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Black organizations demand answers from Newfields

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The African American Coalition of Indianapolis (AACI), alongside 18 local Black organizations, released a statement following the sudden resignation of former Newfields CEO Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette.

The statement, released Nov. 19, details the art museum’s previous issues and allegations surrounding toxic and discriminatory culture, which had failed to serve communities of color — instead leading to a controversial job posting, which indicated the museum’s preference to “maintain a core white art audience.”

“The African American Coalition of Indianapolis (AACI) expresses profound concern and seeks clarity on the recent announcement of Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette’s departure from Newfields,” The AACI said in the statement. “The communication from Newfields’ Board of Trustees does not suffice to explain the reasons behind the exit of a leader who has endeavored to rebuild the institution’s reputation and foster meaningful connections with Indianapolis’ marginalized communities.”

The statement also cited the “lack of transparency” surrounding Burnette’s’ resignation, which is raising “unsettling questions” from the community, before calling for Newfield’s board of leadership to re-examine its commitments to determine if the institution is “sincere and capable” of re-building trust within the Black community in Indianapolis.

“Amid many rumors and allegations fueled by a press announcement highlighting her exit, we are left feeling angry, frustrated, confused, and betrayed,” the statement continued. “And we must emphasize that the way Dr. Burnette’s exit was announced has created a worse perception. Newfields’ actions took it two steps back as it relates to community relations.”

The statement comes just days after the Indiana Black Expo and the Indianapolis Urban League released a joint statement about the situation, stating that due to the nature of the announcement and negative perception it created, the Newfields board owes the community an explanation.

RELATED: Newfields board member resigns following abrupt departure of CEO

“Dr. Burnette opened the Newfields’ doors to many African American organizations and the entire community, and we have personally witnessed the buzz and excitement around her leadership,” the Nov. 16 statement from IBE and IUL said. “We were looking forward to expanding the partnership with Newfields in 2024, which has now come to a complete halt.”

The AACI reiterated its mission in standing with local businesses, nonprofits and government entities in hopes that they recognize the “troubling pattern” and act decisively. 

“As stakeholders in Indianapolis’ future, we must collectively strive to implement a sustainable model that ensures the longevity and success of Black executives, which in turn reflects the diversity and vitality of our city,” the statement continued. “The path forward requires more than symbolic gestures; it necessitates a sincere, ongoing commitment to equity, transparency, and community engagement that transcends mere statements and is embodied in the very fabric of our institutions’ leadership and governance.”

The statement was consigned by 100 Black Men of Indianapolis, Alpha Phi Alpha Iota Lambda Chapter, Baptist Minister’s Alliance, Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, Exchange at the Indianapolis Urban League, Indiana Black Expo, Indianapolis Professional Association, Indianapolis Recorder, Indianapolis Urban League, Indy Black Chamber of Commerce, Inner Beauty, Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Indianapolis, Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Alpha Alpha Omega Indianapolis Alumni Chapter, New B.O.Y, Not 1 More Project, Purpose for My Pain, The Fathers Foundation and The National Coalition of 100 Black Women.

Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.

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