"My family has lived in Kirkwood for four generations, and I want my grandchildren to have a place where they can see the impact that Black families have had on this community," said Fonda Fantroy Richards, Event Chair of the Black Heritage Celebration 2024. "This event is for people of all races and ages to come and learn about our roots. This is where my heart is."
Black Heritage Celebration 2024 is the elevated version of last year's event at Mudd's Grove, home of the Kirkwood Historical Society. Committee member D'Anne Weber explained, "It was emotional to see the sheer joy of families and neighbors together last year. And even though the event in 2023 was great, we knew we could improve it."
Fonda, D'Anne, Gaynelle Evans, Kylie Christanell, and Kirkwood Historical Society President Deb Hill-Jablonski are the visionaries behind the Black Heritage Celebration 2024, Saturday, February 17 at Mudd's Grove from 9:00 am - 4:00 pm. This free event includes a tour of Kirkwood's historic locations viewed from the comfort of a narrated, luxury ADA motor coach. Sites include Olive Chapel AME Church, Mudd's Grove, Meacham Park, Turner School, and Quinette Cemetery.
Unfortunately, Quinette Cemetery is one of the places where much of Kirkwood's Black history is lost. "Quinette Cemetery is part of the Kirkwood City Parks Department," said Kylie Christanell, Kirkwood Parks and Recreation Volunteer Coordinator. "There is minimal history about the cemetery. It's incredibly difficult to write a nomination narrative for the National Registry. But the limited information I've uncovered about the great people buried there is fascinating."
While there is more information surrounding the incorporation of Meacham Park into the city of Kirkwood, Kylie pointed out that there is limited history about former Black communities throughout Kirkwood. A sculpture on the wall inside the Kirkwood Library depicts 11 locations, like Kentucky Town, which were considered Black Communities.
"I grew up in Kentucky Town," recalled Fonda. "These were wonderful places for people to live. They were beautiful communities. We want Black History Celebration 2024 to authentically educate people about our experiences." On the day of the Celebration, Mudd's Grove will be dedicated to immersive experiences. "We'll have exhibits, rooms for advocacy organizations, sign-ups, and ways to get involved. Most importantly, the exhibits will explain how we can move forward."
Fonda and the Black Heritage Celebration committee are intentional about extending Kirkwood's Black history education beyond the day of this event. Committee members are meeting with schools, students, and parents. "Black history is our history," said Fonda. "We want everyone to understand that we need each other. We are part of each other."
"Although the Mudd's Grove library has a collection about Kirkwood's Black History, the goal is to expand the archives," said Fonda. Black History Celebration 2024 is an open invitation for people to share their family history. "We want to schedule a date for people to bring their family photos to Mudd's Grove so we can scan and archive them in the Mudd's Grove library," said D'Anne. "We also want to hear their oral history, the stories of the people and places in the pictures. We will lose that history if we don't archive it."
To reserve a free spot on the ADA motor coach tour, visit kirkwoodhistoricalsociety.com. On February 17, 2024, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, Mudd's Grove will host celebration activities for people of all ages, fostering a greater understanding of Kirkwood's diverse history.
"Black history is our history," said Fonda. "We want everyone to understand that we need each other. We are part of each other."
Black Heritage Celebration 2024, Saturday, February 17, at Mudd's Grove from 9:00 - 4:00 pm. The free event includes Kirkwood's historic locations Olive Chapel AME Church, Mudd's Grove, Meacham Park, Turner School, and Quinette Cemetery, viewed from the narrated, luxury ADA motor coach.