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Buttigieg to speak at NAACP annual banquet

Members of the Greater Indianapolis Branch of the NAACP will be joined by presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg for their 50th Freedom Fund Banquet.

Buttigieg will serve as keynote speaker for the celebration, which will be Oct. 4 at the Indianapolis Marriott downtown. The Freedom Fund Banquet is the organization's largest annual fundraiser and networking event.

"The Greater Indianapolis NAACP empow

ers citizens to become active voices in their community and enact change," said Chrystal Ratcliffe, branch president. "We look forward to welcoming Mayor Buttigieg as we celebrate this significant milestone in our organization's history."

The Indianapolis NAACP continues to be a strong advocate for justice. Last year it was one of several organizations to call for reform of the Indianapolis Police Merit Board's disciplinary process following the fatal police shooting of Aaron Bailey, an unarmed motorist.

In recent months the NAACP has led efforts to expand the number of early voting sites, reduce rates of diabetes among African Americans, establish ethnic studies standards for Indiana schools and passage of a strong state hate crimes law.

Cordelia Lewis-Burks, longtime community leader and union organizer, said the Freedom Banquet will provide attendees with an opportunity to commemorate the NAACP's historic victories in Indianapolis and motivate them to achieve more.

Lewis-Burks, chair of the event, said the NAACP is addressing the realities of today's polarized political climate, which has divided many Americans along political, racial and economic lines.

"Those are three issues the NAACP has always been about, along with working together," she said. "We welcome anyone who feels strongly about activism and civil rights to join us as we look toward the future and continue to fight for change."

The Greater Indianapolis NAACP always welcomes new members and has several committees that organize around a variety of issues for people of all ages.

The local branch was formed by school teacher Mary Cable in 1912, one of the first African American teachers to work in the Indianapolis Schools System. It was established a few years after the national organization was founded by a multi-racial coalition of civil rights activists.

Over the decades the branch has lived up to its goal of fighting for equality and eliminating racial hatred and racial discrimination.

During the 1920s and 30s, NAACP leaders stood boldly against segregation in public schools, lynching and Ku Klux Klan dominance of Indiana state government.

At the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s, NAACP attorneys led efforts to end racial discrimination and segregation in local housing, state colleges and public accommodations such as parks, theaters, hotels and restaurants.

In 1993, the branch hosted the national NAACP convention. That event made headlines as the organization united under its new president, Benjamin Chavis, and presented the W.E.B. DuBois Medal to future South African President Nelson Mandela.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett will be on board as honorary chairman when the national spotlight shines again on the local NAACP during the Freedom Banquet in October.

He praised the city's oldest civil rights organization for ensuring greater political, educational, social and economic equality in the city.

"We cannot truly be an inclusive community until our city's successes reach every zip code in Indianapolis," Hogsett said. "Together, we must work tirelessly with community partners including the NAACP, to advance these efforts and increase access to postsecondary education, good paying jobs, and the hope of greater opportunity for all of our neighbors."

Buttigieg has been mayor of South Bend since 2012 and served in Afghanistan with the Navy Reserve. He ranks in the top five of most polls of candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Hosting a leading presidential candidate is the latest effort by the Indianapolis NAACP to stand at the forefront of addressing issues of concern to local African Americans and everyone committed to justice.

Organizers don't know if Buttigieg will address the controversial police shooting in June that left Eric Logan, a Black South Bend resident, dead and sparked a mass protest.

Ratcliffe said Buttigieg was invited before the incident and is expected to speak on a variety of topics from "his perspective as the mayor of a growing city" and foreign policy expert.

In a statement, Buttigieg acknowledged that "more than 100 years after the race riots that led to the founding of the NAACP, our progress as a nation continues to take place under the shadow of systemic racism and inequality."

In an interview with "The Forward," Steve Grossman, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Buttigieg would be wise to not rely solely on fundraising and offer sincere outreach to groups that represent minorities such as the NAACP.

"Money guarantees nothing," Grossman said. "What he needs to do is figure out how to build relationships with voters of color in this country... and he recognizes that."

Lewis-Burks said although the NAACP is looking forward to Buttigieg's visit, the organization does not endorse political candidates.

"This is not for an endorsement, but for the NAACP members and the citizens of Indianapolis to get to know him," Lewis-Burks said.

NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet

Tickets for the 50th Freedom Fund Banquet are $75, and will include a 5:30 p.m. reception followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. To purchase tickets and for information about sponsorships, visit indynaacp.org or call branch secretary Phyllis Carr at 317-925-5127.


Presidential candidates take the stage at National Urban League Annual Conference

Multiple Democratic candidates for president attended the National Urban League Annual Conference July 25 and July 26 to make their case to voters for why they should become the party's nominee for the 2020 election.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Tim Ryan and John Delaney spoke on July 25.

The next day, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg,

writer and filmmaker Ami Horowitz, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris spoke.

Each candidate had 10 minutes for opening remarks and then took questions for five minutes from Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League.

Biden, who served as vice president under Barack Obama, consistently polls the highest with African Americans. As has been the case throughout the early stages of the campaign, Biden went after President Donald Trump more than the other candidates.

"Today I believe we're in a battle for the soul of America," he said.

Biden criticized the president for refusing to condemn white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 and said he didn't imagine such a march being possible. As part of a plan to decrease the wealth gap between white and Black Americans, Biden said he would undo the Trump administration's tax cuts, eliminate some tax loopholes and provide free community college.

'Architect of mass incarceration'

Booker touted his experience as mayor of Newark from 2006 to 2013 and said he would be able to build relationships as president. Booker challenged those who worry about a Democrat's "electability" as they gear up for a fight with Trump, the likely Republican nominee, implying it's a disingenuous argument that discounts what African American voters want.

He warned that the Democratic nominee won't win if they can't "inspire, connect with and earn the trust of" African American voters.

Booker also said voters should be pushing candidates to explain what they did to advance civil rights before running for president.

"Don't tell us what you're going to do," he said. "Tell us what you've already done."

This came a day after Booker called Biden the architect of mass incarceration" at the NAACP convention in Detroit. That's been a common criticism of Biden, who helped write the 1994 crime bill that experts say was a catalyst for mass incarceration. "

Booker said as president he would "dismantle a system of mass incarceration," "increase access to capital" in communities that need it most and "massively increase affordable housing and deal with the challenges of gentrification."

Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, was asked about what she would do for criminal justice reform. Her suggestions included police body cameras, doing more DNA reviews and videotaping interrogations. Klobuchar said prisons should not see the same person twice, and she would make it a "major priority" for the Department of Justice to have more of a say in civil rights cases.

Ryan, who amused the crowd by walking out to I've Been Everywhere" by Johnny Cash, said the key to overcoming issues such as wealth inequality and winning back the White House for Democrats is racial unity. He referenced Bacon's Rebellion in 1676, when thousands of poor whites and Blacks rose up against Virginia Gov. William Berkeley.

Wealth disparity

"Here we are today, how many years later," Ryan said, "and we still have this huge concentration of wealth in the United States."

A multi-racial poor people's coalition and criticizing the top 1% sound like leftist talking points, but Ryan emphasized he doesn't want to think of this campaign as left versus right, preferring instead to frame it as finding ideas that are "new and better."

Delaney, a former businessman and representative from Maryland, said he's lived the American dream but realizes that it was unfair from the beginning, since it's much more likely for a white man to climb the socioeconomic ladder than it is for other races. He said that won't change until there are "transformative investments in the communities that are left behind." One of those transformations would be creating nonprofit banks that could invest in impoverished communities without the pressure of turning a profit.

Delaney made his appearance on the heels of a report in Axios that his team urged him to drop out of the race by mid-August. Delaney, who became the first Democrat to enter the race two years ago, has been polling between 0% and 1%.

All candidates committed to proposing and passing legislation within their first 100 days in office to restore elements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which has been weakened over the years. They also were critical of Russia for the country's influence in the 2016 election and accused Trump of not taking the threat seriously.

Indianapolis has become a popular destination for national politicians recently, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi headlining the Young Democrats of America's annual convention July 19. She was joined by South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination for president.

Buttigieg was part of a second presidential plenary July 26, which also featured other presidential candidates including Sen. Kamala Harris.

Day two

When the second group of presidential candidates spoke July 26, the topics ranged from marijuana legalization to foreign policy, and centered on the conference's main theme: "Getting 2 Equal: United Not Divided."

Buttigieg was the first candidate to take the stage. He covered a variety of issues, saying he wants to remove the Electoral College, combat gun crime, address climate change and reduce the incarceration rate. Throughout his speech, Buttigieg framed proposals not as a return to an ideal past but an embracing of a new future.

