Black History Month on the cheap 

Special Event

Jessica Monday Enjoy this year's Black

Special Event

Enjoy this year’s Black History Month theme without spending a lot of money. Here is a roundup of ways to do some inexpensive celebrating.

• Buy a copy of The Recorder. Started by George Stewart as a two-page church bulletin, The Indianapolis Recorder is the fourth oldest surviving African-American newspaper in the U.S.

Where: newspaper machine, places of business or directly from Recorder headquarters at 2901 N. Tacoma Ave. Cost: 75 cents Web site:

• Take a drive down Maryland Street where one of the first black residents of Indianapolis lived. Cheney Lively is debated to be the first black resident of Indianapolis. Housekeeper for Alexander Ralston, an Indianapolis founder and surveyor, Lively stayed in the city after her employer died and lived in a house she owned on Maryland Street. She was listed as the only black female head of household in the 1830 U.S. Census.

Cost: Free

• Check out the Indianapolis Museum of Art for free admission day celebrating the opening of the Eiteljorg Galleries Feb. 5. Activities there include:

African-inspired folktales: “Chief Storyteller” Khabir Shareef and the “Storytelling Woman” Deborah Asante will spin tales inspired by African folktales and traditions.

When: Feb. 5, 11, 12, 18, 19 and 25 from 1-2 p.m.

Animated Film Series: “… a series of fun and imaginative films inspired by African folktales. Produced by means of still photography and animation of classic children’s picture books, these films will delight young and old alike.”

When: Feb. 5, 12, 19 and 26 at 3 p.m. Two films: Moolaadé, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. and Daughter of Keltoum Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. (both are free).

• Visit Holcomb Observatory and Planetarium at Butler University in memory of one of the first black scientists in the U.S. Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) was a self-educated scientist, astronomer, inventor, writer and antislavery publicist. Nicknamed the “Sable Astronomer,” he built the first watch made in America (a wooden pocket watch), successfully predicted a 1789 solar eclipse, published six Farmer’s Almanacs and was instrumental in working as part of the surveying team who laid out the grid of Washington, D.C. In his effort against slavery, Banneker wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson in 1791, asking the founding father to consider “the colonists’ personal experience as ‘slaves’ of Britain” and quoted Jefferson’s own words in a plea of justice for African-Americans.

Cost: Planetarium presentation is $2.50 for adults and $1 for children, students and seniors. Viewing through the telescope is always free, weather permitting. For current program information call 317-940-9333.

Web site:

• See Freetown Village Living History Museum’s “The Madam Walker Story.” America’s first self-made female millionaire, Madam C.J. Walker was founder of a cosmetics empire. When she stopped in Indianapolis to sell her beauty products in 1910, Walker was so impressed with our central location and transportation facilities that she decided to make it the headquarters of her company.

When: Feb. 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 and 17 between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. (Show running time is approximately a half hour, with Q&A session following.)

Where: Madame Walker Heritage Center, 619 Indiana Ave. Cost: Free (donations accepted)

Web site:

• Take a trip to Historic Ransom Place and tour the Museum Without Walls. Named after Freeman B. Ransom (1882-1947), attorney and general manager of the Walker Manufacturing Company, the Ransom Place Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992 for its significance in the history of Indianapolis’ black community.

Where: Facts are posted on yard signs on the 800 and 900 blocks of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street, California and Camp streets, St. Clair Street and Ransom Place Park at Indiana Avenue.

Cost: Free

• Grab a hot drink and take a walk along the canal. When work began on the Indianapolis Central Canal in the summer of 1836, dozens of immigrants and other cheap laborers arrived in the city. As they worked on digging the 60-foot-wide canal, they set up camps along the banks of the canal. Somewhere along this area, a black populace lived in an area known as “Colored Town.”

Cost: Free (if you bring your own drink).

• Visit Indiana Avenue. In the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, “The Avenue” was the centerpiece of Indianapolis’ black community. Known also as “Funky Broadway,” “The Yellow Brick Road” and “The Grand Ol’ Street,” this thoroughfare was a home base for many black businesses, including The Indianapolis Recorder, Madam C.J. Walker’s beauty supply plant, not to mention some of the hottest nightclubs in the Midwest. Big band, blues and jazz could be heard in places like The Cotton Club (a four-story venue), the Sunset Terrace, The 440 Club, the Sky Club and the Tophat. Today all that remains of Naptown’s swingin’ strip is the Walker Theatre — the last living testament of a more vibrant era.

