Bloomington city councilmember on Black History Month events: “Get to know someone that you didn’t know when you walked into that event.”

Bloomington city clerk Nicole Bolden addresses the city council about events the city has planned out for Black History Month. (Feb. 1, 2023)

The recent police killings of two men—Manuel Esteban Paez Terán in Atlanta and Tyre Nichols in Memphis—got a mention during the Bloomington city council’s regular Wednesday meeting.

From her desk in the left side of the council chambers, city clerk Nicole Bolden said, “These killings don’t celebrate the joys of Black History Month, but they certainly reflect the reality of Black history.”

Bolden was quoting best-selling author and cultural critic Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who gained fame playing 20 years in the NBA. The sentence is included in the Feb. 1 edition of Abdul-Jabbar’s Substack newsletter.

The point of Bolden’s remarks was to encourage councilmembers and the public to attend at least some of the events that have been planned as a part of Bloomington’s celebration of Black History Month.

During report time at the start of the meeting, councilmember Jim Sims remarked about the choice of February as national Black History Month, “I would be remiss not to say that, of course, it’s the shortest month of the year.” He added, “But that’s another conversation for another day.”

Bolden said, “Black History Month is supposed to be about joy. And it’s supposed to be about celebration.”

She added, “It’s supposed to be about learning—a chance for all of us to learn things that we were never taught in the past.”

An event from Bloomington’s past that is often a knowledge gap for Bloomington residents is the firebombing of the Black Market, which was located in the space now known as People’s Park.

The market sold products made in Africa or by African-Americans, serving as a cultural center for Black students attending Indiana University.  The market stood at the corner of Kirkwood Avenue and Dunn Street. The campus is just a block to the east.

A local man with ties to the Ku Klux Klan firebombed the Black Market on Dec. 26, 1968, which destroyed the store.

To pay homage to the Black Market of the late 1960s, the city of Bloomington is hosting a “Black Market” in the city council chambers on Saturday, Feb. 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The calendar listing for the event describes it like this: “A coalition of organizations, Black-owned businesses, Black creators, and artists and create a space that affirms persons of color in the community, and provide a medium for local talent, business owners, and groups to share information and sell goods.”

The Black Market is one of dozens of events that has been planned out by the community and family resources department (CFRD) for Bloomington’s Black History Month celebration.

Visitors to the Black Market on Feb. 11 will also see a new exhibit set up in the display case just outside the city council chambers with the title “Black Innovation.” At Wednesday’s city council meeting Sims described the exhibit a featuring items that were invented or patented by Black Americans.

About the events on the calendar, Sims offered a suggestion for how to think about attending one: “Get to know someone that you didn’t know when you walked into that event.”

Sims added, “And that’ll make this a much, much better community.”