Community-connection events included in 2019 Festival

The 2019 Spirit & Place Festival will celebrate, explore, challenge and reflect on the meaning behind revolution and evolution, creating the unique theme of R/Evolution on Nov. 1-10. Exploring the idea of change in the world, whether it’s sudden and abrupt, or gradual and unfolding, this year’s festival offers the public a chance to share in experiences that build community.

Now in its 24th year, the Spirit & Place Festival continues to be Indianapolis’ largest collaborative festival that uses the arts, religion and humanities as tools for shaping individual and community life through 10 days of events designed with community partners, individuals and congregations.

There will be 32 unique events this year that will take place across Indianapolis and feature a variety of presenters, speakers and performers. This year’s festival includes many events centered around panel-style discussions over powerful topics. These discussions are intended to spark conversation and explore current and historical events that are relevant to citizens of Central Indiana.

Visit the website at for the full festival lineup, including these events on community-connection below:


 Saturday, November 2, 9 a.m.—2 p.m.

 Spirited Chase

Presented by WFYI Public Media and its Mystery Partners

WFYI Public Media—1630 N. Meridian St.

Cost: $9

 Spirited Chase is a unique event offering participants the opportunity to renew their spirit through discovering new people and places in our community. Each mystery partner organization has been selected based on their connection to the transformation of our city and the individuals who live in it. At each mystery destination, participants will engage in a brief interactive program as they learn about the many ways these people, places, and programs are affecting change and transforming, evolving, and revolutionizing our community.  


 Saturday, November 2, 6—9 p.m.

Songs of Revolution

Presented by All317HipHop, Indy Justice Choir, and The Church Within

The Church Within—1125 Spruce St.

Music and revolution have a long history together. Join us as we sing together to explore this history and examine how “songs of revolution” have changed over time. Featured artists and presenters include Indy Justice Choir, Spiritual Gangsters, Edison School for the Arts, Douglas Peach, and Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters (via video).


Monday, November 4, 6:30—8:00 p.m.

 Remember 1968: Society, Higher Education, and Activism

Presented by IUPUI School of Education, IUPUI Africana Studies Program and Olaniyan Scholars Program, IUPUI Museum Studies Program, and Center for Black Literature & Culture

Central Library Center for Black Literature and Culture—40 E. St. Clair St.

 Life Magazine referenced 1968 as “the year that changed the world.” Hear from Dr. Jakobi Williams at this opening night reception for the exhibit “Remember 1968” to learn how college students shaped this revolutionary year and how campuses across the nation continue to grapple with its legacy. 

Monday, November 4, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.

 This Far by Faith: A Journey Toward Racial Justice

Presented by St. Luke’s UMC Racial Justice Committee, All Souls Unitarian Church, Witherspoon, Presbyterian Church, and Bahá’í Community of Indianapolis

St. Luke’s Methodist Church—100 W. 86th St.

Four faith communities invite congregants and the wider community to examine how they are progressing when it comes to matters of racial justice. Participants will be invited to share ways to advance in this racial justice work.


 Monday, November 4, 7:30 – 9:00 p.m.

 Antisemitism: The Evolution of the Longest Hatred

Presented by Congregation Beth-El Zedeck and the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library

Congregation Beth-El Zedeck—600 W. 70th St.

 Historian Deborah Lipstadt, an internationally-renowned expert on the Holocaust, will address the evolution of antisemitism as a paradigm for other forms of bigotry and hate.


 Wednesday, November 6, 6—7 p.m.

 Agitation and Stagnation: Class and Health in America, 1919-2019

Presented by Side Effects Public Media & WFYI Productions and the Indiana Medical History Museum

Indiana Medical History Museum—3045 W. Vermont St.

 Rooted in drama of Indiana’s homegrown revolutionary, Eugene V. Debs, this interactive panel discussion will explore how class affected health outcomes 100 years ago and how it continues to affect outcomes today.


 Saturday, November 9, 1:00—4:00 p.m.

