Celebrating African-American Heritage: Soul of Second Street Happens Saturday – The Advocate-Messenger

Celebrating African American Heritage: Soul of Second Street takes place on Saturday

Posted 10:49 a.m. on Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Danville Boyle County African American Historical Society (DBCAAHS) members Michael Hughes and Mike Denis have had a busy year between releasing a new book and planning the soul of Second Street.

The sixth annual Soul of Second Street Festival takes place Saturday at Constitution Square Park from 3-10 p.m. It will be preceded by the history conference on Friday.

Returning after two years of cancellation due to Covid-19, the festival is a celebration of African American history in Boyle County. Specifically, he recalls the former black business district that was located on the current site of Constitution Square, which was demolished for integration purposes in the 1970s. Much of the Afro community America was centered around these Second Street businesses.

“It’s about Second Street in particular, but the whole black community as a whole; and it’s about getting that aspect of the soul, the connection,” Denis said. “It’s almost like a family reunion of people who are not related.”

Hughes said some people travel to Danville for the festival to see old friends and share memories of times gone by.

“It’s about people coming together to celebrate friendships,” Hughes said. “One of the great things that happened was two women who hadn’t seen each other in 50 years, since high school, got together at the first festival we had, and it was so special.”

The festival will have musical acts by local groups and Gospel groups. Several confirmed acts include Robby Houston, The Carey Band, Renita Gray, Jessica Browning, The Southern Sons of Memphis, The Greens from Harrodsburg; and Hughes will DJ as Michaelfly. More acts will be added by the time of the festival.

The festival will also have merchandise vendors, all types of food vendors including ice cream, hot dogs, burgers, and more, and a family tent with games and events for kids. The DBCAAHS will be selling t-shirts and a recently published book by Hughes and Denis called “African Americans in Boyle County.”

The book features hundreds of historic photos of members of Boyle County’s African American community, as well as schools, churches, businesses, including those on Second Street. Most of the photos date from the mid-1900s.

Hughes and Denis spent months collecting the photos, researching them, and writing captions for the book. They said the book was selling very well. Click here to learn more about the book.

This year’s history lecture will be held Friday from 3-8 p.m. in the Boyle County Public Library Community Room. Denis said that since the history conference was canceled last year due to Covid, the same display that was to be shown last year will be shown this year.

A celebration of communities, the exhibit will feature 10 posters showcasing the people, schools, churches, cemeteries and 16 African American settlements in Boyle County.

Mike Denis (left) and Michael Hughes (right) hold their recently released book, ‘African Americans in Boyle County’. The book contains hundreds of historic photos of the African-American community and will be on sale at Soul of Second Street. Photo by Fiona Morgan

People will be able to scan QR codes that link to different oral history recordings made by Center College. Denis said that unfortunately the conference will not have speakers or other events this year.

He said they had to scale down the festival and conference due to Covid-19 concerns. He spoke about how the pandemic has affected businesses, and even local African Americans residents have died from Covid.

“I think Covid has had a much more severe impact on the black community than the white community,” Denis said.

Even though they won’t have as many events or acts as in the past, they want the festival to continue.

“The idea is that whatever size or size we do this year, it’s just important that we do it,” Denis said. “It’s just important to continue no mafter what we need to do to do it.

The history lecture display will be moved from the library to Grayson’s Tavern on Saturday for the soul of Second Street. After that, the exhibit may be moved elsewhere, possibly to the History Center at 108 N. Second Street.

Select photos from the exhibit and Hughes and Denis’ book will also be featured in the “We Were Here” exhibit at Center College’s Norton Center.

The exhibit will be in the Norton Center foyer beginning in September and will run throughout the school year. The exhibit will include over 100 photos of the African American community, different artifacts, and a timeline detailing the impact of urban renewal on the community. Some photos will be taken from Hughes and Denis’ book, but there will also be others that were not included in the book.

“The book has quality photos,” Denis said. “But grainier photos that the editor wouldn’t accept work for exposure.”

The same recorded oral history interviews from the history conference will also be featured in the Norton Center exhibit. People will be able to pick up an old-fashioned phone hooked up to an mp3 player and dial the number of the one they want to listen to.

Denis said the exhibit will be great exposure for the DBCAAAHS, and he wants to let people know that the African American community is still here and strong.

“We’re still here, Covid hasn’t knocked us out,” Denis said. “We don’t have to say ‘we were here’, we are here.”

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