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Local Saxophonist JD Allen Continues Dreaming With New Album Release


On a recent crisp Saturday evening, the rich sound of JD Allen’s tenor saxophone is floating through the air around Campsite Sculpture Park in Camp Washington. A crowd of 25 or so jazz fans, masked up and social distancing, are out to listen to Allen’s tunes, including some from his new album release, Toys/Die Dreaming (High Note/Savant Records).

The pop-up show, sponsored by local music nonprofit Jazz Alive and Archive of the Creative Culture, is one of several attempts by area arts organizations to get people out of their houses and supporting the return of live music concerts and other forms of entertainment decimated by the pandemic.

With the health crisis still looming large in everyone’s minds, the title of Allen’s latest work takes on an irony that isn’t lost on the composer. “The title was my attempt at trying not to be so serious with the subject matter concerning the why behind the music,” says the Detroit native. “To die dreaming is the English translation of morir sonando, a popular Dominican beverage, and of course, toys, at least in my mind, are associated with joy. I had no idea that the world had other plans.”

Toys/Die Dreaming is Allen’s 14th album as a bandleader. The goal with this latest recording, he says, was to show range. Toys sets a different tone than Barracoon, his 13th release, but they should both “sound like two different intensities from the same band.”

“Leading a band gives me an opportunity to have some say over the narrative of the music,” he adds. “For me, there is no difference between playing live and playing in the studio. My number one goal is to play hardcore in both situations.”

And it’s easy to “play hardcore” with a track record like Allen’s. Since 1996, he’s played with some of the best in the business, legends (Betty Carter, Lester Bowie, Ron Carter, and Wallace Roney) and contemporaries (Meshell Ndegeocello, Dave Douglas, and Jeremy Pelt) alike. Over the summer, he took the top spot in the “Rising Star: Composer” category of DownBeat’s 68th annual Critic’s Poll.

This musical resume doesn’t mean that the tenor saxophonist is willing to compare Cincinnati to other places where he’s lived and worked. “I stopped comparing scenes along time ago. We artists are all vibrating in this world together,” he says. But it does mean that he’s more in tune with what other musicians are doing to save the music during these dark days.

“The pandemic has put into focus the need and urgency to have a global coalition of creative musicians working together to achieve common goals,” Allen says. “Conversations are being had all over the world. The pandemic has taught me that the notes can open the doors. My motivation has never been this high.”

You can catch Allen at Caffe Vivace on Sept. 25 at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Learn more details here. Due to COVID-19 guidelines, seating is limited.

Blue Oven Bakery Gets in the Doughnut Business


Editor’s note: Blue Oven Bakery’s major production site burned down in late August. Donate to the bakery’s recovery fund here, and continue enjoying select Blue Oven baked goods at its Findlay Market stall while the staff works to get back on their feet.

Clockwise from top: Strawberry, the classic glaze, featuring a smattering of strawberry jam; Sesame Walnut Crunch, sweet with a touch of savory; Citrus, light and lemony—the ideal morning pick-me-up; Classic Glaze, perfect for the doughnut traditionalist; Chocolate Glaze, a decadent spin on a bakery classic.

Photograph by Aaron M. Conway

Mark Frommeyer is a self-professed “doughnut monster”—a bit of a surprise, perhaps, coming from an artisan who meticulously sources local ingredients for his Blue Oven Bakery goods. But for all his love of the confections, Frommeyer isn’t a huge fan of that icky, greasy feeling that follows (you know the one). “After eating two to three fried doughnuts, all I could taste was sugar and oil,” he says. So he resolved to create something that was going to make rich dough the star of the show—a feat he accomplished by baking his version. The result? Thick, chewy treats elevated by natural flavors. They’re exclusively available at Findlay Market in five core flavors, in ad­dition to a rotating specialty flavor.

Blue Oven Bakery, 125 W. Elder St., Over-the-Rhine

A Rambling Queen Anne Reigns in Wyoming

216 Wilmuth Ave., Wyoming

If you’ve ever played with a dollhouse, then you’ve surely wondered what it would be like to live in one. Take a walk through this elaborate home in Wyoming and you’ll get a good idea. The four-bedroom home is picturesque inside and out, with a copper and slate roof, twin brick chimneys, and a three-story turret stacked with bay windows. Rapunzel herself would be comfortable on that top floor, with its roomy half-circle tower room, various nooks and alcoves, and more than a dozen square windows throughout.