 Herstory: A Prenatal-Postpartum Pop-Up Museum

Presented by IU Fairbanks School of Public Health, Grassroots Maternal and Child Health Leaders, Carriage House East Apartments – A Glick Property, and IUPUI Department of English

Carriage House Apartments East Community Center—10174 Tinton Ct.

 Celebrate and create with grassroots leaders in maternal and child health as they create a pop-up museum aimed to educate on community efforts to improve birth outcomes. This event honors the vital relationship between healthy communities and healthy pregnancies.

 Sunday, November 10, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.

 The Evolution of Sci-Fi Fandom

Presented by Starbase Indy, Gal’s Guide to the Galaxy, Center for Inquiry, and Indiana Youth Group.

Center for Inquiry—Suite A, 350 Canal Walk

Sci-fi fandom is evolving to be more diverse, but, as seen in recent Twitter harassment of Star Wars actors and controversy at the Hugo awards, not everyone reacts well to change. A panel of experts will discuss how we got here and where we are going.

The Return

By Branden A.

After spending eighteen years in prison, I felt like a baby bird taking his initial flight. I now had the entire universe to explore at my own free will. It was exhilarating, a feeling of being uncaged and free, but what was I coming home to?

Hired by the Indiana State Hospital within two days of release, I was making a living by working at a temp agency in the food service department. With my family and childhood friends in my corner, I felt hopeful about my future but the lights beyond the prison walls aren’t always bright.

I saw darkness. Humanity didn’t progress while I was gone, it declined.

Technology baffled me to the point of great confusion. I didn’t know how to email or tackle the basic things people take for granted.

Also, my hometown had become a war zone. My nieces and nephews had grown up alone – the cycle of incarceration – ever present in their lives. In my neighborhood, drugs were still there and the dealing game was strong. A lot of my childhood friends were still caught up in that life. I had to learn to distance myself from them. The lifestyle breeds jealousy, greed and criminal activity. It was still around me.

In addition to technology and the streets, I had a tough time adjusting to my work environment. I was lied to, passed over for opportunities of advancement and felt undervalued. I realized that everything I had learned in prison – studying culinary arts and receiving certificates – didn’t matter in the workforce because of office politics: who you know, and what you’re willing to do. Stress and anxiety weighed me down.

I quit my job with no safety net to harness my fall.

Two months had passed without employment and it tested my core but also revealed something – how I can endure – especially after almost two decades of incarceration. Still, I was completely broke, broken and embarrassed. I stayed in my house for two weeks, too embarrassed leave. I dove into my safe space, searching inside myself for answers.

I shared my disappointments with my mom. I began to set boundaries with friends and started to build up the confidence I had developed in prison. With a change of mindset, I was now ready to forge ahead, and move at my own pace, feeling out the culture like a blind man reading braille. I discovered a harsh truth: freedom isn’t free. To be free means sacrificing on a level I was not used to. I was used to feeling important and needed. It was my biggest adjustment.

This made me question who I was on the outside. It wasn’t easy.

While my prison neighbors (grown men with kids and wives who had once upon a time had ordinary lives) held monkey-style wars, I read. While the light in my cell stayed on for 24-hours and flickered a neon glow on my face, I learned. I continued to stick with it once I was released. I contacted my writing teacher to figure out how to continue to rise in my new environment. I wanted to build on the spark ignited while on the inside.

My sanctuary had become writing and I needed it now more than ever.

While in prison, I started writing on a serious level. I had a lifetime pass in the prison library where I spend an agonizing four years in solitary confinement and where there are only two choices: grow or give up. My choice was always to grow.

Within a month of being released from prison and through the work with the writing workshop, I was asked to do talks and readings in Indianapolis, including radio shows and writing contests, and people in my life were amazed with pride. How did the neighborhood knucklehead become a voice and community leader? How did a man that knows nothing about this day and age come home and change a community vibe by just being present? I had once been a street thug with no deep understanding of who I was, trapped in my warped sense of pride.

