INDIANAPOLIS — The youngest voices were raised at the corner of 40th and Illinois Streets on Sunday, chanting “Black Lives Matter,” as hundreds of supporters conducted a march through the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood to the MLK Center to further the cause of racial justice and criminal justice reform in Indianapolis.
The processional began at the Common Ground Church in the 4400 block of North Illinois Street and proceeded through side streets, often drawing cheers and applause from neighbors in front yards and on front porches.
“I see a lot of unity, and I see a lot of pleasure of being a resident of Butler Tarkington,” said longtime resident Damon Lee, an IPS teacher and basketball coach. “Butler Tarkington has always been a united neighborhood. One of the reasons I live in Butler Tarkington because it was the only neighborhood association that would let my grandparents move in. If you was making money back in the day and you was African American, you couldn’t get in no community but Butler-Tarkington.”
In the late summer and early fall of 2015, four people, including a child, were murdered in South B-T in a spasm of violence that united neighbors from throughout the community in a common struggle to bring peace back to the streets.
“The people. That’s what changed,” said Lee. “The people. If you look down the street, you see people loving each other. You see people ride for each other and that’s not even my color. I’m an African American man, and I got all these people of different colors marching for us to have a chance for us at life.”
In the shadow of the governor’s residence, the march concluded as a pastoral organizer read a statement of atonement.
“We who are white lament the comforts of our privilege in which we have sheltered ourselves for far too long. We lament the cost of our failures for these lives lost.”
The statement was followed by a reading of names of persons who died nationally and in Indianapolis as the result of police action shootings.
“Its overdue but its something that I’m proud of what we are doing and I don’t want it to stop,” said Andrea Raes, a member of an organizing church. “I don’t want this to be just one thing, I want it to be a new era in our neighborhood and it has to be something where it is the beginning of a new era in our neighborhood and it comes together in a beautiful way.”
Lee was one of the community leaders in 2015 who worked to introduce neighbors who then united in a common cause. He said he attended some protests earlier this week.
“They want you to be truthful,” he said. “They want you to be sincere and they want you to quit sending false leaders to their protests. IMPD and the city of Indianapolis need to get out and find out who the real leaders of the community are and that’s who they need to talk to.”