Cost: Free.

• Dine in Lockefield Commons. Choose one of the 11 different places to eat at the intersection of Indiana Avenue and 10th Street. If you listen closely, perhaps you can still catch the whisper of a soulful melody from ghosts of the bygone era …

Cost: $5-$15.

• Attend the Indiana Historical Society “Sounds of Indiana” Concert Series. “Relive the music of the 1950s Indiana Avenue area with some of the actual performers of the time. Listen to the rhythm-and-blues hits of the era performed by original members of the Counts and Jimmy Guilford, an original member of the Ink Spots.”

When: Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Indiana History Center Basile Theater

Cost: $17, $13.50 members, $10 students. To order tickets, call 317-232-1882. Web site:

• Take a tour of African-American landmarks led by the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. “A motor-coach tour that will explore the rich African-American heritage of downtown Indianapolis.”

When: Feb. 25 from 1-4:30 p.m.

Cost: $45 per person, $35 for members; make your reservation by Feb. 15 and receive a $5 discount.

Contact: 317-639-4534 or 800-450-4534.

• Participate in a Town Hall Meeting: “Images of African-Americans in News & Media.” “Topics to be discussed include the R. Kelly scandal and Michael Jackson trial, Ludacris’ performance at the Vibe Awards, BET Uncut, The Boondocks, etc.” Where: IUPUI campus

When: Feb. 7 from 7-9 p.m. Web site:

• Have an old legend with a cheap meal. Before the turn of the 19th century in Indianapolis, at a time when teen-age boys prowled the woods hunting for wolves (worth a 12 and a half cent bounty), there was the tale of the “Buffalo Boy.” “The lad, a black boy in his teens, had appeared in town in an outlandish hat with a crimson band, leading a grizzled old buffalo, which he sometimes rode, to the delight of the town children. Arrested for some minor offense and clapped into the log pine jail, he set it on fire during the night and in the excitement escaped by riding off on his buffalo.”

When: 40 cent Wing Wednesday and 50 cent Boneless Wing Thursday

Where: Buffalo Wild Wings at 15 E. Maryland St.

• Explore the Eiteljorg Museum. This spot isn’t really related; the museum just happens to have a good deal going on in February! “Simply by showing an ID with a downtown address, museum visitors can receive two-for-one admission, a $5 pick-two lunch in the Sky City Café, 10 percent off in the White River Trader museum store and $5 off the purchase of a membership.”

When: Feb. 4 Where: 500 W. Washington St.

Cost: Adults $8, senior citizens 65 and over $7, children 5-17 and full-time students with ID $5, children 4 and under, museum members and IUPUI student, staff and faculty are free.

Web site:

• Have a drink at Plump’s Last Shot. The name of the bar and grill refers to owner Bobby Plump’s game-winning shot in the 1954 state basketball championship. Plump played for Milan High School and helped defeat the Muncie Central Bearcats with “the most famous shot in Indiana hoops history.” The event was the story basis for the movie Hoosiers.

Where: 6416 Cornell Ave.

Cost: under $5

Contact: 317-257-5867

• Go to the Crispus Attucks Museum. The museum “… celebrates historic events and the outstanding contributions made by Africans and African-Americans.” Four galleries include the Crispus Attucks High School Story and the Basketball Hall of Fame honors the Crispus Attucks basketball teams and players of the 1950s.

When: Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Where: 1140 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St.

Cost: Free

Web site:

• See the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s “Celebration of Black History.” The free concert features pianist Stewart Goodyear and Downbeat magazine award-winning singer Delores King Williams. The Indiana State Museum will create a special lobby display celebrating Black History Month and there will be live music in the lobby prior to the concert.

When: Feb. 8, 7:30 p.m.

Web site:

• Art & Soul at the Indianapolis Artsgarden. Don’t miss 18 free performances throughout February that celebrate African-American art and artists. Performers include longtime and current favorites; genres include music, storytelling and dance, along with unique exhibits.

Where: Circle Centre Mall

Contact: 317-624-2563

Web site:

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