Marshawn Wolley

Marshawn Wolley

We’re traumatized as a community. We are hurt and lashing out in ways that undermine our strategic ability to move the community forward collectively. To get where we need to be this must stop.  

Over the last several days, there has been a fight between Indianapolis TenPoint Coalition leader, Rev. Charles Harrison and community activists Shelley Covington and community activist and independent candidate Dee Ross. 

The altercation stems from a press conference when Harrison announced program outcomes for a yearlong effort in a very specific and targeted area of the far eastside. 

The news was good—no homicides in the target area of 38th to 42nd streets between Mitthoeffer and Post roads for individuals between the ages of 12-24.

At the press conference, a community member who lived in the area expressed her appreciation for the work TenPoint did do in the targeted area. 

There also was a sign that suggested that there had been zero homicides on the much larger far east side featured at the press conference.   

The last time I checked with IMPD, the city was down 10 homicides year to date — but by publication, sadly those numbers may change. 

But the other fact was even during the day of the press conference the east side was up at least five homicides year to date — and again those numbers sadly may change by the time this is published.

At issue is that the numbers aren’t just numbers — they are brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, cousins, friends, people who were and are still loved.

Hearts are still broken.

After four years of record homicides, with most of them occurring in our community, we’ve been traumatized. 

And we may be taking it out on each other, because the social contract that said be a good citizen and, at a minimum, you could expect safety, self-determination and the opportunity to shape your community has failed. 

We don’t feel safe even with statistics showing that overall crime has gone down for the last three years. At the same time, we want people out here doing something — even when we don’t fully know what we can do to stop the violence ourselves — there’s ideas but very little science behind them. 

Community leaders called for mediation between Harrison, Covington and Ross.

Covington and Ross accepted the opportunity to meet and discuss their differences with Harrison. Harrison did not agree to meet inside of the specified terms, and he should be held accountable for that within our community.

Accountability doesn’t mean dragging up all the times he did something our community found questionable or did not like. 

Accountability looks like reminding Harrison about the times when he has had meetings with people like me, and they were interrupted because multiple people from the community came to the church because they knew he could help. 

It’s reminding Harrison of those times when OGs have protected him and the church from harm out of respect for the work he does do in the community.

Accountability also looks like reminding Harrison that people have legitimate questions about the efficacy of the work of TenPoint — especially since it seems that most of the organizations funding doesn’t come from private dollars but rather tax dollars.

I’ve walked with TenPoint and I am trained in program evaluation. I know something is happening, but it would take time and a serious academic study to identify what exactly is occurring. 

And while there may ultimately be some benefit to the work of TenPoint, there are legitimate questions as to the claims of the organization and the community’s understanding of the organizations model and impact.

It appears Harrison claims credit for collective efforts — the pastor needs to be more articulate in describing the model and its theory of change and its target population moving forward.  

Also, it must be noted that Harrison has been overexposed by the local media. Anyone who gets overexposed in the media will make mistakes.   

Harrison has been working in the community for over 20 years. There should be more respect for him as a pastor. 

We collectively need to improve our discipline in gathering all of the facts and acting strategically.

We are quick to suggest Black organizations do “nothing” without the benefit of having read an annual report and don’t even question the efficacy of the dozens of white organizations that use dubious methods to promote their impact. 

In our zeal to defend the community, we also cannot step past community voices that might complicate our view of a situation — community voices are sometimes softer and we have to calibrate the sensitivity of our ears. 

But it takes two.

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

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