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Indianapolis Public Library preserves Black history online

A picture doesn't always last forever. Photographs can become damaged, lost or forgotten about. To make sure mementos of the city's Black history don't fade like a forgotten photograph, the Indianapolis Public Library created "Black History, Indianapolis History," a digital archive of family memorabilia.

The archive, which became publicly available June 28, includes photos, newspaper clippings, certificates and other documents that tell a small piece of Black history in Indianapolis. "Black History, Indianapolis History" contains over 200 entries ranging from the 1920s to today. Its goal is to preserve local Black history, something Meaghan Fukunaga,

head of digital collections at the Indianapolis Public Library, said online archives too often overlook.

"One of the things that we know about digital collections is that minorities are underrepresented," Fukunaga said. "Particularly, personal histories and personal photos are very underrepresented, so in addition to capturing the big organizations that make up the city we wanted to make sure we captured the individual memories because that's what the history of Indianapolis is."

The library collected the entries at Scan-A-Thon events where locals brought family photos and records. One library employee digitally scanned the items, making one copy for the library and another for the family, and another employee took notes and asked about the document's context such as time period and people involved. The sessions lasted one to three hours, but Fukunaga said attendees still enjoyed the experience because of the chance to share their family history.

"The scanning is really secondary to the process," Fukunaga said. "It's more of a conversation. As [attendees] started telling stories about their high school days and their elementary school days and pointing out relatives, it became more of a discussion."

Stephen Lane, head of special collections at the Indianapolis Public Library, remembers meeting Rebecca Robinson at a Scan-A-Thon. Robinson is the granddaughter of Dr. Earle Robinson Sr., a doctor who was one of the first 27 Black graduates of Homer G. Phillips Hospital. Lane enjoyed hearing Robinson describe her grandfather's history working in a Black hospital during pre-civil rights times.

"The stories she told about her grandfather and her father were really powerful," Lane said. "She was so invested in making sure that their stories were told, that their stories were heard and that their stories are preserved in the telling of the history of Indianapolis."

The Indianapolis Public Library plans to continue holding monthly Scan-A-Thons at its Michigan Road Branch in order to grow "Black History, Indianapolis History." The next event will be July 27. The Scan-A-Thons are free, but people need to call the branch in advance. Lane believes continuing the Scan-A-Thons will allow everyday residents to play a role in how history remembers Indianapolis.

"It's important to show the diversity of our city and to express how the city has been growing and unfolding throughout time, so we will continue to do the Scan-A-Thons for sure," Lane said. "I think it really gives the community ownership of their history, and it gives them a time to come in and share with us and reflect on their own personal histories."

Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @Benjamin-Lashar.

VIEW "BLACK HISTORY, INDIANAPOLIS HISTORY"

"Black History, Indianapolis History" is free to view at digitalindy.org.

ADD TO THE DIGITAL COLLECTION

Do you have photographs, certificates or documents you would like digitally stored in "Black History, Indianapolis History"? Contact the Michigan Road Branch of the Indianapolis Public Library at 317-275-4370 or visit the location at 6201 Michigan Road.


Community garden helps far east side and shows teens a possible future

As Sharrona Moore helped set up a garden stand July 2 at Eskenazi Health Center Grassy Creek on the far east side, she quizzed her younger workers about the prices of the various produce they would sell. Green beans are $2 per half pound; watermelons are $7. Moore had prices memorized. Kenneth Cannon and Alani Darby took notes.

They were setting up the first garden stand of the season for Lawrence Community Gardens, where Moore is the garden manager and Cannon and Darby work weekday mornings. The garden stand will be at Eskenazi Health Center Grassy Creek from 10-11 a.m. every Tuesday and features food including green peppers, garlic, corn and even chicken wings.

The leaders, workers and volunteers at Lawrence Community Garden want to help the area overcome food access issues. A 2018 study from The Polis Center at IUPUI estimated that 200,000 Indianapolis residents live in a food desert, which is an area that has high poverty and limited food access. The Polis Center's count is about double the official number from the United States Department of Agriculture, in part

because the USDA's data isn't updated past 2015. The closing of Marsh grocery stores, for example, isn't accounted for.

Moore said one of the advantages of the garden stand is that they can take SNAP and WIC, which makes their food more accessible to people who need it. Eskenazi Health Center Grassy Creek has a WIC center, so low to moderate-income pregnant women could get their vouchers and then buy fresh and healthy food in the parking lot on their way out.

Lawrence Community Gardens, where children ages 12 to 15 can work, could also be fueling a new generation of community leaders who will try to tackle issues such as food access and poverty. Darby, wearing her "Next Generation Farmers" shirt, said growing and selling food is something she could see herself doing for a living. Darby, 12, heard about the garden's program from her dad and decided she wanted to do it.

"It's exciting because people are helping out and giving money back for youth to learn how to sell produce," she said.

