Kenneth Allen deserves as much credit as anyone for Indianapolis reestablishing a local commission on African American males.
Allen spent four years as chairman of the Indiana Commission on the Social Status of Black Males and made it one of the organization’s priorities to reactivate the Indianapolis commission, which was originally established shortly before the state-level commission.
Indiana has other local commissions in Gary, Fort Wayne and other cities. Some cities technically have a commission, but it isn’t active.
Local commissions are the “boots on the ground,” Allen said, and he saw the importance of making sure Indianapolis has one.
Allen said state commissioners first reached out to Mayor Joe Hogsett in 2016 to ask him to reestablish the commission by executive order. That didn’t happen, even amid calls during the mayoral race in 2019 to do so.
Instead, the Indianapolis City-County Council passed an ordinance in August 2020 to reestablish the Indianapolis Commission on African American Males. The council also appointed Allen to serve on the commission.
In the end, going through the city-county council took longer, but it also was the route that offered the most security. The local commissions that go silent were often established through executive order, so future mayors could let it go to the wayside.
Allen, who is still a member of the state commission, also recently joined the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of Commissioners as an at-large member.
It was his first time running for office, Allen said, and he was inspired to do so because of his work with the state commission, which provides a report to the General Assembly and governor’s office. The report includes education data.
“When I saw the data, particularly for our children of color, I just felt that I had too much experience serving youth to just sit there on the sidelines and do nothing,” he said.
Allen, 37, founded the Kenneth Allen Foundation for Entrepreneurship and taught entrepreneurship skills to youth around the country and around the world.
Allen grew up in Gary with a single mother. He often tells the story of his first business, a candy shop he opened when he was 12 to get some of his own money and help his mother.
Entrepreneurship, Allen said, is about changing the financial future for youth.
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.