Sometimes, we meet people quite by chance, and, as a result, significant changes occur in our lives. When Lydia and Noel Morgan moved from Columbus to Mt. Healthy, they discussed that some time they would like to buy a house. Before long, they attended a fundraiser for a local candidate where Mo Udall, Presidential candidate, was speaking. Lydia met Jody Barkley at that event who offered to show them some houses. The next day she was at Lydia’s doorstep and said she had 3 houses for them to visit. It wasn’t long before a house was purchased on Orchard Ave. The year was 1978.
Soon, the list of organizations Lydia was involved in included Ken-Sil athletic league, KH Montessori Pre-School Parent Cooperative (now KH Montessori Center), KH Community Council, First Baptist Church and KH Presbyterian Church. In 1988, Lydia initiated what has become a Cincinnati tradition, Juneteenth. She was in Phoenix, on a business trip with Noel, and happened to attend a Juneteenth celebration. It was a small gathering with much energy and enthusiasm. She soon decided Cincinnati could have this event, too.
With the help of Ce & Duane Holm, Pat Baker, Carolyn & Charles Clingman, plans took shape. Initially, the event was sponsored by KHCC. Lydia has stories to tell of how they winged that first celebration, having no idea of all the details that needed to be addressed. Over the years, they learned about security, getting permits, finding artists, food trucks and many other concerns. For eight (8) years it was held in Drake Park, then Eden Park, and, in 2013, it returned to Drake Park. This June, 2015, marks the 28th year of the festival.
Now Juneteenth is an affordable festival with farm animals, horseback riding, giving First Books to children, displays about the Tuskegee Airmen, Buffalo Soldiers and Montfort Pt. Marines. Several music groups are always present and, of course, food options add to the ambience.
Serving food is a mission for Lydia. Sap Run wouldn’t be complete if she and Noel were not in the KH Presbyterian Church kitchen preparing a breakfast of pancakes, sausage, bacon and fruit.
A new joint venture of the Presbyterian Church and Community Council, begun in 2014, is serving a community meal free of charge to the community before the KHCC monthly meeting. Who do you suppose is in charge? She often provides meals for many events with her church, KH Presbyterian.
Lydia has received a number of awards: Kennedy Heights Arts Center Volunteer Award, 2014; Theodore M. Berry NAACP Diversity Award, 2013; National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Juneteenth Freedom Award, 2012; Enquirer Woman of the Year, 2011; NAACP Educators Award for Juneteenth, 2009; KH Citizen of the Year, 1990.
She encourages new residents to find out what is going on in the community and become an active participant of some aspect of KH. Many people do not take advantage of the opportunity and do not know that doing so expands your view of your neighbors as well as opening yourself to new experiences.
Among her hopes is that people don’t forget the history of Kennedy Heights. A healthy community thrives on people connecting with each other.
Interviewed March 21, 2014
with Christine Schumacher
Presented to KHCC, August 18, 2015