The front porch mimics the grid motif in its railing and double front doors. Downstairs, count up the original details: yellow pine woodwork, three sets of pocket doors, fireplaces (six of them, retrofitted for gas), stained-glass windows, and a roomy kitchen pantry. And don’t miss the other historic Easter eggs sprinkled throughout, like the inte­rior wooden shutters, a glass-inlaid door, and a few very Victorian light fixtures. The up­dated kitchen (with historically accurate coffered ceiling), backyard carport, and sprawl­ing master suite with walk-in closet keep it contemporary where it counts. The three-season porch allows for bug-free outdoor living. An old nursery—typical in homes of this era—is now an extra bathroom. The house was recently renovated, but many of the initial updates and additions happened in 1973, when Sibcy Cline listing agent Jenni McCauley lived in the house (she sold it in 1993 and is now brokering its sale for the current owners).

It looks like it was made for Wyoming, where the streets are lined with similar structures, but the neighborhood was actually only 12 years old when the home was built in 1886. In fact, the house next door belonged to 216’s original builder, the Pfaff family, who decided to go all-out in 1886 and build a fancy home for their four daughters in the then-très vogue Queen Anne style, known for its rambling square footage, asymmetrical facades, cantilevered gables, and towers. The result was sorta Victorian, sorta Gothic, sorta Baroque, and all personality. This high-flying house certainly inspired the next 135 years of Wyoming homebuilding, helping it to become one of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods.

Two Urban Condos Highlight the Best of Downtown Living


Urban living offers you a chance to explore the best of Cincinnati, whether you choose a spot in the central business district or in booming Over-the-Rhine. These two units feature plenty of charm (exposed brick! massive windows!), just choose the city adventure that’s more up your alley.

417 Vine St., Unit 404

The facade of this 1875-built building boasts more than a dozen massive windows that lead to Juliet balconies, and intricate detailing. The one-bedroom, one-bath condo offers a large, open living space that includes the kitchen, too. Hardwood floors and an exposed brick wall give the place a historic vibe, and loads of natural light beams in through the large windows. The kitchen features granite countertops and stainless appliances and a small alcove out of the way of the main space is perfect for a home office. The bedroom features more exposed brick, plus a bathroom. “Being a half block to Fountain Square is incredible,” says listing agent Walt Gibler. “It’s in the heart of all the action [and] there is so much development going on in the direct vicinity, including but not limited to The Banks and what 3CDC is doing.” The home is across the street from The Westin and near plenty of hotspots like Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park.

20 W. 12th St., 202A

With two bedrooms and one bath, this historic Bremen Lofts condo is 880 square feet, which is bigger than it sounds. By optimizing the space with a galley kitchen, the living space isn’t compromised. Hardwood floors fill the living room, which also features exposed brick. Against the wall, frosted windows section off the bedroom from the rest of the home. In the kitchen, stainless appliances, quartz countertops, and a waterfall counter desk run along one wall. The star of the home is the covered deck—a rare find in the middle of the city. Off the kitchen, walk out to the spacious deck that features plenty of room for entertaining. From the deck, you have a great view of the ArtWorks murals Emerge and Faces of Homelessness. Closets By Design planned the bedroom closet and plenty of windows bring natural light into the space. Nearby, there’s a sitting area ready to make into an office, game room, or another small bedroom. You’re steps from Washington Park in one direction and Vine Street in the other, putting you right in the center of Over-the-Rhine’s action.

The Reds Were Ready for Night Baseball in 1909 but Decided to Wait 26 Years


With a now legendary click, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tapped a telegraph key at the White House at precisely 8:30 p.m. on Friday, May 24, 1935. Approximately 500 miles to the west, the signal lit a lamp near first base at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field. On that cue, Reds President Larry MacPhail flipped a switch and a crowd of 20,000 fans erupted in cheers as 600 floodlights dumped artificial daylight onto the baseball diamond. At that moment, the American pastime added a second shift. Cincinnati defeated Philadelphia 2-1 in major league baseball’s very first night game.

Although only nine of the full array of 14 carbon-arc lamps at Cincinnati’s League Park were lit, amateur players were able to participate in a full nighttime practice on June 16, 1909, and newspaper photographers liked not having to use flash.

Image digitized by Internet Archive and extracted from PDF by Greg Hand

Few people, even then, recalled that the very same teams almost met under the same circumstances 26 years earlier. In 1909, League Park (aka The Palace of the Fans) was equipped with high-intensity carbon-arc lights on towers reaching 100 feet above the field. The Reds and the Phillies were expected to play an exhibition game to demonstrate the feasibility of night baseball on a June night that year, but Cincinnati executives got cold feet.

The idea came from an East Coast inventor named George Cahill. He and his family worked together on a number of high-concept but ultimately low-profit inventions like an early version of an electric typewriter, a baseball pitching machine, and especially the Telharmonium, which delivered synthesized music to subscribers over a cable network. Needless to say, radio ultimately killed that idea.

But the Cahills did come up with some nifty ideas for illuminating large outdoor spaces at night. August “Garry” Herrmann, who was not only president of the Cincinnati Reds but one of three commissioners who oversaw major league baseball, was intrigued. In August 1908 he created a corporation, the Night Baseball Development Company, to investigate the concept. With the corporation’s investment, Cahill constructed five spindly towers beyond the outfield bleachers and four massive lamps atop the grandstand.

