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Monday, April 12, 2021

I’m Just Sayin’: Woody Myers is one to watch

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dr. Woody Myers—a Black man – did it.

He developed a campaign commercial that connected with the Black community.

If you missed Myers’ commercial you can find it on social media rather easily. In it, he lays out the challenges he’s faced in health care as a Harvard-trained physician. 

He talks about being called a racial slur while trying to provide medical care to a drunk patient.

He points out how he was faced with the challenge of delivering babies without significant training for Latinx women, but white women received the highest level of medical attention.

He connected because he talked about the challenges of being a Black man in America.

Buoyed by his training at prestigious institutions, he still engaged in the struggle of valuing Black life and felt the sting of the lack of valuing Black life in our society.

Myers has a way to go and time is starting to tick for him to become the household name he will need to be in order to win the governor’s race this fall.

A Black man running for a statewide office in Indiana is an uphill battle, but he is taking it on. His campaign is showing life.

I’m looking forward to seeing how he capitalizes on this commercial as well as his next moves as the Myers campaign seeks to make history.

2020 has been a year. 

A Republican governor said “Black Lives Matter” and “Black Livelihoods Matter.”

We’ve been waiting for months to hear from the governor about his response to the civil unrest that not only happened here but the other protests that happened around the state.

By some calculations at least 26 Indiana cities participated in some type of protest following the George Floyd murder.

We don’t talk about Black Republicans enough (with the notable exception of Curtis Hill) but I’ve heard that behind the scenes many Black Republicans engaged the governor in a team effort to personalize a lot of the grievances and indignities Black people face daily.

For some, the governor’s proposal may feel underwhelming: a new position focused on equity, inclusion and opportunity, data collection, a promise to increase diversity in government including the state police, body cameras and use of force training.

After 400 years of slavery, Jim Crow and a host of failed opportunities to address pertinent issues facing the Black community, and the fact that Black legislators laid out additional common sense policy proposals like banning chokeholds, civil oversight commissions for police and police insurance that were omitted I can see how some might see the governor’s speech as underwhelming.

I tend to think the governor’s speech showed a bit of political courage, maybe a political calculation and a nod toward history.

Let’s face it. The governor riled his own base quite a bit. If you don’t believe me check out the comments on news sites that ran his speech. You never should read the comments. I did. And I wish I hadn’t.

The governor may also be making the calculation that he can reach for history because he feels a level of comfort in the upcoming gubernatorial race. I know we shouldn’t discount sincere beliefs and evolutions in people, but during an election cycle it’s hard not to do so.

By all accounts Holcomb isn’t some rabid racist or one of those colorblind conservatives, but he hasn’t been on our side either.

He put forth some proposals and used some language that is bold for Republicans, but unfortunately commonplace for everyone else. He gets credit for saying “Black Lives Matter” only because even some Democratic elected officials in blue Marion County have struggled with saying those words—but the reality is he needs to show us something and much more than what he suggested in his speech.

He’s made a good start.

I’ll be looking for him to show leadership on these issues, which will include listening and acting on the ideas of Black legislators—who just so happen to understand what Black people want better than non-Black legislators.

We’ll know he is serious this next legislative session where our issues become his priorities and he uses his political capital to actually do something meaningful for Black people including pushing the legislature on issues.

And I repeat—listening to Black legislators will be key. If they are missing in the policy discussions our community won’t trust the reforms—plus its just plain stupid and insulting to believe white legislators know what’s best for the Black community.  

Its past time that Black issues not be a political negotiation. Our pain is real.

What I’m hearing…

My column on trying to figure out what to do about Indiana Avenue resonated. I learned that Martindale-Brightwood was one of the early quality of life programs before a lot of money was associated with those programs.

The Reclaim Indiana Avenue Coalition is leading the effort to advocate for Indiana Avenue. They also have a plan to reimagine the avenue focused on economic development and opportunity for the area. The hearing examiner meeting for the Buckingham project is at 10 a.m. on Sept. 10  via zoom. More about that meeting later.

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

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