the black community and white community.

Highlighting these community heroes, organizers said, aims to instill a sense of pride of what this neighborhood was and what it can be.

“But the gap is large. We have a long way to go. And so when people drive by this exhibit I want them to remember that good people were here, are here, and will be here,” said Micheal McKillip, executive director of Midtown Indy.

Midtown Indy representatives say, while many may believe this community has come far enough, poverty rates and vacancy rates are still high. With the 46,000 cars that pass the community every day, the hope is to inspire hope but also show the city a lot of value exists.

“This is just an awesome display and acknowledgment,” Simms said.