Was it the talk with my mentor, Mr. Sams, before he was released from prison? He showed me how one can make a difference by solely believing in himself as well as in others? Or, was it the writing teacher, Mrs. Deb, who had sparked a greater purpose of change because I could now could see the special talent that was talked about? This gave me a vessel to hone my voice. Or, did it take me getting kicked out of one prison and sent to another facility within less than six months of my release? I had been labeled a notorious gang leader. It could have been the loss of my father and big sister while gone that was a wake-up call to my soul. I missed too many events. It was time to see the light and be the light, to shine.

Maybe it was a combination of all the people who lifted me up.

My neighborhood is filled with pockets of meth, heroin and pills that was once dominated by crack rock and cocaine but it doesn’t mean I am a product of it. I’ve come too far for to go back. My worst ordeal – imprisonment – made me the best version of myself. I took time to reflect, learn and grow. Without the downfalls, I wouldn’t know which way was up. I’m showing the world how to live, love and smile through adversity. I was gone for a long time but now I have returned.

Branden A. is a thirty-six-year-old survivor of an eighteen-year-sentence. Newly released, he is taking the skills learned throughout his life and honed in the DOC to become a successful writer, which he perfected while in the creative writing workshop.

Q&A on the 2019 Festival: R/Evolution


What is the Spirit & Place Festival?

The Spirit & Place Festival is a 10-day celebration created by and for our community! Since 1996, the festival has served as a platform for Central Indiana cultural organizations, artists, congregations and others to work together to create dynamic events focused on a yearly theme. All of these events use either the arts, humanities or religion to connect to theme and invite the public to wrestle with big ideas, think deeply and connect with one another.

What is your favorite part about the Spirit & Place Festival?

As the Program Director, I love it when applications to the festival begin hitting my email box. Every year I am impressed and inspired by the creativity of our community and their commitment to providing thought-provoking, fun and engaging offerings to the public.

Each festival has a theme – how is that theme reflected in the exhibits and events?

If you can imagine it, it’s probably been the festival! One of the great things about Spirit & Place is that it encourages experimentation and bold creativity. This means just about every event format you can think of has found its way into the festival over the years. You’ll usually find a few lectures, films and art exhibits in the festival line-up. But then there could be something really surprising, like in 2018, when the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra partnered with the Indy Lightsaber Academy to talk about the cultural significance of John Williams’ Star Wars score … and then taught actual lightsaber lessons on the stage of Hilbert Circle Theater!  

The 2019 festival’s theme is R/Evolution, what is the meaning behind this focus?

We really wanted to give folks a chance to explore the idea of “change.” Maybe that’s a sudden and abrupt change (e.g., revolution) or a slow, gradual and unfolding change (e.g. evolution). Regardless, we thought R/Evolution would give the community a chance to think about various changes that have happened over time, are happening now, and that still need to happen … and then what’s the best way for these changes to occur? When is evolution the prudent course and when does a cautious approach cause more harm than good? What happens when revolutions backfire? But what also happens when we’re not brave enough to make big changes? We hope this year’s festival will wrestle with these kinds of questions.

Can you give us a sneak peek into potential events for the 2019 festival?

This question will be answered after committee meeting on June 6.

How to Celebrate Indy Pride Week 2019


In 1981, the first ever Indianapolis Pride event was held at the now gone Essex House Hotel, once located downtown. Many attendees arrived wearing masks to protect their identities because at that time, there weren’t any safe places for the LGBTQ+ community in Indianapolis.

Though there is still progress to be made, a lot has changed since then. Indianapolis has been home to many celebrations of Pride, from picnics, to festivals, dinners and more. Indy Pride Inc. helped Indianapolis’ Pride “come out of the closet” through numerous events, including the first annual Indy Pride festival in 2003. Today, the festival has grown to a week-long celebration featuring entertainment, vendors, parades and community-building events. With so much to do during this year’s Pride Week, we’ve narrowed it down to our favorite five events starting June 1, 2019:

Pet Pride – Saturday, June 1

Join fellow animal lovers at Riverside Park for one of the most adorable events on the Pride calendar! Whether or not you’re a pet parent, everyone is welcome to gather from noon to 3 p.m. for an afternoon of play and music centered around our furry friends. Local animal shelters, pet-centric business owners and nonprofit organizations will also be engaging with the community at this free event.