The August 1909 issue of Popular Mechanics featured Cincinnati’s experiment in night baseball. The cover shot showed the power of one of the lamps installed atop the League Field grandstand.

Image digitized by Internet Archive and extracted from PDF by Greg Hand

Herrmann told the newspapers that Cincinnati and Philadelphia were going to inaugurate the illumination array, but he reconsidered as the proposed test drew nearer. A lot of baseball experts, who’d rather spend their evenings at the saloon than at the ballpark, convinced Herrmann that artificial lighting would subject his players to all sorts of injuries.

As June arrived, Herrmann unveiled Plan B. Instead of major league players, teams from a couple of Elks lodges would take the electrically illuminated field. Herrmann, in addition to his roles with the Reds and the National Baseball Commission, was in the running to be named Grand Exalted Ruler of the Elks. Garnering some headlines for his lodge brothers couldn’t hurt; in fact, Herrmann was indeed elected Ruler of the Elks in 1910.

Cincinnati Lodge #5 (still active in Cheviot) and Newport Lodge #273 (still active in Cold Springs) showed up for practice on June 16, 1909. Only nine of the 14 arc lamps were lit, but blazed bright enough for practice. Newspaper photographers enjoyed documenting the event without having to use flash.

Everything was set for a full game on June 17, except the weather. Rain postponed the action until the next night. The rainout didn’t dampen curiosity, according to The Cincinnati Post [June 19, 1909]:

“Some 4,000 folks, most of them baseball fans, but quite a few attracted by curiosity alone, traveled to League Park Friday night to see the first game of night baseball ever played with regulation-sized ball and bats and all of the fielders playing in exactly the same positions as the daylight players do.”

If all of that sounds like a lot of qualification, it is, because this wasn’t the first game of night baseball. As early as the 1880s, minor league clubs, including one in Fort Wayne, Indiana, had experimented with artificial lighting. Results were disappointing because the lights shed too much glare, a drawback Cahill claimed to have solved.

By the time the Cincinnati Elks defeated their transpontine opponents by a score of 8-5, a number of distinguished visitors, including several minor league franchise owners, were ready to sign orders for Cahill’s lighting systems. Many did. By the time President Roosevelt tapped that key in 1935, the minor leagues were familiar with night games. From a technical standpoint, the Cincinnati game was a huge success. It made the cover [August 1909] of Popular Mechanics magazine, which raved about the innovation:

“A small-sized fortune has been expended in Cincinnati in the construction of a remarkable illumination scheme for lighting the National League baseball park of that city in such a manner as to make ball games possible at night. The chief problem was not in providing sufficient illumination, but to provide it in such a way that none of the centers of illumination will blind the players.”

Why not the majors? Fears about injuries lingered. Although Cahill took pains to minimize glare and to evenly illuminate the playing surface, players thought the harsh lighting disguised divots and holes, promoting falls and twisted ankles. The fans weren’t quite ready for night games, either. In 1909, the 10-hour workday was still standard and few bleacher bums had the stamina for an evening game. Mostly, however, it appears that inertia kept major league baseball from moving forward. A writer for The Sporting News [June 24, 1909] summed up the prevailing attitude:

“The rays of the good old sun were missing; the grass didn’t take on the right hue, and you couldn’t see the inside workings of the minds of the spectators, and these are the things that add so much to the attractiveness of the game as played under natural conditions.”

African American Genealogy in the Time of Black Lives Matter


Thomas Jordan began with the death of his aunt Mildred, the last member of his father’s generation. With her went a houseful of family mementos, clues to his family past. Jordan felt “a void,” he says, that eventually sent him to Ancestry.com, to libraries, to cemeteries, and to courthouses across several states seeking his relatives, living and dead.

Jordan became hooked on genealogy. Over the years he’s discovered more and more cousins, including Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, who helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott. “I’d seen her before, unbeknownst to me, in the documentary Eyes on the Prize,” says the Mt. Washington resident, who grew up in Bond Hill. “She played this gigantic part in one of the most pivotal moments in Civil Rights history.”

On the maternal side, Jordan even managed to sleuth out the slave owner whose son, he thinks, he is descended from. He’s walked the land his great-grandparents owned in Crawford County, Georgia, and saw where they worked and where they worshipped.

Joyce Coleman began piecing together her genealogy from a young age, from overheard names in a family where the past was seldom discussed. She developed a passion for history and learning the stories of those who went before. She’s volunteered at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center’s John Parker Library before the building’s first brick was laid, and helped others construct their family trees.

