I don’t miss Indianapolis. I miss my family and wouldn’t mind reminiscing with friends from high school but living in Brooklyn this summer has been more than enough to distract me from the occasional surge of homesickness.
It wasn’t until I saw my cousin’s Facebook status describing his plans to attend Indiana Black Expo’s Summer Celebration that I felt a slight yearning to be back in the Circle City.
Before I was old enough to walk Black Expo was a part of my annual summer plans. Every year I couldn’t wait to get downtown to buy a pro-black t-shirt or two, haggle with the vendors, and devour the fried fish combo. (Complete with a soggy slice of white bread and sweet lemonade.)
It wasn’t until I was older that I realized there was a darker side to my annual joy. Increasingly, the last two days of the 10-day celebration became riddled with violence. Every year the focus was less about one of the largest African-American events in the country and more about how many people had gotten shot or killed that year.
Even though the shootings rarely occur in Black Expo venues the violence stains an otherwise commendable, community organization.
After attending an expo in Chicago, religious and community leaders saw a need to promote African-American ideas in the state of Indiana.
Indiana hosted their first two-day summer expo in 1970 and later transitioned to a statewide organization hosting year round programs that addressed issues affecting the African-American community.
Now the very reputation of the event, the organization, and most importantly blacks in Indianapolis are issues affecting the African-American community.
It’s common knowledge in Indianapolis that many White people to avoid downtown Indianapolis during Black Expo but now an even larger number of blacks are refusing to venture downtown and patronize the event.
And I don’t blame them; in fact I’m one of them. While I always made a point to make it to the exhibition halls I would often go on Sunday after the inevitable Saturday shooting had already taken place.
The truly sad thing about this year’s Expo shootings is the age of both the gunmen and the victims.
When nightfall hits the Saturday of Black Expo that’s when the teens come out, emerging from cars parked momentarily at the curb they wander the streets aimlessly in search of whatever the night may bring.
Unfortunately it’s not always wholesome teen fun.
This is not a blame-the-youth tirade.
Quite the opposite, it’s the parents. So often it’s the parents driving the cars at the curb who drop their children off in downtown Indianapolis or reserve hotel rooms for their children with no intent to see them until the next morning.
After Indianapolis police officers beat Brandon Johnson, causing Rev. Al Sharpton to make a trip to my hometown, the community was concerned the police would employ excessive force when enforcing curfew laws.
As a parent you have to think proactively. Yes address the issue of excessive force in the Indianapolis police department during Black Expo but also insure that your child has no reason to interact with potentially brutal officers.
Stop the kid ditching. Make sure they’re in by curfew, if you do drop them off make sure you know where they’re going and what time they’ll be back.
It seems like parenting basics but apparently that’s not the case.
To assist the parents in true “it takes a village…” fashion religious leaders, the police department, and the president of Indiana Black Expo plan to meet sometime this week to discuss the reasons behind the violence.