Celebrating Black History Month: 6 Things to Do in Indianapolis

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Celebrating Black History Month: 6 Things to Do in Indianapolis

By Morgan Prustman

Black History Month is here, and there is no better place to celebrate it than in Indianapolis. Here's why: African Americans played a crucial part in Indianapolis' development, from the earliest Black communities in the 1820s to stations along the Underground Railroad in Indianapolis. Even today, the community continues to shape the city's outlook, culture, and cuisine.

For this year's Black History Month, Hoosiers have a lot to do to commemorate such a powerful culture, from visiting historical sites to partaking in traditional Black American cuisine from Black-owned businesses. We have listed some attractive sites and activities you can take part in to commemorate it. Read on to find out more!

Take a Trip Down Memory Lane at Madame CJ Walker Legacy Center and Theater

You can't talk about Black History Month without mentioning Madam C.J. Walker! You may have written a paper about her for school, seen her items in Sephora, or watched the Netflix series "Self-Made" based on her life. In any case, you've probably heard of her, but you might not be familiar with her accomplishments.

Madam C.J. Walker was the first Black woman to become a millionaire via self-made means in America. She was a well-known beauty expert who operated out of Indianapolis and was known for her groundbreaking hair care products. When Madam C. J. Walker first arrived in Indianapolis, Indiana Avenue served as the center of the community's commerce and cultural life.

The Madame Walker Legacy Center and Madame Walker Theater are now housed at the same location where Madam Walker established her beauty product empire, paying homage to her enthusiasm and ambition for success in the face of adversity. The structure serves as a symbol of African-American pride and remains a guiding light for the neighborhood.

Exploring this historical site is an excellent opportunity to commemorate Black History Month and learn about the tremendous accomplishments Black Americans have made in the areas we call home.

Lunch at Maxine's Chicken & Waffles

Maxine's Chicken & Waffles is the perfect place to experience authentic Black American cuisine. Since 2007, Indianapolis has been the home of this Black-owned family business, and it is popular among Hoosiers. Maxine's Chicken & Waffles is a compilation of Ollie and Maxine Bunnell's dishes, beliefs, and ideas. Their mission statement is to deliver a "taste of love in every bite." 

The food at Maxine's will make you feel like you are at grandma's house, with the food made using the freshest ingredients. Plus, it's inexpensive and comes in generous servings. Dining here is a wonderful way to spend time with friends and family, all while supporting and learning more about one of Indy's Black-owned businesses.

Visit the Historical Roberts Settlement

Thirty miles north of Indianapolis sit the remnants of an African American pioneer agricultural village, established in 1835 by free Black settlers from the South of mixed-racial heritage. The pioneers were free to pursue their economic, intellectual, and religious ambitions. 

This once-thriving village achieved its objectives through a combination of hard effort and assistance from their racially accepting Quaker and Wesleyan neighbors. Today, a chapel and cemetery sit at the site and are the only remaining physical evidence of a once-thriving village.

Revamp Your Wardrobe at Blacksheep Collective

If you are looking for a wardrobe makeover, look no further than the Blacksheep Collective. This Black-owned family business was established in 2015 with the sole objective of expressing faith through art. Blacksheep Collective is a husband and wife duo who merged their marketing and design skills to develop a faith-based lifestyle brand.

The internet store offers many different t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, and stickers. The shirts have phrases like "Love Every Human" and "If You Don't Have Love, You Have Nothing," among others. In addition to developing original ideas, Blacksheep Collective collaborates with nearby companies and organizations to produce various product lines. One such partnership was with the regional streetwear company Nap or Nothing.

Stroll along the MLK Park and the Landmark For Peace Memorial

This park, named after Civil Rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., has a long and illustrious history in the Indy community. In 1968, Robert F. Kennedy went to the park to campaign but ended up having to break the news of Dr. King's death. It is in this park where he delivered a powerful speech on justice and unity. The park has numerous historical markers, but the Landmark for Peace memorial stands out from the rest as it pays tribute to the efforts of both assassinated leaders.

Former President Bill Clinton dedicated Landmark for Peace in 1995 to recognize the sacrifices made by the late Mr. Kennedy and Dr. King to our country. The park is a part of the African-American Civil Rights Network and the National Parks Service.

Visiting this park will give you a deep historical experience of how far Black people have come fighting for equality and justice in a country that has had an ugly experience and treatment towards them. 

Explore the Indiana Avenue Cultural District

Indiana Avenue, west of downtown, was a pioneering black hamlet that grew in the late 1800s and was a section of the Underground Railroad. At its height, the area was home to 33 jazz clubs and featured artists like Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald regularly. Jazz music became a key part of the neighborhood's culture, and you can still see jazz performances by Black artists at places like The Jazz Kitchen, Chatterbox, and dozens of other bars.

The Indiana Avenue neighborhood was also home to some of the first Black-owned businesses in Indianapolis, including The Indianapolis Leader(established in 1879), the city's first African American newspaper. 

When segregation rules were modified, many locals eventually relocated to other regions of the city and state, leaving Indiana Avenue to fall into disrepair. However, in recent years it was determined to try to revitalize the area, and the city made improvements. Many old, original homes and deteriorated apartments have been revamped, and many townhome owners and renters in the neighborhood can now appreciate them.

Indianapolis Is the Place to Be for Black History Month

Indianapolis has a long black history, reflected in the city's numerous Black-owned companies and public landmarks. You'll encounter various Black performers, occasions, narratives, and cuisines that might aid your self-discovery, from MLK's unwavering commitment to fighting for peace and justice to Madam C.J. Walker's perseverance in the face of adversity. Every interaction will have significance for you.

There is a lot more to discover on Black History, and there is no better way than securing a rental apartment or multifamily home with Pangea Real Estate. We take great pride in offering high-quality apartments with helpful customer service and amazing amenities. Contact us today if you are looking for a home in Indianapolis.

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