Coleman has traced her own roots back before the 1830s, but it was when she researched her husband’s family that she made a discovery close to home: an aunt he never knew. They drove to Maysville, Kentucky, to meet her. “The woman asked, How’s my brother?” she says. That’s when they realized she didn’t know that Coleman’s father-in-law was dead. “I’ve been trying to find my brother, and I can’t find him,” she said. Then she lifted up this candy dish and pulled out a piece of paper. On it she had written the names of Coleman’s husband and his father, sister, and brother. “She said, I’ve been trying to find them, and you brought my nephew.”

That sense of missing pieces in a vast, personal puzzle sends millions of us to genealogical websites FamilySearch and Ancestry.com, part of a multimillion-dollar industry popularized by shows like Henry Louis Gates’s Finding Your Roots. Armchair genealogists also flock to DNA “heritage” tests promising insights into one’s ethnic and geographic origins.

There’s something innately human in seeking our roots. While it’s seldom as easy as seen on TV, for African American genealogists like Jordan and Coleman, reconstructing that family tree is far more difficult given U.S. society’s blind spots and glaring omissions. But there are new records waiting to see light. And the gaps themselves have something to say about how inequity and racism thread through history into the present day.

As we look hard at our culture and ourselves, a new generation of Black genealogists weighs in on how Black lives—past, present, future, and forever—matter.

Genealogy has helped Jordan put his ancestors into historical context, he says, and that context can change how you see the present. Consider the controversy over athletes taking a knee during the national anthem, he says. Jordan, an ordained minister and 33-year veteran of WCPO-TV, says that those who see the act as disrespecting the flag overlook a historical reality. African American servicemen—both he and his wife are related to many—returned from fighting tyranny overseas to fight the same old racism and violence at home. This was an America where Black servicemen were lynched for wearing their uniforms.

But Jordan isn’t angry. He believes that genealogy has the power to heal people and communities, to restore their pride of place in history. That’s why he visits schools to teach young people that every family member is important and every relative famous in some way.

So genealogy isn’t just about the past. It links us in the living, breathing present. And as we look hard at our culture and ourselves, a new generation of Black genealogists weighs in on how Black lives—past, present, future, and forever—matter.

Thom Reed is African American and, like all FamilySearch employees, Mormon. The company is an arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). You can’t do genealogy research without using records made available by the church because, driven by doctrine that calls them to baptize the dead and “seal” families in eternity, Mormons have amassed and digitized the world’s largest collection of genealogical records. Stored in their fabled Granite Mountain Records Vault in Utah, which is drilled into a mountain behind nuclear-blast-proof doors, they have information containing some 2 billion names.

Thomas Jordan finds meaning connecting his grandchildren Anaya (age 13) and Imani (age 8), wife Jacquelyne, and daughter Bethany with family members who came before.

Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

Reed, who is deputy chief genealogical officer at FamilySearch, Zooms with me from Salt Lake City’s renowned Family History Library, whose imposing monolith looms in his background (although he still rocks a 513 area code from an earlier career phase with Procter & Gamble). At FamilySearch, Reed was project manager for the epic Freedmen’s Bureau Project, which transcribed records of 4 million freed Blacks from 1865, following Emancipation.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center was one node in this vast, crowd-sourced project, a partnership among the National Archives, LDS, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, and others. More than 25,000 volunteers transcribed and indexed the names of 1.8 million men, women, and children, making them easily searchable online. “That means we didn’t find them all,” says Reed. “So there are more records still out there. About 40 million of us are descended from those 4 million emancipated people at the end of the Civil War. What people don’t always immediately grasp is that there tends to be a lack of records in certain areas. But also that there are records out there that people don’t traditionally think about,” including those held by slave-owning family descendants who are reluctant to share them.

Genealogy newcomers often think when they research African American relatives that they need to go straight to the period of slavery, he says, when in fact there usually are vital records—birth, marriage, death, military, and more—available in the years since. There are also records created by Black families, churches, and other institutions that set down the generations for posterity.

Coleman, of Paddock Hills, also cautions against trying go too far back too quickly. It’s important to do the work, she says. Resources like Ancestry.com and DNA tests have their place, “but it’s important to dig deeper. When you come to the Freedom Center, you get a different version of ancestry than what you can get at home. You might get a DNA test that tells you you’re 50 percent Italian, 10 percent German, and 2 percent African. But you don’t know the names of these people. You don’t know anything about them.”

DNA heritage testing remains unregulated, often offering wildly different results depending on the company used. It can be useful when you’ve hit a dead end in family research, but it’s particularly questionable for African Americans given that the vast majority of DNA held in databases comes from white Europeans and overlooks the historically transient nature of human populations. It won’t bring your ancestors into clear focus the way old-school research will. “The first thing you need to do is find the oldest persons in your family and sit down, talk to them, and ask them questions,” says Coleman. “Ask them for names. Ask them if they have a bible or any kind of a written record of your family.”

