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Friday, January 22, 2021

I’m Just Sayin’: We mourn for Breann Leath

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Our city mourns the loss of officer Breann Leath, who died in service to our community. 

A mother, a soldier and one of Indy’s finest — her senseless death angered our community even as we struggled with the loss.

We join officer Leath’s family and IMPD in our shared grief.  

A person has been apprehended. While redemption is almost always possible, I won’t name him now because he does not have one now to us. He violated our community. 

He will face justice. But that justice won’t bring our officer back. She is only the second woman and first Black female officer to lose her life in the line of duty on an Indianapolis police force. 

She was ours. 

She protected the city and should be honored for her sacrifice. In the coming days and weeks, it will be important to remember that our officers are mere mortals. 

They bleed. 

They have good days and bad.

They also put their lives on the line every day for us. Officer Breann Leath will be remembered. 

What is our plan to address COVID-19?

Black Indianapolis needs to step up. 

The state announced what we already knew — Black people are dying from COVID-19 disproportionately. While it seemed odd that ISDH would merely report the data and not offer much of a solution to the problem, it doesn’t matter because the Marion County Health Department is on the case.

Under the leadership of Dr. Virginia Caine, and despite limited resources, we are seeing a prioritization of the most vulnerable. 

From the homeless to the Marion County jail inmates, first responders and essential employees who often look like us, to proactive troubleshooting when folks arrive at the hospital with systems, the Marion County Public Health Department is leaving no stone unturned. 

Dr. Caine is taking care of us like we are family. 

Nevertheless, we are still going to see higher rates of infection and potentially death in Black Indianapolis due to economic and underlying health conditions. 

But if we are keeping it all the way real, too many of us are not taking this as seriously as we should. 

From secret church services to birthday parties with guests to kick-backs, we are not practicing the kind of social distancing that we need to in order to keep our community safe. 

Don’t get me wrong: White folks are being reckless, too — like hosting a block party in a Mid-North neighborhood not too long ago. 

But again, when they get a cold, we get pneumonia. 

In the meantime, while Dr. Caine and her team do everything they possibly can to try to keep us safe, why don’t we help her out but practicing social distancing?

No, it’s not OK to go over to your friend’s house right now. 

It’s not OK to go for a walk with someone who is not currently residing in your house. 

It’s not ok to meet up with people. 

Previous generations fought world wars; all we have to do is stay home.

This isn’t to belittle the fact that in some instances social distancing is a privilege. We know just under 20% of Black people are able to telework. Many of us are deemed essential employees and have to be out risking exposure. 

Doing what you have to do to pay your bills is fundamentally different from choosing to play basketball at a park because you’re bored. 

Dr. Caine needs our help. Please stay home. 

What I am hearing

Our community continues to step forward to preserve the village. 

Last week there was a collaboration involving Pastor Bruce Farr of Overcoming Church, McFarling Foods, H.T. Hackney, Eskenazi Health, Indianapolis Fruit and Pack Away Hunger. 

The group held a food distribution drive through and distributed thousands of pounds of meat, produce and even meals. Kudos on the initiative. 

I want to hear about other efforts like this, so please keep them coming.  

Our businesses need to take advantage of Indy Chamber’s Bridge Loan program. While the Small Business Administration’s program has removed all affirmative action supports, I’m told by multiple sources that Indy Chamber is paying attention to the diversity of businesses it is lending too. 

That doesn’t mean ignore the SBA loans. The Indy Black Chamber of Commerce is helping both members and non-members navigate the loan processes for the SBA loans.  

Finally, the city has done well thus far to address concerns regarding the digital divide. With the launch of the Indianapolis E-Learning Fund, we will at least have a fighting chance at keeping our children engaged. 

The fund will seek to address e-learning device shortfalls and potentially even address access to the internet. Schools will need to apply to the fund. While there are likely more details being worked out, what matters is that the city is taking initiative on an equity issue that impacts youth, including Black youth.  

It’s a start. A good initial step. 

I’ll look forward to the city working with Black leaders to develop an actual plan to address Black disparities revealed by COVID-19 in the future.   

See you next week…

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

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