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"Tasha Jones is a rare and wonderful artist that strikes a balance in a world so often lopsided. She has the soul of a Nikki Giovanni draped in the Haute Couture fashions of a runway model. Jones is a student of life and a teacher of lessons. On stage, she tells the story of her life and, in doing so, tells the story of all women, a story of love, loss, and life. She offers a perspective, poignancy, and insight in her writing that allows men to see themselves through her work and women to see themselves in her work. She proves herself to be simultaneously what women are and what they aspire to be. Once you've experienced her for yourself, you will feel better, wiser, and are enriched for it." — Jon Goode

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LaTasha Jones

There exists an idiom that aptly captures the pattern of how “the establishment” perceives Black advancement in America. It goes, “One step forward, two steps back,” dating back to Reconstruction. Perhaps it is more fitting to recognize that Black progression in America has been met with an almost instantaneous regression. Alternatively, any advancements made through regression have been nullified by changes in policies and regulations.

Perhaps struggle is the prerequisite for progress. As Frederick Douglass famously stated, “There can be no progress without struggle.” Therefore, the expectation of achieving progress can be a challenging journey, with obstacles often appearing just as you make headway. As you move forward, you become more familiar with the terrain, and a helpful scout may offer news of a better path. The road to progress may be difficult, with setbacks along the way, akin to the idiom above.

Moreover, progress also brings the promise of better things to come. This was certainly the case for Newfields, Hamilton Southeastern Schools, the Indianapolis Public Library, and IndyGo, all struggling when visionary Black women took the helm. Despite being overqualified and underpaid, these trailblazing executives confidently led each organization as the first minority woman president and/or CEO, ushering in a new era of success and growth.

Or so it was thought. This was definitely the sentiment of Black people, but not all people. Remember, after the end of Reconstruction, there were some Americans who wanted and fought for racial segregation, and the “Jim Crow” laws were enacted. This empowered redlining

before the bipartisan Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which inflamed economic discrimination (employment and housing) and so on (the pattern is the same). One can substitute any number of examples and be historically factual.

Second, one needs to remember Indiana also has a checkered past with the advancement of colored people. Indiana had one of the largest KKK chapters and was most effective, having active members in private and public Indiana offices. The KKK offered free membership to Protestant Preachers because they had direct access to a built-in audience for additional recruiting. Remember D. C. Stephenson’s Klan support for Ed L. Jackson, Indiana Governor (James Madison’s book The Ku Klux Klan in the Heartland).

The longest-serving Mayor of Indianapolis (1976-1991), William H. Hudnut III, once said of Indiana when he arrived in town, “My new city did not strike me as quite as open and welcoming of diversity (of race and opinion) as cities I had previously lived in (Rochester, Buffalo, and Annapolis).

All of this is to get to the point. Racism has its funny way of sneaking up on the traditional oppressor when they believe America’s caste system. It is the traditional oppressor who wants to determine who can advance and when. The traditional oppressor intends to erase the hard truths of history, restrain progress, and dictate who advances, when, and how. And those who are constantly on the putrid end of hate feel its claws long before any injustices are witnessed. Today, as in history, those traditional oppressors have always had a faithful Black to help or do their bidding.

America’s deplorable caste system (spoken or unspoken) is part of the reason why Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette (Newfields), Yvonne Stokes (Hamilton Southeastern Schools), Nichelle Hayes (Indianapolis Public Library (Interim)), and Inez Evans (IndyGo) all Black women, all capable women, all women who had and have the unmitigated gall and ability to steer any troubled predominantly white institutions (or any institution) out of peril and into security and even into prosperity if “allowed” (given the opportunity) to extend beyond domestic work.

But Black Women have been traditionally viewed as “The Help,” regardless of their expertise, qualifications, and or the success they garnered while in leadership and or the above-mentioned perspective positions. The notion that Black women are only suited for domestic work is deeply ingrained in America’s fraught racial history and persists in today’s supposedly post-racial society. This belief is widespread across the country, not limited to just Indiana. It reflects a clear indication of how Black Women may still be perceived as domestic workers, only purposed to traverse “the hierarchy” through to an easier route to success.

*This article does not demean domestic work (or domestic workers) in any way form or fashion. It highlights the attitude of the oppressor.

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