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A walk for suicide awareness: 'THERE'S NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF'

Walking with his black backpack and sunglasses on a hot Saturday at White River State Park, Cedric Wilson had three bead necklaces draped around his neck. One was blue, for supporting suicide prevention. One was purple, denoting the loss of a friend or relative. The other was white, a note to everyone that Wilson lost a child to suicide.

Wilson's son, Spenser, was 23 years old when he took his life on April 28. He walked with his son's best friend, Christian Geiger, at the Out of

the Darkness Indianapolis Walk on Sept. 14.

"I'm not the same person," Wilson, 58, said as he walked alongside hundreds of others who have been impacted by suicide. "We're not the same family that we were April 27."

Mental health wasn't on Wilson's radar before it ripped away his only son. But looking back, he said, he doesn't remember any warning signs. Spenser seemed happy, was close to his family and friends. He even helped other people through their mental health issues.

In hindsight, maybe those were the warning signs. The day before Spenser took his life, Wilson said they were at a family birthday party, and Spenser was making plans to go to Orlando with his friends for a wedding.

"Spenser put everyone before himself," said Geiger, 25, "and he really made sure that everyone else was OK and kind of brushed off his own problems. He kept most of it to himself."

This is part of Wilson's life now. He said he feels a responsibility to advocate for those who are going through what his son experienced. Wilson said he also wants to help change the way people think of and talk about mental health.

"Don't judge and say things because I think that's what holds people back from seeking help. They're being judged for something unfairly when it's not their fault," he said. "... It's not what you think it is. It's not as bad it's not bad at all."

The Out of the Darkness Walk brought together scores of people similar to Wilson, some of whom surely had experienced the same thing. For plenty of others, it was a chance to show their support for people who have lost loved ones to suicide, even if they don't have anyone in their life who's experiencing a mental health crisis — at least not that they know of. The stigma Wilson mentioned and that the walk attempted to weaken can be especially strong for Black Americans, who face more pressure to find inner strength and often view religion as a cure to mental health issues.

Fred Gorin, 72, was at his first walk after he lost a family member to suicide six or seven years ago. He said it was important for his family to accept "God's will" and learn how to move forward.

"No one wants to lose a family member at all, ever," Gorin said, "but it makes you stronger because it pulls you together at the same time, too."

Gorin said mental health is something he's more aware of now and can see how it impacts "everyone" on some level. He said it's important for family members to "stay vigilant," even if they don't suspect anything is wrong.

Shaunna Norris is a mental health therapist with Community Health Network and said she lost an uncle to suicide when she was 4 or 5 years old. Norris, 41, works with children and adults and said African Americans tend to not seek mental health services when they should.

Norris said people should think of mental health checkups the same way they think about a yearly physical: It's something you do regularly, and you should take it seriously.

"There's nothing to be ashamed of," Norris said as she walked. "It doesn't mean that you're crazy if you're going to counseling services. It actually means that you're quite healthy."

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.


Exhibit brings Madam C.J. Walker — struggles and fortune — back to life

A new exhibit from the Indiana Historical Society will take visitors more than 100 years into the past to visit Madam C.J. Walker's factory, where her company produced hair care products that eventually made Walker the first American woman to become a self-made millionaire.

The exhibit — "You are There 1915: Madam C.J. Walker, Empowering Women" — opens Sept. 21 at the Eugene and Marilyn

Glick Indiana History Center, 450 W. Ohio St. Actors will portray Walker, along with her daughter Lelia (later known as A'Lelia), attorney Freeman Ransom, artist John Wesley Hardrick and company employees Violet Reynolds and Candace Pinkston. W

Admission to the exhibit is free on Sept. 21 for Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day. Download tickets at indianahistory.org.

Jo Bennett, an actor who will portray Walker, her daughter Lelia and a foreman, has played in many roles in the various exhibits put on by the Indiana Historical Society, but now she's part of an all-Black cast that gets to portray the life of a local icon.

"It means, for me, portraying Black excellence," Bennett said. "It means showcasing empowered women at this time and showing some progress in what would be later known as the civil rights movement."

Bennett said this is an area of history that doesn't get a lot of attention because the tendency is to go straight from emancipation to the heart of the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She hopes people who visit get a better understanding of who was there in between.

"There were so many people and allies alike that were working together to better things for the lives of African Americans in our country," she said, "and this is part of that journey, Madam Walker raising up her own people and providing opportunities that just were not there."

Most of the items and artifacts in the exhibit are from the Indiana Historical Society's collections, but displayed in the center of the room is a Ford Model T — one of the cars Walker owned and drove — that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway donated, and at least one photograph is from the Indianapolis Recorder.

The essence of the "You are There" series is that visitors are stepping into a photograph. For this exhibit, it's Walker's office that comes to life. Everything from the floor pattern to a large safe come from photographs and other pieces of information the research team uncovered.

