New groundbreakings in Martindale-Brightwood bring hope to the community

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- The 138th murder in Indianapolis this year happened just after 3 a.m. last Sunday in the 2700 block of Sangster Avenue as Kieah Williams was found shot to death in a front yard.

Sangster Avenue, just off East 25th Street, sits in the heart of the Martindale-Brightwood community which straddles the border between two of IMPD’s most violent districts, North and East, where 53% of this year’s homicides have occurred.

A check of court records shows Williams died just up the street from where he lived.

In a concerted effort to provide east-side youngsters a brighter future free of the violence that has too often stalked their streets, a pair of groundbreakings Tuesday planted seeds of hope in a community in need of an optimistic harvest.

The Indianapolis Public Library broke ground on vacant land at the corner of East 25th Street and North Sherman Drive for a new $6 million library branch.

“So many times when you look at a blank lot like this and railroad tracks people think of a blighted community,” said Gina Lewis Alexander of Oasis of Hope Baptist Church, “but to have a new modern state of the art technology building shows that there’s more investment going on than just dollars and cents, it's investment in lives, it's investment in our children, it's investments in the future.”

More than a mile away, just a few blocks past where Williams died, earth was also turned in a ceremony marking the reclamation of formerly contaminated land for the construction of KIPP Legacy High School where 8th-grader Arianna Jenkins plans to someday graduate with friends as members of the class of 2023.

“It means new opportunities, somewhere they can go to get a good education to become leaders something that they want to be in the future,” said the middle schooler. “If kids from this neighborhood see this school and that library down the street they will understand that we are leaders and they can come be one of us they don’t have to stay in the same position and it would eliminate all of the shootings.”

The charter high school will join the newly renovated $5 million Edna Martin Christian Center Leadership and Legacy Campus in the 2200 block of North Ralston Avenue.

“Hopefully our goal is to reach out to all these communities,” said Jenkins, “to show them that it is a school and there is still hope out here so you don’t have to be alone, you don’t have to join gangs because you feel like you’re lonely. You can be a part of something great.”

Along the 25th Street corridor, between the new library branch and the anticipated high school, fresh pavement and sidewalks provide access to new businesses like Momma’s Kitchen and the Church of the Apostolic where a banner on the side reads, “Let’s Stop the Killings and Violence in Our Community.”

“This library is not just pivotal. It's going to become an anchor institution for the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood,” said Deputy Mayor Rev. David Hampton. “With the new roads, with the new sidewalks, I think when other businesses see the foot traffic that the library will bring it's gonna rise the tide of the entire neighborhood and hopefully businesses around the area and other business individuals will set up shop here.”

James Wilson grew up in Martindale-Brightwood. His young nephew was murdered in the middle of an east-side street this past summer trying to mediate a neighborhood argument. As one of Mayor Hogsett’s community resource coordinators, Wilson has seen the damage a gun can do in the hands of a young person.

“We want to see them picking up a book,” he said. “I would rather them expand their mind a heck of a lot more than looking for a weapon in the streets and looking for that quick gratification to be part of something. That shows a different form of leadership.”

The library branch and the charter high school will both be open by the end of 2019 to inspire the young minds of Martindale-Brightwood to imagine a future suddenly within their grasps.