Social justice and entertainment on Black Expo agenda

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (JULY 15, 2016) — The biggest weekend for the Indiana Black Expo is now underway.

The expo, which started last week, is drawing thousands to downtown Indianapolis. On Friday night, thousands went to the American Legion Mall for the first of two big concerts.

They’re just one part of the largest and longest-running African-American cultural festival in the nation.

Some say with racial tension high, this is a good time to bring the community together. Activities for expo attendees range from health and job fairs to a youth leadership summit for black teens from across the state.

“From where I come from, there’s no African-American populace, so it’s nice to get back, to my roots,” says Thomas Lowe of Chesterton, one of 300 black teens for the summit.

Organizer Ariel Crawley says Chesterton and the others are learning about STEM careers from Purdue alumni and preparing for lengthy conversations about race and social justice.

“With just the recent events that have happened in the past two weeks, I think it’s great that they have a voice and they’re able to speak to someone,” says Crawley.

Hailey Petersen says she’s hopeful they’ll discuss community issues affecting some of the young people at the summit.

Violence has had a big impact here, in our community, like youth violence,” says Petersen. “I definitely don’t want to be a part of that, so I really want to see that be changed and not see it as much.”

The kids we spoke with say they’re taking advantage of the leaders they’re hearing from, learning how to bring change and civility to their communities.

“You don’t have to agree with someone on everything,” says Lowe. “That’s been established. But if you understand where somebody’s coming from, then there doesn’t need to be any hostility between each other.”

Down the street back at the mall, that kind of peaceful communication and open hearts were on full display.

From the stage, one minister called for prayer for the most recent victims of officer-involved shootings some say are more examples of police overreach.

At the same time, metro police mingled and chatted with the crowd, snapping selfies with expo concertgoers.

“If people keep trying to make a difference, then I think that’s going to impact everything and soon everything will be better,” says Petersen.

The teens will continue learning at the youth leadership summit on Saturday, having some of those tough conversations and getting ready for college.

All other Black Expo events also run through Sunday.

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