Community Picnic & Bat N’ Rouge, June 2

As we celebrate the 36th Anniversary of Pride Picnics, the 2019 Community Picnic will take place at Garfield Park from noon to 6 p.m., and is free to the entire community. Gather, eat, connect and celebrate Pride with friends and family, then join Indy’s Bag Ladies, the oldest HIV/AIDS fundraising group in Indiana, for the Bat N’ Rouge softball game starting at 3 p.m. Get your free ticket to the entire event here.

Indy Pride Music and Movie Night, June 5

Enjoy a summer evening in the Historic Military Park at White River State Park with entertainment, food and drinks. This event serves as the Pride of Indy’s Bands’ anniversary concert, and the group puts on show-stopping jazz, pep and concert band performances starting at 6 p.m. Following the concert, a family-friendly movie will be screened to cap off the perfect night of free entertainment!

Cadillac Barbie IN Pride Parade, June 8

Named after the Indy Pride Bag Lady alter-ego of Gary Brackett, the founder of Indy’s Pride Parade, the 2019 event will be the biggest yet! Indy’s first ever Pride Parade lasted just 15 minutes and featured one float, an antique truck, a few drag queens, some antique cars and a couple walking groups. This year’s free parade down Mass Ave will feature well over 140 floats, vehicles and walking groups and will last from 10 a.m. to noon

Indy Pride Festival, June 8

As the culmination of Indy Pride week, the Indy Pride Festival is a celebration you won’t want to miss. The event starts following the Pride Parade and runs all day long with performances from popular artists including Lizzo, Monet x Change, Dev, Blair St. Clair and more! Held at White River State Park, the festival has activities all ages will enjoy. Get tickets here.

Find more details about these events and other Pride Week happenings at

5 Easy Health Tests You Can Do Yourself

The 20th annual National Women’s Health Week kicks off on May 12, 2019 and is celebrated through May 18. This week serves as a reminder to make your health a priority, and to build positive habits for life. Focusing on health doesn’t have to be time consuming – here are five easy self-assessments provided by Every Day Health and Women’s Health Magazine that you can do at home, some of which take less than a minute.

1.) The Skin Test – performed once a month

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S., but is also the easiest to see. Regular skin self-exams may catch early signs of cancer at stages that are treatable and even curable. Inspect every inch of your body, from your scalp to the soles of your feet, using a full-length or hand-held mirror. Even if an area isn’t often exposed to the sun, it should still be included in your inspection. Look for the appearance of or changes in moles, and get anything suspicious checked out by a dermatologist as soon as possible.

2.) The Waist Test – performed every three to four months

Your waist circumference is a large indicator of future risk for many health conditions, as fat around your belly has been linked to heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Even if you are at a healthy body mass index and weight, waist size is considered to be the best indicator of potential health risk. In general, women are healthiest when their waist is less than 35 inches. To measure your waist, encircle a soft tape measure around your body at the level of your belly button, making sure the tape is snug, but not tight. Remeasure your waist circumference every three to four months and assess any changes.

3.) The Breast Test – performed once a month

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stresses the importance of “breast self-awareness” among women over age 20. Ideally, you should be familiar with your breasts’ normal appearance and feel so you can notice any changes. Simply assessing the area when taking off your bra or washing in the shower is a great way to look for any changes in your breasts, such as dimpling, puckering, redness, swelling, rash or pain. Performing this self-check in addition to staying up-to-date with necessary doctor’s exams is a great way to detect any complications before they become serious.

