The Marion Voices Folklife + Oral History Program is Marion County’s countywide folklife, cultural arts, & oral history-for-social-justice program, focused on mobilizing cultural + documentary arts + the critical potential of heritage/memory to catalyze more just futures + more resilient cultural arts livelihoods in Marion County, Ohio.


SAVE THE DATE! The Marion Voices Folklife + Oral History Program’s Spring 2021 Community Co-Curation Cohort (Ms. Linda Sims, Pastor Jackie Peterson, Ms. Tara Dyer, Johnnie Jackson, Anthony Marks, Jr., Micah Walker, Primrose Igonor, Ms. Kathleen Clemons-Keller, Ms. Jessie Thompson, Mr. Mike Brewer, Jess Lamar Reece Holler) are thrilled to announce the culmination of Marion Voices‘ Spring 2021 Community Co-Curation Cycle — the first-ever MARION BLACK JOY SUMMERFEST! MARION BLACK JOY SUMMERFEST is a day-long event celebrating the radical heritage of Black joy as liberation & resistance in Marion County! Come join us at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park on Marion’s West Side on June 26th, 2021 — one week after Juneteenth — from 12-7PM for a fun-filled, powerful festival celebrating the legacy of Black Joy in Marion County!

Marion Voices‘ first-ever MARION BLACK JOY SUMMERFEST will feature three pop-up exhibits/installations on BLACK LEISURE in MARION COUNTY, BLACK TRAVEL & VACATIONING in MARION COUNTY, & BLACK SUMMER TRADITIONS // FOLKLIFE in MARION COUNTY co-curated by the program team, alongside an amazing line-up of cultural & performing artists on our Cultural/Performing Arts Stage, arts demonstrations, a board game tournament, “photo-booths,” & a pop-up Black History & Genealogy Workshop + Digitization Days booth hosted by the Marion County Historical Society! We’re also proud to be offering a ** FREE COVID-19 VACCINE CLINIC ** sponsored by Black Heritage Council + brought to us by Marion Public Health! If you have not yet been vaccinated & are seeking more information, this is the perfect opportunity to learn more about the vaccine & consider getting an on-site vaccination, conveniently located right in the middle of our day-long festival!

NOTE: COVID-19 is very much still present in our community, & Marion County’s vaccination rates are lower than the state average. As such, despite the changing official state mask mandates, the event organizers ask all attendees to wear masks to ensure the safety of everyone in our community. Thank you for your co-operation & understanding!

MARION BLACK JOY SUMMERFEST 2021 is made possible, in part, thanks to the generous support of the Wopat Community Fund at the Marion Community Foundation, Ohio Humanities, and the Ohio History Fund. We are so grateful for both our local & statewide sponsors for making Marion Voices‘ 2021 Community Co-Curation programming possible! Thank you to our funders!

This project has been made possible in part by a grant from the Ohio History Connection’s History Fund. The History Fund is supported exclusively by voluntary donations of Ohio income tax refunds, sales of Ohio History “mastodon” license plates, and designated gifts to the Ohio History Connection.

SAVE THE DATE!!! The Marion Voices Folklife + Oral History Program is thrilled to announce the fruits of our Fall 2020 Community Co-Curation “Pop-Up Exhibit Cycle,” which commenced meeting weekly in September 2020 — a blow-out, Zoom-based two-hour folklife/cultural arts event celebrating + discussing the ethics & politics of Marion County’s Black Holiday Foodways, Folklife, & Traditions. Our event is currently slated to feature six Marion County Black cultural artists, memory-keepers, & tradition-bearers sharing history, memories, & demonstrations of holiday folklife genres ranging from material culture, dress, adornment & home decoration to community Christmas pageants & celebrations to — you guessed it — everyone’s favorite folklife genre: foodways! We also will have a special presentation on the sync between Black Christmas celebrations & traditions and Kwanzaa, highlighting the role that syncretic Afro-Culturalist principles have long played in Black churches & community ethics in Marion County. Please join us over Zoom on Sunday, December 20th, 2020 from 4-6pm to celebrate Marion County’s Black holiday traditions! More details, a set-list, & Zoom information to follow shortly! Watch this space for an updated flyer in the week following Thanksgiving! We hope to see you there!

