Louisville Magazine

MAR 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

Issue link: https://loumag.epubxp.com/i/1088363

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Page 104 of 133

102 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 3.19 UNEARTHED TREASURE WE BY SARAH KELLEY Seventies-era Black Scene magazines are inspiring a modern-day reissue connecting past concerns with present remedies. On a December night in 1972, Martin Luther King Sr. took the pulpit at Southern Star Baptist Church on Algonquin Parkway, where a crowd had gathered to jump-start the mayoral campaign of west Louisville civil- rights activist Leo Lesser. "ere are some white people in Louisville who in their hearts know that it is right, know that the time is right, for a black man to be mayor of Louisville, but they don't have the moral courage to act and speak out," King said, according to a Courier-Journal report about the rally. e elder MLK was himself a leader in the civil-rights movement, and he was among a coalition of confidantes who had persuaded Lesser to run for mayor. Inside the yellow brick church, King used most of his speech to denounce racism, urging support for school integration through busing, and highlighting the need for all people to overcome hate. "If anybody could be bitter, if anybody could hate a white face, I could be that man," he said, referring to his son's 1968 assassination by James Earl Ray. "But I've been saved, and now I don't hate any man." Lesser never took the stage that night, which by all accounts would have suited the humble pastor just fine, as he was far more concerned with effecting change than garnering praise. When Lesser officially filed to run for mayor in the spring of 1973, he told the C-J he sought to "remove the 'coldness' from government" and "generate a greater sensitivity to the human factor." e issues he hoped to tackle in office — fair housing policies, employment opportunities, integrated education, criminal-justice reform — mirrored the causes he fought for on the civil-rights front. Despite a swell of support in west Louisville and among progressives citywide, Lesser's mayoral bid was unsuccessful. He came in third in the Democratic primary, with physician Harvey Sloane nabbing the nomination and ultimately going on to serve two terms. In the face of disappointment, Lesser and a handful of his closest supporters were determined to continue advancing his platform. e method would be print media — specifically, a news and culture magazine shedding light on life in Louisville's African-American communities. Named Black Scene, the first issue was published on Aug. 30, 1973, with a goal of highlighting both the tribulations and achievements of black Louisvillians. Black Scene's editorial board explained its motivation and mission in the inaugural issue. e statement read, in part: Most of us were involved in an unsuccessful primary election campaign and became aware, during the campaign, of deficiencies in our community. is is our first step. In addition to the Rev. Lesser, the masthead featured a who's who of social-justice champions, including John Johnson, a rising star on the city's human-rights commission, and civil- rights attorney Robert Delahanty — both leaders on Lesser's mayoral campaign. e volunteer-run magazine initially was published every couple months, but lack of funding eventually resulted in a sporadic printing schedule. Momentum further waned following the sudden death of Lesser in 1974. Black Scene ceased publication in 1976, as the careers of those involved became increasingly demanding. At the time, Johnson was gaining stature in the NAACP and on the local human-rights commission, while Delahanty was preparing to run for district judge. (Eventually, Delahanty became the first chief judge of Jefferson County District Court.) Over the past five decades, the short- lived magazine had been largely forgotten — that is, until last year, when 17 issues were unearthed in the Delahanty household. As a result of the discovery, a relaunch of the publication is forthcoming under the name Black Scene Millennium. "It was a treasure trove that just unexpectedly resurfaced," says Katy Delahanty, granddaughter of the late Robert Delahanty, who died in 1993. At first, the Delahanty family sought to simply archive the original content, but as Katy pored over the old issues, she envisioned something bigger. Now she's spearheading the multifaceted Black Scene Millennium project, which includes publishing four new editions that will revisit topics covered in the original. "Hold on, let me turn off MSNBC," Dolores Delahanty says upon answering the phone. She returns a moment later, eager to recount how she and her son discovered a stack of Black Scene magazines while cleaning out an old metal filing cabinet in the basement of her Iroquois Parkway home. "It was like finding a treasure," she says. "I had forgotten all about it." She recalls how her husband Robert first got involved with Louisville's civil-rights movement as a lawyer representing activists pro bono. "He was a very unusual white guy for the times," she says. In 1967, he

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