INDIANAPOLIS — In Indianapolis, the connections to violence or illegal activity can be up close and personal.
"For me, I've lost 40 students since 2008 that I have worked with to gun violence and I have probably lost the same amount to the prison industrial complex," Brandon Randall said.
"The experience I had growing up was pretty much as soon as I walked out my porch it was crack piles. It was a dice game that was actually being had. It was easy too, we looked up to the dope man," Sherman Flucas said.
These were just some of the stories shared during a virtual community meeting for the Kennedy-King park neighborhood. The topic of discussion is the issue hitting impacting every corner of the city, violence in Indianapolis.
"I see a level of hopelessness throughout our community that I have never seen before and people have totally given up because of false promises," Anthony Beverly said.
Residents said the hopelessness that makes violence in Indianapolis feel like a regular part of the day is fueled by elected officials not addressing the root causes of violence, including what some call a lack of results and economic development in certain parts of the city.
"I grew up in Haughville, I rep Riverside. Some of the same abandoned buildings back since 1985, 1986 are still in the same neighborhoods," Flucas said.
"A lack of access to equitable education, mental health care, healthy food, groceries, employment, all of these things. We continue to have elected officials that run on platforms of racial equity and yet, once they get elected, they do not follow through," Randall said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put conversations like this on hold while the problem of violence continues. Marshawn Wolley with Black Onyx management hosted this virtual meeting alongside the Indiana Pacers and the Kennedy-King Memorial initiative in an effort to fill the void in hearing from the community. Wolley is taking notes filled with residents' thoughts and suggestions to stop the violence. He plans to share the feedback with city leaders.
"I think if we can have a conversation and figure out how to take the ideas and turn them into policy, then that helps the city-county council or city leaders figure out what they want to do," Wolley said.
There are upcoming Community Conversations planned for neighborhoods in other parts of the city including on the far east side and Concord community on the west side.