"I'm determined to do away with the failed status quo and master these changes before they master us," Buttigieg said. "There's going to be a temptation to go back to normal because this presidency is so chaotic and exhausting. Part of my message is that there's no going back to normal because normal didn't work."

Horowitz spoke next. With a mix of right-and left-wing beliefs, Horowitz added unique ideas to the event not echoed by other speakers. He suggested too many politicians measure the success of programs by dollars spent as opposed to progress made. Horowitz leveled his main criticism at the lack of reading and math in schools. As a self-described moderate, Horowitz also preached a message of not putting too much faith in either political party to solve the nation's problems.

"We become what we overcome," Horowitz said. "Don't wait for one party or the next to give you what is yours. Go out and take it."

Gillibrand, from New York, described a vision for what getting to equal means. She recapped her political history, telling the story of how she won a Republican district only her mother believed she could win. Gillibrand then went into policy proposals, such has legalizing marijuana, ensuring the marketplace is fair for Black businesses and using tax dollars to benefit communities hurt by the war on drugs. Gillibrand also put an emphasis on restoring America's moral leadership on the world stage through reforming immigration and taking a stand on hateful rhetoric.

"I will take on this battle as if it was my own," Gillibrand said. "It is my responsibility as a white woman standing here today to take on your battles as if they were my own."

Harris, from California, was the final candidate to speak. Harris opened her presentation talking about the importance of the National Urban League and then moved into proposals to empower Black communities around the country. One of these proposals is a $60 billion investment to STEM education at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), which Harris announced for the first time at the event. Harris also took time to address criticisms regarding her history as a prosecutor, noting how the job allowed her to create a criminal reentry program and develop an approach that wasn't "tough on crime" or "soft on crime" but "smart on crime."

"Why do we only have to be on the outside?" Harris said. "Shouldn't we also have a role on the inside where the decisions are being made?"

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick. Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @Benjamin-Lashar.


The passing of a husband, father, social activist — a warrior for social justice

Over 400 people gathered July 30 at Martin University to pay their respects and offer "janazah" (the Islamic funeral prayers) to longtime community activist, educator and Muslim leader, Muhammad Siddeeq, who passed away July 27 after a spirited 10-year battle with myeloma.

Siddeeq, born Clark Moore to James and Hilda Moore, began his journey in this world on June 21, 1937 in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. As the youngest of three boys, Jimmy Wayne and Ronald, his older brothers, often described him as intelligent and determined beyond his years, even in childhood.

Mourners from all walks of life joined with Siddeeq's wife, Fareedah, his children and their families and a large number of Siddeeq's extended family to honor his many contributions to Indianapolis, and to the other cities he lived before Indianapolis, including New York City; Buffalo, New York; Washington, D.C.; Tallahassee, Florida; and his hometown of Pittsburgh. Muhammad Siddeeq was the father of 22 children, 82 grandchildren and 39 great-grandchildren.

Attendees included Congressman Andre Carson, former State Sen. Billie Breaux, religious leaders of many faiths, noted Atlanta developer Noel Khalil and many other local community leaders and clergy. Several students of Imam W. D. Mohammed shared memories and expressed their heartfelt condolences. Siddeeq — an energetic and ardent Imam — was also an avid student and longtime supporter of Imam W. D. Mohammed's leadership

Minister Akbar Muhammad represented Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. All three men (Siddeeq, Farrakhan and Akbar) were members of the original Nation of Islam. Farrakhan sent words expressing a mutual love and admiration that he and

Siddeeq held for each other. He also expressed that only health concerns kept him from being personally in attendance.

Siddeeq had a special love for spiritual knowledge and growth, a love that was instilled in him by his parents. He was raised in a Christian household under the guidance of his stepfather, Nelson Morgan, and his mother, Hilda, who attended church regularly. Inspired by what he learned about G-d at home and in church, his thirst for spiritual understanding grew until he began to research world religions in depth. During this journey of spiritual discovery, he met and later married his loving wife of 54 years, Fareedah, formerly known as Delores Edwina Boykin. Together, guided by G-d, they took the next step of their spiritual journey and joined the Nation of Islam under the leadership of the Honorable Elijah Mohammed.