Thomas Jordan’s distant cousin, Rev. James Brookins

Photograph courtesy of Thomas J. Jordan

Thomas Jordan’s mother Lela B. Thomas Jordan (left)

Photograph courtesy of Thomas J. Jordan

Another great source is old newspaper archives, particularly a city’s African American newspaper, like The Cincinnati Herald. “If Sally Jones died, the newspaper said she died on June 1, period,” says Coleman. “But who is Sally Jones? You don’t know because of the one-line blurb that we would find in the white newspapers. But we had the Cleveland Call & Post and The Chicago Defender [Black-owned newspapers that would write full obituaries], and the Pullman porters on the passenger trains were the newspaper boys of that time. They would take the papers to the South, and that’s how many people learned about their relatives in the North who had died.”

White-owned newspapers, interested in selling subscriptions to Black readers, eventually began to include so-called African American Society Columns. Genealogy and local history reference librarian Stephen Headley has been indexing these and making them available on the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County website. “Society Columns” doesn’t do justice to the richness of information they contain. “They talk about weddings and deaths and will include obituaries,” he says. “They even mention births, sometimes giving the weight of the baby. You can really get a good sense of at least a segment of Cincinnati’s African American population during that time.” The Cincinnati Commercial Gazette/Tribune ran one such column by Charles W. Bell, a prominent Black citizen and teacher of penmanship who also edited a Black newspaper locally. Another appeared in The Cincinnati Times-Star authored by Susie Johnson Higgins, a teacher at Gaines High School, the city’s segregated public school for Black students in the late 1800s.

Headley is all too familiar with the challenges facing the African American genealogist. “It doesn’t get easier even well after Emancipation,” he says. “During the 1920s and ’30s, over the Great Migra­tion of African Americans to Cincinnati, they’re mostly coming from the South, and those states have very poor records, or at least they’re not accessible yet.” Cincinnati newspaper society columns are also valuable because they cover a 20-year gap in government recordkeeping left when the 1890 census schedules were destroyed in a fire in 1921, he says.

Thomas Jordan’s Aunt Mildred Louise Jordan Barnes

Photograph courtesy of Thomas J. Jordan

In his genealogical journeys, Jordan has often struck gold in another source. “I guess my forte, my niche, is dissecting obituaries and funeral programs,” he jokes. When a cousin gave him the funeral program of his Aunt Eddie, a teacher in Georgia, unfamiliar names jumped out among those he already knew. The mysterious names prompted him to write to Southern churches his family had been active in, asking for any leads. A cousin wrote back. Her mother was still alive and remembered the names of his great-great-grandparents.

“The African American funeral program is kind of unique in how it evolved,” Jordan says. They’re rich in detail where official records and mainstream newspapers fell short. They hail from the tradition of Black-owned funeral homes, which amassed uncommon wealth and influence that they often parlayed into support for Civil Rights advancement.

In 2019, Coleman and Jordan gave a presentation at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County about the city’s Black funeral homes. Their PowerPoint presentation is a veritable who’s who of the influential Black businessmen and -women who prospered in the West End prior to that neighborhood’s evisceration by I-75 construction, which pushed many to the suburbs.

Tending for and burying the dead was one of the most lucrative professions available to Black entrepreneurs in the post–Civil War era, when embalming really took off. Black funerary professionals quickly specialized in providing elaborate home affairs that afforded dignity in death to those who had been denied it in life.

Among the Cincinnati families who went into the business, there was James E. Simpson Jr. of Jones & Simpson Funeral Home, who stuck a campaign bumper sticker on his hearse and became the first African American to win a city commission election in Covington and was integral in desegregating Northern Kentucky theaters. Inez Renfro of the Renfro Funeral Services family became one of the most powerful Black women in Cincinnati, bolstered by the Republican Party. Doris Rankin-Sells, of Rankin Brothers, was the first African American woman to be awarded a Wendy’s franchise. She served on boards from the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce to the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. And Mary Norris Andrews, who owned M.M. Andrews Funeral Chapel in Avondale, published The Cincinnati Independent, the city’s only Black-owned paper during the 1940s and a springboard for young African American writers, typesetters, and printers.

But these businesses are disappearing. With the popularity of cremation and younger generations leaving the business, they’re being gobbled up by chains. And when that happens, generations of funeral programs can easily be lost in the shuffle.

FamilySearch recently completed a pilot project in Virginia to collect, digitize, and share generations of funeral programs. Reed says he hopes to replicate that project across the U.S., but the clock is ticking.

Information on Black ancestors can also be found in places where their bodies are enshrined in the earth itself and their names written in stone. Musician, music teacher, newspaperman, writer, and publisher Wendell Phillips Dabney gives the history of Cincinnati’s African American cemeteries in his seminal book, Cincinnati’s Colored Citizens (1926), the pages of which shine with his characteristic wit. Theirs is a history that underscores again how dignity, even in death, remains elusive.

