Shannon Williams

(INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.)–This editorial may not make me any new friends in the Black community, so it’s a good thing popularity is not important to me.

Last week I attended three separate meetings – each with a specific focus to address the many issues our community is currently grappled with. The good thing about all of these meetings is the participants and organizers of each understood that such problems are deeply rooted and extend beyond the issue that is getting the most attention as of late: violence.

Two of the meetings consisted of Black leaders and active community members only, while the third meeting was inclusive of both Black and white individuals ready to lend their insight.

During the meetings that solely consisted of Black attendees, I quickly noticed passionate people who had a deep yearning for “something” to happen that will effectively improve the community and address its current issues. The issue I had with the meetings was the road to get to those effective “somethings” was a very bumpy one full of detours that often left us going in the wrong direction.

During both of the “Black meetings,” I offered suggestions that would make our efforts more focused and deliberate. I did this for two reasons:

Being focused and having clear objectives and tasks identified early will allow the majority of time to be spent on working toward and actually implementing solutions, which in turn will more quickly begin to tackle the issues.

Everyone is busy these days, yet as passionate and committed as we may be, very few of us have time to continuously meet for the sake of meeting with no clear plan of attack.

My suggestions were a proactive approach that would also keep those very passionate people involved in the process.

I left each of the two “Black meetings” hopeful that we will be able to truly address the issues, but irritated that the time wasn’t maximized to its full potential. (It is important to note that attendees at one of the “Black meetings” have been engaging in email dialogue on a consistent basis since its initial meeting.)

Then I attended the third meeting, which occurred toward the end of the week. That meeting consisted of Blacks and whites and was organized and hosted by the Christian Theological Seminary (CTS). It, by far, was one of the most organized and productive meetings focused on community issues I have attended this year. CTS accomplished in three hours what some have been unable to accomplish in weeks or months.

Upon arrival at CTS, an agenda was readily available and target areas were already identified – so too were moderators who would facilitate each of the five sessions. The meeting took place toward the end of the work day so CTS also provided light lunches/dinners for each attendee to eat while meeting with whatever group they had an interest in.

Amos Brown and I had the pleasure of serving as moderators for the same session and I am sure he would agree with me on the effectiveness and efficiency of the meeting. Aside from the actual dialogue in our respective groups, the best part was at a predetermined time, everyone reconvened in the common area and moderators summarized for the entire body what their respective groups discussed – including possible solutions.

Sounds rather detailed, yet simple right?


So why can’t more Black community meetings be ran in such an organized and effective manner?

I think the answer varies. Perhaps we allow ourselves to veer off track too often, which in turn distracts us and the process. Maybe there is the issue of having too many “chiefs.” Or perhaps it is because we can be too divisive as a unit.

While the “why” question may be multilayered, I don’t believe working together should be so complicated or disjointed. We can and should work together in the most cohesive and results-oriented manner as possible.

Over the years I have seen our community resist individuals or groups who appear too radical or aggressive. We’ve pinned those people as being self-serving or loud mouths. Some are, but some are not. But in the end do those qualities even matter if such individuals have great ideas and tangible solutions that benefit our community?

As a community, we need to get it together. We need to become more organized and proactive in our approach. The issues that overtake our community continue to persist so time is indeed of the essence.

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