This Christmas: Black Marion Celebrates has been made possible, in part, through the generous support of Marion Voices’ 2020-2021 sponsors: the Wopat Community Fund at the Marion Community Foundation; Ohio Humanities; the Ohio History Fund at the Ohio History Connection; United Way of North-Central Ohio’s Small Grants Program; and Rotary Club International of Marion County, Ohio. Thank you for making this important work possible!!! <3

Join us beginning on Monday, September 28th, 2020 from 6-7pm on Marion Voices’ Zoom channel for the kickoff meeting for our Fall 2020 *Black History Community Co-Curation Cycle*, supported by Ohio Humanities, the Ohio History Fund, and with local support from United Way of North-Central Ohio! We’ll be meeting every Monday night (6-7pm) from 09/28 to 11/23 (Thanksgiving week) to collectively plan, research, build, & launch a pop-up community exhibit on Black history, life, cultural arts, & futures in Marion County. The exact theme/focus & format for our pop-up exhibit will be determined by participants; so please join us to help launch this important & long-overdue work in partnership with the Marion County Historical Society. Stipends are available to offset costs & time of attendance; please contact Jess if you’d like to receive one! Email: marionvoicesoralhistory at gmail dot com. See you there!


Join us for our Marion Voices Fall Updates Open-House, where we’ll give updates + unveil the new products & program visions resulting from our 2019-2020 Ohio Arts Council ArtsNEXT Grant: including our Marion VoicesCulture Keepers Roster/Artists’ Directory; and our Marion VoicesCountywide Folklife Program + Cultural Heritage Tourism Strategic Plan! Come give your feedback on what you’d like to see to grow arts-based economies & mobilize cultural arts for racial justice in our Marion County, Ohio!

Join us for Marion County’s 2020 Juneteenth Celebration, organized by the Peace & Freedom Committee & Lion Hearted Entertainments, and co-sponsored by the Marion Voices Folklife + Oral History Project at the Marion County Historical Society! Come commemorate Black freedom struggles past and ongoing as we celebrate Black cultural artists & tradition-bearers across Marion County with a series of moving performances & demonstrations, MC’d by Anthony Marks, Jr. (Lion Hearted Entertainments) & Johnnie L. Jackson (Marion Voices // Marion City Schools). Featuring Marion County or “Marion Made” Black cultural artists LaCosta Mayes, Ms. Harriet Sims, Ms. Jessie Thompson, TaJa McFly & House of Fly, Anthony Marks, Jr., and video submissions from around the community! Friday, June 19th, 2020: 5-6:30pm EST. Zoom link in flyer above; and also available streaming via FacebookLive at the Peace & Freedom Committee + Marion County Historical Society Facebook pages. Show up to recognize histories of Emancipation & freedom struggles & the ongoing work of Emancipation — towards a more just future, in Marion County, & beyond.


The Marion Voices Folklife + Oral History Program resoundingly stands with and for Black lives, in Marion County, Ohio, and beyond. We forcefully condemn all acts of police brutality, murder, and violence, aided and abetted by everyday acts of racism undergirded by structural-systemic anti-Black racism and white supremacy in this country. Marion Voices is an abolitionist project; and we stand with our Black and brown communities and organizers and protestors everywhere in demanding an end to policing, incarceration, and violence against Black lives. We stand for vibrant, beautiful, resilient, visionary Black futures. For us all.

Ms. Tara Dyer (R) shares vision and direction for the Marion Voices project and memories of transformative Marion City Black educators and teachers during a November 2018 Community Planning Session for Marion Voices, supported by Ohio Humanities.


Learn more about the history, mission, and vision of the Marion Voices Folklife + Oral History Project — a collaborative program of Marion County Historical Society alongside Black Heritage Council, Logos Ministries, WDIF LP-FM, OSU Extension in Marion County, Terradise Nature Center, Marion Public Library, and Marion City Schools. Our work is grounded in a shared vision of racial and social justice and increased community understand through the powerful work of the “listening arts.”

Marion County spiritual poet + spoken word artist Nicole Boyd, reflecting on the origins of her arts practice.


Here, find a timeline of plans for our Marion Voices project work from 2019-2021, as we roll out our Black history oral history project (1960s-Present) alongside our countywide folk/traditional arts survey. We are grateful to the support of Ohio Humanities and Ohio Arts Council for making this work possible. Check this page often for upcoming Marion Voices events in & around the county!

Seamstress Alberta Cress of the Marion County Historical Society shares the history of how she learned to sew, and discusses her interest in participating in a folklife apprenticeship program, to help pass on her sewing traditions to a new generation.


Learn more about the practices of oral history, community-based folk arts documentation, and the ethics that shape how & why we do our work. Here, we also share more about what to expect from an oral history interview, and our definition of community-based folk/traditional/cultural arts and folklife traditions. Click here to see if you or someone you know would like to share your family’s histories, memories, or cultural traditions with our project!

