Dozens of Indianapolis residents gathered on Palm Sunday (March 20), and coincidently the first day of Spring, to express profound concern, grief, and inquisition for the families of homicide victims whose cases remain open, leaving behind a trail of unanswered questions and much anxiety. With Metropolitan police, television camera crews, and some of Indy’s most notable spiritual leaders in attendance, Hoosiers assembled quietly and pensively in the parking lot of North United Methodist Church (39th Street & Illinois), not to simply extend condolences, but with the goal of laying out a foundation of actionable guidelines to help bring change to Indy’s extensive history of high crime rates.
“It’s not ‘snitching,’ it’s reporting. Snitching is a prison term. We are not prisoners,” proclaimed Rev. Michael Jones, Senior Pastor of Progressive Baptist Church in Indianapolis. Rev. Jones joins a roster of church leaders who have long occupied the role of community activist, striving to restore safety and solitude in some of Indy’s most notorious, crime-beaten neighborhoods. Neighborhoods like Butler Tarkington, that has been ravaged with deadly shooting sprees linked to a rise in drug activity in recent years. Darren Cushman Wood, Senior Pastor of North UMC, kicked off the rally in prayer, as many sought answers to hard questions. Rev. Rob Fuquay of St. Luke’s UMC, Rev. Melvin J. Jackson of Christian Love Baptist Church, Rev. Matt Landry of Meridian Street UMC, and many other faith leaders were present at the “We Will Never Forget” rally, along with Assistant IMPD Chief, Randy Taylor, who shares the pain and grief of families of murder victims, given that, he too, has experienced the same loss.
The rally was organized by Indy Ten Point Coalition, a faith-based organization, spearheaded by the Rev. Charles Harrison - Senior Pastor of Barnes United Methodist Church, fixated on reducing violence in the Greater Indianapolis area through peace keeping and “see something, say something” reporting methods. Rev. Harrison and volunteers of Ten Point are often seen on the news speaking out about the need for transparent conversations, along with installing actionable procedures, and the proactive involvement of elected officials, to help reface the city by reinforcing tight security measures and protecting the lives of young boys and girls.
Families who attended the rally were encouraged to bring pictures and information about the victims of these horrendous crimes. The family of 10 year-old De’Shaun Lee Swanson distributed programs originally shared at his funeral six months ago. The rally progressed to the 3900 block of Graceland Ave., in the front yard of De’Shaun’s home, where his life was tragically taken. From there, attendees gathered in prayer and expressed words of affirmation to the families involved and families like the Swansons, who clutched the portrait of “Little Man” De’Shaun Swanson tightly as we united on the front lawn that now holds much desolation. Families like Greg Wilson Sr., father of 34 year-old Greg Wilson Jr., who was slain just steps away from the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in broad daylight in late October of 2015. “You don’t know what it feels like until you lose someone you love. I cried before I came here, and i’ll probably cry after I leave,” said Wilson, who served as a top aide to former Indianapolis Mayor, Greg Ballard.
The Indy Ten Point Coalition stressed the following key points:
- There is a bold discrepancy between “snitching” and playing your part as an active member of your community and “reporting” suspicious or unwarranted activity to the proper authorities,
- Indy Ten Point Coalition, along with community and spiritual leaders, will advocate to provide those who report crimes with the protection they need,
- It is an active goal to involve as many Indianapolis pastors and church leaders as possible to aid in bolstering the mission of Ten Point, and
- Contact your elected official. Share your distress and concern. Motivate he or she to get involved in helping to make Indianapolis safer once again.
As these families search for hope of someday receiving the answers they so desperately need to obtain closure, we are reminded of this year’s Annual Conference theme of “Be. Hope,” - which reminds us that hope can be sought and found in almost every avenue of life. And regardless of your faith, background, or current economic standing, hope often comes in the form a kind-hearted and inspired individual. As you go about your weekly routine, we encourage you to lift the families of these victims in profound prayers. Although their love ones are gone, they still remain hopeful for a new day.
You can find more photos from the rally by Ellis Photography, here.
For more, read: Palm Sunday Procession for Justice by Meridian Street UMC Associate Pastor, Matt Landry.