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$1.6 million in grants tabbed to promote Black history in Indianapolis

The grants will be used by the Urban Legacy Lands Initiative to protect, promote, and inform the community about Black history in the city.

INDIANAPOLIS — Over a million dollars in grant money is going toward helping preserve and promote Black history in Indianapolis.

It's an exciting moment for the city.

"There's always this dialogue where they say you need to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, but when they take your boots, that's hard to do," said Joyce Moore.

That is something Moore knows about all too well. She's lived in Indianapolis all her life. She remembers the city having beautiful thriving Black communities until they were forced out. Her family went through eminent domain twice. Her husband's grandfather's home and the surrounding community were seized to make room for IUPUI's Cavanaugh Hall.

"Between the highway and eminent domain taking the properties, we lost a vibrant neighborhood. It wasn't a run-down neighborhood. It was a vibrant neighborhood that had businesses," Moore said. 

Credit: WTHR
A once-vibrant Black neighborhood on the near west side was replaced by part of the IUPUI campus and highways.

She attended a celebration on Wednesday where they announced the $1.6 million worth of grants from the Mellon Foundation and the Lilly Endowment will be used by the Urban Legacy Lands Initiative to protect, promote, and inform the community about Black history in Indianapolis, especially on Indiana Avenue and beyond.

"We don't want to lose any more land that tells of our history in this neighborhood, in this city, in this state," said the president of ULLI, Claudia Polley.

Polley said Black people in Indianapolis have a lot to be proud of.

"It's not just Madam Walker, but there are a lot of people who did fabulous things. We want to let everyone know not just about the people but the places where all of this took place," Polley said.

Credit: WTHR
The Madam Walker Theatre on Indiana Avenue on the west side of downtown Indianapolis

They're hoping to build a better future for Indianapolis using the history that brought us here.

"We cannot go back and change history. What we can do is make better history," Polley said.

Moore's son is now part of that change and works with the Mellon Foundation. She said she’s happy to see Black history in the city, that’s long been ignored, move forward. 

"We take two steps forward then when something happens, we take three steps back, but we keep doing it. This is just another one of those efforts. Hopefully this time someone will hear and cooperate," Moore said.

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