***This piece is part of our content presented at Inclusive City 2020. On Oct. 28, 2020, from the stage of the Madam Walker Legacy Center, we revealed plans to dismantle systemic racism in Central Indiana at Inclusive City 2020. Learn more about that event here.***
from Tamara Winfrey-Harris
Vice-President of Community Leadership & Effective Philanthropy
When we first began planning for this Inclusive City 2020 earlier this year, our intention was to fill this beautiful theatre with members of our community.
Instead, the seats are mostly empty and the only folks here are those presenting and making all of this come together for you today as you watch from your home or office. We are taking every precaution today, and you will likely spot our team sanitizing podiums and microphones between each speaker throughout our program. Thank you for your flexibility and understanding as we continue to adapt to the changing world we’ve all found ourselves this year.
When we gathered at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in April 2019, we shared our vision of a Central Indiana community that empowers people—and in which the structures of systemic racism have been dismantled. We promised to work together to make our city and our region a healthy, thriving place that includes everyone—no matter place, race or identity. A more equitable community—and all the better for it.
Today, we’re going to reflect on that promise and look at what we’ve done in the past year and a half to keep it—and also how the challenges of 2020 have impacted our work and how we’ve responded to those challenges.
We’re going to take a hard look at power. Who has it. Who doesn’t. And what we’re doing—and have already done—to share that power more equitably.
We’re going to look at what we’ve already done and map out the many steps we’ll take next.
We’re confident that you will. And that’s why I’m so excited to get started.
But before we do, we want to say just a bit about our host, the Madam Walker Legacy Center, and its important place in the story of our city—past, present and future.
It’s true that Madam C.J. Walker was one of the foremost Black businesswomen of the 20th century—and she is a role model to millions for that fact alone. Madam Walker was also a philanthropist and voice for civil rights in our community, helping to advance organizations— such as Flanner House, the Bethel AME Church, the Senate Avenue YMCA and the Legacy Center itself. In a very real sense, Madam Walker’s contribution is as vital today as ever. What is also true, is that many of those contributions—among those of many other Black residents—are much harder to see today along Indiana Avenue and throughout our community. This neighborhood was once home to a bustling economy made up of Black-owned businesses and supported by Black residents. But so much of that was destroyed to make room for the highways and the expansion of a growing university.