Cannon, 14, said he hadn't considered the possibility of earning money by growing and selling food before he started with the program in 2018. He said he wants to become an entrepreneur.

Darby and Cannon, along with other students out of school for the summer, work at Lawrence Community Gardens 7 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. They learn gardening basics and how to make money selling the food they grow, all while earning a weekly stipend of $50. There's also a garden stand open at the garden.

This is one of the things that gets Moore excited about the garden. She knows children growing up in urban neighborhoods don't often think about this line of work. But with an 11-cent pack of watermelon seeds, Moore said she shows young garden workers how to plant those seeds, harvest the produce and then take seeds from those watermelons to start the process over again.

"I teach them how to turn that 11-cent pack of seeds into a business," she said.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick. Joseph Thomas is an intern for the Recorder.

SUPPORT LAWRENCE COMMUNITY GARDENS

Lawrence Community Gardens has a garden stand on site at its garden.

• Where: 9240 E. 46th St.

• When: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday The organization also takes a garden stand to Eskenazi Health Center Grassy Creek.

• Where: 9443 E. 38th St.

• When: 10-11 a.m. every Tuesday


Multiple groups working to end food deserts and hunger

Local political leaders, citizens and many in the faith community are all employing different tactics to fight two related problems: hunger and food deserts.

According to the online community information system SAVI, a program of the Polis Center at IUPUI, 200,000 Indianapolis residents live in food deserts, or low-income areas that struggle with access to healthy foods. Urban farmers, the Indianapolis City-County Council and Faith, Hope and Love Community Inc. are working to make healthy food accessible in unique ways.

URBAN FARMERS

Urban farmers took the issue of food deserts into their own hands by growing produce for the community. Several Black-owned urban gardens —Lawrence Community Gardens, Elephant Gardens, Mother Loves Garden and Three Sisters Garden form the Indiana Black Farmers Cooperative — are located in food deserts. The co-op donates half its produce to local food pantries, hosts farmers markets in food deserts and accepts SNAP and WIC, creating an opportunity for people with limited access to grocery stores to buy healthy foods in their neighborhood.

Sharrona Moore, chair of the cooperative, said she wants to do more than provide access to healthy foods. She also wants to inspire people to grow their own produce, increasing access to fruits and vegetables. Moore strives to prove you don't need to be a stereotypical farmer living in the country to grow food.

"The stereotype of what a farmer looks like is usually an older white man, and that's a huge misconception because if you look back through your history it was always Blacks who farmed," Moore said. "... When you think of farmers, you never think of Black people. Being a Black woman in this industry, when I tell people I'm a farmer they are amazed."

INDIANAPOLIS CITY-COUNTY COUNCIL

In June, the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee unanimously passed Proposal 258, a $580,000, four-pronged approach to eradicate food deserts. The full city-county council will vote on the measure at the next meeting on July 15. If it passes, the city will dedicate $175,000 to the development of a "Food Compass" app that informs people about both nearby food providers and their eligibility for assistance programs; $140,000 will go to a six-month trial partnership with Lyft to provide those who live in food deserts with discounted rides to supermarkets; $65,000 will go toward a Food Champion Program that trains residents in advocacy, organizing and creating food assistance programs; and $200,000 will fund a mobile grocery store that stops in food deserts.

Vivian Muhammad, co-founder of the Elephant Gardens, is critical of the proposal. Online resources such as Google already allow people to locate nearby food resources and the proposal dedicates funds to improving access to grocery stores outside the community instead of assisting growers already in the area, she said.

"You are going to reward Kroger and some of the other stores that have abandoned our neighborhood by carting some of our people in our community to where the grocery store is instead of helping to build to existing grocery stores," Muhammad said.

On the other hand, Marshawn Wolley, lecturer, commentator, business owner and civic entrepreneur, sees the proposal as a good first step to addressing food deserts. He believes local grocery stores such as A & I Variety Meat and Produce will see more customers because of the Food Compass and Lyft programs. In addition, Wolley referenced an article in the Journal of Public Affairs that cited the city received feedback from more than 400 local residents when crafting Proposal 258.

"You rarely get stuff like this where folks have done this level of research and used this kind of a process to arrive at a community decision," Wolley said. "You always miss people. You can always do better with your outreach, but this was pretty thorough."

HUNGER AWARENESS WEEK

Increasing food access for people living in food deserts is important, but Faith, Hope and Love Community Inc. (FHL), a Christian nonprofit that provides training and advocacy for food pantries, also wants to increase awareness through hosting Hunger Awareness Week July 20 through July 27. Merlin Gonzales, founder and president of FHL, hopes the week will show residents not only how many Hoosiers struggle with regular access to quality food but also how the problem is not just economic but also affects emotional and mental health. Hunger is also a communitywide issue. Gonzales cited a Clemson University study stating with every 1% increase of food insecurity in a city there is a 12% increase of violent crime.

