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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

It’s OK to not be OK

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We had the sixth mass shooting in 15 years last weekend, and it’s OK to not be OK.
Six people, including an unborn child, were murdered, and a juvenile has been arrested for the mass shooting. Not only was the peace disturbed in a local community, but my hope is that our conscious was challenged.

If there is good in the world, there also must be evil. To have one and not the other just doesn’t seem right — and our own eyes support the evidence of this claim. We see good in our community through people like Johnny Purchase, or “Mr. Johnny,” as he was called.

Mr. Johnny was slain trying to help people. He was good.

We also have the alleged perpetrator who murdered an entire family. My mind is torn between wanting to understand why, but I’m actually afraid to let the explanation of that evil even enter my brain.

Our community has been traumatized by both incidents. Answers for how to stop this senseless violence haven’t come easy to law enforcement or city leadership.
We are going to have to save us.

What I’m hearing…

Will we see reform in our local hospital systems?

The Indianapolis Recorder and the Greater Indianapolis NAACP hosted a forum that yours truly moderated. We learned the good — at least two hospitals were able to share that the outcomes for Black people in their facilities was actually higher than outcomes for white residents.

Two key highlights during the forum included a presentation by Dr. Elizabeth Nelson, who used old Indianapolis Recorder news clippings to document how Black people built a hospital during the last global pandemic in 1918 and that over the years there have been similar efforts to address systemic racism in health care in Indianapolis.
President of the Indianapolis City-County Council, Vop Osili, also shared how the city had every agency look at its budget through an equity lens when developing the most recent budget — a city first.

Board representation for the three local hospital systems were mixed. Eskenazi Health boasts five Black members on an 11-person board (45%), according to a review of the website, with a Black woman serving as chairperson.

While it was reported that IU Health had only one Black board member according to local media, a review of the website revealed two Black board members — or approximately 15% of the current board members listed on the website.

Community Hospital announced at the forum that it created three board positions ostensibly to increase Black representation on the board — which may be as low as zero, given a review of the website.

We also learned that while Eskenazi had respectable Black representation throughout its system, it still was working to improve. Our other local hospital systems frankly admitted that they had work to do in this area.

Numbers don’t lie. This has been a long problem and extremely frustrating. The bottom lines is pretty straightforward. The local hospital systems need more Black representation from director levels and up so they can regain trust that has been lost over the years with our community.

The internal advocacy systems need to be revisited. Black people shouldn’t have to need an advocacy plan when they go to the hospital. Our community also wants to see metrics on their websites, and it’s probably a good idea for the community, or at least appropriate Black health professionals groups, to be involved in developing the metrics.

The way each hospital system is defining success matters and should include external engagement with ours and possibly even the larger community.

The problem of poor treatment by local hospitals is a long one, even while we recognize there have been some efforts to address this problem, and the local hospital chiefs pledged more and that they would come back and update us on their progress.

Progress isn’t likely to happen overnight — but we should expect meaningful progress.

The audacity of the legislature has been a topic of concern among Black leadership and even the business community. Bills like Senate Bill 168, which call for the takeover of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, seem to be gaining legislative supporters. SB 394 and House Bill 1427 seek to eliminate the new use-of-force board and the General Orders Board before they are even implemented. SB 311 actually is the most provocative as it codifies that officers do not have to follow the use-of-force continuum essentially “if the police officer feared for their lives.”

Our community will need to educate itself and make its voice heard on these bills, even as we fight for legislation that actually should be championed, if we are going to reduce violence in the community. Bills focused on food insecurity, tenant and landlord relationships, mental health and education should be no-brainers for this legislative session.

We will see what happens.

Marshawn Wolley is president and CEO of Black Onyx Management, Inc. Contact him at marshawnwolley@gmail.com.

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