There are also some pieces of Walker's life before she became a businesswoman. Visitors will get a chance to simulate using a wash board and then flexing their hand muscles to wring the garments dry, since Walker also worked as a laundress.

Danny Gonzales, exhibits researcher at the Indiana Historical Society, had two other researchers on his team. They had two photographs of Walker's office to go by, although Gonzales noted it's unlikely her office was as clean as it appears in those photos, so they added a little clutter to make it seem less staged.

They also had a photo of a small package of Wonderful Hair Grower, which helped heal the scalp and grow hair longer, but a packaging sticker covered some of the label. The researchers took the time to look for advertisements with wording that matched the package so they could fill in the blank and display replicas.

"If it's wrong, it throws off the experience," Gonzales said. "It's tedious. It's a lot of work. Sometimes it's frustrating because you can't get the answers that you want, but we feel like it's important work."

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

MADAM C.J. WALKER EXHIBIT

"You are There 1915: Madam C.J. Walker, Empowering Women" is an Indiana Historical Society exhibit that takes visitors into the life of America's first female self-made millionaire.

When: Exhibit opens Sept. 21

Where: Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, 450 W. Ohio St.

Tickets: $9 for adults, $8 for seniors, $5 for children ages 5-17. Admission is free Sept. 21.


IMPD officer charged with battery, obstruction of justice; chief recommending termination

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer Robert Lawson faces charges including battery and obstruction of justice following a criminal investigation of an incident where he punched a 17-year-old outside of Shortridge High School. Lawson is suspended without pay, and IMPD Chief Bryan Roach is recommending his termination to the merit board.

Along with battery and obstruction of justice, Lawson also faces charges of perjury,

giving a false report and official misconduct. At least two videos showing the incident spread on social media. IMPD was responding to a fight at the school.

In documents prepared and signed by Lawson on Aug. 29, the date of the incident, Lawson said he struck the 17-year-old with an open palm and handcuffed him without using more force.

"These statements are believed to be false and contrary to video evidence which appears to show Officer Lawson striking the juvenile with a closed fist and continuing to use force including a knee strike to the juvenile's abdomen or chest area," the Marion County Prosecutor's Office said in a press release.

In a statement, Roach said IMPD holds itself to a "high standard" and will continue to review the incident.

"The women and men who serve our city remain focused on building trust with our neighbors and working together with the community to make Indianapolis a safer place for every resident," Roach said.

Indianapolis Public Schools issued a statement from Superinten dent Aleesia Johnson and the school board that said they are "supportive" of Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry.

"We will continue to monitor this situation as it is adjudicated," the statement read. "We will also continue to work with everyone in our community to make sure that all of our children are provided a safe and secure learning environment."

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.


Recorder wins big

The Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper won several awards in the 53rd Annual Hoosier State Press Association and Foundation Better Newspaper contest. After 124 years, the Recorder continues to proudly serve the Black community of Indianapolis. The Recorder, the fourth-oldest Black-owned paper in the country, continues to produce journalism that matters to the community today and beyond.

Awards are as follows:

Tyler Fenwick, first place,

Best Sports News or Feature Coverage

Tyler Fenwick, Ben Lashar,

Oseye Boyd, first place, Best In-Depth Feature or Feature Package

Tyler Fenwick, Ben Lashar, first place, Best Multimedia Story

Oseye Boyd, first place, Best Editorial Writer

Tyler Fenwick, Ben Lashar,

Oseye Boyd, third place, Best News Coverage With No Deadline Pressure


Julian Center debuts new texting and online referral services

The Julian Center and Domestic Violence Network (DVN) announced new texting and online referral services for teens and young adults experiencing dating violence, sexual violence and stalking.

Teens and young adults between 13 and 24 years old can text 463-201-2792 — or visit projectavery.net — to get connected with a trained advocate, who can help by setting up an appointment or referring the person to other resources. Anyone else who knows someone in a potentially dangerous situation can also use these resources, and an advocate will advise on how to help.

These are not emergency services. If you are in an emergency, you should call 911.

"We talk a lot about meeting the folks

that we serve where they are, and this is one way we can do that," said Catherine O'Connor, president and CEO of The Julian Center. "This is the way people are more comfortable communicating, and we want to make sure we're meeting them."

The texting line and online referral are part of Project Avery, a program funded in 2017 by a $741,662 grant awarded to The Julian Center from the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.

Offering people the option to simply text a number or visit a website makes it more convenient to get help, but O'Connor said it also offers privacy.

"The nature of sexual and domestic violence is the notion of power and control over the other person involved in the relationship," she said.

Abusers often try to isolate victims so the victims feel as if they don't have anyone they can go to for help. O'Connor added that even if a victim has someone they trust, it can be intimidating to have that conversation.

For those who know someone in a potentially dangerous situation, O'Connor said the most important thing is to believe victims, who often say that is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to getting help.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

SIGNS OF DATING VIOLENCE

A list of signs for dating violence is at projectavery.net. These are just some of those signs. Visit the website for the full list.