"Unless we become aware of the effects of hunger, I think we will just provide emergency assistance, a bag of food, instead of looking at how we address the root causes of hunger and help people become more selfsustained instead of depending on the system," Gonzales said.

FHL aims to raise the awareness through several events, beginning with a Hunger Walk for businesses and nonprofits that will include comments from Sen. Jim Merritt on July 20. On July 21, several churches will host a prayer walk. The week will conclude July 27 with the Hunger Awareness Community Gathering, a social event with a rummage sale, food trucks and a kids' zone. Guest speakers will include Sen. John Crane and former Colts linebacker Devon McDonald.

For those who want to learn what it is like to lack access to quality food, FHL encourages participation in the 0-0-1 Challenge from July 22 to July 26. Over these five days, participants can only eat one small dinner each day, skipping all other meals and snacks. During each of these days, FHL will host walks from one food pantry to another, replicating the experience of being food insecure. Gonzales said that as participants feel the impacts of not eating, they will learn that lack of access to good food is not just about a rumbling feeling in the stomach. It can impact your mind, body and spirit. Kim Scott-Miller, pantry director for Cross Church, is worried about how eating so little will impact her day-to-day life, but is excited about how it will allow her to better understand her food pantry clients. Cross Church will host a prayer walk.

"I do want to experience that, and I think it will make me more compassionate and more empathetic to what our clients are going to," Scott-Miller said.

Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.


Meet IndyGo's next president and CEO

IndyGo announced July 9 it has selected Inez Evans as the organization's new president and CEO. Evans, currently chief operating officer of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) in California, will replace current IndyGo President and CEO Michael Terry in August.

Evans has more than 25 years of experience in transportation and said in an interview with the Recorder she sees where her areas of expertise can line up with IndyGo's future. That includes looking at transportation as more than just buses. Evans said that means looking at mobility more generally with things such as sidewalks and bike lanes.

Evans said Indianapolis is one of the few cities in America that has "truly embraced transportation," and that's part of why she wanted to leave her post at the VTA to come to a mid-size city in the Midwest. Marion County residents voted in 2016 to give dedicated funds to IndyGo, a luxury the agency didn't have in prior years, and the organization will transition its bus routes to a more efficient grid system by

this fall.

Evans will join IndyGo at a busy time. IndyGo's Red Line is scheduled to open Sept. 1, the Purple Line is expected to open in 2022, and the Blue Line is expected to open in 2025. (IndyGo announced earlier in July that the timelines for the Purple and Blue lines, originally planned to be open in 2021 and 2022, respectively, were pushed back.)

Evans said she may start doing listening sessions with the community to learn what the wants and needs are in Indianapolis, but with experience in implementing similar rapid transit lines, she said she doesn't plan on reshaping those projects once she starts.

"I need to follow the plan that's been outlined and what's been entrusted to us by the community," she said.

When asked what improvements or changes she would like to make, Evans didn't offer specifics, saying she wants to first learn from the community and understand the vision of IndyGo's board and city officials.

"My priority is really listening to our customers, our elected officials, our employees, our neighbors," Evans said. "... That's important before going in and just making changes."

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.


Former state health commissioner announces run for governor

Dr. Woody Myers is running for governor.

The former Indiana state health commissioner announced his gubernatorial candidacy July 10 during a press conference outside of the building in which he used to practice medicine — the former Wishard Hospital emergency room.

Myers will run as a Democrat for the 2020 election. Invoking his history in the medical field, Myers pitched himself as a doctor who can treat Indiana's ills such as the state of its education and public health systems.

"I'm running for governor because Indiana has too many pre-existing conditions that typical politicians just can't treat, and treating tough problems is what I do," Myers said.

Myers emphasized fixing the state's education system in his announcement. He said his history growing up in Indianapolis Public Schools is now

motivation for making education a prominent theme of his campaign. Myers critiqued the state's lack of education funding, overcrowded classes, music and art classes becoming optional and teachers leaving the state for better pay. Some of his solutions to fix these problems include stopping education cuts and increasing teacher pay.

"I'm deeply worried about the education cuts that are driving teachers, like the ones I had, out of our state in record numbers, and the students who won't get the same support and encouragement I received," Myers said.

Myers said, if elected, public health will be another high priority. He highlighted Indiana's infant and maternal mortality rates as a public health crisis that he wants to address as governor.

"As a physician and as health commissioner, I have seen firsthand how decisions made by politicians can impact the lives of so many people," Myers said.

In addition to discussing the issues, Myers also said his history makes him qualified to be governor, citing his experience as state health commissioner under Govs. Evan Bayh and Robert Orr. Myers is currently owner of Myers Ventures LLC, which he touted as useful experience in the private sector.

"I think Dr. Myers is one of the most qualified candidates for governor that I've ever seen," Max Glass, Myers' campaign manager, said. "I think he is going to be able to bring a fresh perspective to Indiana and really start to solve problems, bring people together and create new opportunities for the state."

Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.