The Crusader Newspaper Group

What do you see when you look at the man or woman in the mirror?

By Vernon A. Williams

One of Gary’s own, Michael Jackson’s greatest lyrics says: “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.” Okay, family, every now and then we need to do a gut check. Every now and then we need to self-assess; to see if we are doing as much as we can – as often as possible. Take out the mirror.

Now, understand that this is not a competition. It does not matter what your relative, neighbor, colleague, best friend or worst enemy is doing. That’s irrelevant. This is all about the single question: Are you doing the most that YOU can to make a difference?

The truth is, almost everyone more often than not falls into one of five categories. Let’s use a sports metaphor to dissect this reality. To reiterate, it is not about what you do compared to anyone else on earth. It is more a question of how much and how creatively you are willing to use your gift for selfless purposes. The five categories are as follows:


These are brothers and sisters unafraid to assume the mantle of leadership knowing full well the burdens that it brings. To fit into this category, your efforts have to come with no hidden agenda or personal aggrandizement taken away from your toil. It has to be all about the cause.


These individuals show up in uniforms whenever the bell rings, ready to dive head first into challenges that result in something beneficial for others. They lend considerable sweat equity to the cause and follow those who they respect, but they prefer not to be decision makers or leaders.


These individuals contribute to the cause in spirit rather than in practice. They offer moral support to the cause and praise those putting it all on the line. But that’s as far as they plan to take it, for reasons too many to mention. While they will give you a hand (applause) don’t expect them to lend a hand.


These individuals are aware of the game, the players and what is at stake – yet they commit only to a physical presence. They reserve the option to cheer, boo, taunt or ignore everything, based on their judgmental reactions to what they see or hear. They show up as they choose, offering little or no impact.


These individuals don’t even bother to occasionally come to the stadium, often not knowing the first thing about the cause or players. Though the game impacts their lives as much as anyone, they either intentionally or inadvertently remain distanced from life-changing civic or social engagement.

Politics provide a significant barrier to participating on a level at which you are capable or even supporting a worthy cause. That’s too bad. There are enough people outside of the African American community indifferent to our struggle to have to also battle infighting.

If Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson provides a program, service, activity, information or resource from which citizens can benefit but some obstinate individuals refuse it all because they blame her for potholes or the city’s struggling economy or anything else – they are effectively cutting off their nose to spite their face.

At some point, folk need to develop the capacity to set petty differences and personal conflicts aside in favor of the greater good. Life is too short to waste time drawing lines of demarcation defined by superfluous, nonsensical considerations; ignoring substance and any long-term impact on the good of the community or benefit to the people.

The Gary Chamber of Commerce will stage its 12th annual Lakeshore Classic High School Hoops and Exposition Friday, November 29 and Saturday, November 30 at the West Side Leadership Academy at 9th and Gerry. I’ve made it back home for about half of these events since its inception and have never seen the venue much more than half full.

With hardwood competition featuring West Side girls and boys, Thea Bowman Leadership Academy, East Chicago Central, Chicago’s Marshall High School along with Charles Tindley Accelerated and George Washington High Schools from Indianapolis, you would think basketball fever would be at a fever pitch for the showcase of young talent.

Every year it’s a struggle for organizer Chuck Hughes and – again conjuring political history – much of it is likely unwillingness to support someone people didn’t support in an election…even at the expense of students forced into the embarrassment of playing to empty seats in the arena. C’mon people. Gary is better than that. Support these games!

Finally, State Rep. Vernon G. Smith is among leaders and concerned citizens fighting for the release of Gary public schools from state control; specifically addressing the fate of the city’s iconic Theodore Roosevelt High School which is closed for the moment; a situation that may or may not ultimately become permanent.

Going up against state legislators and the Indiana State Board of Education is tantamount to Biblical battling principalities, but it is a war that must be waged. Too much is at stake.

Using the five categories of engagement, this battle requires a more strategic game plan among players in leadership; more vocal citizens (cheerleaders) echoing loud and clear to state power brokers the legitimate discontent of Gary residents; intensified spectator enthusiasm and dramatic conscious-raising to increase activism among the uninvolved!

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again in the exact same way, expecting different results. New alliances, even ones that may be uncomfortable, need to be formed for this vital issue to command the attention and response that it deserves – to generate any sustainable hope of the state taking respect for the will of the people in Gary to another level.

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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