Black Expo 

Vicki Smith is concerned about lead contamination and poisoning, but not just for herself.

Smith is the owner of Unlocking Minds daycare center in northwest Indianapolis, a building that more than meets the stringent state standards regarding lead exposure. But she admits she can’t be so sure about all the homes of the children who use her service.

“Even though we get the child and we know they are safe here in daycare, we don’t know what they are exposed to at home,” Smith says.

Smith believes the public should be more informed about the health hazards people face in the estimated 24 million homes across America that could pose some risk from lead contamination.

And that is exactly what Indiana Black Expo is seeking to do this week, featuring a one-story house with a yard in the Indiana Convention Center that will provide attendees with all the information they will need to know about lead poisoning.

“This is just something else to educate moms and dads and the community ... on what to look for in terms of lead poisoning,” Smith says. “It’s going to be great.”

The exhibit, called the HUD Pavilion and sponsored in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is just one of the firsts for this year during Indiana Black Expo’s 38th Annual Summer Celebration, Indiana Black Expo’s signature event and its largest fund-raising event of the year.

Expo Vice President Denise Herd estimates as many as 30,000 people per day for three days will walk through the pavilion. They will learn how to assess a home and the surrounding yard for potential lead contamination and be educated regarding what to do about it.

“Indiana ranks 11th in the nation in the number of homes built before 1978,” says Kara Endsley, Expo’s director of special projects. Homes built prior to 1978 have the highest concentrations of lead, primarily in paints, which over time chip and crack. Health problems related to lead contamination range from brain damage to learning problems, from seizures to behavior problems. In extreme cases, it can cause death.

“We have a lot of homes with a high percentage of lead,” Endsley says.

Those are the sorts of problems Expo tries to address, according to Herd.

Empowering people and being “a vehicle for the social and economic advancement of African-Americans” is the mission of Indiana Black Expo. The Summer Celebration started in 1971 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds as a two-day event.

With some 50,000 people attending that initial year, “They outgrew the space that first year and had to move after that,” Herd says. “They were too big right out of the gate.”

Today, attendance will reach more than 340,000 over the 11-day period, which started July 10 and ends this Sunday, July 20. Its local economic impact is estimated at roughly $100 million.

Impressive lineup

The Summer Celebration encompasses business workshops, health and wellness, employment opportunities, spiritual enrichment, exhibits, youth activities and entertainment, all highlighting African-American heritage and culture. In all, there are 73 separate events this year.
But more than just fun in downtown Indianapolis, Expo’s Summer Celebration and the Circle City Classic in October raise money for the organization’s year-round youth and family programs. Those programs include employment fairs; health fairs and health screenings; efforts to help the poor, particularly during holiday time; youth empowerment conferences; a youth video program; internships and college scholarships.
There are so many events, it is difficult to pick one over another, but here are a few highlights:

The free concert will take place Sunday at 6 p.m. on the American Legion Mall. A crowd of up to 80,000 is expected to hear Cameo, Con Funk Shun and The Whispers.

Keyshia Cole, KEM and Chrisette Michele will perform Saturday at 7 p.m. during the Music Heritage Festival in the Indiana Convention Center. Ticket prices are $50 and $65 (VIP).

The Statewide Forum to Promote Cultural Competence in Education will be held Friday from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. in the Convention Center Hall A. The objective is to “improve teaching and learning by developing a deeper understanding of cultural competency.” Speaking will be Ruby Payne, author of A Framework for Understanding Poverty, and Jawanza Kunjufu, author of An African Centered Response to Ruby Payne’s Poverty Theory. Tickets are $125.

The Holla Back Teen Forum will allow teens to express their views on subjects affecting them. The event is at Conseco Fieldhouse Saturday from 3-5 p.m. Tickets are $19.99.

The IBE Corporate Luncheon will be held Thursday in the Sagamore Ballroom in the Convention Center. Honorees this year include Dr. Randal Pinkett, Chauncey Holloman, Angie Stone and Bob Bedell. Doors open at 10:30 a.m. and the program begins at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are $50 per individual and $500 per table.

An All White Affair — A Tribute to the Harlem Renaissance  will cost $25 at the Indiana Roof Ballroom starting at 8 p.m. Friday. Featured are DJ Xclusive of XM Satellite Radio and R&B artist Dwele.

History lesson

Indiana Black Expo through the years

Over the course of three decades, Indiana Black Expo has grown in size, scope and reach.

What started as a two-day celebration of African-American heritage and culture attracting more than 50,000 people to Exhibition Hall at the Indiana State Fairgrounds has grown into a statewide organization with chapters in 12 cities with year-round community outreach programs for youth and families. Black Expo’s two signature events, the Summer Celebration in July and the Circle City Classic in October, attract ordinary people as well as top names in politics, sports and entertainment from around the country.

The combined events have a local economic impact of around $100 million and money raised funds IBE employment opportunities, youth programs, health fairs and much more throughout the year.

Though founded by Willard Ransom, James C. Cummings Jr. and the Rev. Andrew J. Brown, the moving force behind Expo for 30 years was the late Rev. Charles Williams, who died of prostate cancer during 2004’s Summer Celebration. Under his leadership, Expo rose quickly in importance and stature.

In its third year, Gov. Otis R. Bowen and U.S. Sens. Richard Lugar and Birch Bayh attended the ribbon-cutting opening of Expo in 1973.

The IBE Corporate Luncheon has been one of the hot ticket events at Expo for years. More than 1,500 people attended in 1975 to hear Mal Goode, United Nations correspondent for the National Black Network, give the keynote address. More recently, those honored have included the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Colts coach Tony Dungy and actor Sidney Poitier. And in a move that stirs controversy to this day, President George W. Bush spoke in 2005.

Sporting events have long been a part of Expo’s Summer Celebration. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Benefit basketball game took place in the Indianapolis Coliseum, now the Pepsi Coliseum, from 1971-’73. The game raised money for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

For more than a decade, Expo hosted an annual boxing tournament featuring some of the nation’s finest amateur boxers. In the championship bout of the 125-pound class in 1981, local boxer Kenny Jackson faced the nation’s No.1 boxer, Rodney Watts.

Top entertainment acts have appeared in Expo’s summer concert over the years and have ranged from singer Natalie Cole and The Commodores, who appeared in the 1970s, to Mary J. Blige, Rick James and Al Green. Singing sensation Erykah Badu appeared last year.

Keyshia Cole will appear at the Music Heritage Festival this year on Saturday night, while Cameo, Con Funk Shun and The Whispers will appear at the free concert on Sunday night.

After the Rev. Williams publicly announced his cancer just before the Summer Celebration opening in 2002, screenings for prostate cancer have been a large part of the Expo experience. This year, participants can get as much as $1,000 in health screenings at the Minority Health Fair. 

Indiana Black Expo’s 38th Annual Summer Celebration
Through July 20
Tickets: some free events;
some that cost


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