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Saturday, January 16, 2021

When Indy’s youth made church the place to be on a Friday night

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Last Friday night, literally hundreds of teens and some young adults, descended on a North Michigan Road address.

They’d heard from parents, other adults, friends and peers about an event there. They’d gotten word on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. So they descended on the location, crowding the facility to capacity.

Mild chaos was outside. Parents dropping kids off not knowing the facility was packed. Kids lined up around the place, some literally trying to sneak in via the building’s other exits and entrances.

Was this a concert by the hottest new rap star? Was it the opening of a new under 21 nightspot? Was it a party at someone’s house that was about to go out of control?

No. It was at a church. That’s right – a church!

Last Friday night between 600 to 900 young African-Americans clamored to get into an Indianapolis church!

The venerable Light of the World Church sponsored a youth lock-in, where young people could gather, fellowship and worship in a safe environment.

But the church’s workers and volunteers were overwhelmed by the response.

Light of the World had sponsored something similar last March, attracting over 300 youth. But this was nearly three times as many.

Once the church filled to capacity, young people who couldn’t get in were milling around the church’s parking lots, waiting for parents or others to pick them up.

IMPD was called as a precaution. Ten Point Coalition workers were responding to rumors some gang members might act a fool.

The reason you’re reading about this is because there were NO incidents – NO fights – NO mess.

Light of the World’s Senior Pastor Dr. David Hampton told me inside was a great event, a little too crowded perhaps, but a service where some 50 young people gave themselves to Christ.

Pastor Hampton admitted that his staff and volunteers were overwhelmed; unprepared for the huge response.

What happened at Light of the World is indicative of what young people have told me since the mid-1990s.  That though Indianapolis is America’s 11th largest city, there’s a paucity of positive activities for young people to engage in outside their homes on weekend evenings.

Other than movies, what is there? There’s just two malls in the city to hang at, Circle Centre and Castleton. Youth aren’t hanging anymore at Lafayette or Washington Squares.

There are few bowling alleys, fewer skating rinks.  Youth organizations with facilities don’t sponsor Friday or Saturday evening activities.

Ever since former Mayor Steve Goldsmith, as a matter of public policy Indianapolis has actively harassed, discouraged and stamped out entertainment events for teens and youth.

There are few places where young people can congregate, meet and hang out with friends and learn positive social skills and interactions.

Private promoters have tried to fill this vacuum operating unlicensed events until police learn about them and bust them.

This vacuum of youth activities has caused some house parties to get inundated with youth, with tragic consequences if the homeowners don’t have adequate security and controls. Especially if word gets out through social media.

That’s when tragedies happen like the wounding of a 13-year-old at an overcrowded house birthday party that got out of hand.

Indy has some 121,162 youth between 10 and 19 years old; of which 40,413 are African-American.  Over 98 percent of them are good, law abiding young people.

You can’t tell me that a city our size can’t create responsible events at our churches, youth centers and even schools for them?

When youth try to bust into a church to have a good time, they’re sending us adults a message! Will Indianapolis continue to be deaf and not hear it?

What I’m hearing in the streets

The Census Bureau’s 2013 population estimates released last week show some interesting trends for Indy.

In a major surprise, Indianapolis-Marion County’s population growth was the strongest of Indiana’s 92 counties with an estimated population, as of July 2013, of 928,281, a 2.8 percent rise. Population has grown 24,673 since 2010; 9,394 persons since July 2012.

How significant is this?

For years, Hamilton County led Indiana in annual population growth. But, for the second year in a row, Marion County’s actual population growth exceeded Hamilton County’s.

From 2010 to 2013 Hamilton County grew to 296,693; up 22,124 or 8.1 percent. While Marion County’s percentage growth is less than Hamilton’s; Indy’s actual population growth is 2,764 persons higher.

So far this decade, Indianapolis-Marion County’s percentage growth is on a path to exceed the previous decade’s. Between 2000 and 2010, the city-county grew by 5.0 percent. But already in the first third of this decade, Indianapolis-Marion County’s 2.8 percent growth is on a pace to far outstrip that.

The 11-county Indianapolis-Anderson-Carmel metropolitan area keeps growing, though at a smaller rate than the last decade. The metro’s population is now 1,953,961, the nation’s 29th largest. Population increased 3.5 percent or 66,084 persons.

Between 2000 and 2010, the metro grew by 13.8 percent. But, the metro’s current growth rate of 3.5 percent is on a pace to fall below last decade’s percentage growth.

Asked to comment on the new population estimates, Mayor Greg Ballard’s office signaled something I’ve feared for a while. That the Ballard administration hasn’t a real clue about the true nature of the city-county’s demographics.

Ballard’s Chief of Staff Ryan Vaughn (who many think actually runs this city day-to-day, wasn’t excited over Indy’s strong population growth so far this decade.

In an e-mail to me, Vaughn seems to believe projections showing Indy’s metro population could grow by 30 percent this decade. One problem, no credible demographic organization has declared that.

The Indiana Business Research Center at IU’s Kelley School of Business has projected that the Indy metro could grow 11.1 percent by 2020. Nowhere near Vaughn’s 30 percent figure.

In June the Census releases population estimates by age/race/ethnicity and in September data on incomes. Vaughn and Ballard are betting that Indianapolis will become a magnet for young professionals with cash.

No American city’s growth, not even New York’s, is exclusively or predominantly fueled by upscale families growth. Instead the boom in city populations is driven not just by young professionals but by Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and immigrants of varying ages and incomes.

Ballard and Vaughn are wanting something that’s not reflected in reality.

See ‘ya next week.

You can email comments to Amos Brown at [email protected]

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