WDIF-LP FM “TruBlues975” DJ and morning host “Silky” Ray Macklin (L), and station GM Spencer Phelps (R), pictured with Marion Voices Community Coordinator Johnnie Jackson.


Learn more about our vibrant & dynamic project team — including our core team, our community scholars, and our consulting humanities advisors — and our network of visionary community partner organizations.

You’ll also find contact information, ways to reach out to our team, and most important of all, ways to recommend yourself, a friend, neighbor, or family member, to be documented for our project!

Night exterior of the old River Valley Junior/High school near Caledonia, Ohio.

Marion Voices seeks to amplify under-heard histories & cultural traditions in Marion County: from our county’s Black, brown, immigrant/newcomer, rural, queer, working-class and disabled communities.

Founded in 2017, when Marion Voices Community Coordinator Johnnie Jackson and Project Director Jess Lamar Reece Holler met at a protest to take down the Columbus statue at City Hall in Columbus, Ohio, the Marion Voices project has worked steadily to mobilize the democratizing and power of oral history and folklife documentation to catalyze critical community conversations — about identity, history, culture, difference, and our collective futures — to build new & strengthen old coalitions for racial, economic, educational, & environmental justice in North-Central Ohio.

Marion Voices is housed at the Marion County Historical Society, helmed by Executive Director Brandi Wilson, but we are a grassroots, community-collaborative collective, bringing together a network of allied racial, economic, & social justice organizations & activists across Marion County. Our Marion Voices family includes activists & representatives working with Marion County’s Black Heritage Council, Logos Christian Ministries, OSU-Extension Marion County, WDIF “TruBlues975” LP-FM, Terradise Nature Center, Marion Public Library, and Marion City Schools, among others.

Developed through a year-long Community Planning Process supported by Ohio Humanities in 2018, Marion Voices is grateful for the support of the Marion Community Foundation, Ohio Humanities, the Ohio History Fund, United Way of North-Central Ohio, and Rotary Club of Marion County as we launch our core community-collaborative project work for 2019-2021: a dynamic series of community co-curated series of pop-up exhibits and events, focused on Black life, history, and cultural arts // traditions in Marion County, 1960s-Now, which will culminate in MCHS’s first-ever community co-curated permanent exhibit on Black Life in Marion County, slated to open in November 2021. Along the way, we will be launching two entirely open/public community co-curation cycles — one in Fall 2020, and the other in Spring 2021 — to build pop-up exhibits & Black history/cultural arts events to practice curating together as a community, & to amplify Black history & culture in Marion County in anticipation of our final exhibit production cycle. Our exhibit production cycle will start in Summer 2021 — kicked off by a weekend-long Marion Voices Summer Institute in Cultural Documentation. Watch this space for more on this soon!

This work follows on the heals of our ambitious 2019-2020 project: the Marion Voices Pilot Countywide Folk/Cultural Arts Survey + Needs Assessment — made possible by an ArtsNEXT grant from the Ohio Arts Council — which focused on documenting and exhibiting the informal expressive creative traditions of Marion County’s underserved communities, and which resulted in the documentation of over thirty-five Marion County cultural artists & organizations, the creation of our Marion Voices Culture Keepers Roster, and Marion Voices co-sponsorship & co-production, along with the Peace + Freedom Committee, of Marion County’s Juneteenth 2020 Livestream Celebration.

For more on our oral history and folklife methods, ethos, and project timeline, see UPCOMING EVENTS.

At Marion Voices, we strive to enact deep diversity & inclusion work and racial justice, in part, through a deep attention to economic justice, equity, & ethics in community-based cultural work. We strive to achieve this work through a unique attention to economic justice, fair compensation, & recognition of the labor of community collaborators that we call the Marion Voices Equity Budgeting Model. Equity Budgeting is both a praxis and a movement; and we offer workshops, tutorials, & consultancies to train other practitioners + organizations in our model. For more on our equity budgeting praxis and our philosophies of community collaboration, see EQUITY BUDGETING: A MANIFESTO.


Marion Voices Preliminary Community Folklife Survey Tour Summary Video — Spring 2019 (feat. Mayes Community Temple Choir; Alberta Cress; Gerald Carr; Nicole Boyd)
Barber Daveon McGary at his Platinum Plus Barbershop in downtown Marion, Ohio. Daveon apprenticed with local barbers before heading to Columbus for his licensure. Today, with a staff of four seasoned barbers, and a lively shop culture, Platinum Plus serves customers from across Marion County, specializing in Black and Latinx hair.

Get involved & stay up to date on Marion Voices!

Join our Marion Voices Folklife + Oral History Program mailing list for timely updates on our project events, next steps, fundraising efforts, and for early access to our interviews and documentary materials!