In the Nation of Islam (NOI), Siddeeq, known as Clark X, was assigned by the late Honorable Elijah Mohammed as director of Muhammad University of Islam in Harlem. He served in this leadership role for 10 years. He, referred to as Director Clark at the time, was responsible for the education of around 1,500 African American students in what was the largest "Black" owned school in North America.

During the "Second Resurrection," he and his wife made an "about face" along with numerous other believers when Imam Wallace D. Mohammed accepted the leadership role of the Nation of Islam around 1975. Imam Wallace D. Mohammed guided the believers to a more complete understanding of Al-Islam according to the teachings of the Qur'an and the life example of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Siddeeq and his family wholeheartedly embraced Al-Islam according to the Qur'an and the Sunnah, as taught by Imam Wallace D. Mohammed, and throughout his entire life remained a dedicated supporter of Imam Mohammed's leadership and an avid student of the Imam's spiritual direction.

In 1976, Siddeeq moved his family to Tallahassee, where they lived for five years. There, he worked at local universities in the city, including Florida A&M and Florida State University as well as in the broader community. He was known among his students for inspiring positive changes in their lives, as well as instilling in them a love for G-d and education. Siddeeq's love for his community, fueled by his passion for truth, led him to take on the case of Hattie Mae Kenon, and he worked to change the Florida laws so that innocent people wouldn't lose their houses to unethical land speculators without a proper level of due process.

During his time in Tallahassee, Imam Wallace D. Mohammad gave him the name Siddeeq, which means brother, friend and truthful. Thereafter, Clark Moore became known as Muhammad Siddeeq and Delores Moore as Fareedah Siddeeq. It was at this point between the years 1977 and 1978 that the Siddeeq family name was born.

In 1981, Imam Wallace D. Mohammed asked Siddeeq to go to Indianapolis to help develop the education in the community there, and this is where Siddeeq lived ever since. When Siddeeq moved to Indianapolis, his dedication to his community was manifested even further when he became notably involved with the case of Michael Taylor, whose life was taken while in the custody of the Indianapolis Police Department. He detailed the inaccuracies of this case in his book, "Black Lives Didn't Matter When Indianapolis Police Murdered Michael Taylor & Lied! Where are you Daddy?"

Siddeeq, guided by the leadership of Imam Wallace D. Mohammed, contributed to the betterment of his people and society in many ways. His love for Almighty G-d, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), Imam Wallace D. Mohammed, his community, and his family has left an indelible mark on the lives of all who knew him. His spirit resides in his family and the beloved community.


Local pastor donates sword to Smithsonian

When Wendell Chinn graduated from Prairie View A&M, a historically Black college and university (HBCU), he didn't realize he made history — twice. Chinn was in the first four-year

naval program at any HBCU, and he was the only student to earn his sword, a requirement for the graduation uniform, through academic achievement.

In June, Chinn donated the sword to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Chinn, a native of Texas, entered Prairie View in 1968. At the time, no other predominately Black college had a naval program. When he entered, he knew he would need the sword on graduation day. The problem was his parents couldn't afford it. Chinn knew he could earn the sword for free if he graduated with honors. So, that's what he did.

In June, Chinn, who is now living in Indianapolis and serves as pastor of New Life Apostolic Church of Seymour, was the guest of honor at a ceremony where he bestowed ownership of the sword to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. The museum plans to feature the sword in a public exhibit to immortalize Chinn's accomplishment. "

The Smithsonian first contacted Chinn a year and half ago to inquire about the sword. The inquiry surprised Chinn because he did not know the sword was significant. After the Smithsonian confirmed the sword was genuine, Chinn agreed to donate it. Then the museum planned a ceremony for Chinn, his family and his former classmates where Chinn would transfer ownership of the sword.

"I was astonished that the sword had a historical relevancy to it," Chinn said. I didn't realize that what I did was historically important."

During the ceremony on June 15, Chinn and Ruth Simmons, the current president of Prairie View, spoke about the college, what Chinn accomplished and what an honor it is for the sword to be featured in the museum. Then, former Navy men and women from Prairie View formed a line, with Simmons at the end. Chinn passed the sword to the first person in line who passed it to the next person and so on. At the end of the line, Simmons handed the sword to the museum's assistant curator, symbolizing the change of ownership.

"I have three younger brothers who are very significant in and of themselves in their individual professions," Chinn said. "To see them with my wife at the table looking up at their big brother, that will be etched in my memory."

