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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Great job by Classic staff and volunteers; Williams…not so much so

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Organizing an event as large as Circle City Classic isn’t an easy feat, particularly since there are so many aspects of the week’s festivities that individually require teams to execute their mission.

However, despite the challenges, this year’s Classic did pull through…only because of the hard work of longtime staff members and volunteers.

Having dedicated people who have been involved with the organization for several years is what brought Circle City Classic 2009 to fruition. For example, Ruth Woods has been a part of the Indianapolis Black Alumni Council for years. It was her team’s hard work that made the annual college fair a success; volunteers Steven Jones, Steve Brown and Trina Gibson did a great job of organizing the parade; and promoter Geno Shelton and Classic’s executive committee effectively handled the Cabaret. In addition, Classic’s small, but powerful tenured staff worked incredibly hard on all aspects of Circle City Classic. Their commitment and perseverance should be commended.

Undoubtedly, without the hard work of the countless volunteers and long-term staff, it would have been very tough for Classic this year. While attendance was down at most of the major events, things would have been even worse had select individuals not stepped up to the plate and put forth such tremendous efforts.

Our community is fortunate to have people who care enough about the organization to give of their time and services so others can benefit. So often people can lose sight of the basic premise of why organizations are established; it’s wonderful to see that Classic’s true message of sportsmanship, scholarships, and promoting education was extended by its remarkable staff and a slew of volunteers.

While this year’s Classic did survive, it didn’t do so without criticism from people, including those closely tied to the organization.

Most of the criticism I heard from the community was directly related to Classic’s Executive Director Marc Williams. As a matter of fact, I’ve even privately criticized him for a few things relative to the Indianapolis Recorder. Among the critiques that I heard were that Williams “uses people and then discards them,” “doesn’t know what he’s doing” and “he is egotistical.” I also heard from key people that there were decisions that Williams made that were wrong and didn’t necessarily benefit Circle City Classic – the organization; but rather benefited Williams, – the man, who works for the organization.

An example of this is something that I personally encountered with Williams. On more than one occasion, Williams called me upset that the Recorder wasn’t providing him personally with enough coverage or that he wasn’t satisfied with the placement of the coverage on the front page of the paper. I repeatedly informed Williams that we are giving Classic – the organization extensive front page coverage and he, nor anyone else outside Recorder leadership dictates what is published in the paper or how it’s placed.

The last straw for me was when Williams’ PR representative sent me an e-mail stating that because Williams is new and “has been instrumental in bringing new elements this year, it would be great to ensure that his photo is used…”

As I stated in a reply e-mail to his representative, I’ve never received such a self-centered request from the head of any organization. I also asked the question: “Is Classic about the kids and the community or Marc Williams?”

Williams needs to check his ego at the door, as he has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way; from laymen in the community, to the state’s Black movers and shakers, to high-ranking white executives who control sponsorship dollars. The calls have been numerous from people who are dissatisfied with Williams. If Classic loses its sponsors, volunteers, or staff, the organization will have an even harder time next year. Classic’s executive committee is faced with a tremendous dilemma: keep Williams and groom him into the leader he needs to be, or get rid of him and find a more suitable replacement.

When Williams joined Classic’s staff in June, he was incredibly energetic and hit the ground running. He also seemed genuinely happy to work for Classic and his passion for marketing was obvious. However, where I think Williams began to go wrong is when he began to “get full of himself” and sort of went off on his own tangent. Almost immediately, Williams exhibited a sense of entitlement. It’s as if he expected everyone to be overzealous with the fact that he was Classic’s new leader and that he seemed to know a lot of celebrities. Williams has also talked to several people in a condescending way…and we all know that talking down to someone is never effective. Such actions are incredibly disrespectful and certainly won’t foster positive partnerships between Classic and other organizations.

Classic is a respectable, longstanding organization that has positively benefited the local community as well as Historically Black Colleges and Universities for 26 years. If Williams is staying around, it’s imperative that he works on his interpersonal skills. He’s also going to have to eat an entire humble pie as well as slow down and listen to what others are saying, rather than thinking he has all of the answers.

In a city like Indianapolis, you have to earn your respect, as it’s not easily given. Williams has a lot of work to do to repair many broken bridges.

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