As mayoral candidates spent the months leading up to the Nov. 5 election talking about what their administrations would do for Black people in Indianapolis, one of the most common themes that came up at town halls and forums was accountability.
There were numerous events that led to this point.
Democrat Joe Hogsett, who was elected to his second term, and Republican challenger Jim Merritt detailed in a response and forum at Central Library what they would do to address so-called deserts in Indianapolis, including economic, public safety and education.
Merritt tied that in with his Black agenda, an idea that started gaining momentum after the first mayoral debate in late August.
There was also a Black agenda debate and Black agenda town hall. Most of the organizing around establishing a Black agenda came from organizations under the umbrella of the African American Coalition of Indianapolis (AACI).
Hogsett mostly talked about what his administration has done since he took office in 2016 and did not articulate a Black agenda, a topic on which he gave mixed messages since it came up in August.
His administration faced criticism from Merritt and Black leaders for not meeting the city’s goal for contracts awarded to women and minority business enterprises. Hogsett also said he would advocate for renters’ rights and increase the number of housing choice vouchers, among other things.
All of these issues need to be assessed independently going forward, AACI chairman Willis Bright said in an interview before the election.
“At an appropriate time after a mayor is elected, we would want to have a conversation with that mayor and his staff people that are in charge of those respective areas about how they would address those specific concerns,” he said.
Pastor David Greene, president of Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, said there will be more forums in the future — similar to the ones Hogsett and Merritt participated in at the library — to address deserts in the African American community.
Greene also said there could be a “state of the African American community” address in 2020, delivered by some combination of AACI organizations.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Greene said, adding that this is the most energy he’s seen around holding a mayor accountable to addressing Black issues. “We just can’t allow the momentum to stop.”
Marshawn Wolley, policy director for AACI, declined an interview for this story but said multiple times at different events that establishing and implementing a Black agenda should be about more than this particular election.
“Black Indianapolis is dying,” he told those who attended a Black agenda town hall at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in October. “… We are not living. We are not thriving to where we want to be.”
AACI plans to hold similar town halls in other parts of the city in the future. There will also be a Facebook Live town hall at 6 p.m. Nov. 29 on the AACI and Indy Black Chamber Facebook pages.
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.
Right to left: Adrianne Slash, president of The Exchange at Indianapolis Urban League, alongside her father, former deputy mayor Joe Slash, addressed volunteers at a Black agenda town hall in October. (Photo/Tyler Fenwick)