Indianapolis has experienced unspeakable violence for too many years. While we bear witness to the mourning of each victim in our community—our outrage has not compelled us to speak out collectively on this matter until now. After 4 years of record homicides, last weekend Indianapolis experienced the most violent 24-hour period in the past 5 years with six people murdered in Indianapolis and one in Beech Grove, three of them teenagers. Our sorrow and anger at the senselessness of the violence knows no limits.
Many of our organizations have done the work of advocating for social change and against systemic problems while delivering life-changing social services. We arrive at this moment because the challenge has outstripped the current capacity of our social system infrastructure. For too long our city has failed to address root causes of violence including trauma, mental health, addiction, lack of quality education options and access to opportunity which has degraded our social fabric. We also believe that a root cause of the violence in this city involves a deterioration in how we engage with each other and a sense of hopelessness with large and significant segments of the community. We are two cities.
The mayor and the chief of police must be held accountable for public safety. As citizens, we do not fight crime. Any vision for the future of this city must include addressing the consequences of under-investment in social infrastructure which has resulted in the persistence and even hardening of barriers to social mobility, the normalization of death, and the absence of public policy that speaks directly to our community.
But we will not rely on government and the criminal justice system to solve problems that are rooted in larger societal issues that can’t be addressed through arrests or prosecution. There is no excuse for taking another person’s life.
We are holding ourselves responsible for advocating for the good work done to change the trajectory of lives by many organizations both known and unheralded. We recognize the need to support both our legacy organizations as well as emerging grassroots organizations who are often closest to the pain. We also recognize that previous interventions have come to our communities and stalled for a variety of reasons creating issues of trust. We believe that the support of minority businesses and entrepreneurship is an underutilized strategy and we will seek to support their advancement moving forward. We also recognize that our youth need safe places to be young that are fun and enriching.
We will no longer keep our private concerns about elected officials to ourselves but speak directly to them about our expectations and aspirations on both sides of the political aisle. The municipal elections cycle must be more than about potholes; they must also be about our social infrastructure and we will demand that all candidates speak to this problem. We will call on our philanthropic system to seriously address systemic issues dealing with poverty, systems of oppression, and racism. We will hold our business community responsible for being good corporate citizens through the conduct of their business, specifically hiring practices. We will support our youth.
This is an opportunity for every organization, family, individual, church to have a conversation about its responsibility to do something to engage in actions we know give hope, provide jobs, and support those who are grieving,
Finally, we will work to establish better ways of engaging and supporting one another—a new social compact that resets expectations for engagement with each other as well as others.
Too many people are dying. We will not walk away from this challenge.
Baptist Minister’s Alliance
Indiana Black Expo
Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc., Alpha Alpha Omega Indianapolis Alumni Chapter