Indiana Black Expo's Summer Celebration

Indiana Black Expo's Summer Celebration

Date Observed: Mid-July
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana

The Summer Celebration in Indianapolis, Indiana, is the Indiana Black Expo's largest annual fundraising event. This 10-day festival highlights the importance of African-American artistic, cultural, and historic contributions and draws more than 300,000 visitors annually.

Historical Background

In the midst of the ongoing racial discrimination and inequality that characterized the early 1970s, the Indiana Black Expo worked to encourage African Americans to achieve their highest potential. Early organizers sought advice from prominent African Americans, such as Rev. Andrew J. Brown of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and local businessman James C. Cummings Jr. Cummings became the organization's first chairman, and formed a plan for the first Summer Celebration. This major event was intended to honor African-American culture, while raising financial support for the development of additional programs that would benefit the African-American community. By presenting positive images of successful African Americans, the Indiana Black Expo hoped to inspire young people to greatness.

Creation of the Festival

The first Summer Celebration was held in 1971 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. More than 50,000 people attended the two-day event. This overwhelming success prompted organizers to move the event to the Indianapolis Convention Center in 1972. Several major new events were introduced to Summer Celebration that year, including the Muhammad Ali Amateur Boxing Tournament and the Star Quest talent competition. Since then, Summer Celebration has grown substantially, attracting more than 300,000 people to Indianapolis for the 10-day festival each year. The focus of Summer Celebration has also grown to include the entire African-American community across the U.S.


Summer Celebration, also known simply as the Expo, is a massive event featuring African-American art, culture, entertainment, and educational programming. More than 25 large-scale programs are run during Summer Celebration, covering topics including health education, political activism, business development, personal development, entertainment, a film festival, and activities for children and young people.

Business networking among African Americans is promoted at the Black Business Conference, which includes the Black Enterprise Wealth Building Seminar, employment opportunity job fairs, and a Youth Entrepreneur Seminar. The largest Black and Minority Health Fair in the U.S. is held in conjunction with Summer Celebration, where the Indiana Black Expo recently introduced the Rev. Charles Williams Prostate Cancer Mobile Unit to raise awareness and provide onsite diagnostic screenings. Various religious services are held, a celebrity basketball game is played, and notable African Americans are honored each year with the Founder's Award and the Freedom Award.

Special guest speakers are invited each year to present the keynote address at the Summer Celebration Corporate Luncheon. In 2005 the Indiana Black Expo made national news headlines when President George W. Bush spoke at the luncheon. This marked the first time a sitting U.S. president attended Summer Celebration.

Indiana Black Expo

The Indiana Black Expo was created in 1970 with the goal of becoming an effective voice and vehicle for the advancement of African Americans. Founded by a small group of community leaders in Indianapolis, the Indiana Black Expo has grown to include eleven chapters throughout Indiana. The organization has had a profound impact on African Americans in Indiana and surrounding areas.

Many events are sponsored throughout the year, with Summer Celebration being the largest. The group also produces an African-American History Month Celebration, Back to School Rallies, a television newsmagazine show, numerous programs to address poverty, and many special programs for youth. The Circle City Classic weekend in October includes a football game played by teams from historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs (see also Football Classics). The events held on this weekend typically raise many thousands of dollars that benefit students at HBCUs.

Contact and Web Site

Indiana Black Expo, Inc. 3145 N. Meridian St. Indianapolis, IN 46208 317-925-2702

Further Reading

Annual Report: Indiana Black Expo, Inc.: Continuing the Legacy, 2005 . http://www Bibbs, Rebecca. "Looking Up - IBE President Joyce Rogers Sets Her Sights on a Higher Level." Indianapolis Woman Magazine, October 2005. "Indiana Black Expo." The Indianapolis Star Library Factfiles, July 2005. .
African-American Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2007
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