Flower Lady and Expo

Dateline: Fri 28 Jul 2006

The Flower Lady, Inez Powell, is dead, but she raised the same questions about Black Expo that Expo prez Joyce Rogers has.

{"Expo leaders, IPD to review safety of event," The Indianapolis Star, 7/27/2006 -- this, in the wake of the Saturday June 15 shootings in Downtown on the biggest eve of this national, very visible happening).

"We want solutions," said Rogers, speaking of the fact that gunfire wounded five people. "We had some very unfortunate instances this year. We want to discourage the late-night hanging out. In our view, it's detrimental to our event."

Flower Lady said the same thing, but she could never get her message out there, really. Even tho she had first-hand street experience.

Flower Lady was a trip. She was a street singer on a scooter, a warm, earthy presence, often dressed in a flowing orange or red dress, with a bunch of flowers in her basket. She sang for her supper -- she made up the words but they were always about praising her Lord and loving God and other good things. When people gave her change or a buck or two, she gave back a fresh flower and a radiant smile.

I first met her when the Billy Graham crusade was in town, in 2000 I believe. She loved that crowd: They came rolling out of the Hoosier Dome with the light of Jesus in their eyes but not necessarily buckets of cash. Besides, they were sober, unlike the Colts crowds she also worked with success.

Here is where Flower Lady got in hot water -- she criticized Black Expo. She worked one Saturday night when kids from Expo filled the streets. "Flower Lady, you better get out of here," a cop advised her as she sat on her usual corner, Maryland and Illinois. She wasn't fast enough. She got caught up in a foaming tide of humanity, knocked down, her wheelchair busted.

Flower Lady was no pushover. She sued. A lot of people dismissed her, including Expo officials. The lawsuit never much went anywhere. "That Flower Lady is crazy," one woman told me inside the Expo offices.

Maybe. But she was old-fashioned and she expected discipline and manners and she was right on about the rowdiness of the crowds. Nobody paid attention to her, tho. This points to a slightly larger problem in Indy -- we tend to marginazlize people with a message who strike us as "too radical." The great Dr. Scott Robinson comes to mind -- he founded the FACE spay-neuter clinic but could not get the city or the press to much give him the time of day for forever. Now his vision is appreciated if not recognized -- hundreds of poor line up at that Mass Ave clinic with their pets.

Clarke Kahlo is another example. Clarke is always hollering about covering greenspace with asphalt. He's usually right -- developers have a free hand and nobody in the city administration stands up to them. Kahlo does.

Flower Lady did too -- stand up. Turns out, Expo now says Flower Lady's head was in the right place. So was her heart, but we already knew that.


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