INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — As people across the country celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, a stalwart for peace and equality, Indianapolis continues to battle problems with violence. Community leaders say some issues King battled during his life continue to this day.
“Economic equity is still a challenge. He would be looking at the criminal justice system saying there needs to be some level of reform there," said Reverend David W. Greene President of the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis. “He would be saying we need to utilize peace to resolve our issues.”
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department often says gun violence is the product of simple disputes that end with the pull of a trigger instead of with words. Greene says change starts with the youth, particularly giving them hope for a future. In 2019, 16 people under the age of 18 died in homicides. This year, there has already been one teen under 18 who lost his life in a homicide in Indianapolis.
“They are looking at themselves saying, 'I don't have much to live for anyway. If I die in the gun fight, it really doesn’t matter,'” Greene said.
Pastor James Jackson of Fervent Prayer Church says it will take community leaders, legislators, and law enforcement to come together to make a difference. Greene says not one organization is strong enough to overcome the violence, nor is it one race or region that is the problem. It's the support system in place. Jackson likens it to his favorite Dr. King quote.
“The black man was not inherently criminal, but it's sickness, disease, poverty, illiteracy, and ignorance that breeds crime,” Jackson recited.
Greene continued with his own favorite MLK quote, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Greene says the violence has a lasting impact, not only on the families of the people involved, but the community as a whole.
“We as a city of Indianapolis, we don't want to become the homicide capital," Greene says.
He fears a bad reputation could lead to an economic impact, be it to new business, or conventions seeking to call Indy home.