Two key locations remain today: Price Hill’s Union Baptist Cemetery and Madisonville’s United American Cemetery. The latter was created in 1884 when Colored American Cemetery in Avondale was closed. According to Dabney, white citizens’ “delicate nostrils seemingly scented an aroma arising from their defunct colored brethren which gave to the atmosphere a tang not redolent with fragrance. In short, the whites objected to the black burying ground.” After a protracted battle, most of Colored American Cemetery’s burials were moved to the new United American Cemetery.

Retired architect and former Freedom Center genealogy volunteer Chris Hanlin has researched and mapped the extant cemeteries. He lives in Madisonville near United American. Fascinated by its beauty and the lives of those buried there, he learned that it shares a designer with Spring Grove Cemetery, as well as Eden Park, Lincoln Park, and Burnet Woods: the great Prussian landscape architect Adolph Strauch.

Dabney lies in United American. Former slave and Civil War Medal of Honor recipient Powhatan Beaty is buried in Union Baptist, as is Harriet Clay, a former slave and friend of Booker T. Washington. They are resting places for the formerly enslaved, for anti-slavery advocates, and for conductors on the Underground Railroad. But as recently as last year United Baptist Cemetery was vandalized; gravestones were overturned and sprayed with graffiti.

Union Baptist Cemetery is overseen by Union Baptist Church, Cincinnati’s oldest Black church. According to Board of Trustees Chair Angelita Jones, the church recently received a $10,000 grant from the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners and $400,000 through the African American Civil Rights Grant Program, which is administered by the National Park Service, to stabilize and repair the cemetery buildings, monuments, headstones, and fencing. “I know that sounds like a lot of money, but we’re talking about 16 acres and thousands of headstones,” she says. “The grass-cutting and all of the upkeep comes out of the congregation’s and pastor’s pockets.”

With the COVID-19 crisis keeping members from church, funds are tight. Union Baptist Church can’t do it alone, she says, “So we’re going to continue to apply for grants and continue to fund-raise [including through GoFundMe], because these cemeteries have to be sustained.”

Nationally, historically Black cemeteries remain an important genealogical resource. “There are young children, for instance, who were born after one census and died before the next census was taken in a period before there were birth certificates,” Hanlin says. “So the person’s tombstone inscription may be the only record that this person ever existed.”

The real reason to visit them, though, is out of respect. Both Jordan and Reed have sought their ancestors in cemeteries. In his book, Double Jordan, the story of uncovering his paternal ancestry, Jordan writes how, on a dead-end road in Culloden, Georgia, near the headstones of cousins in a segregated cemetery, he came across a section with a single marker that read, SLAVE CEMETERY, We know not who they are but they are loved ones of God and man, and will never be forgotten.

Reed has also walked among the dead, searching for his great-great-great-grandfather. He visited a timber country cemetery in Marengo County, Alabama, hoping to pick up the trail where the records had left him cold. He’s still searching. “I’m right up against that brick wall of enslavement and haven’t made that bridge yet. I say yet because I’m in it for the long haul,” he says, smiling over the video connection from Utah.

The internet may well prove to be the ultimate genealogical tool. Artificial Intelligence will soon support optical character recognition even for difficult-to-decipher handwritten records, says Reed. But the future of the past lies in crowd-sourcing, in a wide network of inquisitive minds. It’s happening right now, a million aha moments on message boards and social media pages, where users share notes, photos, and scans from the front pages of family bibles.

It’s a project that anyone can contribute to. “With this whole racial tension in the U.S. right now,” Reed says, “a lot of my white friends have approached me and asked, What can I do to make things better? Part of it is participating in these projects to make more records accessible for people of African descent.”

FamilySearch has acquired and digitized records from the Caribbean, civil registrations that haven’t been indexed, he says. “So we need volunteers just like the Freedmen’s Bureau Project to jump on board and help us index and make these records searchable for our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean.” And there are efforts around the country to reclaim African American cemeteries. “Get involved in your local community,” says Reed. “Help reclaim a cemetery, and put that information on websites to make it accessible to more people worldwide. That’s what allies who want to help the cause can do.”

Jordan is hoping to pass the genealogy torch to younger generations. From the age of 3, his granddaughter showed an interest, he says, and her face lit up seeing photos he’d discovered of his great-grandparents. More recently, for Black History Month, she did a school project on her family tree.

His granddaughter, now 8, has caught the spark. She recites the names of those who went before. She feels their weight and carries them on.

Covington’s Braxton Brewing Opens New Brewery and Taproom Location in Pendleton


Bringing Covington’s Braxton Brewing Company to Cincinnati was always part of the plan for cofounders Evan and Jake Rouse. Perhaps not during a pandemic, but when the 3 Points Urban Brewery space became available in Pendleton, the brothers knew they had to go for it.

