It's a Wednesday afternoon and I'm having a great talk at Mojoe's Coffee House with Doug Morris. He's mid-sentence and sees another guy headed into the coffeehouse with a few boxes in his arms, no hands available to reach for the door handle. Doug jumps up from our table and rushes to the door to help the man coming in. He stands and is ready to offer a hand until the man is fully settled inside. Indy wouldn't be the same without people like Doug.
Its guys like him that do the grit work without a plan, without recognition, without pay; they do it for the love of the city and for the love of the arts. I've been watching Douglas Keith Morris, 33, move about Indy for years now. Each time I'd met him, he was very humble, very nice and always had a flyer in his hand. He was promoting a party some place or introducing the city to a new DJ or a cool new artist. Even at this interview, Doug sat down and slid two vibrant postcards my way - both for parties with local artists at the Jazz Kitchen.
This particular afternoon I'd caught up with Doug to talk about his life and his efforts towards the cultural scene in Indy. I want people to know Doug's work because it'll provide a glimpse into how so many people have contributed to Indy's growth. Indy is what it is now because of the cultural entrepreneurs that grind away every day for the city they love. They have no affiliation to any of the large organizations. They aren't being funded by any of Indy's major philanthropists. They really are just trying to progress Indy and far too often, that work is going unnoticed.
Doug grew up between 42nd and 49th of College Avenue. He recalls riots over police brutality on College, drug transactions and all the other happenings of the hood. He was raised Pentecostal and attended one of the biggest churches in the City. Doug's mom was always at work, she worked retail hours so he went to school from his grandparent's house. "There was a lot happening outside. This was the 80's so breakdancing was in, people walking around with boom boxes. It wasn't scary, you knew who the drug dealers were; you just stayed away from them. When you woke up, you rode your bike, you jumped ramps, you tried to talk to girls, you know, the usual." There was dancing in the streets were Doug grew up. You learned the soul and lifestyle of hip-hop outside, women taught dance out of their homes, men his elder taught drumming, another man taught Kung Fu. The arts were all around him - in one of the city's worst neighborhoods.
Doug says that just 10 years ago, Indy thought that art was for bums. "If you told people you were an artist they took that to mean you don't have a job and you're not serious about life." The reality is, Doug and his friends were artists. And art saved their lives. All of these youngsters from 42nd and 49th and College are now professionals finding success in the arts. Whether it be in Atlanta, in Hollywood, Chicago or, in Doug's case, here in Indy, they are all pursuing their passions and making money within the arts field. We don't typically hear of success stories from this area of the city. "Art isn't an excuse not to have a job, but it is an opportunity to create something you can be proud of. And let's be honest, it won't make you rich. But there's nothing worse than living life without passion or having a passion and being too scared to pursue it."
When you think about it, because of work like Doug's, more young professionals stay in Indy, more local artists have opportunities and there's more art on streets. And isn't that what we want? Isn't that what we're all working towards? It's interesting that the people we're not paying attention to are working for the same goal, in their own way.
"I'm not doing anything different than I did when I was a kid. We've thrown parties and hosted events since we were 12 whether it was in the basement of the church with no alcohol that ended at midnight or a hip-hop party at the Jazz Kitchen. All I want to do is inspire people."
To find out more about Doug Morris and what he does, follow his event work for Old Soul Entertainment at @OldSoulent on Twitter or choose a night at the Jazz Kitchen. Kudos and applause toward folks like Doug who work daily to make Indy a more vibrant and culturally adept city.