From the Columbus city skyline to the clear night sky over a farm in Powell, Ohio, Black history exists everywhere.
Lucy Depp Park, a historic area in Delaware County, held an event Saturday morning that included performances by Black dancers, musicians and poets. The event was part of a 46-day campaign being organized by the King Arts Complex, a center named after Martin Luther King Jr. that connects the Columbus community through the arts, according to its website. The campaign, titled “HeART of Protest,” includes 46 non-sequential days of artistic protest to honor the 46 years of George Floyd’s life, Jevon Collins, performing arts director and vice president of Ohio State’s Black Alumni Society, said.
The performances ranged from song to dance to spoken word and were all centered around the Black experience in America. Amaya Arroyo, a 19-year-old dancer attending Columbia College in Chicago, performed a choreographed dance at the event.
“I love sharing my gift with others. I love giving back to the people,” Arroyo said. “Black dancers aren’t always showcased in the dance industry, so I want to show people that there are Black dancers who have technique and who can do what European dancers can do, and that we are able to take on every other style of dance.”
Lucy Depp Park’s history added to the emotional impact of the day’s events. In 1835, freed slave Abraham Depp, Lucy Depp’s father, bought nearly 400 acres of land from Joseph Sullivant, the son of Franklinton founder Lucas Sullivant. The settlement became the first Black-owned farm in Delaware County, according to the park’s website.
Depp used the area to house runaway slaves, and it became part of the Underground Railroad. Slaves fleeing captivity would travel on the Scioto River and hide in caves until they heard a bell from the Depp farm. The sound of the bell meant it was safe for the slaves to travel to Depp’s settlement where they would hide in a cellar, Michael Hamilton, historian for the Lucy Depp Park Civic Association, said.
The event’s venue was as important to the message as the event itself, Lawrence Tawneven Lemon, co-artistic director for HeART, said.
“On the land that we stand on right now, there once lived slaves,” Lemon said. “Oftentimes, we look at Ohio as being the place where they ran to for freedom, but this was just a stop on their way.”
The event concluded with a trip down the road toward the Scioto River, where a natural path along the river leads to the historic gravesite where Depp’s sons are buried, Hamilton said.
“People are learning more about Lucy Depp Park,” Hamilton said. “People didn’t know about it when I was a kid growing up, but they know about it now.”
Hamilton said that he hopes “the history gets out and continues on.”
Hamilton’s hopes are already coming true, as a new elementary school being built in Dublin will be named after Abraham Depp. The school is expected to open for the 2020-21 school year, according to a ThisWeek Community News press release.