“We’ve always been looking and listening for opportunities to jump into Cincinnati and this one just came up—kind of at a weird time—but, we were like, Let’s do it,” Jake says.

Braxton announced that it would take over the vacant space for its first-ever Ohio facility in July. After a two-and-a-half-year search for a Cincinnati location, the Rouse brothers were able to open their new Pendleton brewery and taproom last weekend.

“This one was the right space; the place is gorgeous, the location is great,” says Jake. “I love the Pendleton neighborhood; it reminds me a lot of Covington. So, it’s really great to be able to play a role in it now.”

One part of that role, Jake said, was meeting with local residents and business owners about how they could best utilize the space. A Few 3 Points customs, such as the morning coworking function, which Braxton pioneered at their Covington location, will carry on in the new brewery.

“One thing I love about the Pendleton community is everyone’s so welcoming,” Jake says. “I’ve met with everybody down the street. They’ve all been incredibly welcoming and excited about what we’re doing.”

Braxton is also working to offer food at the Pendleton taproom, which will be a first for the brand. Customers will be able to order dishes at the CHX restaurant space next door and then enjoy their meals in the brewery.

“When we took over the location, obviously it had the CHX restaurant next door,” Jake says. “We partnered with the Parlor Group, so they’re putting together some concepts and some brands, and we hope to have it open in the next three to four weeks.”

As for new beverages, Braxton introduced its festive seasonal Vive pumpkin spice hard seltzer earlier this month. The Pendleton brewery will begin producing products within the next few weeks, Jake says, as more fall flavors and hearty brews begin to reemerge. “Much like our facility Braxton Labs in Newport, you’re going to see a lot of variety,” he says.

Though opening an establishment under COVID-19 restrictions wasn’t easy, Jake is thrilled to see a long-time dream fulfilled—even if it happened to be during a pandemic. “I’m looking forward to the future when we can really get rocking,” he says. “But for now, it’s been so fun just seeing new faces.”

Braxton Brewing Company, 331 E. 13th St., Pendleton, (513) 918-4804

The Reds Rewrite Their Season Script


Fans of any stripe tend to be a cynical bunch, not only in sports but everywhere. Take, for example, the film industry. I love movies. Adore them. In terms of my passions, film is right up there with the Reds and, I don’t know, bacon, I guess. And if you watch enough movies, occasionally you’ll get a feeling in the middle of one that you’ve seen it before. Not that you’ve seen that exact movie, but something very similar.


I remember years ago sitting in a dark theater watching what seemed like another crime thriller. It was good, I was enjoying it, but I kept getting the nagging feeling that it was just like every other heist film I’d ever seen. And then, right at the very end, there was a surprising twist: the identity of Keyser Söze was revealed, and I sank back into my chair in amazement. I went back to see it again the next night.

Through 44 games of this abbreviated 60-game season, your Cincinnati Reds looked like The Usual Suspects, didn’t they? Yet another season that began with promise had sunk inevitably into chaos, with players underperforming and the Reds failing to live up to preseason expectations. I mean, we’ve seen that movie before, right? We know how it ends.

But then there was a plot twist! Last week, the Reds lost two of three to the Cubs, dropping their record to 19-25, good for fourth place in the National League Central, six and a half games back. They hadn’t won a series since August 7-9, and time was rapidly running out.

Enter Luis Castillo. In the first game of a weekend series last Friday, he pitched a dazzling two-hit complete game to lead the Reds past the Cardinals. A small sign of life at the time, but it was followed by Cincinnati winning six of seven games, including a five-game winning streak that lifted them to within one game of .500.

More importantly, as we head into the next-to-last weekend of the regular season, the Reds are in second place, which would make them the No. 6 seed in the expanded 2020 playoffs. How did we get here?

One thing that hasn’t changed is the outstanding starting pitching, highlighted by Castillo’s return to form. In the next start after his complete game gem, La Piedra tossed seven shutout innings to cement a sweep of the Pirates. The Reds have also seen great starts from Trevor Bauer and Michael Lorenzen (of all people) during this late-season resurgence.

Finally, however, the bullpen and the offense began to resemble the units that we expected prior to Opening Day. Raisel Iglesias has been lights-out lately; he hasn’t surrendered a single hit (and just one walk) in his last four appearances. He picked up three saves and a win in those four outings and, for the first time in a long while, has resembled the Iglesias who, not so long ago, was one of the best closers in baseball.

The pen has also been boosted by the presence of newly-acquired Archie Bradley. Acquired at the trade deadline, he’s pitched in five games for the Reds and has yet to allow a run. Combined with Amir Garrett, who picked up his first career save this week, the Reds all of a sudden have three relief studs for late-game situations.

