The Indiana GOP’s effort to develop future leaders from diverse communities begins this month.
The Indiana Republican Diversity Leadership Series includes six seminar-style classes for the next six months, concluding with a trip to Washington, D.C., and a capstone project. Classes will cover topics such as civic engagement, campaign management and how the party is organized.
The program, launched last summer, was designed to include not just those looking for an avenue to party leadership, but also those who had no prior relationship to the GOP or were just interested in learning more.
Whitley Yates, the state party’s director of diversity and engagement, said many people don’t understand some of the basics of how political parties work, including the kind of power even precinct committee members have.
One question Yates and other state Republican leaders have gotten used to is how Donald Trump and the broader GOP have affected their work locally.
“It seems that a lot of times when we’re talking about the work we’re doing, the media does like to speak about what’s happening on a national level,” Yates said in an interview two days after the pro-Trump insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. “I’ve been conscious to not allow the progress we’re making to be hijacked.”
There are 17 participants in the inaugural class, and more than half are Black.
The share of African Americans who identify as or lean Republican has hovered around 10% since Pew Research Center started tracking the trend in 1994.
Derrick Miller joined the leadership series because he saw an opportunity to “be a thought leader” and share insights that could help “strengthen our community.”
Miller, 40, has worked for the Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation for 17 years and is a pastor at Bethesda Temple’s southeast campus. He’s been a conservative and called himself a Republican for the last 10-15 years, he said, and wants to change the idea that the GOP is a whites-only political party.
“As you get older, you can’t worry about everybody’s thoughts and feelings,” Miller said. “You have to stand on what you believe in.”
Applications for the 2022 class will open in the summer.
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.