Community Builder's Corner
"Project Protopian Futures"
Last fall, representatives of the Indiana Ave, Near West, and Near Northwest side communities and I participated in a joint effort with the Urban Legacy Lands Initiative (ULLI) and the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
They invited us to work with their students in reimagining “future” possibilities for Indianapolis’ historic Indiana Avenue neighborhoods. Using imagination if racial segregation, eminent domain, and slum clearance policies had not disrupted their existence.” The Students, on a mission, came to Indy to talk with community leaders and elders. Given tours of our areas for research into this project named *“Protopian Futures,” spearheaded by ULLI leader Claudia Polley in conjunction with Harvard Professor Toni Griffin, we gave these students as much history, knowledge, and perspective as possible so they could take it back to work on their projects.
We were asked, in December 2022, to travel to Harvard University to attend the final presentation of their work, and what we experienced, what I experienced, changed my life in a way that I did not expect.
These students reimagined Indianapolis’s waterways, mobility, industry, culture, shelter, medicine, black empowerment, and play, among others, with PowerPoint, 3d models, videos, and historical research that most of us there didn’t even know existed. As much as we were amazed at their study, the new imaginings of what could “BE” floored us!
I was particularly moved to tears when one of the students showed her video of “PLAY,” showing how we played whether working out, shooting hoops, or attending the parks through organized sports leagues. Things, if participated in, would keep us strong, stress-free, healthier, and academically sharper. Then she moved to how specific physical and political opportunities were removed from our neighborhoods over time, leaving them abandoned and neglected.
But, the turning point in her presentation was imagining if we had maintained control of our areas utilizing rising stars such as Oscar Robertson and Ray Crowe from the state champion Crispus Attucks High School basketball team to spearhead the parks, sports, and recreation to expand on our all so important need to “play.” Creating whole sports districts within our neighborhoods. Imagine sports retail empowering our dollars within the community. I cried when I saw this, as did many others. However, the tears weren’t for despair but instead for hope. —the hope for what is still possible if we move together.
So, ULLI community representatives and some of the students from Harvard are officially inviting you to come and experience what we experienced. This Spring, on April 13th, from 6 pm to 8 pm at the AMP, we want you to see what was and is still possible and be invigorated for our city again. Save the Date!
Come and see us because we want to see you. We want to share this experience and these aspirations with you. And we want to celebrate with you... Hope for our Future!
I, personally, cannot wait!
~ *A “Protopian Future” was first coined by Kevin Kelly, who co-founded Wired Magazine in 1993 and served as its Executive Editor for its first seven years. Protopia is a future better than today — but not perfect. Protopain societies are ones that slowly and steadily improve the quality of life of their inhabitants.