The real story is the offense. After struggling all season long (and suffering through a historically unlucky stretch, as we discussed last week), the bats finally woke up. The Reds are averaging more than five runs a game over the past seven contests. Nowhere is the turnaround more evident than with Shogo Akiyama, who has started to look comfortable in his first taste of baseball in the states.

In his last 18 games, Akiyama is hitting .327 with a brilliant .478 on-base percentage. He’s given the Reds the reliable threat at the top of the order they’ve been missing all season. With Eugenio Suarez returning to form (.294/.400/.598 in the past week) and Joey Votto discovering his power stroke again (three homers during that span), the lineup has clicked for the first time all year.

We’ve always known that this silly 2020 season, with the short schedule and expanded playoffs, was going to be bizarre. Even as we’ve been documenting the often-embarrassing play of this year’s Reds, we’ve always tried to note that things could change at any time. After all, eight teams in each league will make the playoffs.

The Reds have had precisely one good week all season long, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. They are legitimately in a playoff race for the first time in years. Sure, it’s a watered-down playoffs, but who cares? We’ve been waiting a long time for a September with meaningful baseball in Cincinnati.

Nine games to go, and things are about to get tougher for the good guys. The Chicago White Sox roll into the Queen City this weekend toting a robust offense that has them sitting with the best record in the American League. After a three-game set with Milwaukee, the Redlegs finish the campaign in Minnesota against a Twins team that’s been among the best AL squads the past couple of seasons.

There is work left to do, but if you can believe it, the Cincinnati Reds are in the thick of a playoff race. Maybe the script will end with our hearts being broken once again. We’ll know soon. Right now, however, my eyes are glued to the screen. This movie just got far more interesting.

Chad Dotson authors Reds coverage at Cincinnati Magazine and hosts a long-running Reds podcast, Redleg Nation Radio. His first book, The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds, is available in bookstores and online.

The Art Is Outdoors at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park


In 1987, Harry T. Wilks bought 40 acres of land in Hamilton, Ohio, and built an exquisite 7,000-square-foot underground home featuring an above-ground pyramid-shaped skylight. Completed in 1992, the home is dubbed The Pyramid House. Wilks gradually expanded his property, and in 1997 he turned it into a nonprofit sculpture park to protect the land from development. Today, for a small admission fee ($8 for adults; $3 for kids ages 6–12), visitors to Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park can get an up-close look at Wilks’s house and enjoy more than 80 contemporary sculptures across 300-plus acres of rolling hills, hiking trails, fields, lakes, and gardens.

Expect to see new pieces by regional and international artists every season. A 10,000-square-foot museum is dedicated to Wilks’s ancient sculpture collection, with art dating back to 1550 B.C. Drive along the paved “Art Loop” to see the sculptures from the comfort of your car or experience the park on foot. We suggest renting a golf cart from the visitor’s center, packing a picnic, and enjoying a socially distant lunch date for two near our favorite sculpture, the enormous orange Abracadabra (above) by Alexander Liberman.

Hydration Station 513 Helps You Strengthen Your Immune System


As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, Cincinnatians continue to look for ways to stay healthy. A newly opened health and wellness facility on Ninth Street downtown may just be the golden ticket. Earlier this month, Chris Jaeger and his wife, Jess, who’s an anesthesiologist, opened Hydration Station 513, an IV therapy spa that specializes in intravascular administration of vitamins, minerals, and medications.

“If you’re feeling better, whether it’s mentally, physically, whatever, data shows that you stand a better chance of fighting any type of illness,” Jaeger says.

For the past year, Hydration Station 513’s team of healthcare professionals has brought services directly to clients’ homes. Now customers can receive IV treatments in a sterile, safe environment with socially distanced seating areas for individuals or small groups.

Of course, an IV treatment is a great way to rehydrate on Saturday and Sunday mornings after a night of drinking, but Hydration Station 513’s service menu tackles a wide range of health and wellness issues, from anti-nausea medicine and energy-boosting B12 vitamin shots to amino acid blends that aid muscle recovery and antihistamines to treat allergies. Other IV treatments include those designed for anti-aging, pre- and post-workout, and migraines.

“We actually thought that the hangover side of the business was going to be the biggest—the people going out and having too much fun who need to rehydrate, but that’s actually not been the case. People are really looking for alternative ways to increase their wellbeing and overall wellness,” Jaeger says. “We’re increasing people’s quality of life.”

Unlike a normal multivitamin, of which you might absorb 20 percent, IV therapy shows instant effects. When you receive a treatment via IV, you can expect to see nearly 100 percent absorption, with the treatment going directly into your blood stream for quick results, Jaeger says.

With proper planning, the spa can accommodate groups up to 20-30 people. So whether you and your running buddies need a little boost after a long week of training or you’re planning a bachelorette party that will likely lead to alcohol-induced hangovers, Hydration Station 513 can help you feel better as quickly as possible.