INDIANAPOLIS — The MLK Center in the Butler Tarkington neighborhood is working to build a stronger community to ultimately reduce violence and create a safer neighborhood.
“Our community has faced a lot of struggles mostly with gun violence and poverty,” Karayjus Perry said
Perry was introduced to the center as a teenager. He took part in the Tarkington Teen Work Crew that focuses on cleaning up Butler Tarkington Park and nearby businesses.
Now, he is taking on a new role as a junior community builder.
“Most of the kids in the neighborhood are going through a lot of the same things I was, like poverty or experiencing gun violence, seeing their friends die," Perry said. "I can relate to them a lot because we have a lot of the same problems in this neighborhood."
Perry is joining the MLK Center’s outreach team. Executive Director Allison Luthe says Perry and two other young men will focus on expanding their reach by engaging with youth and listening to what they think the center should be doing.
“Telling them what we’re doing. They are helping us create a youth committee that will have two seats on the board of directors,” Luthe said.
She hopes this sends a message to the neighborhood that the center wants to help families and they believe youth should be at the center of the decision-making process.
The new positions are being paid for with grant money from the Central Indiana Racial Equity Fund. It was created in June 2020 to address racial inequities in the criminal justice system.
One of the goals is to support efforts to improve interactions between the Black community and local police in Indianapolis.
“I think it’s important that youth on the ground have a relationship with officers who are patrolling their beats and can potentially arrest them or help them," Luthe said.
She hopes the new junior community builders will be able to get to know the officers, their names and understand how policing works and how it should improve.
Luthe also hopes the community builders will not only improve the community, but they will better their own lives.