The theme for the 2023 Black History Month celebration is “Black Innovation.” The month’s events will celebrate and explore Black inventors, creators, and change agents and how Black innovators changed the way we live through their contributions, from the traffic light to the cell phone. Most people have heard about famous inventions like the light bulb, the cotton gin, and the ironing board. But there are countless others, often overlooked creators and inventions that make our daily lives easier.
Black History Month Signature Events
Black History Month Kick-off
The City of Bloomington commemorates National Black History Month with a tribute and celebration to empowerment. The theme for the 2023 Black History Month celebration is “Black Innovation.” The month’s events will celebrate and explore Black inventors, creators, and change agents and how Black innovators changed the way we live through their contributions, from the traffic light to the ironing board. Most people have heard about famous inventions like the light bulb, the cotton gin, and the iPhone. But there are countless other, often overlooked inventions that make our daily lives easier.
The kick-off event will feature a talk by Ellise Smith, a doctoral student at Indiana University studying Urban Education from Detroit, MI with a research focus on the experiences of bodies that identify as fat. With an interdisciplinary focus, Smith uses photography (#VisualActivism), podcasting, spoken word poetry, hip-hop culture, freestyle lyricism and social media as a catalyst to center the narratives of fat bodies. As an emerging artist and scholar, Smith has dedicated her life to creating celebratory spaces for marginalized identities that she also holds using frameworks such as Black Feminist Thought and Critical Race Theory to ensure the work and narratives around bigger bodies are included in academia and challenging the dominant narrative around body image acceptance. The kick-off will also feature a pop-up shop by Itia Saahir, performance by Troy T. Thomas Jr. and Trumusiq Group.
Monday, January 30
Showers City Hall Council Chambers
401 N. Morton St., Bloomington, IN
Reception: 6:00 pm • Free
Program: 7:00 pm • Free
This event will feature 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 History Month "Black Market" pays homage to the original Black Market that was firebombed on December 26, 1968.
Saturday, February 11
City Hall Council Chambers
401 N. Morton St., Bloomington, IN
Event: 10:00 am - 2:00 pm • Free
Essay Contest & Reception
Parents, teachers, siblings, friends, and community members are invited to Fairview elementary as the winners of the 2023 Black History Month Essay Contest are honored. Awards will be presented in the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Join the community in supporting these budding scholars. Refreshments will be served. For additional information, visit the "Essay Contest" page.
Congratulations to the 2023 Winners
High School Winners of the 2023
Thursday, February 16
Fairview Elementary School
500 W 7th St, Bloomington, IN 47404
Reception: 6:00 pm • Free
Program: 6:30 pm • Free
Black History Month Gala
Join us for an evening of fine dining, great music, and dancing, as we recognize the 2023 Living Legend Recipients, and the Commission on the Status of Black Males’ Outstanding Black Leaders of Tomorrow recipients. Reception and Silent Auction will begin at 6:00 p.m., program will begin at 7: 00 p.m. Tickets: $60 each ~ Available January 30th at the Buskirk-Chumley Box Office, BCTboxoffice.org, or by phone at 812-323-3020.
Saturday, February 25
2250 W. Sunstone Dr., Bloomington, IN
Reception: 6:00 pm
Program: 7:00 pm
Ticketed Event • $60 in advance
2023 Black History Month Calendar
The City of Bloomington 2023 Black History Month Calendar is a free publication of the City of Bloomington Community and Family Resources Department. The City of Bloomington 2023 Black History Month Calendar lists events sponsored by the City of Bloomington Black History Month planning committee and community partners to share events. Members of the community are encouraged to submit events for inclusion in the calendar related to Black History Month. Please review the following information for usage.
All events are reviewed, edited, and added to the calendar at the discretion of the calendar administrator. For questions, contact Shatoyia Moss, Director of the Safe and Civil City Program, at 812.349.3559 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you need to change information associated with a submitted event (updates, cancellations, etc.), please email Shatoyia Moss your requested updates.
Deadline For submissions is Monday, January 23, 2023
Disclaimer: City of Bloomington 2023 Black History Month Calendar has been designed to share information about events and happenings of interest to the Bloomington Community. Events that appear do not constitute official endorsements of The City of Bloomington Black History Month committee
2023 Black History Month Awards
Visionary Leader Award
The Black History Month Visionary Leadership Award is presented to a person or persons who inspire others through their long-term vision for the betterment of the community. Visionary leaders are innovative, persistent, willing to take risks, enthusiastic, focused and willing to listen to others. Visionary leaders are not afraid to get their hands dirty but but bring others on board through their goal setting and communication.
