To coincide with the beginning of African American History Month, a three day festival that celebrates life along the old Walnut Street corridor comes to the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage. Titled “Celebrating the Legacy of Black Louisville,” the tribute to local black culture begins on Friday.
Spearheaded by noted journalist Mervin Aubespin and cultural pioneer Ken Clay, the weekend will include exhibits, workshops, a documentary, a live stage show and more.
One of the featured exhibits is inspired by the book Two Centuries of Black Louisville: A Photographic History which was co-authored by Aubespin and Clay along with the late academic Dr. J. Blaine Hudson.
The celebration will also serve as a participatory exercise. Archivists from the University of Louisville are encouraging African Americans to bring family photos and other documents on Saturday and Sunday so they can discuss preservation of those items. U of L will also accept donations for their collections.
Through the weekend, visitors will learn about Louisville’s contribution to the Underground Railroad. Because our city is on the border of a border state, it was an important stop, though little of its history is taught. The exhibit aims to correct that.
For more recent history, visitors will have to opportunity to view a documentary called The Dirt Bowl - The Tradition, The Journey - It Lives in Me. For those that don’t know, the Dirt Bowl is a summer basketball league tournament that began in Algonquin Park in 1969 before moving to Shawnee Park, both in Louisville’s West End. It was an important stepping stone for basketball stars like Artis Gilmore, Phil Bond and Darrell Griffith among others.
One of the highlights of the weekend will be the Walnut Street Revue on Saturday evening. Rick Bartlett, Second Chance, Billy Clements and more will perform. The title of the revue has meaning. Before the government used the term “urban renewal” as a means to destroy aged and important buildings and institutions in African American communities, Walnut Street was the place for black Louisville’s politics, business and entertainment.
Sunday will conclude with the Great Gospel Shout Out featuring three Louisville based gospel groups.
Tickets for the Walnut Street Revue and the Great Gospel Shout Out are available at both locations of Better Days Records and at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage. All other events and exhibits are free including a tribute to jazz vocalist and Louisvillian Helen Humes who sang with the Count Basie Orchestra during their heyday.
The KCAAH is at 1701 W. Muhammad Ali Boulevard. Before the street was renamed in 1978, that address would have read 1701 W. Walnut Street.
Photo courtesy of the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage