By: NEIL KING
February is dedicated to honoring and remembering the plights and triumphs of African Americans. George Gardner suggests that every month is Black History Month for him and his coworkers.
Gardner works at IU South Bend’s Civil Rights Heritage Center (CRHC) in South Bend. According to Gardner, the CRHC is funded through or under the umbrella of Indiana University. The CRHC was formed, with the help of professors, by IUSB students who returned from a trip studying civil rights movements in the South and, according to Gardner, begged the question of the face of racism in the city of South Bend.
The site of the CRHC is in the Public Natatorium. What was once a segregated public swimming pool that would list white guests by sex and African-Americans simply as black was turned into a social center for understanding the struggle of minorities and social injustices within the South Bend community some four years ago.
The mission of the CRHC is one that Gardner upholds with a sense of duty.
“(The importance of having the CRHC is that) when we look at who in the public are being excluded from the benefits of the public, we’re nowhere near done,” Gardner said. “This is the sight of a pretty tremendous injustice. Making sure that people are aware of that, making sure that people are still fighting that and making sure that we’re trying to reduce those barriers.”
With those things in mind, Gardner said that CRHC is here to remind the community of mistakes and help educate on how to avoid discrimination.
At the CRHC there is a small library with rows of books about African American history that have been donated. Anyone can come and read these on-site. The CRHC is also working towards joining a larger library system of IU so that books can be lent to visitors and other organizations in the IU system.
Throughout the year the CRHC and other organizations are hosting events to celebrate the history of African Americans. The Notre Dame Center for Arts & Culture, newly opened across the street from the CRHC, has put together an African American focused calendar that covers events throughout the year.
One upcoming Black History Month event is “Lift Every Voice: Celebrating the African American Spirit.”
Other community events include the “African American Landmark Tour” that begins at the CRHC and covers a good deal of South Bend. This historical trek can be taken any day and needs no guide, but maps can be picked up at the CRHC at 1040 W. Washington Street in South Bend.
There is also a panel planned on institutional racism that is set to take place at an undetermined time on St. Mary’s campus on Feb. 28.
The CRHC is open on Wednesdays and Fridays.
“We are IU.” Gardner said. “We are funded by IU. This is IU started by IU students. We bleed crimson.”