4.) The Pulse Test – performed once a month

Your heart rate can provide important insight into overall heart health. Place your index and third finger on the side of your neck or wrist and count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Multiply that number by four to find your heart rate. To get an accurate reading, perform the test when you first wake up or after a period of time in which you haven’t been exercising to ensure you are measuring your true resting heart rate. A normal reading falls between 60 and 100 beats per minute, and anything in the 110s or 120s could be cause for a trip to the doctor. However, don’t jump to conclusions based on one reading – instead look for a pattern over time by testing once a month.

5.) The Height Test – performed once a year

Measuring your height is an easy way to keep tabs on how healthy your bones are – a loss of height may be an early sign of osteoporosis. If you notice any significant drops in height, you may want to talk to your doctor. In the meantime, make sure you’re getting enough calcium through dairy products and green, leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli. Weight-bearing exercises like walking, running, jogging and lifting weights can also help strengthen your bones.

5 Things to do in Indy for Earth Day 2019


1.) 30th Annual Earth Day Indiana Festival hosted by Earth Day Indiana
Celebrate Earth Day on Saturday, April 20 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at one of the largest and most successful Earth Day festivals in the U.S. At the 30th Annual Earth Day Indiana Festival, you can explore over 125 exhibitor tables, listen to live music, grab lunch from local food trucks or vendors, visit the Children’s tent, and much more, all right downtown at the historic Military Park! Learn more about the festival, and find a list of exhibitors by visiting Earth Day Indiana’s website.

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2.) Spring Refresh: Earth Day hosted by Newfields
Get out of the house and enjoy everything nature has to offer with Newfields! The Earth Day Spring Refresh event on Saturday, April 27 is about appreciating our planet with all things green and earthy – from flowers to plants to fabrics and paints. Join other participants from 5 – 8 p.m. in experimenting with sustainable materials, and pick up a few tricks on how to shrink your carbon footprint! This event is free with admission to the Newfields Gardens and includes snacks and music.

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3.) Earth Day Recycle Run hosted by Earth Day Indiana
Are you looking to help the environment and get a good workout in this Earth Day? Then both the Earth Day Recycle Run and the Earth Day Virtual 5K or 10K are for you! The Recycle Run is part of the Earth Day Indiana Festival on Saturday, April 20, and offers a 5K run/walk, or a one-mile walk starting and ending at Military Park at White River State Park. All races start at noon, with courses that take you along the scenic White River. This run is focused on generating as little waste as possible, and participants are strongly encouraged to bring their own reusable water bottles. Register to run or walk here!


4.) Indianapolis Sustainability Summit hosted by Sustain Indy and IUPUI Sustainability
On Wednesday, April 17, the second annual Sustainability Summit will bring together hundreds of leaders within Indianapolis’s business, nonprofit and civic communities to develop a roadmap for meeting our city’s sustainability goals. The 2019 event is designed to start discussions on how Indianapolis residents can contribute on individual levels to help the city meet its climate goals. Experts within the sustainability field will speak, 16 workshops will be set up to engage all participants, and sustainability scholarships and awards will be given throughout the day. Register and learn more about this groundbreaking event hosted at the IUPUI Campus Center here.

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5.) April Great Indy Cleanup hosted by Keep Indianapolis Beautiful

Join Keep Indianapolis Beautiful on Saturday, April 27 from 9 a.m. to noon for the annual April Great Indy Cleanup, focusing this year on the Christian Park neighborhood. This year, volunteers can take their pick of three projects: to “keep it clean” by participating in street and alleyway cleanup, to “keep it beautiful” by installing new mulch around the park’s playground, community buildings, entrances and mural, or to “keep it green” by helping with a large-scale native plant installation of 87 new trees to line the park’s waterway. Breakfast and free T-shirts will be provided. Sign up here.

In 1970, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson organized the first Earth Day to bring attention to conservation issues. Since then, the holiday has grown into an international movement to help conserve, sustain and rebuild local, national and global environments. Today, Indianapolis is a leading city in this movement, and there are many ways you can participate in this year’s 49th celebration of Earth Day on April 22.