Community members and leaders gathered at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church on Oct. 18 to begin building the framework of what a Black agenda should look like in Indianapolis.
The event — hosted by the African American Coalition of Indianapolis (AACI), Interdenominational Minister’s Alliance and the Recorder — was part of a succession of similar events leading up to the municipal election Nov. 5, where the office of mayor and the city’s 25 council seats are up for grabs.
“We’ve been pushing this boulder up a hill without progress for years,” Adrianne Slash, president of The Exchange at the Indianapolis Urban League, told volunteers before the town hall.
Indianapolis has come a long way in a short period of time. Following a mayoral debate in late August, Democratic incumbent Joe Hogsett and Republican state Sen. Jim Merritt were asked if they will have a Black agenda. Merritt said yes, and Hogsett said no. Serious momentum around a Black agenda took off from there.
At a debate Oct. 21 — hosted by AACI, Radio One and the Recorder — candidates took part in what is believed to be the first debate in the city’s history focused on Black issues.
The topics addressed at the debate came from the Black agenda town hall, where groups of people ranked their top priorities and voted at the end to establish a top five, which were, from fifth to first: food insecurity and systemic racism (tied), affordable housing, community violence and police reform, economics and education.
“It’s past due in terms of actually having people within all of our communities being able to express what exactly the agenda is for moving forward and repairing our communities,” said Sibeko Jywanza, director of food justice at Flanner House.
Jywanza also said it’s important to make sure everyone from the Black community — including those with different abilities and those who are part of the LGBTQ community — is involved in creating a Black agenda. There was an argument about inclusion that spilled out into the hallway near the end of the event.
AACI leadership has made it clear establishing a Black agenda goes beyond the mayoral election, even though that’s been the natural focus with the election nearing.
Sydney Rucker, part of The Exchange at the Indianapolis Urban League, said a Black agenda should be applicable to whoever wins this mayoral election and any in the future.
“Not only are people invested in their communities, but they are knowledgeable and well read in specific topics around policy, engagement, infrastructure development,” she said of those who attended the town hall.
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.