Usually I keep separate what I say on our Afternoons with Amos program and what I write each week in my Indianapolis Recorder newspaper column. But in the past several weeks, I’ve been concerned about the lack of Leadership in Indianapolis. Both a lack of overall leadership and a lack of leadership in the Indianapolis African-American community. In this week’s Recorder and on air Thursday, I spoke out about the leadership problem in our community and what can be done. Below is what I wrote and spoke. You can also click and hear my comments and initial community reaction. I really want to hear your ideas and feedback. You can comment below. Or text me at 85620 Keyword Amos or send me an e-mail through PraiseIndy.com. Click the Link to Listen to My Comment and Reaction. Runs 46 Minutes ©2013 WTLC/Radio One.
My 2013 Challenge To Indianapolis’ African-American Leadership
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 e-mails while I’m on the air asking “Where are our leaders?” When he started, his e-mails seemed like a distraction. Like what mosquitoes do to you when you’re outside during the summer. But the last few months, with his question “Where are our leaders?” my e-mail 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 butress my case.
Between 2000 and 2011, the number of Black households in the city/county grew by 18.3% or 14,460. The number of Black Indy households earning over $75,000 yearly rose 27.2% or 2,679.
But the number of Black Indy households earning under $25,000 yearly also rose by a similar percentage amount – 28.7%. 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%) of Black household growth in Indianapolis in the past decade has been those with annual earnings of less than twenty-five 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 8.0% in October to 8.5% 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 Corporation (IEDC).
And as we’ve seen from award winning exposes by WTHR/Channel 13 and the recent series in the Indianapolis Star, many of those jobs promised by the state are as ephemeral as those Litebox jobs.
(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 60’s and 70’s 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 Klu Klux Klan and the evils of dejure segregation and Jim Crow, understood the importance of operation unity.
They may have had tactical and doctrinal differences, but Black leaders of the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and later in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s 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 its time to publicly call out African-American leadership in Indianapolis! From those who are leaders, those of believing they’re leaders, those who think they’re leaders. Even those the white power structure has “christened” as our leaders.
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!