A torchbearer, by definition, is an individual who leads the way, one who enlightens or inspires others in working toward a valued goal. The 2016 Bicentennial Torch Relay — which began last month in Corydon, Indiana, the state’s first capital city — will complete its run this weekend in Indianapolis. Patterned after the Olympic Torch Relay, the Hoosier relay will have passed through each of the state’s 92 counties, covering 3,200 miles over a five-week period, averaging 90 miles per day.
“The relay is intended to be a unifying moment in our history, a rallying cry for Indiana pride,” Mark Newman, executive director of Indiana Office of Tourism Development, said in a release. “And there is no better way to accomplish that than by honoring our most precious resource, our people.”
Of the 34 people chosen to represent Marion County, three African-American women were chosen: Shannon Williams, president of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper; Ophelia Wellington, founding director of Freetown Village Inc.; and author A’lelia Bundles, great great granddaughter of iconic beauty entrepreneur and philanthropist Madam CJ Walker.
The relay will begin with an opening ceremony at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 8 a.m. The public is encouraged to attend as the torch takes hot laps around the track before setting off on a citywide tour that will feature a variety of celebrations and gatherings along the way. The route will end at 4 p.m. at the Indiana State House. From noon–5 p.m., attendees can visit the Indiana Statehouse for the Hoosier Homecoming event that will feature live performances, food trucks, family friendly entertainment and more.
“This is a huge deal for the Recorder to be included,” said Williams. “For over a century, we have been the paper of record, chronicling the African-American experience here in Indianapolis and across the entire state. While I believe more could certainly be done in terms of promoting our diversity and preserving the historic contributions that Blacks have made, I am honored that we will be a part of this momentous occasion.”
Williams will begin her torch walk at the Indiana Black Expo headquarters at 11:45 a.m. and will conclude it at the Children’s Museum at 11:55 a.m.
Wellington, who will carry the torch jointly with Bundles, shared that for her, the event will be like taking a trip down memory lane.
“Throughout history, African-Americans have always participated in the building and the development of our state. I am very honored to be chosen as one of 2,200 people statewide to be a part of celebrating our history and to walk along one of the paths that so many have traveled.”
The Madame Walker Theatre Center will host a one-hour program beginning at 1 p.m. to celebrate the relay with performance by the Asante Children’s Theatre and jazz singer Vickie Daniels, who will portray the late Madam CJ Walker.
About the torchbearers
Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper
The Recorder was founded in 1895 by William Porter and George P. Stewart as a two-page church bulletin. In 1897, the bulletin expanded and became a weekly newspaper. The 121-year-old publication is now ranked as one of the top Black news sources in the country. In 2002, President Shannon Williams became the youngest editor in the paper’s history.
Freetown Village Inc.
Freetown Village is a living history museum with the mission to educate the public about African-American lives, arts and culture in Indiana through exhibits, special programs and events. Programs include interactive theater, music, storytelling, hands-on crafts, heritage workshops and other performance-based programs. Programs tour statewide and are appropriate for various ages. The organization was founded by Ophelia Wellington, a former journalist and educator, in 1982.
Madam CJ Walker
Madam Walker was an iconic African-American entrepreneur, philanthropist and political and social activist born in the late 1800s. In 1910, Walker settled in Indianapolis, which at the time was the nation’s largest inland manufacturing center. It was in Indianapolis where she built her factory, hair and manicure salon and a training school. Where the Walker Manufacturing plant once stood is now the home of the Madame Walker Theatre Center. By the time Walker died in 1919, she had helped create the role of the 20th century self-made American business woman. The Madame Walker Theatre Center is listed on the register of National Historic Landmarks.