Monday, July 19, 2010

Violence not associated with Indiana Black Expo prompts parental concern

Parents of tweens are often faced with requests to attend the concerts, workshops and events that have built the reputation of the summer ritual known as Indiana Black Expo.  It remains an integral part of the Summer Experience in the greater Indianapolis Community, although news of downtown shots awakens parental concerns.  One might think that this is an issue for Black Expo, Downtown Indianapolis or someone else.  Safety is a universal concern for all parents. 
Annually in July  a series of workshops, entertainment, health fairs and programs bring greater awareness about African-American culture.    Statistics surrounding the graduation rate, economic stability and healthy life choices garner the attention of community activists, religious leaders and neighborhood elders.  Tweens simply want to have fun.  In it's 40th year of operations a celebration of success has been marred by negative press during the culminating weekend of activities.  Reports of injured young people have taken precedent over articles about increased efforts to educate, train, uplift and engage a critical teen audience. 
Renee Thomas, director of the Purdue Black Cultural Center, was one visible addition to the festivities. Prepared to increase the awareness about Purdue University, promoting the programs and services of the Black Cultural Center and offering teen specific program, "Follow Your North Star" for the teen youth summit, Thomas has spoken openly about the chance to recruit staff, faculty and students. Articles about Purdue's increased presence have been outpaced by reports of 10 shot in Indianapolis.  Although the late Saturday incident has been tied to Black Expo, the three shootings near Circle City Mall were not connected to the event.  The Indianapolis Star indicated that visitors were shocked and disrupted, including those participating in the event. 
Safety matters to parents as we seek to guide and protect our children.  Indiana Youth Institute data from 2006 indicates that Marion County teen deaths by accident, homicide and suicide outpace every other county in Indiana.  These statistics should matter to us all.  Heightened attention should be expected when information about local shootings is tied to the largest cultural event in the Indianapolis community.  Additional investigation shows that the unfortunate incidents were not tied to the event.  Black Expo organizers, community members and parents alike must continue to seek the information that will govern our decisions and directives to youth.  
Our charge is safety, accuracy and guidance.  This weekend featured much more than the random acts of cowardice.  We owe it to ourselves to learn more as Black Expo brings to a close four decades of philanthropic initiatives, support for education, constructive youth activities and numerous opportunities for tweens to set their dreams into reality with access to countless resources. 

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