Indiana Daily Student

Ways to support Bloomington’s Black community with donations, time

The Banneker Community Center is located at 930 W. Seventh St. The center was founded in 1954 and supports the Black community through its free meal programs for youth, among other initiatives.
The Banneker Community Center is located at 930 W. Seventh St. The center was founded in 1954 and supports the Black community through its free meal programs for youth, among other initiatives.

Bloomington organizations have ramped up efforts to promote racial equity and support Black people in the local community since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Since the killing of George Floyd, racial justice organizations and funds have received millions of donations nationwide. Kim Williams-Pulfer, postdoctoral research appointee at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IU-Purdue University Indianapolis, said part of the outpouring of donations is because the killing has compelled people to reflect on their own positions in society.

“Many people today are recognizing the importance of racial equity as a way to understand the challenges that certain communities face and that it would be a part of the solutions for those issues,” she said.

Williams-Pulfer also said because each community faces different issues in tackling COVID-19 and addressing racial equity, community philanthropy is playing a particularly significant role. People are relying on community mutual aid to address immediate needs more than before.

Here are three local organizations that have served and continue to serve Bloomington’s Black community.

Banneker Community Center

The Banneker Community Center was founded by the city government of Bloomington in 1954 and has since supported the underserved residents in Bloomington through providing educational and recreational programs and creating community events for youths and adults.

From 1915 to 1954, the building that now houses the community center was a segregated school for Black children named Banneker School. Since its founding, one of the center’s core missions has been to honor the Black community, said Erik Pearson, program and facility coordinator at the City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department.

“There are lots of multigenerational kids whose parents came to Banneker,” he said. “I think it’s this decades-old relationship that we work to preserve every day.” 

He said that 50 to 60% of the participants and about the same percentage of the Banneker staff are Black or multiracial.

One of the ways Pearson said that Banneker supports the Black community is through its free meal programs for youth. Pearson said among all the youth programs offered at Banneker, 80 to 85% of all the participants qualify for free or reduced lunch at school. One such program is the Teen Leadership Institute, which Pearson said serves each participant one free meal per day and offers academic tutoring. The program also has leadership and personal development exercises and discussion activities about cultural topics such as race. He said 70 to 80% of the 45 registered participants in the spring 2020 semester were Black.

Another such program is the Banneker Camp, an almost two-decade-old summer day camp with free food services and youth activities. This year due to the pandemic, camp activities have been suspended, but free meals continue to be delivered to low-income families through the Banneker Camp On-The-Go program. Through this program, Banneker staff delivers free nutritious meals and activity packets and supplies directly to the homes of nearly 100 participants each week, according to Banneker’s website.

“I think we create a family environment where Black families and youth and adults feel safe, supported and welcomed in our space with our staff,” Pearson said. “We want our facility and our programs to be a source of pride for the minority community of Bloomington.”

Pearson said community donations to the Banneker Community Center mainly go toward four areas: enhancing program experiences such as field trips, purchasing materials and equipment for the programs, maintaining amenities and renovating and constructing. He said local groups such as Enough is Enough have contributed supplies and monetary donations for Banneker, and these contributions will go directly toward program improvement.

To donate to the Banneker Community Center, call 812-349-3735, email or visit the center’s website.

Bloomington Housing Authority

The Bloomington Housing Authority operates 312 public housing units for low-income households at a rent of no more than 30% of each resident’s adjusted household income. It also offers 1,300 housing choice vouchers for families to afford housing on the private market.

Amber Skoby, executive director of the BHA, said 15% of participants in the affordable housing programs and 20% of those on housing vouchers are Black, both large percentages considering only 4.3% of the Bloomington population is Black or African American, according to the United States Census Bureau.

Skoby added that the BHA has reduced rent for households that have received reduced income due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“By stabilizing housing costs, families can concentrate on other things like going back to school, focusing on their health, being able to age in place – all of those key factors for good quality of life for a low-income family,” Skoby said.

Although the BHA is mostly funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and does not accept public donations, Skoby said people can use their voices to advocate to lawmakers for additional funding for housing programs through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and in Congress’s fiscal budget for 2021.

Community and Family Resources Department

The City of Bloomington Community and Family Resources Department oversees the Commission on the Status of Black Males and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration Commission, among many other city commissions and engagement programs. It is also one of the sponsors of Black History Month in Bloomington.

The Commission on the Status of Black Males addresses problems faced by Black males in education, health, criminal justice and employment, according to its website. One of its initiatives, the Black Barbershop Health Initiative, provides free health screenings and consultations for mental health issues and illnesses at Hoosier Barber and Razor Image Premiere Barbershop & Beauty Salon.

Beverly Calender-Anderson, director of the Community and Family Resources Department, said a lot of people have discovered they have prediabetic conditions through the health screenings and then could then pursue medical treatment.

On Juneteenth, a video was posted on the commission’s Facebook page in which men from Bloomington’s Black community read the names of Black people killed by police.

Calender-Anderson said the department does not take donations for specific programs. She encourages community members to attend the commission's public Zoom meetings, whose links are available on the front page of the City of Bloomington website. She said people can also share their concerns about racial inequity by attending city council meetings, writing to the City of Bloomington Human Rights Commission or applying to be on the city commission.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story included the wrong phone number for Banneker Community Center. The IDS regrets this error.

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