2013 is here, finally!
After the excitement of a Super Bowl and a hyperactive election, 2013 promises no big game, no huge event, no elections. So, what’s next for Indianapolis and our nearly 300,000 strong African-American community?
I have a radio listener who regularly emails while I’m on the air asking “Where are our leaders?” When he first started, his emails seemed like a distraction. Like what mosquitoes do to you when you’re outside in the summer. But the last few months, with his question “Where are our leaders?” my email pen pal has become a Cassandra Chorus, warning me of a basic truth.
I wrote last year and I’ll repeat it as this New Year begins – Indianapolis is suffering from a severe leadership crisis – overall and within our African-American community.
It’s a shame when our city leaders get more excited over adding bicycle lanes, or buying fuel efficient vehicles – while doing nothing to figure out how to bring jobs to those unemployed and underemployed in our city/county.
This column has talked about the growing divide between well-off and hurting African-American households in Indianapolis. Here’s more detail to buttress my case.
Between 2000 and 2011, the number of Black households in the city/county grew by 18.3 percent or 14,460. The number of Black Indy households earning over $75,000 yearly rose 27.2 percent or 2,679.
But the number of Black Indy households earning under $25,000 yearly also rose by a similar percentage amount – 28.7 percent. But the actual number of Black households earning less than $25,000 increased by more than three times as many – 9,421 – than the number of households earning over $75,000.
Two-thirds (65.2 percent) of Black household growth in Indianapolis in the past decade has been those with annual earnings of less than 25 grand.
Our community’s income growth is at opposite ends of the earnings continuum. And it’s the lack of meaningful jobs that’s driving that economic chasm.
Just before the Christmas holiday, the latest statewide unemployment figures showed that while the unemployment rate is slowly dropping in the country overall and in Indiana, unemployment in Indianapolis/Marion County increased from 8 percent in October to 8.5 percent in November. The number of jobless actually rose by 1,943 and the number working fell by 5,408.
Two weeks ago, Gov. Mitch Daniels breathlessly announced “thousands” of new jobs coming; but which won’t materialize for several years.
Of course, I’m still waiting for those Litebox jobs promised by Mayor Greg Ballard and the nincompoops at Develop Indy and the state’s employment makers at the Indiana Economic Development Corp. (IEDC).
By the way, are those at Develop Indy and IEDC who put the Litebox deal together still on the payroll? If so, why do they have their jobs after such job development fiascos?
Given the growing economic divide, what is our city’s African-American leadership doing to reduce and/or dissipate this growing economic divide? What are they doing to move our Black community forward – instead of marking time and treading water?
In the days when naked racism kept African-Americans who wanted to work from obtaining meaningful employment, courageous Black leaders got up off their butts and took to the streets and the boardrooms demanding jobs and justice for our community.
Many reading this remember picket lines set up by Revs. Mozel Sanders and Andrew Brown. Their activism confronted the city’s power structure demanding our community’s fair share of the pie.
Bill Crawford, the late Glenn Howard and other activists in the ‘60s and ‘70s employed the Brown/Sanders strategy, while the NAACP under Dr. A.D. Pinckney, John Moss and others used the weapon of the law and the courts to obtain jobs and justice for Blacks here.
Those Black leaders of that day, and the Black leaders before them during the days of the visible Ku Klux Klan and the evils of de jure segregation and Jim Crow, understood the importance of operation unity.
They may have had tactical and doctrinal differences, but Black leaders of the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s and later in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s understood the importance of coming together, despite differences, to forge and achieve a unified plan of action.
Sadly, distressingly, that doesn’t exist today.
Our African-American leaders are fractured and divided – mistrusting and distrustful. Think I’m making too much of this?
We know there’s a small, and I mean small, cadre of African-American “leaders” who have the only Black access to Indianapolis’ increasingly invisible and inaccessible mayor.
OK, so what has that access of these “favored” Blacks to the Mayor gotten our community? More bike lanes in Black neighborhoods? A grant or two to Black faith-based organizations? A few Blacks with jobs in city government? An unknown amount of city businesses with a few “privileged” Black-owned businesses?
The condition of Blacks in Indianapolis is eroding and those Blacks with the access to the mayor have nothing to show our community. What are they whispering in the mayor’s ear? Sweet nothings or solid demands for action and progress to improve our community?
Maybe I’m too much of an idealist to believe that what occurred in years past can occur in the 21st century. That a broad spectrum of leadership of Indianapolis’ Black community can still get together and fashion an agenda of common goals and ideals. And then implement strategies to achieve them.
I strongly believe it’s time to publicly call out African-American leadership in Indianapolis! Remember when musicians came together for those group recordings for charity? “We Are the World” and “Do You Know It’s Christmas?” Those musical superstars buried their egos at the door for a common effort.
It’s time for Indianapolis’ African-American leaders – religious, political, civic, business, Greek, even media – to check our egos and personal agendas at the door and gather together to find common ground on how we reverse the slide and decline – economic and otherwise – in our Black community.
That’s one of my major focuses in 2013. Expect to read (and hear) more.
See ‘ya next week.
You can email comments to Amos Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.