July 11th, 2017

Growing up on “The Hill”

by TeenWorks

TeenWorks participants have been interviewing past and present residents of the neighborhoods surrounding Monon 16 to gather their stories as we prepare for Pre-Enactment Theater October 7, 2017. This Indianapolis theater and arts collaboration is the first of its kind and will serve as a national model for creative placemaking and neighborhood revitalization.

by Tycorian Roberson

Mr. Eugene W. Akers, current Trustee of Center Township, spoke recently about his upbringing; growing up around 25th and Keystone. Akers described the cultural scene of segregated Indianapolis, conveying the difficulties of poverty and the joys of community in  African-American Indianapolis society. Mr. Akers, alongside his friend, Earmon Hubbard briefly proposed a biography of their youth:

Mr. Akers grew up around 25th and Keystone, also known as “The Hill”, where the current Juvenile Center is now stationed.  He explained “The Hill” to have been a vibrant residential neighborhood, with a great number of homes on every corner. He also spoke of a very influential character by the name of Mr. Hawkins. Hawkins was the Director of JTR Park and a well-respected leader of the community, often discipling children he found to be out-of-check. According to the interviewees “The Hill” was also known as “Grundyville” because of the large number of Grundys who populated the area. The area was largely an impoverished neighborhood, often given a connotation of hopelessness and infra dig. Mr. Hawkins would often say,” Get out of here, and not by a police car”, because of the lack of opportunity the poverty-stricken neighborhood provided for youth.

Despite the extreme poverty of the neighborhood, the jubilant cultural scene made life worth living.  Music was essential to black neighborhoods. The primary genres of these neighborhoods included: blues, jazz, and gospel. Gospel was primarily composed on Sundays; reflecting the religiosity of the neighborhoods. Earmon Hubbard, a Japanese and African-American mix, nicknamed “Chino” was inspired by the music scene of segregated Indianapolis, later becoming a jazz pianist. His younger brother was the renowned jazz trumpeter, Freddie Hubbard.  Alongside the music scene, athletics  played a major role in the establishment of segregated African-American Indianapolis society. Douglas Little League was a great athletic presence in the community. Many were despondent after the fall of the league, due to the pollution of a lead factory near 16th Street. All in all, the cultural scene continued to reign in segregated Indianapolis.

Mr. Akers and Mr. Hubbard continue to live by the values taught to them by those who influenced their youth. They still are active members of Indianapolis, and have had very successful lives. The words of Mr. Hawkins are stilled engraved in their very being: “Get out of here and not by a police car.” They truly exemplify this quote by their lives. May we be encouraged to do great things and utilize every fruit  our current situation germinates.