2023: Michelle Gilchrist & Leon Gordon (Pictured)
2022: Jaquita Joy Roberts
2021: Jim Sims
2020: Donald and Nicole Griffin
2019: Jennifer Crossley
Living Legend Award
Jeanetta & Charlie Nelms
2023 Living Legends
Jeanetta Sherrod Nelms and Charlie Nelms grew up in the Arkansas Delta during America’s apartheid era. Like many Black southerners of their generation, they had dreams of making life better not only for themselves, but for their family and community members as well. With constant encouragement from their parents and teachers, Jeanetta and Charlie enrolled at Arkansas Agricultural Mechanical and Normal College (AM&N College), now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). An honors student, Jeanetta earned her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, while Charlie earned his degree in Agronomy and Chemistry, both in 1968. Introduced by a mutual college friend in 1965, Jeanetta and Charlie have been married since August 3, 1968.
Both Jeanetta and Charlie come from families with a long tradition of community service and civic engagement. Jeanetta’s mother, Julia Sherrod, was a founding member of Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA), and was instrumental in establishing a rural co-op grocery store and farmers market. Charlie’s father and mother were subsistence farmers who quietly, and often secretly, registered Black farm workers to vote during evenings and weekends. Both of their families recognized the importance of education and the link between economic opportunity and political participation.
Like many HBCU graduates from the South, because of racial segregation in the 1960s Charlie and Jeanetta could not pursue graduate studies in their home state of Arkansas. Encouraged by several mentors and Dr. Jimmy Ross, a graduate of UAPB, Jeanetta and Charlie enrolled at Indiana University and earned graduate degrees in Mathematics and higher education, respectively. Jeanetta was an NSF Fellowship recipient in mathematics, while Charlie served as an RA in Foster Quadrangle. They were the first Black couple to serve in this role at Indiana University.
Jeanetta is a lifelong educator who has taught mathematics at the middle and high school levels in Arkansas, Indiana, New York, and Ohio. In addition, she taught mathematics at UAPB and IU East. Administratively, she has served as Learning Resource Manager with the Flint Community Schools, Academic Advisor, IU University Division, Academic Advisor, IU Kelley School of Business, and founding director of the Indiana University Twenty-First Scholars Program.
A former student body president at UAPB, Charlie decided early in life that he wanted to be a college president. He went on to become a three-time university chancellor with service at universities in Indiana, Michigan and North Carolina. He recognized the difference between leading and presiding, and never lost sight of three things. First, he recognized the importance of using his leadership position to positively effect change in the lives of marginalized people. Second, he recognized the importance of speaking truth to power, even if it cost him his position. Third, he recognized the importance of serving as a mentor and sponsor for aspiring Black executive level university leaders. In fact, more than twenty-five of his mentees have become college presidents.
Charlie and Jeanetta are Life members of the NAACP, the UAPB and Indiana University Alumni Association. Jeanetta is a life member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and an active member of the Kappa Tau Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Charlie has been a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. for more than fifty years, and is a life member as well. Each year, 30-40 students at UAPB, Indiana University, University of Michigan-Flint, Antioch University, and North Carolina Central University, are recipients of endowed scholarships made possible through the philanthropy of Jeanetta and Charlie Nelms.
Charlie and Jeanetta Nelms have never lost sight of who they are, and the responsibility they have for making the world a better place for marginalized people. They both have an unswerving commitment to racial equity, justice and equality and they share the belief that voting is the sine qua non of democracy. Jeanetta is an active member of the Monroe County League of Women Voters, and she is never without information related to voting!
Jeanetta’s and Charlie’s proudest accomplishment is being parents to Rashad Zakee Nelms, a global citizen with a commitment to changing the world through his work for nearly twenty years with the United Nations World Food Program.
Outstanding Black Leaders of Tomorrow
The Commission on the Status of Black Males (CSBM) Outstanding Black Leaders of Tomorrow Award is given annually to two African American men and women, respectively from the following categories: high school and adult. The Outstanding Black Leaders of Tomorrow Award is presented each year at the Black History Month Gala Celebration in February. The CSBM recognizes the importance of highlighting the outstanding contributions made by young African American men and women in our community for their outstanding leadership, scholarship, and involvement.
City of Bloomington Community & Family Resources Department
City of Bloomington Office of the Clerk
Ivy Tech Community College Bloomington
Indiana University, Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, & Multicultural Affairs
IU Credit Union
Order of Eastern Star, Southern Star #50
Stone City Lodge #54
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Bloomington Alumnae Chapter
Uplands Maker Mobile
Be Finer Tees
I. James Torry
The Camisha R. Sims Memorial Nursing Scholarship Fund
Contributions to the Camisha R. Sims Memorial Nursing Scholarship Fund can be made online at www.cfbmc.org/donate-now/ or by check to the Community Foundation of Bloomington Monroe County, 100 South College Avenue, Suite 240, Bloomington, IN 47404. Checks should be made out to the Community Foundation of Bloomington Monroe County. Please indicate "The Camisha R. Sims Memorial Nursing Scholarship Fund" on the memo line of your check.