By Oseye Boyd
Last Friday I had the opportunity to witness a significant event for the Black community of Indianapolis. Many of the city’s residents took time out of their busy schedules and came to Galilee Missionary Baptist Church to give their input on priority areas of focus for local government.
Let’s be clear right here and now. Demanding politicians actually put forth policies to improve the lives of African Americans in Indianapolis, or anywhere for that matter, doesn’t absolve African Americans from resolving issues in our community. It doesn’t negate individual responsibility. However, these things aren’t mutually exclusive. African Americans pay taxes and vote like everyone else, and we have the right to demand accountability from the people who represent us. We also have the right to demand politicians represent us the way they said they would when they courted our vote. I think too many times we don’t ask for what’s rightfully ours because we’re afraid of being seen as asking for a handout and the backlash that may ensue. This way of thinking is part of the reason we feel we’ve been ignored for too long. We don’t want to shine a light on unkept political promises because the light will shine back on us about the ills in our neighborhoods. I think those issues are used as a way to shut us down and keep us quiet so we don’t ask, demand, for what we’re due.
Crime, violence and drug use are problems in our community as in many other communities. We don’t own those problems, and we need to quit acting as if we do. And, we need to acknowledge how we got here. We didn’t get here because the majority of African Americans are lawless heathens. No. We’re here because of policies and laws put in place to create a disparity. Systemic racism co-signed by political leaders led to the crisis we face. So, we need to ask those who claim to represent us how they plan to work with us to change the present and the future.
That’s what made me so proud of 50 to 75 people who gave up their Friday night to discuss what should be included on a Black agenda for Indianapolis. It wasn’t some top-down approach handed down from “Black leaders,” nor did politicians who think they know what’s better for us than we do tell us what should be on the agenda. It was regular, hard-working folk who love their city who came out to share their concerns. Do I wish more came out? Of course, I do. I won’t sulk about it, though. I’m sure many wanted to but the timing didn’t work for them. More events will happen in the future to give more people an opportunity to participate.
The top five concerns (actually six as two tied) are: food insecurity, systemic racism, affordable housing, community violence and police reform, economic issues (i.e. economic inclusion, economic development and entrepreneur development) and education. It also was acknowledged during the discussion that racism is the underlying cause for all of these issues.
As I stated earlier this isn’t a one-and-done event. At least I hope not. I think the momentum is here for the Black community of this city to create real movement. If you don’t agree with the priorities then come out to the next event to share your thoughts. While we talk about the Black community as a whole we’re certainly not a monolith.
Let’s keep this thing going and demand that those we elect to serve us actually do.
This article originally appeared in The Indianapolis Recorder.