Verbal violence — harassing you; threatening to harm you, themselves, people close to you or even pets.

Emotional violence — making you feel bad about yourself; isolating you from family and friends.

Physical violence — kicking, hitting, slapping, etc.; injuring you where it won't be visible to others.

Digital violence — using technology to monitor or bully you; demanding access to digital accounts.

Sexual violence — touching you without permission; sabotaging contraception and STD protection.

Post-separation violence — not accepting the end of a relationship; showing up places they know you'll be.


Youth are both optimistic and pessimistic about race relations

Recently, Saul Garcia, a 16-year-old student at Renaissance School in the Metropolitan School District of Warren Township, approached a basketball court, only for a white man who lived nearby to walk up to Garcia, call him an immigrant despite not knowing Garcia and demanded he leave.

"He told me, 'I don't want immigrants to be in my yard,' and he pulled out a gun on me," Garcia said.

Garcia ended the situation by walking away. While he was able to stay safe, the encounter made Garcia feel as if race relations in the country are moving in the wrong direction.

Young people are not shel-

tered from the current state of race relations. In 2019 the term "young people" often refers to millennials and Gen Zers. There is no unanimous agreement of the age range of these generations, but the Pew Research Center defines millennials as those born between 1981 and 1996 and Gen Zers as those born between 1997 and 2012. Members of these generations are often involved in political discussions, and, like Garcia, experience tensions in their everyday lives.

Millennial and Gen Z opinions on race relations are as diverse as the people in the generations. Trinity Edwards, a 17-year-old student at Renaissance School, is pessimistic on the current state of race relations. She feels like society too often views African Americans just by their race and not as individuals, and the situation isn't getting better, she said.

"We don't really have a voice, if you ask me," Edwards said. "Nobody gets to hear from our perspective. It's always statistics, like he's a Black boy, so if he's walking down the street there's trouble."

These opinions are representative of African Americans across all ages. According to Pew, 7 in 10 African Americans believe race relations are currently bad, and half say it's unlikely Black people will ever have equal rights with white people. Pew did not have numbers specifically for millennials and Gen Zers.

Bunmi Akintomide, the 28-year-old founder of Indy Black Millennials, is more optimistic. He said over the past 10 years businesses both within and outside Indianapolis have been more willing to admit there's opportunity gaps for minority hires. In 2017 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the unemployment rate for African Americans was 7.5% while the overall rate was 4.4%, and the rate for white people was 3.8%. This has caused companies such as Eli Lilly and Co. to enact diversity initiatives that emphasize hiring minorities. Akintomide sees this as evidence of positive change happening in the corporate world.

"There is a lot to work to do, but I feel like we are moving in the right direction," Akintomide said.

DayJohn Williams, a 16-year-old member of the VOICES youth program said current events have a big influence on how young people perceive race relations. He said the Charlottesville riots in 2017, in which opposing political protesters violently clashed leading to the death of one woman, showed him how much America needs to improve race relations.

"Right there, it was visible: racism," Williams said. "People were fighting. Whites were arguing with Blacks."

Toby Miller, director of the Race and Cultural Relations Leadership Network, said stories about conflicts between police officers and African Americans can influence how young people see race relations. He pointed to the recent response to an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer punching an African American high schooler as an example.

"It becomes racially charged when the community perceives a white officer physically manhandling and using excessive force against a Black teen," Miller said. "Did the officer do it because there was implicit bias working? We can't say that right now. The fact that the community sees it through a racially charged lens tells a story."

The way millennials and Gen Zers learn about these current events is most often the internet. According to Digital News Report, 69% of people under 35 use their phone as their main source for news. Adrianne Slash, the 35-year-old president of The Exchange at the Indianapolis Urban League, believes technology can help young people better discuss race relations because they can learn more about the subject and have the tools to question established narratives.

"We used to only be able to use history books and get the version of history state governments agree on," Slash said. "But through the internet a person can look up what year the first slave was brought to America, and you can get full stories around it that would be two to three sentences inside a history book."

However, Miller warned the internet could also hurt discussions about race relations because it can create ideological echo chambers and spread hateful and misleading messages.

"It's not even fun anymore," Edwards said about social media.

Despite these weaknesses of social media, Slash believes the internet will remain an important tool for young people to discuss race relations.

"They have taken all the pages of the history books that the baby boomers wrote, and they're applying them to modern day movements," Slash said. "They are using not only what they learned from older generations to fuel their movement, but they are also digital natives who can use every piece of technology, every innovative software to fuel their movement and to reach beyond their neighborhood, to reach beyond their city, to reach beyond their states."

Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.

"We don't really have a voice, if you ask me," Edwards said. "Nobody gets to hear from our perspective. It's always statistics, like he's a Black boy, so if he's walking down the street there's trouble."