Black Expo Summer Celebration 

City taking positive steps

City taking positive steps

The Black Expo Summer Celebration once again brings a wide variety of artistic and community-building programs to downtown Indianapolis. This year, however, city leaders are taking steps to ensure that the celebration won’t experience the problems that have sometimes accompanied it in the past.

The Summer Celebration is the biggest fund-raiser for the Indiana Black Expo, a major community organization that works year-round to encourage the social and economic growth of Indiana’s black residents. This is the 34th year for the week-long festival, which draws over 300,000 people to downtown Indianapolis for art, music and educational events.

Indiana Black Expo has been an Indianapolis fixture since it was founded in 1970 by black civic and religious leaders the Rev. Andrew J. Brown Jr., Willard B. Ransom and James C. Cummings, as an official event of Indianapolis’ sesquicentennial celebration. The organization was plagued by financial problems and mismanagement through the 1970s and 1980s but is now thriving.

Bad publicity in the 1990s due to unfortunate events out of the organization’s control, however, has tarnished the Summer Celebration’s image for some. Fatal shootings at the 1993 and 1998 SoulFests, as well as complaints about alleged racist behavior by the Indianapolis Police Department in 2002, keep some Indianapolis residents away from the festivities.

This year, proactive steps are being taken to mitigate or eliminate issues like these. On June 30, Mayor Bart Peterson met with the Special Events Task Force to discuss plans for this year’s Summer Celebration.

New programs include the Mayor’s Hospitality Center, hourly service from IndyGo Park and Ride and the Blue Line Circulator and an IPD customer service line. The Hospitality Center is a group of city staff members, as well as the mayor and deputy mayor themselves, who will be available to welcome guests at the Indiana Convention Center during the week and answer questions about events and offer suggestions for a fun, safe weekend.

“Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration is one of our city’s crown jewels, and we are so fortunate to host it year in and year out,” Mayor Peterson said. “We’re committed to making this year’s event successful, and we want to make sure every visitor to Indianapolis has a safe and enjoyable stay and that every resident continues to be proud of our city.”

Black Expo highlights

IBE Cultural Arts Pavilion

Time: Friday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday: 12-8 p.m.
Location: Indiana Convention Center, Maryland Street corridor and Wabash Ballroom, Rooms 120-124

Celebrating its fourth year as a part of the expo, the Cultural Arts Pavilion is a blend of visual and performing arts from local and national artists. Located in the Indiana Convention Center Friday through Sunday, this year’s pavilion features artists such as internationally acclaimed painter Brenda Joysmith to spoken word artists The Last Poets. New to the pavilion this year is an original art sale and an open mic session to give “new school artists” a chance to exhibit their talent. IUPUI’s Herron School of Art will present its Spectrum Exhibit, a collection of the top work from some of Herron’s minority students. Music Heritage Festival I

Time: Friday, 7 p.m.
Location: American Legion Mall, 401 N. Meridian

Indianapolis natives Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and After 7 will be performing to their hometown crowd at this free concert Friday night at 7 p.m. on the American Legion Mall. This is the first return to Indianapolis for the Grammy Award-winning Edmonds since 1999, when a 17-mile stretch of Interstate 65 was named for the R&B superstar. After 7, a contemporary ensemble made up of Melvin and Kevin Edmonds (brothers of Babyface) and Keith Mitchell, is fluent in both vintage soul and modern new jack styles. Music Heritage Festival II

Time: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Location: Conseco Fieldhouse

One of the most eagerly anticipated events of this year’s expo is the Music Heritage Festival II, Saturday at Conseco Fieldhouse. Headlining this year’s concert is ’80s hip-hop superstar LL Cool J, as well as new jack swing pioneers New Edition, and R&B artist Gerald Levert. Tickets are $49.95 buy one get one free or $38 for VIP.

Celebration of Praise

Time: Sunday, doors open at 8 a.m., service is 9-11:30 a.m.
Location: RCA Dome, East End, 100 S. Capitol

This year’s Celebration of Praise, hosted by the Eastern Star Baptist Church, is a non-denominational “big praise service.” The service is intended to bring the community together to worship as one — a crowd of at least 15,000 are expected at this year’s service — and to enjoy great gospel music. Each year the celebration attracts at least one national gospel recording artist; past performers include Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child.

“Voices of Civil Rights”

Time: Saturday, 3-4:30 p.m. and 5:30-7 p.m.
Location: Indiana Convention Center, Rooms 143-144

Civil rights activist and leader of Birmingham, Ala.’s integration movement Dr. Fred Shuttleworth will keynote a “Voices of Civil Rights” program sponsored by the AARP at 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on July 17. This program is a national project to collect and preserve first-hand accounts of America’s civil rights movement, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. The weekend-long program includes readings of first-hand accounts from the “Voices” archives, gospel music by local groups and special presentations by Phyllis Adair-Ward, the Rev. W. Edward Harris and the Rev. Gerald Cunningham.

Saving our Youth Celebrity Basketball Game

Time: Saturday, 6-8 p.m.
Location: RCA Dome

For the younger crowd, the Saving our Youth Celebrity Basketball Game offers a chance to mingle with sports superstars, singers and rappers while learning about the dangers of gun violence from Project Safe Neighborhoods. This year’s game, which will take place a week earlier than usual, includes appearances by B2K, rap group Trilville, actor Darin Henson and Colts running back Edgerrin James, as well as basketball players from the And1 tour.

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