This past weekend was not a high point for our community.
I wanted to write about progress on a Black agenda for Black Indianapolis this week but can’t. I have to write about what happened this past weekend.
At a time when we are three times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 and twice as likely to die from it — Black folks gathered in large numbers throughout the city.
White folks were doing it too, but they aren’t dying like we are dying.
Plus — I’m talking to us right now.
Some want to blame this just on young folks, but some of our elders and “old enough to know betters” were out and about too. Not to mention, our young people had to leave a house where likely their loved one could be now at risk.
You don’t have to have symptoms to be contagious. And that so many of us went out, gathered and then went home to loved ones is sad, infuriating and heartbreaking.
How many people will be infected with a disease we have no cure for because folks wanted to hang out?
Sitting in cars is one thing.
What happened at the “gatherings” across the city, which included fights, a police chase and one gathering may be linked to the shooting death of a teenage girl — it was not a high moment.
I get it.
I understand on a certain level the need to just get out. Area high school seniors lost a good part of their last year in high school.
College students, who enjoyed beautiful freedom away from home, are now home now in what likely feels like an oppressive never–ending curfew.
Humans are social creatures so not seeking connection is abnormal. But these are different times.
I’m not paying anyone’s bills but my 7-year–old son, Alexander Wolley’s. But the facts are this is the most dangerous time for a pandemic.
As we slowly begin the process of reopening our community, a relaxation of social distancing measures, including wearing masks and keep at least 6 feet away from others must not devolve into a loss of complete discipline.
The deadly virus is still ravaging the city and last count 34% of the 363 COVID-19 deaths have been Black people. The Marion County Health Department knows of just under 1,200 positive cases of Black people.
That’s just those of us who got tested. We only now have testing available for the general public.
Churches will be wrestling with the same dilemma of social distancing soon too.
While a lot of churches pride themselves on hospitality that involves hugs and talking to your neighboring sitting by you on the pew—church leaders must adapt to a new normal as well.
We need church leaders to consider public health as they make the difficult decision to either remain closed or open.
We have got to figure out how to keep ourselves alive and healthy during this pandemic. It will require personal responsibility.
We have to be responsible for ourselves and the potential impact that we might have on others. We don’t have a choice.
Failure to do so might result in a costly sickness or potentially even death.
What is worse, is that someone’s irresponsible behavior removes options for people who are being responsible.
Participating in gatherings that do not maintain a level of social distancing is reckless and irresponsible.
The Black community has to take responsibility for itself.
What I am hearing…
A heart-warming effort by neighbors in the near north area involves a card program to senior citizens and others who feel lonely.
The effort is a partnership between Flanner House, Marian University Writing Center and the Near Northwest Faith Partners.
Neighbors are writing cards that are included in food deliveries to near northwest area residents. The cards carry positive messages such as “Stay Strong, “We are thinking about you,” or “Try to smile.” But one message, “I’m Lonely too” reminds of the stark reality of loneliness many people are experiencing at this time.
If you want to support this effort anybody can drop a hand-written card from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Bradley Center, 877 Udell St.
Finally, yours truly hopped on a call for the media with the Small Business Administration regional leadership. We learned that while Indiana has received less paycheck protection program (PPP) dollars than other Midwestern states, we stack up favorable when population is taken into consideration.
In the first round, there were 35,990 loans approved by the SBA in Indiana totaling approximately $7.5 billion in paycheck protection funding. In round two, 31,757 loans had been approved totaling just over $2 billion.
A federal FOIA request seeking a list of Black Indiana businesses that had received funding did not produce the requested information. However, I and several others raised this issue in a media call with regional SBA leadership. They acknowledged efforts to try to engage the Black community but were not able to produce numbers documenting their efforts. Apparently, they are tracking the data but did not have it to share at this time.
See you next week.
Marshawn Wolley is a lecturer, commentator, business owner and civic entrepreneur. Contact him at [email protected]