Marshawn Wolley

Marshawn Wolley

Black Indianapolis experienced a rocky start to 2020— from a quick flurry of 10 homicides only 12 days into 2020, to a fire temporarily shutting down Kountry Kitchen, to tensions amongst community leaders following an ill-advised meeting with the governor — Will peace be still?

IMPD has now released both the criminal homicide data as well as non-fatal shooting data from 2019. The vast majority of violence is occurring in our community. It is the sober, cruel, alarming, heart-breaking data that should inform not only our community but policymakers.

In the last four years there have been 616 criminal homicides in Indianapolis and 451 were Black people. We lost 387 Black males and 64 Black woman in the last four years, compared to 90 white males and 38 white woman, and 28 Latinx males and 5 Latinx females. Two Asian males and one Asian woman were killed within the same time period. One person had an unknown race.

Within the last four years we lost over 100 Black males twice inside of a year.

Last year, 15 young people under the age of 18 were killed in Indianapolis — at least 11 of them were Black, and six were Black and a year or less old. We’ve lost 36 young people under the age of 18 in Indianapolis.

Defenseless Black babies were murdered in Indianapolis.

While criminal homicides were down from last year many observers have noted the nonfatal shootings were alarming.

They were.

Nonfatal shooting victim numbers have increased yearly since 2016 moving from 468, to 473 in 2017, to 492 in 2018. 

In 2019, of the 524 nonfatal shooting victims, 411 were Black people. There were 132 Black males between the ages of 20 and 29 who were victims of nonfatal shootings. There were 109 white victims and one Asian victim of a nonfatal shooting.

These numbers do not include the trauma people experienced by witnessing the shootings, or even the concern about a family member or others believing they might become the next target.

This isn’t just a Black problem — not only because violence might impact a tourist or a business location decision. It is an Indianapolis problem due to the culpability of city leaders over the years whose policy indifference or bad policies undermined the prosperity, stability and cohesion of our community.

But if we are going to assign blame, we’ve also got to look at the reality that of the known assailants — they mostly look like our Black victims. There’s also too many known assailants that are unknown to IMPD.

We must save us.

For starters, we cannot protect people who are killing us.

In any given year cases go unsolved because IMPD does not have the information it needs to solve crimes. And while there has been some frustration with IMPD and the prosecutor’s office regarding the processing of cases, the city has a witness protection program that works.

But more important, the prosecutor’s office has significantly lowered the cases that are dismissed from 22 in 2015 to only 2 in 2019, increased jury verdicts for murder cases by 40% and boasts an overall jury trial conviction rate of 70%.  

But beyond addressing violent crimes after the fact, a Black agenda must focus on economic issues like housing, food insecurity, livable wages and a respect for life. (While the Black male numbers are staggering I remain concerned about Black women dying in homicides; we also lose too many mothers and babies to maternal and infant mortality.)

AACI continues the work of facilitating discussions on a Black agenda.

In the last several months three Black businesses have been impacted by fire or violence — one of them twice.

Mississippi Belle caught fire several months ago.

Kountry Kitchen had a fire, which temporarily impacted its restaurant operation.

A&I Variety Meats and Produce was recently vandalized yet again and it is just about to be a year in business.

Weak minds deal in conspiracies so I won’t do that here. I will just say this rash of incidents should compel us to focus on supporting our Black owned businesses even more — especially those that support us.

It has been heartening to see people express support for Kountry Kitchen and their employees in particular. I know the last time the community rallied to A&I as well. Let’s do that again.

We continue to be all we got.   

Finally, a meeting was held at Cleo’s Bodega on the Black agenda last week. The meeting was packed, cathartic in many ways — but it also resolved a couple of issues.

One — we do need to establish our own social contract/code of conduct. We must create and enforce it. This column will adhere to the code of endorsement, reconciliation and restoration.  

Second — and in a show of mature leadership there will not be a protest at Barnes United Methodist Church. The group will instead participate in a gathering to continue the discussion on a Black agenda for the community. This too is on code.

See you next week …

Marshawn Wolley is a lecturer, commentator, business owner and civic entrepreneur. Contact him at marshawnwolley@gmail.com.

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