Bradfield Center celebrates its Black history

LIMA — The Bradfield Community Center celebrated 85 years in the community on Sunday afternoon.

While many organizations claim to celebrate anniversaries, the crowd at Bradfield was ready to party, complete with impromptu dancing, calls and responses from the audience as they recognized the lasting impact.

“Many of you got something from the Bradfield Center over the years,” said Tesha Banks, the program coordinator. “It means even more to give back to those who come up behind us.”

Banks shared her story of watching the lifelong friendships her son made at “The Brad.” That encouraged her to come back and help with the organization.

After 85 years, the Bradfield Center continues to offer recreational, educational and social opportunities, often reaching out to Lima’s Black community. The theme for Sunday’s event and dinner was “The ‘Black’ History of Bradfield Center.”

Director Chris Jackson traced the organization’s roots to an effort in 1933 to bring recreational facilities into Lima before really moving forward in 1938. The Bradfield Center originally opened on South West Street in 1938, with a new building built along Elm Street but destroyed by fire. The present site, 550 S. Collett St., Lima, was planned in the late 1940s before breaking ground Dec. 1, 1948.

There have been recent improvements, including renovating the outside basketball courts and adding seating, providing heating and air conditioning to the popular gym facilities.

Over the years, the recreational activities expanded from basketball and gymnastics to various exercise activities, including cardio-drumming and pickleball. Banks urged more people to bridge the gap between the youth and the adults in the community by getting to know each other through the Bradfield Center’s acitivities.

The nearly 200 attendees enjoyed a homemade meal of fried chicken (with hot sauce available for those who wanted it), macaroni and cheese, green beans, rice, meatballs and an assortment of desserts.

There were spoken word presentations by Lamar “Kam” Walker and Courtney Owens, along with a mime presentation by Heaven’s Angels.

“We have some talent in this community!” emcee Pilate Bradley exclaimed.

A pair of Democratic candidates, 4th District candidate Tamie Wilson and Supreme Court candidate Terri Jamison.

Former director James Williamson shared a video message with the crowd, after illness kept him from returning to the organization he led starting in 1981.

“The Bradfield Center is very essential for the recreational facilities and for the improvement of Lima and Allen County,” Williamson said. “I’m happy to be rooting for the growth of the Bradfield Center physically and programmatically in the future.”

Reach David Trinko at 567-242-0467 or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.