Indy Black-owned businesses, Indiana Avenue history shine at Madam Walker Legacy Fest

Even at 11 a.m., heat was already baking Indiana Avenue on Saturday. That didn’t stop the city from stirring for Madam Walker Legacy Center’s Legacy Fest Block Party. Music was playing, businesses were setting up and people were milling between booths as an organizer got on the microphone.

“Well, well, well,” the organizer said. “Welcome to the third annual Legacy Fest!”

Legacy Fest is the second half of a two-day celebration honoring the legacy of Madam C. J. Walker, the Madam Walker Legacy Center and National Black Music Month. Last night, vocal harmony group Boyz II Men performed for day one of the festivities.

The celebration’s biggest artist, Boys II Men, played Friday night, but many local artists including Native Sun, Maxie from Naptown and Tony Styxx were set to play throughout the day. 

More than 30 businesses and food trucks lined historic Indiana Avenue, selling everything from beauty products to barbeque. 

DaShonda Patterson, 33, runs Different Day Baked Goods under a hot pink tent, selling everything from cookies to shortcakes. She came up with the name before she started baking because some days what she cooked came out better than other days, she said, laughing. 

DaShonda Patterson poses while selling her baked goods. Different Day Baked Goods started after Patterson baked brownies for her daughter and found she loved it.

She found success in baking, though. Her brother was her first customer: when he tried her cookies, he told her she should sell them “and he actually bought three batches,” Patterson remembered.

One cinnamon swirl-flavored bundt cake is shaped like a truck wheel. Patterson calls it “Trucker’s Delight,” named in honor of her husband. 

Down the street, Kenya Alexander sells graphic t-shirts through her business, Express Urself. One reads “educated, motivated, elevated, melanated.” Another tells anyone walking by that “I’m a whole blessing. You don’t just bump into people like me.”

Alexander likes wearing graphic shirts like the ones she makes; she started creating them for friends, but it gradually grew into a business.

Graphic T-shirts from Express Urself created by Kenya Alexander. Alexander started the business making tees for her friends.

Behind the fun is the area’s deep history with the Indianapolis Black community. The Madam Walker Legacy Center was built in 1927. Indiana Avenue, where the block party was located, and its surrounding cultural district was a historic hub of Black entertainment, community and culture.

The area’s history is an unshakably critical part of the event and Indianapolis. That’s why, even in the over 90-degree heat, Sampson Levingston was leading walking tours. 

“Indianapolis as a city has never existed without us being here,” Levingston, 29, said. “I’m trying to remind people and tie us back to some of this history that we may have forgotten about.”

On the tour, Levingston and friend Hanna Leach, 26, held up pictures of what the area used to look like. Echoes of that past landscape could often still be seen in the buildings, even when the purpose has been completely changed; for example, the oldest African American church in the city is now a Hilton hotel, but its exterior and many of the details remain.

Sampson Levingston holds a photo of historic Indiana Avenue to compare it to the present-day landscape. Levingston has been giving tours of Indianapolis since the summer of 2020.

Levingston started doing tours in 2020 out of a love of history and passing on community knowledge. The city responds well to learning its history, he said; there are not many communities where people will take tours of the city they live in.

He’s glad people have come out to celebrate Indiana Avenue’s history, especially in the wake of Juneteenth.

“We’re just standing our ground on Indiana Avenue and letting people know ‘this is a place where we’re going to be, that we’re going to protect and care about’,” Levingston said. “This is an area that was truly created for all people, because not every place was.” 

Get Insightful, Cutting-Edge Content Daily - Join "The Neo Jim Crow" Newsletter!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Get Insightful, Cutting-Edge, Black Content Daily - Join "The Neo Jim Crow" Newsletter!

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

Get Insightful, Cutting-Edge, Black Content Daily - Join "The Neo Jim Crow" Newsletter!

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

This post was originally published on this site