Indy residents prove power in numbers can reclaim neighborhood

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By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader

The ultimate assessment of character won’t be how much we gained but how much we gave back; not what we knew but the knowledge we shared.

The tremendous potential of our rediscovery of Black consciousness across the nation won’t be sustained if we don’t respond to the urgent need for unity. Individuals who fight the power have the capacity to light a fire. But odds improve when a single torch ignites those being carried by the masses.

There is strength in numbers. We can’t afford to be spectators when the game hits so close to home.

Case in point…the Indianapolis neighborhood in which prestigious Butler University flourishes encountered an unusually high amount of crime over the past six months. Gun shots rang and bodies were found. Parents were afraid to let children go outside and just be children. The disrespect crossed every demographic in this obscure stretch of modest homes.

But rather than retreat in fear, residents got together to vent their ire and take their intolerance to the streets. They insisted on dialogue with law enforcement – and each other. They were vocal in their discontent in news media interviews, refusing to quietly accept victim status. They got together for the sake of those who were defenseless and demonstrated strength in unity.

This week their determination paid off as there were sweeping arrests in that neighborhood. Fifteen members of the so-called “Get Money Gang” were charged. Ten have already been taken into custody; a major step that residents and police hope will help bring an end to rampant violence in the Butler-Tarkington area. The crackdown required local, state and federal authorities’ cooperation.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Troy Riggs said, “I’ve never seen this type of collaboration in the history of my 26 years in law enforcement and it continues to grow every day.” Charges include drug dealing, corrupt business influence and criminal gang activity. All face lengthy sentences if convicted – which could double because of gang affiliation.

Butler-Tarkington was ground zero. Last September, 10 year-old DeShaun Swanson was shot to death, the apparent unintended target of a gang fight. The rash of violence perpetrated by those who terrorized the neighborhood included four homicides as well as links to five downtown shootings, and the gunning down of a cab driver.

Of course, these arrests won’t mean the war is over – but they do confirm a critical battle was won!

In gardening and yard care, everyone knows that pulling weeds may provide immediate gratification because things look better for a while. But if you stop there, you will soon lament a return of the next crop of weeds just as vicious as those you got rid of previously. So the solution becomes attacking the roots. In nature, that’s the only thing that breaks that vicious cycle.

Likewise, arrest and jailing this group of individual is only temporary relief. The long-term solution requires getting to the roots of the cause of gang involvement. These roots of evil perish in the application of compassion, nurturing, education, inspiration, socialization, encouragement, mentoring, recreation, literacy, health care, self-esteem, and career opportunities.

Perhaps another “gang” has to be deployed to counteract the street gangs.

These “gangs” meet every Sunday, and throughout the week, right in the middle of every neighborhood. For the sake of conversation, let’s just call them – The Holy Ghost Gangs. Because of the subtlety of their crimes – more of violations by omission rather than commission – they’ve flown under the radar. It’s time to bring them back down to earth.

The real challenge we face is maintaining organized, strategic and consistent resistance to elements that plague our community. No civil rights organization, charismatic lea-der, elected official, corporate giant, media or government entity has as much power to generate sustainable change as do ordinary, everyday citizens – when they come together as one.

Leadership efforts to maximize “people power” should begin from the pulpit and spread through the pews before spilling into every corner of society. That begins with an end to wars fought in the religious community – both within and between belief system and dogma. Let’s call a truce to denominational wars recognizing it’s time to shift the paradigm.

No matter what you’re “claiming” – Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Apostolic, African Methodist Episcopal, Church of God in Christ, Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness, Seventh Day Adventist or any other religion – we need less focus on spiritual cliques and more on our common calling, our shared responsibility, and the huge potential of our collaborative influence.

Let’s get busy transforming rhetoric into strategies and take back the streets.

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: vernonawilliams@yahoo.com.

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