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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Heaviness and hope

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Heaviness and hope

The start of a new year comes with a sense of hope, a clean slate and reflective thoughts of the past.

To put it simply, 2020 was a year that changed each and every one of us. From the ways that we work, the ways that we gather and for some the ways that we serve. Our team was inspired by the people in our community who “made charity a way of life,” as our board member and president of the African-American Legacy Fund of Indiana, Kiahna Davis, stated. People like Tom Hanley of Nine13sports, for example, whose organization pivoted early on in the pandemic to use its fleet of vehicles to deliver food to those in need. Or folks like Ron Anderson of Box Jobs, a father-son-run nonprofit, who worked to bring free drive-thru COVID testing to communities of color at a very crucial time. These are just a few of the many names of leaders who stepped up in extraordinary ways to address the needs of our community.

One of the things that 2020 also did was present an opportunity to slow down and examine things in a more deliberate way. Following the social unrest of the summer, many organizations began asking what more could be done to address racism, white supremacy and injustice — both internally and externally. We did our first podcast club of the series, “Seeing White,” from producer John Biewen of Scene on Radio, and over the course of eight weeks walked hand in hand with grassroots leaders, nonprofit execs, law enforcement officers and others as we confronted the ways racism has impacted each of us, our thinking and our work. There were some tough moments, honestly. But what we heard over and over from participants is that this work is necessary if we ever hope to be a city that is truly inclusive to all.

We plan to expand on the progress made in 2020 this year by offering programs like “Seeing White” again (registration is now open on our website and the series begins in March) and also delving into other critical areas of discussion like the housing crisis. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, marginalized communities right here in our own city were already living through an onslaught of life-altering experiences due to systemic oppression and poverty. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the housing sector. Statistics show that Indianapolis has ranked second only to New York City in the number of evictions rendered in a year putting thousands of families in incredibly dire situations. In February, we will host a discussion series titled “Shelter,” where we will hear firsthand what the impacts of this crisis are and what is being done to address it.

As we step further into 2021, a year that has already been defined by its own set of challenges, we’re being greeted with a familiar sense of heaviness but also that of hope. Our hope lies not in a yet-to-be seen future but in a fully realized now, where civic leaders are rising up to positively impact their block, their neighborhood, their organizations — creating a ripple effect of lasting change. For those that believe in equity, unity and a brighter day, we are who we’ve been waiting for. Let’s get to work … together.

Rebecca Hutton serves as president & CEO of Leadership Indianapolis. Ebony Chappel is program & communications manager. Leadership Indianapolis educates, inspires, connects and mobilizes community leaders to serve and strengthen greater Indianapolis. Learn more at LeadershipIndianapolis.com.

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