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Shegog: Black leaders must unite to make strides in our community

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“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

This African proverb often comes to mind as I think of the work necessary to ensure that Blacks advance as much as they can. Sure, we can accomplish much as individuals or singular organizations, but we can achieve so much more when we join forces.

For example, in 2020, Lilly & Company approached me about an initiative they launched, Indy Day of Solidarity: We Stand Together. Rather than work solely with the Recorder, Radio One and WISH-TV also came on board. With this collaboration, all Black-owned media companies — print, radio and television — were able to demonstrate solidarity by working together in a very impactful way. Sure, any one of the three outlets could have done a successful job on its own, but by joining forces, we reached far more people and expanded our impact significantly.  Indiana is very fortunate to have such established Black media entities.

Indianapolis is a unique city with wonderful opportunities. This is especially true for Blacks in this city, as we are leading some key organizations and businesses. Here’s a quick list of some local entities that are led by Blacks:

Boys & Girl Club of Central Indiana, Edna Martin Christian Center, Engaging Solutions, Fathers and Families Center, Flanner House, Indiana Black Expo, Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper, Indianapolis Urban League, Indy Black Chamber of Commerce, Indianapolis Branch of the NAACP, LISC, Radio One, United Way of Central Indiana, WISH-TV, Women’s Fund of Central Indiana and InnoPower Indy LLC.

There are also a lot of organizations and businesses in Indy that have Blacks in key leadership roles. Here are some of them:

AES Corporation, Barnes & Thornburg, Bose, McKinney & Evans, CICF, UNCF, CICP, Indiana General Assembly, Indiana University Health, Marion County Public Health Department and Lilly Endowment.

The two lists above are just small samples of businesses and organizations. Still, it was important for me to list them so you can see how powerful Black leaders in Indianapolis can be if we work together more strategically to make more significant strides for our community. But in order to create actual substantive change, we’ll need partners working with us to improve conditions for Blacks. Some of those partners are white allies who are genuinely interested in making Indianapolis more equitable.

I may make some people mad for the words you are about to read, but Blacks as a whole can be very divisive. Nothing frustrates me more than knowing that there are Blacks in this community who would rather do something on their own and achieve success, but not to the degree if they had collaborated with others. Even with the success of so many of our brothers and sisters, we are still far behind as a people. We must stop being so self-absorbed and egotistical that we are unwilling to work with others. We must stop thinking we are the only ones who know how to do something. We must stop competing with each other. We have to stop devaluing one another. And we must control our desire to appear to be the only ones with the right answers. Blacks must unite with each other, and then we must strategize and activate with our white allies. This is how we will see genuinely transformative change. In 2022, our city and country are far different than where we were 50 years ago, but sadly, some things remain the same. The best way to eliminate the negative realities of today and from the past will take visionary, courageous and strategic collaboration.

Blacks and like-minded whites must combine our unique talents, think out of the box and remain solution oriented. If more Black businesses and organizations joined forces and showed solidarity with our white allies, it would be hard for others to tell us no. There is strength in numbers, and the result of such unified efforts would enhance our community in ways that could positively impact us for generations.

It’s time for us to understand our true power as a collective unit. It’s time for us to make moves for our community. Big, powerful moves. I’m willing to work with any Black or white leader in the city who is interested in making our community better. The Recorder will start by looking for several individuals to write a series of columns to help keep this conversation alive. This idea is consistent with the approach that the National Urban League, Indianapolis Urban League and the African American Coalition of Indianapolis took when they invited the community to share perspectives about the  Quality of Life Initiative, funded by Lilly Endowment. The initiative focused on education, economic development, housing, health and wellness, and entrepreneurship. Let’s keep the conversation going. Please join me in making a difference. If interested, reach out to roberts@indyrecorder.com.

Robert Shegog is president and CEO of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper.

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