The Crusader Newspaper Group

December meeting will explore plausibility of Gary Museum

Reaction to a pair of columns written last month on the pursuit of a Gary Museum has generated more energy from readers than any topic in this column over the past six years. Clearly, the notion of Gary residents, past and present, framing their own narrative in the form of a museum is a concept that resonates deeply with those impacted.

It was unexpected, but a pleasant surprise, that I am compelled to write this third column on the subject. This one is to assure those who have reached out that this is not just one of those rants simply floated as an exercise, with no follow up in the design. I plan to reach out to Gary leaders and activists for a meeting between Christmas and New Year’s to launch meaningful dialogue on the prospects of a Gary Museum.

To better appreciate the phenomena of this strong undercurrent, allow me to digress and share a part of my journalism experience that might put into better perspective the unusual nature of this rare but powerful rallying of the spirit kindled by this conversation.

When I first started my journalism career at the Gary Post-Tribune, there were times when stories hit individuals in a way that evoked personal ire. While unintentional incendiary writings were often related to politics or crime, occasionally even general assignment reporters like I was in my first year, incurred the wrath of public scrutiny.

It was concerning to me the first few times I had to confront an irate subject of one of my writings. Invariably, people felt that their words were portrayed inaccurately or out of context. Most who felt upset also felt that the story was slanted in some particular way. Interestingly, this would be the take of both sides, even among opponents.

Soon I developed a thicker skin and refused to be personally intimidated by the criticism. The bottom line became making certain I got the facts straight and being equally attentive to evenly portraying perspectives of all involved. The bottom line is, if a story was fair, accurate, sensitive and comprehensive, my job was done.

A veteran photographer at the newspaper saw that this first year reporter was shaken by the first confrontations so he pulled me aside to assure me that no matter how heated the moment, readers eventually cooled off and life went on. He encouraged me to ignore anyone who decided to threaten to write to the editors to complain about my reporting.

The photographer said rarely are angry threats carried out. As a matter of fact, only a small portion of people would go through the trouble of actually communicating their disdain with editors in charge. Of that minuscule number, only a small fraction of those willing to reply in objection would be Black. So in a city that was 90 percent African-American, the bark was far worse than the bite.

I said all that to say, Black Americans do tend to write fewer letters to the editor, fewer divergent views to op-ed pages, and fewer letters to government leadership to complain about existing, proposed or badly needed change.

So when something such as my two columns sparked such strong response from Blacks, it suggested the birth of an idea whose time has come.

The challenge is to not only sustain, but to intensify the momentum. If those who reached out to me on the topic of a Gary Museum have already begun to cool in enthusiasm, their excitement was merely surface and superficial.

Accomplishment of any revolutionary, unprecedented innovation, requires a marathon, not a sprint.

Those committed to bringing such a proposition as a Gary Museum to fruition require selfless focus and tireless toil. But dreams are achievable and Gary has the manpower and mind power to transform concept to reality.

Everyone who reaches out to me by email will be invited to meet and discuss the Gary Museum. We won’t limit dialogue to those considered at the highest stratus of government and civic identity. There are too many potentially game-changing contributions to be made by everyday people, like me. No restrictions. Let’s come together and make something important and lasting happen!

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].

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