Chinn's brothers and wife were not his only family members proud of this accomplishment. Chinn's son, Wendell Chinn Jr. was overjoyed when he first heard the news. Not only did he appreciate how happy the Smithsonian made his father, but Wendell Jr. believes his father's story could inspire people who see the exhibit.

"I hope, especially for people of color, young Black men and boys see that and know they can do anything in life if they put their mind to it," Wendell Jr. said.

Currently Smithsonian employees are still determining where, when and how to display the sword. Chinn wants the sword be in an exhibit about Prairie View, which he thinks is the most likely possibility. When the museum does display the sword, Chinn plans on taking a trip to see it alongside his family.

"For me that's the culmination of everything, to actually see it," Chinn said. The ceremony itself was elegant, but to actually walk through the museum and see it will be the culmination with my family. It will probably bring tears to my eyes. I'm an emotional pastor."

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


New initiative recruits more Black youth for Boy Scouts

Two years ago, there were three majority Black Boy Scouts troops with just 23 members in Marion County. Today, more than 300 Black youth are members of 12 majority Black troops. That growth is a result of an initiative of Crossroads of America Council in Central Indiana, the regional body that governs Marion County troops, to attract more Black boys — and girls.

"Knowing how difficult it is to recruit older youth into the program, those are leaps and bounds," Bryant Marion, Crossroad's inclusiveness director, said.

Crossroads has partnered with local leaders and organizations to accomplish this goal. It works with organizations such as Indiana Black Expo, Tindley Renaissance Elementary School and 100 Black Men of Indianapolis. To reach new people, Crossroads has manned booths at both Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration and Black Expo's career fair for three years. Tindley Renaissance Elementary School launched a school program two years ago encouraging students to join the Scouts. In order to give Scouts role models, 100 Black Men of Indianapolis started providing volunteer mentors.

"You've got to do it community by community and find that key individual in the community who can be an advocate for scouting," Joe Wiltrout, CEO and scout executive of Crossroads of America, said.

Another part of the initiative is Crossroads' Inclusiveness Committee, a group that meets monthly to assess and initiate plans to recruit diverse scouts and create a quality experience for them. For example, the committee partners with middle schools to recruit scouts.

"We are constantly evolving the plan we put into place to grow our initiative," Marion said.

So far, the initiative has only recruited boys, but it's expanding to girls as well. Marion is recruiting girls for Crossroad's first all-Black female troop, which he expects to begin meeting within three months. While the female scouts will be in separate troops from the boys, they will still be able to meet in the same locations and will follow the same oath and law.

"Scouting is a great opportunity for everybody, and why would we limit ourselves to only allowing young men to have an opportunity?" Marion said. "The values scouting brings, the Scout Oath and the Scout Law, translate to not just males. Those values translate to females as well. ... If we want a great society we need males and females to be great leaders."

Nathan Phillips, scoutmaster of Troop 123, which is sponsored by Recorder Media Group, believes the initiative will help Black youth because scouting connects them with mentors who teach virtues such as kindness, loyalty and bravery. Phillips believes such ideals kept him out of trouble when he was a Boy Scout, so he volunteers to teach the same lessons to his troop. The time commitment is tough since Phillips works full time and has a family, but his impact on the Scouts makes it worthwhile.

"When you see boys come along with a smile on their face, and you know you made a difference, and you see them step up and start advancing in rank, you know you did the right thing," Phillips said.

While scouting can offer opportunities such as scholarships, Marion asserts the lessons found in the Scout Oath and Law are the biggest reason to reach out to more African American boys and girls. He said a commitment to the oath and law creates responsible adolescents who grow into honorable adults.

"If we can get more African American youth into scouting, we will see and explosion of productivity," Marion said. "If we really want to see our neighborhood, that we keep seeing in the news week after week because of crime changed, I dare say let's get some scouting troops started in those communities where some service projects can be put together."

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

The Scout Oath

Scouts obey the following oath. "On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight."

The Scout Law

The Scout Law highlights what characteristics make a good scout. "A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent."

Partner with the Boy Scouts

Looking to donate time, money or skills to Boy Scouts, enroll a boy or girl in scouting or possibly start your own troop? Call 317-813-7125, email bmarion@crossroadsbsa.org or visit crossroadsbsa.org.