Marshawn Wolley: To move city forward, we need the next Black agenda

It is the best of times; it is the worst of times—it is time to revisit a Black agenda.

Before the murder of George Floyd, Black leaders with the African American Coalition of Indianapolis and Black pastors called for a series of policy changes to address.

A Black agenda was a key deliverable for leaders bearing witness to the Black community experiencing physical, economic and spiritual death. Then there was a pandemic, economic collapse and Floyd’s murder.

Homicides and non-fatal shootings continue to ravage the Black community. But we have seen a surge in Black business formation with the potential for significant business growth in some sectors.

The Black community is also experiencing a cultural renaissance. Black culture is advancing, and we are doing different things like running for mayor and starting more businesses.

In four short years, several institutions have launched within the Black community because of the Black agenda.

The African American Legacy Fund of Indianapolis is a donor-advised fund at the Central Indiana Community Foundation that supports Black philanthropists’ efforts to support Black-led, Black-governed and Black-focused organizations.

The Indianapolis Commission on African American Males was created by the City-County Council and is currently leading community conversations on mental health, community violence, the achievement gap in education and Black business development.

Equity1821, a Black-led loan fund launched and recently conducted a survey on Black businesses and their banking needs and is using that data to develop products to support the Black business ecosystem.

As part of Mayor Hogsett’s Black agenda, the city launched an inclusive business plan with tax incentives tied to an $18-per-hour living wage and a 25-year plan to address food insecurity. It also touted Project Indy, which connects youth to employment, and Indy Achieves, a workforce development program providing scholarships and completion grants to Ivy Tech Community College and IUPUI students.

The city also developed a civilian-led Use of Force Board and General Orders Board, and there was a review of the Citizens Police Complaint Board.

Not to mention, CICF called for dismantling systemic racism, the Business Equity for Indy initiative was created, and the city embraced the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, which has resulted in increased efforts at budgeting with an eye toward equity.

We’ve come a long way. But more work remains, and we need to revisit the Black agenda.

The community agrees. A survey of over 1,300 Black residents in Indianapolis found that an overwhelming number believes Black Indianapolis should have a Black agenda, and that agenda should be developed and implemented in partnership with Black leaders and elected officials.

There is no question the Black community will “do for self”; the question is whether Black leaders will find a partner for the Black community’s progress.

With a population roughly the size of Fort Wayne facing serious and disparate economic realities and education, health, life expectancy and quality-of-life challenges, the viability of our shared first-class city is threatened. Inequity is unsustainable.

The challenges facing a community that has been in this city for two centuries and has faced racial discrimination in housing, education, economic and civic life cannot be ameliorated inside of an election cycle.

If too many of anyone is experiencing the worst of times, it really can’t be the best of times—we need the next Black agenda.•


Wolley is president and CEO of Black Onyx Management Inc. Send comments to

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