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Project wants community input to honor the legacy of Black neighborhoods

Indianapolis Black Heritage & Legacy Trail
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Posted at 11:03 PM, Mar 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-19 23:03:07-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A new “trail” in Indianapolis will highlight the rich heritage of local Black communities. The Indianapolis Black Heritage & Legacy Trail won’t be a physical path but more of figurative one to reconnect black communities.

The city-wide effort is looking to give the power to residents by asking them to share their stories and assist in the creation of the legacy project.

“These communities can be reconnected recognizing that they were intentionally disconnected from one another,” said Trail Project Manager and Urban Planner Danicia Malone.

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Reconnection through representation is exactly what the new legacy project is aiming to do.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to get an understanding of what the historical footprints of our place have been and how people remember where they’re from,” explained Malone.

The Indy Black Heritage & Legacy Trail is funded by an NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) grant and is a community effort spearheaded through collaboration between the Flanner House, Rokh R&D Studio, and KT Austin Arts LLC, project.

The project focuses on archiving, identity building, and storytelling.

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Martindale Brightwood Sign

It will be centered around six different Indy Black neighborhoods, including Norwood, Babe Denny, Haughville, Near Northwest, Near Westside, and Martindale.

“We really wanted to focus on communities that have been largely left out of the narrative of Indianapolis,” said Lead Trail Archivist Kaila Austin.

“There’s an opportunity to think of an imaginary trail that links all of them together,” added Malone.

Malone says the trail will go beyond the introduction of art in public spaces throughout these neighborhoods.

“There will be historical heritage and legacy markers in each of these neighborhoods and the site will be identified by neighbors in these neighborhoods so think about places of importance,” she explained.

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Mural of Near Westside

Highlighting Black historical heritage is crucial for residents like David Johnson who grew up on the Near Northwest side of the city.

“I think it’s creating a sense of identity,” said Johnson. “Representation matters and when a young person sees someone like themselves doing something great or phenomenal they believe they can do it too.”

One of the project's biggest goals is to share those living legacies by lifting up the Black voices in those very communities.

“It’s really about helping families and communities preserve their artifacts, record their family histories and figure out how we can use those items as leverage to protect black neighborhoods ,” said Austin.

“There are so many other Black stories in Indianapolis that expand beyond the places that we think are the only Black neighborhoods in Indianapolis,” added Malone.

Both Austin and Malone also hope this project helps spark the start of an actual trail throughout the city along with a brick-and-mortar space where these archives and artifacts can be safe.

The project is also looking for community trios (neighborhood artist, memory keepers, or Griot) to be a part of the it along with residents to share their stories.

To participate or to learn more about the Indy Black Heritage & Legacy Trail click here.