Young black people dancing outside in front of a gazebo with a Columbus Community Pride banner

Best Restaurant Comeback


One of the best Chinese restaurants in Columbus is back. Helen Asian Kitchen, which owner Helen Jiao sold in 2017 to take care of her husband while he struggled with cancer, reopened in 2018 with Helen Jiao returning to the helm. Her awesome hot stir-fried cauliflower is back, as well as her assortment of handmade dumplings (yes, even soup dumplings). Here’s a great tip for vegans – order the stir-fried cauliflower with added raw tofu. The tofu cooks in the hot oil heated by the sterno that comes lit under the serving dish and adds an extra punch of creamy protein to the dish. It’s amazing.

– Susan Halpern


Best Art and Well-Being Event


The Movement Pursuing Art, Commerce, Community (MPACC) #BoxParty: Harvest Your Wellness event was a culturally affirming way to celebrate the transition from Summer to Fall and community empowerment. Maroon Arts Group (MAG), a creative collective named for African and indigenous settlements formed apart from chattel slavery, invited the public to join in the closing of their first official MPACC season with food, music, local Black vendors, and an interactive art gallery.

– Ashley Braxton


Most Innovative Concert to Celebrate Community


1968. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy were both assassinated. Black Athletes Protested the National Anthem at the Mexico City Olympics. America was knee-deep involved in the Vietnam War. There were riots all over the world, from Detroit to Paris, and from Chicago to Prague. Those were some of the headlines of 1968, a very turbulent year. The Harmony Project’s summer concert “1968: Concert for Community” at Columbus Commons was not just a history lesson wrapped together in a concert, but it brought over 7,000 people across the community from different backgrounds and walks of life, together in one place on a warm summer evening.


Best New Arts Space


It is hard to pass by the corner of Mount Vernon Avenue and North Seventeenth Street and pass by the three shippers at the corner. The Maroon Arts Group claims two of those shippers (the third shipper is taken by the vegan Soulfood-themed pop-up Willowbeez Soulveg). One shipper is a performance space, and the other shipper is a gallery. The African-American themed arts space opened to a community block party in May.


Best Creative Idea for a Benefit


WCRS-FM officially relaunched at Comfest this year with their new frequency and branding. Two weeks later, the WCRS studio was home to the WCRS Reggae Radio Takeover, a ten-hour marathon broadcast of reggae music, which was a benefit for the community radio station. (Editor’s note: The author of this is a WCRS Show Producer, Studio Captain, and Social Media Contributor.)

-Bryan Curtiss


Columbus Rap Music of the Year from New Artist


Sarob's music sounds comfortably familiar in a manner that's never been done, it is consistent, while being somewhat stripped down a notch. Sarob's diction is clear and elicits a subdued insistence. Minimal Midwest flavor is prevalent with the tasteful production. In Sarob Transitions Phase 1 & 2, Sarob found the midspace between R&B and James Blake, while mentioning Lonnie Lynn aka Common as someone he respects. Sarob finds vulnerability and poignancy within subtlety without sounding weird or out the pocket. My compliment regarding this record can be described this way – rap music that is effective while understated.


Favorite Movies


Boots Riley and Spike Lee mildly sparred over Spike Lee's BlackKKKlansman a movie that depicts 70s FBI agent Ron Stallworth in a positive manner while he is fighting racism. In the meantime, Riley had just released his post Occupy Wall Street commentary about social class Sorry to Bother You.


Spike Lee's thinking: Why not try to win the battle of hearts and minds that the Hip Hop social revolution would have already set the track for -- even including people who became cops?


Riley's point is valid from a Cointelpro historical perspective. Spike Lee's movie is valid within a 2018 “wouldn't it helpful if the FBI stopped white racist terrorists” attitude. Both movies exude each icon’s style, commentary, and humor which made the Hip Hop social revolution of the late 80's and early 90's dynamic, intelligent and compelling. Spike Lee with his films. Boots Riley with his music.


Jonah Hill's movie Mid 90s depicted the broken homes, and the freedom of skateboarding with a Hip Hop soundtrack that showed the post-conscious era, and the practical application of Hip Hop's erosion of racial barriers. Mid 90's was not very political


I liked these films because they conveyed sentiments of 90s Hip Hop without feeling dated.


Best New Venues


The Columbus Anthenauem – complete with booking Sleep, Godspeed and the Breeders – gives you that DIY feel in a Palias Gamier setting. These shows were events. With their small scale dance parties, Two Truth's and the Oracle provided Hip Hop, disco, psych music, funk and soul.

– Wes Flexner


Best New Festival


One of the year's most inspiring new festivals that also served as an activist event was the Black Queer Intersectional Columbus' (BQIC) Community Pride-Back to our Roots Festival. It was a refreshing alternative to the city's huge Stonewall Pride festival and march that are now considered too bloated and corporate. The new Community Pride Festival was a positive reaction to the incident at 2017’s Pride march –  when a simple, silent, non-confrontive vigil to call attention to police brutality and the many murders of transgender people ended with the “Black Pride 4” violently attacked and arrested – after which there was a less than satisfying response from Stonewall.


The Community Pride Festival was the last in a series of BQIC events that happened throughout June. It was held at Mayme Moore Park on Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd. and included music and art by queer and trans people of color, food, children’s activities, community booths, and a presentation by Marsha P. Johnson, a champion of transgender youth and sex workers.


Let’s hope this becomes an annual community event! – Suzanne Patzer