Marshawn Wolley

Marshawn Wolley

It took going to a National Urban League conference in Fort Lauderdale and talking to another young professional in Seattle to appreciate the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration. 

But the real joy has been experiencing the event through the perspective of my 6-year old-son. 

I was at a young professionals event in Fort Lauderdale and the question of where I was from came up. When I said Indianapolis, the first thing that came up was Summer Celebration and wishing that they had something like that in their city. Another fellow young professional from Portland chimed in that they wished they had something like that in their city as well. This chance luncheon, years ago now, has inspired a desire to take full advantage of Summer Celebration — mostly because the vast majority of cities do not have anything like it.

More important, IBE is our community’s inheritance. It not only belongs to us — it is also what we will leave behind to the next generation of Black people in this city. I’ve taken my son regularly since he was 2 years old. It’s where he has learned about Black artists. It’s where he has learned about African art. It’s where he has learned how to introduce himself to everyone, including elected officials in the exhibit halls — because it is important to me that he can carry himself well.  

This year, when he heard the radio advertisements for Summer Celebration he asked to go to see boxing. Imagine my joy in hearing my 6-year-old son understand that not only did he need to be at Summer Celebration, but he had already selected something he wanted to see. 

I am leveraging IBE to teach my son the importance of philanthropy while getting him used to doing the kind of networking that will propel him in life. My son and I are donors to IBE. He attended the sponsors reception last week and worked the room. 

Yes, my Summer Celebration experience in high school was different. My experience in my 20s wasn’t great — and to be honest, for a while I did not attend. But I owe it to my son to make sure IBE is strong and that Summer Celebration remains the important celebration of our culture and community that it is. 

My son and I will be at Summer Celebration now and for years to come because it is our tradition. You should consider making Summer Celebration part of your family tradition too. 

What I am hearing ...

Now that Proposal 258 passed, it is actually time that we have the conversation I was hoping we would’ve had on food insecurity. Remember when the Marsh stores closed in Indianapolis just over two years ago? According to the Indianapolis Star, there were four store closings and four Marsh stores that went under new ownership, including two that were purchased by a subsidiary of Kroger and an additional two more stores purchased by Generative Growth II, LLC.

So the question is: What is going on with these stores? To be fair, a store closing is potentially a signal that the economics of a supermarket may not be supportable in a given area. Fine. But what are they doing with these stores? Now that we are done fighting about the immediate but short-term 258 proposal, let’s start asking the deeper questions about food apartheid. Kroger and Generative Growth II, LLC should provide an update to the community on what they are doing to address the current food apartheid problem our community is facing. They are in possession of the old Marsh stores — what are they going to do with the buildings? 

Perhaps they will have a completely rational response — but I think it’s past time they communicate something to our community about their intentions. Beyond Kroger’s support of the mayor’s mobile food market, what else are they doing to address this issue? Walmart should be engaged as well. 

Sen. Jim Merritt is everywhere and has some key Black Republican staffers who have him visiting churches and attending community events. Mayor Joe Hogsett, not to be outdone, continues his aggressive community meeting schedule and has been visiting churches. 

Engagement is important, but what community leaders are looking for is a detailed articulation of what either the candidate plans to do or has already done specifically for the Black community. There is a real expectation that candidates clearly state how they intend to address key issues facing the Black community, from community violence, police reform, economic inclusion, food insecurity, education across the county, affordable housing and race relations more generally. Where is their Black agenda? I’ll be looking for that. 

Finally, we’ve had two Black women who have had significant altercations with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department within the last few days. While I am awaiting the facts, I am reminded that we don’t win in altercations with IMPD on the streets. But these are also opportunities for IMPD to review use of force and get community input on our shared understanding on what level of force is appropriate. 

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

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