After years of political discussion, community meetings, visits and letters to elected officials, private upset, and public reconciliation, Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), Ohio History Connection, City of Columbus, and James Preston Poindexter Foundation (JPPF) came to an agreement: the last 2 remaining historic Poindexter Village buildings would be saved to be developed as an African American museum and cultural center!
The news has been greeted with great relief by some and a little skepticism by others. Yet the spirit of hope and active community involvement has kept this long-shot project moving forward. Now, what was a possibility is becoming a reality.
“I had threatened to tie myself to that tree and hold a press conference!” exclaimed Reita Smith, a stalwart supporter and octogenarian leader of the movement to save Poindexter, in response to questions of commitment by Poindexter supporters. “It has been a long, hard struggle, but the Lord has been on our side!”
As chair of JPPF, Smith spent many hours writing letters, meeting with elected officials and community members to keep the goal of saving the historic buildings for community use. She was not alone in that nine-year effort, as JPPF members and other community supporters met weekly for over 2 years at the William H. Thomas Gallery discussing and strategizing about how to save “the Village” where gallery owner Baba Olugbala, among others, spent a happy childhood.
“It was like a true African Village,” noted Olugbala referencing the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child.”
The Ohio History Connection, formerly the Ohio Historical Society, is a statewide public history organization with the mission to spark discovery of Ohio’s stories. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization chartered in 1885, the Ohio History Connection carries out history services for Ohio and its citizens focused on preserving and sharing the state’s history. This includes housing the state historic preservation office, the official state archives, local history office and managing more than 50 sites and museums across Ohio, including the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce and the Paul Laurence Dunbar House in Dayton. You can learn more about the Ohio History Connection at www.ohiohistory.org.
“We are pleased to be able to preserve and share such an important site in the Near East Side and such an important story for Columbus, Ohio and the nation,” said Burt Logan, Executive Director and CEO of the Ohio History Connection. “We look forward to working with JPPF and the Poindexter community on developing the new museum and cultural center.”
The project has made significant strides this year. An October 12th acknowledgment of Poindexter’s seventy-seven-year history allowed Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther the opportunity to rededicate the site. More recently JPPF and the Ohio History Connection held a community meeting on November 30th at the Poindexter Intergenerational Center on Champion Ave, fulfilling a promise Reita Smith made to the community. With over 100 attendees, the meeting allowed JPPF and Ohio History Connection members and staff to highlight their partnership and engage community input in the process going forward.
An early 2018 joint program of the partnership will be a reprise of the popular exhibition Poindexter Village: A Portrait in Stories initially hosted by Columbus Historical Society, housed at COSI, and curated by Bettye Stull. The new exhibit will open February 10, 2017 at the Ohio History Center. For details, please visit www.ohiohistory.org/poindexterexhibit or call 614 297-2300.
Founded in 2014, the James Preston Poindexter Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization whose Mission is “to create an appreciation for the lifestyle and material culture of the African American community in historic Poindexter Village and Central Ohio in the 20th century.”