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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The 39th Indiana Black Expo – observations and thoughts

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Despite the Great Recession, Black unemployment hovering around 18 percent, and sponsorships and support down 20 percent, reaction to the 39th Indiana Black Expo has been mostly positive.

Expo’s value message, including top notch entertainment at the basic Convention Center price, resonated with many Expo-goers who loved Saturday’s old skool concerts.

Even though the number of exhibits was down, Expo officials organized Exhibit Hall space creatively, making it easier to navigate.

The recession’s impact on families is one reason traffic at the Black and Minority Health Fair seemed up, with a huge turnout for the free Preview Night.

Despite some 3,000 at Teen Bling in Conseco Fieldhouse, there still were hundreds of young people walking the streets downtown. Many, though, had praise for police.

Officers I observed downtown Saturday night were the professionals we want them to be. Traffic seemed to be moving better, with less “cruising” than in recent years.

The heavy police presence uncovered trouble, including a 14-year-old with a gun, an 18-year-old wounded by gunfire and an armed gang leader captured wearing a bulletproof vest.

Yet arrests were low, just 41 this year, compared to 33 last year and 76 in 2007. Curfew detainments were up slightly at 96, compared with 90 last year and 111 in 2007. But it’s not good that curfew detentions nearly triple arrests.

For the record, the number of arrests during Black Expo is just a fraction of the arrests during the 500 race. This year, over three days of the 500, some 204 were busted; compared to Expo’s 41.

As one who’s been at 35 Expo’s and scores of other Convention Center events, I noticed many cutbacks in the facility’s once world-class service. The inside temperature at times was uncomfortable. Clean up, especially on Expo Saturday, was erratic. I heard numerous complaints of unclean restrooms and overflowing trash containers, something I’ve never seen at Expo before.

The Capitol Improvement Board’s fiscal crisis is starting to slowly erode the Convention Center’s quality, which could have disastrous effects on Indianapolis’ convention business in coming months.

Instead of participating in Black Expo, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan went to Boston instead to help Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, the only elected African-American governor, propose an expansion of Massachusetts’ charter school caps.

Let me see if I understand. Secretary Duncan ignored Expo to go to Massachusetts to endorse Governor Patrick’s plan, which includes a charter cap, while he’s criticized Indiana lawmakers for a charter cap they never proposed.

In his place, Secretary Duncan sent a Black former Colorado State Senate President, Peter Groff, to speak in Duncan’s place at Expo’s Education Conference.

In an exclusive interview on WTLC-AM1310’s “Afternoons with Amos,” Groff admitted that Secretary Duncan and his department needs to do a better job talking education issues, including charter schools, with Black legislators.

But Groff didn’t back away from stressing Secretary Duncan’s and President Barack Obama’s strong support for charter schools.

After listening to Groff, it’s apparent that the Obama Administration doesn’t fully appreciate the African-American community concerns about the impact of unchecked charter school growth, that doesn’t take into account the fiscal damage to urban public school districts.

Maybe it was a coincidence, since I was co-emcee of Expo’s annual Corporate Luncheon, but the event, which annually runs way behind schedule, actually finished on time for the first time in years.

The on-time finish was one luncheon highlight. So were Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx’s hilarious acceptance speech and the moving remarks of singer Charlie Wilson who talked about his fight against prostate cancer and his efforts to stay clean and sober.

But the talk of the luncheon was the huge ovation former mayor, now senior Eli Lilly executive, Bart Peterson received from the 3,000 jammed into the Sagamore Ballroom. Peterson presented Foxx’s award and his ovation eclipsed the polite applause received by current Mayor Greg Ballard.

To his credit, Ballard was highly visible during numerous Expo events, including touring the Exhibit Hall, attending the White Party ball and walking downtown streets Saturday night.

Several Indiana connections are why Theresa Peterson, General Electric global research center director of External Affairs and Technology Programs was an Expo Luncheon honoree. Peterson’s husband hails from Gary and she has done lobbying in Washington with super lawyer Lacy Johnson, an Expo board member.

In an exclusive interview on our radio program, Peterson impressed; a visible testimony to General Electric’s strong commitment to employ African-Americans in senior management positions.

Gabrielle Union’s not only a beautiful, talented actress, but her community commitment is exemplary. In an interview, she told me that being a rape victim helped her to assist other victims in Los Angeles and elsewhere. Union was also passionate about her work with the Susan G. Komen Foundation encouraging more Black women to be tested for breast cancer.

In his first comments to Indianapolis media on why his Starbuck’s closed at Fall Creek and College, Earvin “Magic” Johnson blamed the “recession;” even though the recession hadn’t hit the Mapleton Fall Creek neighborhood when the store closed last year.

Despite the setback, Johnson says he’s still bullish on Indianapolis and would continue to look for investment opportunities here.

Five veteran media personalities were honored at Expo’s Media Reception. WYXB/105.7FM’s Kelly Vaughn; the senior African-American television reporter of WRTV/Channel 6’s Derrick Thomas; Indianapolis Woman Magazine Editor Shari Finnell; Indianapolis Association of Black Journalists stalwart Wanda Skaggs and Mark Nichols; the senior African-American journalist at the Indianapolis Star.

Nichols’ honor is long, long overdue as he’s been at the newspaper over 30 years.

Unfortunately, I’ve learned that four Black apprentice press operators and three African-Americans in building services, along with two Black journalists were laid off recently by the Indianapolis Star Media Group. Nine Blacks out of 37 laid off, or 24.3 percent

Indianapolis Star Media Group Publisher Michael Kane wouldn’t confirm or deny my information, citing Gannett’s corporate policy. But the high percentage of Blacks laid off is distressing.

See ‘ya next week, when this space goes back to normal with looks at the CIB mess and the Wishard Hospital referendum.

Amos Brown’s opinions are not necessarily those of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper. You can contact him at (317) 221-0915.

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