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Feb 8, 2022

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The Power of Place

Poindexter Village

"We all remember we had a good, safe life. We could count on anybody's parents if we had any problems...It was a good neighborhood, good neighbors. We know each other well, and we see each other now. Somebody will come up and say 'The Village, right?'"

PATSEY ULMER, James Preston Poindexter Foundation Board Member, and former resident

Poindexter Village and the area that surrounded the 35 apartment buildings on 27 acres on Columbus’ Near East Side was a vibrant mix of Black families, businesses, places to worship, and culture, including emerging artists, musicians, and leaders.

Named for the Rev. James Preston Poindexter, an abolitionist, civil rights advocate, and Baptist minister, Poindexter Village was dedicated in 1940 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as one of the first public housing projects in the United States.

While it is often remembered for its historical significance, to those who made their lives there, the development of Poindexter Village symbolized something much greater—hope. It ushered in opportunity—and solidified a neighborhood with roots planted long before the buildings were erected—when many of those who were part of the Great Migration made their way north and chose to settle in what was then known as the Blackberry Patch.

"So originally...[we had] all of these other Black communities, not just one region...the Hilltop area, the South area, you had American Addition...Mount Vernon and Long Street Black businesses became successful because of all of these Black communities."

Reita Smith, James Preston Poindexter Foundation Board Member, and former resident

For generations, Poindexter Village was a place where neighbors looked after one another and elders were revered and respected. However, as the years wore on, the neighborhood began to decline as its residents struggled with the pressures of disinvestment, racially unfair public policy, and the systemic inequities that disproportionately impact communities of color. While there was a coordinated and passionate effort by some to keep the Village intact, 33 of the 35 buildings were torn down in 2013. Even though most of the buildings are gone, the spirit of the Village will live on thanks to the Ohio History Connection (OHC) and the James Preston Poindexter Foundation (JPPF). The two remaining buildings, currently being renovated to house the future Poindexter Village Museum and Cultural Center, will pay homage to the neighborhood’s dynamic history.

As a way to connect with local students and elevate the vibrant history of the Near East Side and those who contributed to its history, OHC and JPPF recently announced the Poindexter Village—Windows of Stories Youth Art Challenge. In partnership with the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Columbus City Schools (CCS), and The Columbus Foundation, the challenge encourages students to use their creative voices to help tell the neighborhood’s story.

“We felt it was important to start with young people,” said Shelbi Toone, Project Manager for the Poindexter Village Museum and Cultural Center. “This has been an intentional initiative to have youth learn about the history of the neighborhood. Everyone working on this project is passionate about passing this history on. We want to create a learning environment for young people.”

The art challenge is broken down by age groups and open to all CCS students from K-12. Entries must focus on themes related to the Near East Side. Selected artwork will cover the windows on the Poindexter Village Museum buildings during renovation, and cash prizes will be awarded to the top winners.

Renowned, award-winning artist Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson hailed from Poindexter Village. Through her remarkable mixed-media art, Robinson told the stories of her beloved family, elders, and neighborhood, weaving events, people, and places into living pieces that she hoped would “rag on.” Toone said Robinson’s talent has been pivotal in helping preserve the Village’s story and sharing that story with others.

"Aminah is our home. She was Poindexter Village’s before she was the world's."

Shelbi Toone, Project Manager for the Poindexter Village Museum and Cultural Center

Through the art challenge and many more efforts that will follow as the museum and cultural center continues to be built, this incredible history will be preserved for the young and old to treasure.

Submissions for the Poindexter Village—Windows of Stories Art Challenge are open until March 7. Learn more here.

  

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