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.

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104 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 3.19 defended Lesser and several others jailed for contempt of court after violating a judge's restraining order prohibiting nighttime marches. e following year, he was a defense attorney for the "Black Six," a case in which six African-Americans were accused of conspiring to blow up oil refineries along the Ohio River. After two years of court hearings and massive public demonstrations, a judge dismissed the case due to lack of evidence. "He was very involved in defending some of the young people that got arrested during demonstrations for public accommodations and open housing," says the 89-year-old widow, herself a social- justice icon in Kentucky, where she was critical to the passage of a law allowing women to secure loans and credit cards in their own names. She also co-founded the National Women's Political Caucus and served as secretary of the Kentucky Commission on Women, so it's no surprise when she matter-of-factly points out there were no women involved in the creation of Black Scene. is detail aside, she says, "It was an amazing group of men who came together to take a deeper look at social issues and point out major concerns of the community. e articles were very thought-provoking, very avant- garde for the time." e magazine — about the size of a Reader's Digest — included a diverse mix of content. Volume 1, issue 1, begins with a story titled "Unwanted Black Children." e commentary suggests that the number of African-American kids in foster care had reached "crisis proportions," adding, "It is little wonder that many such children, growing to adulthood without love and proper care, now populate our penal institutions." Leo Lesser cared deeply about the issue of young black men becoming ensnared in the criminal-justice system. He sought to connect with these men by serving as chaplain at the city jail and serving on the board of First Offenders Inc., a nonprofit that offered "guidance to the first offender to make it his last offense." e first cover of Black Scene reflected this commitment: artwork of a black man on death row. John Johnson recalls the image in vivid detail. "e cover of the first issue displayed a black child's face with a tear running down its cheek," says Johnson, one of Black Scene's original editors, who now serves as executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. "To some degree, the picture symbolized our hurt in the loss of the election, but more importantly, it also symbolized the concerns we had heard from many underserved, downtrodden, dispossessed and left-out citizens whose families had endured generations of neglect, disrespect and hopelessness." Black Scene's coverage was guided by concerns voters raised during Lesser's mayoral campaign, Johnson says, and many of those issues remain relevant today. He rattles off a list of topics he'd like to see the revamped magazine tackle, including the school-to-prison pipeline, voter suppression, racial profiling, economic injustice, police brutality, lack of affordable housing and gun violence. In his official role as director of the state's human-rights commission, Johnson recently penned a letter in support of Black Scene Millennium, a project he expects will address social equity, financial equality and discrimination, particularly in west Louisville. "We understand the challenges that face communities that live in disadvantaged urban neighborhoods," he writes. When Dolores Delahanty found the long-forgotten Black Scenes, she reached out to her granddaughter for guidance. Katy Delahanty is a board member of the Portland Museum, so Dolores thought Katy might have ideas on how to archive the materials. "When I saw them, I just fell in love," says Katy, an artist who also works as outreach director for Louisville Visual Art. "As I started reading more of the material, it seemed to percolate in a natural way, and it seemed that it should be bigger than just archiving." With her grandmother's blessing, Katy is embarking on the Black Scene Millennium project with the help of local journalist and author Michael Jones. (Jones writes for Louisville Magazine.) Together, they've outlined several goals, beginning with making the original content available online. e hard copies eventually will be archived at either the University of Louisville or the Western branch of the public library. is fall, they plan to publish the first of four new editions, which will provide updates on Black Scene stories that remain relevant today. e magazine will adhere to the '70s aesthetic and use the original table of contents as a framework. Another goal is to commission murals of a few of the original covers in locations where civil- rights activity occurred. According to Jones, potential areas of coverage include redlining (the practice of denying loans based on a neighborhood's racial makeup), revitalization of the Russell neighborhood and police-community relations in the West End, just to name a few. "We would look at these issues in the context of the old articles to see what has changed and what's still the same," he says. In addition to releasing four new magazines over the course of a year, the duo plans to publish a book featuring a side-by-side comparison of original articles and updated material, along with a coffee- table book that includes images of old and new covers accompanied by a recap of stories. ey plan to provide Jefferson County Public Schools with copies of the books free of charge. "Everybody we talk to seems so hungry for this, because there's not really a voice for the black community," says Jones, who describes media coverage of west Louisville as often superficial. "ere's not a lot of context. at's partly because of the 24-hour news cycle, but also because people just don't know the history." Both Katy and Jones agree that the purpose of Black Scene Millennium is not to bemoan what has not been accomplished over the past 50 years, but rather to constructively identify challenges that remain and to create an outlet for reflection. ey're currently lining up an advisory board and contributors, including a few individuals who were part of the original publication. Acclaimed local photographer Bud Dorsey, who has spent more than half a century photographing west Louisville for publications including Black Scene, has already signed on to participate. Dorsey says Black Scene was unique because it covered "the good, the bad and the ugly." However, his preferred photo assignments were those that illuminated the West End's rich culture and engaged community, as opposed to its flaws. "West Louisville has a lot of good going on, despite some bad things happening — especially the homicides," he says. "Media coverage sort of has a negative overtone to it, so it's a breath of fresh air to show that we're still humans, we still like everything that other communities like — the arts, entertainment, social gatherings. I would love to help document that for the new Black Scene."

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