Rupal Thanawala

Rupal Thanawala

It is no secret Americans are increasingly polarized today. This is all the more apparent as our nation roils from protests against the systemic racism in America’s justice system and across other institutions.

Systemic racism is a big, overwhelming problem. It can often feel like one person can’t make a difference. 

But they can. We heard from you at the last month’s Indiana Minority Business Conference and we want to further engage you in virtual public discourses.

An important part of the solution is creating safe spaces for sensitive, honest discussion about these important issues. For this reason, the Indianapolis Recorder is excited to be a community partner of a rare books and art exhibit opening at The Harrison Center on Oct. 2.

The title of the exhibit is “Some Books Make Us Free.” Local artists will be responding to and interpreting the themes of seminal and rare texts of democracy and political philosophy. For example, there will be a first English translation of the Magna Carta, on loan to the Harrison Center from The Remnant Trust collection of rare books, which is an early political document that espoused the concept of equal justice under the law — an essential tenet of a free society, though one that America continues to struggles to fully realize today. The theme of the exhibit is American identity and political dissent as a freedom —and sometimes a duty — of democratic citizenship. A very rare and century old the Indianapolis Recorder copy will be included in the exhibition.

“It is our privilege to give the community access to these rare documents — and to bring their important ideas to life through the work of our talented artists,” said Joanna Taft, executive director of the Harrison Center.

October’s event builds upon a pilot program from July 2019, entitled “Front Porch Citizenry.” Last year’s exhibit, curated by Harrison Center Scholar in Residence Alexandra Hudson, paired an oil painting of Madam C.J. Walker — produced by Indianapolis-based artist Courtland Blade —with an original printing of Mary Wollstonecraft’s "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman." The aim was to celebrate Walker’s life and highlight her legacy as an important advocate for both racial equality and women’s rights. Attendees at the exhibit reported overhearing young people declare, after looking at the Wollstonecraft’s text and the portrait of Madam Walker, “It's a crime I haven't heard of her before!” 

Last year’s exhibit also displayed an original printing of the Gettysburg Address alongside local artist Kyle Ragsdale’s depiction of young Abraham Lincoln, who spent part of his childhood in Indiana and under whose presidency legal slavery was abolished. The art for the first exhibit, and this subsequent exhibit in October, was sponsored by Indiana’s Sagamore Institute. 

“We urgently need to recover a fundamental respect for our shared humanity and our equal human dignity in our nation,” said Hudson, who moved to Indianapolis after a stint at the US Department of Education, and since living in Indiana, has focused on healing our public discourse and fractured politics. “Our hope is that, through conversations centered around the themes of our exhibit this year, we can model the sort of considerate dialogue about sensitive, yet important topics that have been neglected in this nation for far too long.” 

It’s imperative we remember arts and culture can bring people together, foster respect and build unity through our common bonds of humanity.

The Indianapolis Recorder is glad to partner with the Harrison Center on this initiative. 

Rupal Thanawala is managing director at Trident Systems leading business and technology consulting practice, and tech editor for Indianapolis Recorder. Contact her at rupalt@indyrecorder.com.

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