I was standing inside the Steak & Shake at Ground Zero (Illinois and Maryland streets) at 9:30 on Black Expo Saturday night. Public Safety Director Dr. Frank Straub and I were waiting to order milkshakes, when we heard loud noises outside and screaming inside. Two people yelled “Duck.” I did. Straub headed for the noise and commotion.While Brown agrees it's not the organizers of Black Expo's event that the shootings occurred, he wasn't mincing words in holding them accountable for the continued violence that has plagued the second weekend of the organization's Summer Celebration.
A few minutes later, I emerged from the restaurant into chaos. A young Black male lay wounded in the leg 20 feet from me as Straub and other officers tended to him and a younger wounded youth at the intersection. Police and volunteer faith based workers professionally did their jobs; and did them well.
But, Indiana Black Expo bears some responsibility for creating an environment – both real and perceived – that Expo events are tailored more to pre-teens and teens; while families and adults are ignored . . .Brown's column also sheds some background on the reaction to IBE giving its most prestigious award to Mayor Greg Ballard that apparently was not welcomed. Brown writes:
The crowd milling downtown Saturday outside and inside Expo was the lowest in many, many years. Though the violence outraged many, there’ve been shooting deaths downtown during past Black Expos – two incidents this decade, others in the previous two decades.
What turned this incident into a white hot media and public frenzy was (1) the number of injured; (2) its brazenness; and (3) the fact that a TV camera was there when the bullets whizzed . . .
Again, Expo isn’t responsible for the shooting or even the societal conditions that would lead someone to such a depraved act.
But, there is lots Expo must answer to and change in the organization’s most dysfunctional and controversial year.
One final word on Expo. The big question last week was how would the Corporate Luncheon crowd respond when Mayor Greg Ballard received his award?Ouch. It looks like Ballard's strategy of hiring Olgen Williams as his deputy mayor, touting minority contracting opportunities that only benefit a few politically-connected businesses and pandering to a small group of black ministers by handing out crime prevention grants and other taxpayer money to them isn't building as much support for him in the black community as his political handlers seem to think. You would think after all these years Republicans in this town would figure out that such simple-minded approaches to win over support in the African-American community is getting them nowhere.
Indiana Black Expo’s decision to give Mayor Ballard their most prestigious award rankled many in the African-American community. But Expo officials turned a deaf ear to community complaints.
When the mayor was introduced, a handful in the crowd of some 2,000 stood and applauded. Most others sat in their seats, hands in laps.
Indiana Pacer executive Quinn Buckner, who presented the award, had to plead with luncheon attendees, “Oh come on give it up for our mayor.”
The response? Deafeningly weak applause. No standing “O.”
That pretty much sums up community reaction to the 40th Expo.