2014 Must-Tries

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We all have resolutions, unspoken or said, that we want to accomplish in 2014. I'd like to bring attention to some of the cultural activities that I believe all Indy residents must experience at least once.  On purpose, all of these people, places or things are organized by or owned by an African-American. This year, as diversity becomes a priority for so many organizations, let's make it one of our personal passions as well. Let's learn more about someone else, try something new and find out how our differences make us better.

Here are nine new experiences to add to your cultural bucket list of must-tries for 2014:

Visit the Kuaba Gallery. Located right off of Monument Circle at 1 S. Meridian St., this posh gallery showcases the work of great African-American artists from all around the country. Its wide open windows exhibit the colorful work inside from two stories high. Indy boasts many galleries but only a few exclusively highlighting the work of black artists. To check it out or to schedule a talk with owner Jayne During, visit kuaba.com

Try the garlic fries at Boogie Burger. You'll thank me later. Tackling a savory burger from this Broad Ripple joint is no easy feat, but I have faith in you; you can do it. The owner, who provides comedic relief on Twitter, is down-to-earth and is an all-around great chef. It's hard to consider the culinary arts in Indy and not mention one of the best burgers in town. It's not just the food that makes this place great; it's the atmosphere and the staff's commitment to staying local. Tweet the owner at @BoogieBurger.

Boogie Burger Garlic Fries - URBANSPOON/HYOUTEN
  • UrbanSpoon/Hyouten
  • Boogie Burger Garlic Fries

Dance at Jazz on the Avenue. Located on historic Indiana Avenue, the Madame Walker Theatre Center is one of the only historically black owned and operated buildings in the city. Opened in 1927, the Walker is home to the long-standing program "Jazz on the Avenue," which takes place every last Friday of the month. For decades, gentleman would don their top hats and zoot suits and the ladies would get gussied up in their finest evening attire and dance the night away at the glamorous Walker building.

Eat local pizza. Talk to any eastsider and he or she will tell you that D&C Pizza is the best in the city. Of course, they're referring to the one at 3790 N. Arlington Ave. or the 3716 N. Sherman Drive parlor, but there are actually several locations in town. No, D&C pizzas may not have websites, and no, these places may not deliver (depending on how many of their drivers are already on the road at the time of your call), but I can testify that the pies are outrageously delicious. This pizza is one of Indy's gems; get to know it.

Buy a Will Watson piece. There are some artists in town that are on the brink of greatness. Mark my word. It's our job to support them before we lose them. Will Watson is an Indy-based painter whose work ranges from portraits to abstracts. Watson is a graduate of Herron School of Art and Design and has a mural on a historic funeral home on Indiana Avenue. You need to see his work--and buy some of it.

Watch the battle of two bands. Circle City Classic is a large annual football game that draws thousands of spectators. But there's more to the event than just the gridiron competition, as the weekend features an art parade and multiple musical concerts. Two historically black teams go head-to-head at Lucas Oil Stadium, but most of the audience gathers for the outstanding Battle of the Bands entertainment at halftime.

Listen to music at Coaches. As the longest running hip-hop night in Indy, Take that Tuesdays at Coaches on south Penn is a consistent crowd-pleaser. Some of the city's hottest DJs come together to spin hit after hit at the local bar. The sounds you'll hear here are not those that are played on the radio; you may even hear music by Indy-based artists. To get a glimpse into the local hip-hop scene, this should be your first stop.

Experience the Crispus Attucks Museum. Located at 1140 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. in the Indiana Avenue Cultural District, this museum is filled with historic treasures that date back to the late 19th century and focus on the African-American experience in Indianapolis. And in particular, it explores the culture of this, the first all-black high school in the state of Indiana.

Go to Expo. The biggest of its kind in the entire country, Indiana Black Expo's Summer Celebration is a huge festival in downtown Indy. Every year, thousands of people from Indiana and states farther afield gather to learn more about black culture. This family-friendly event features nationally acclaimed artists, as well as those of regional and local fame. "Expo" is a fantastic opportunity to be immersed into the culture of African-Americans, if only for a fun weekend.

I learned so much about Indy and the growth of our cultural scene in 2013. We literally and finally have something for everyone. So c'mon, step out of the norm this year and try something new; something different. Let's make it great, Indy.

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