Activist community

Activists call for community solutions to prevent violence

INDIANAPOLIS — As the country is caught up in the debate over what to do about mass shooting after mass shooting, some are looking to politicians for answers and solutions.

Meanwhile, community activists here in Indy are working on their own solutions from a community-based approach.

“We have so many people with a lot to say, but nobody works here,” said James Wilson, CEO of Circle Up Indy.

Wilson is one of the people who get down to business. He added that there are plenty of people and organizations across Indy who also work in the community, and there’s always room for more.

“We need to stop looking to politicians to solve what is happening directly in our community,” Wilson said.

Circle Up Indy focuses on connecting the community with resources to boost education, employment, mental health and more through events like the Peace Festival.

“If we can really invest in each other and develop each other, that minimizes the problem of violence, because there are opportunities that we provide ourselves,” Wilson said.

Whether it’s the gun violence we see every week in Indianapolis or the mass shootings that make national headlines, Wilson said the solutions are community-driven.

“It’s embarrassing when we keep trying to look to politicians for solutions when the solutions, again, are right here at home,” he said.

Many organizations are working to bring the community, large and small, together through Indy.

“Bring the community together, bring everyone together and let them know, ‘Hey, we gotta stop what’s happening in our communities,'” said Robert Booker, who started Reaching Our Brothers Inc.

In the summer of 2021, Booker began hosting monthly barbecues outside an apartment in the Far East.

“It’s just about getting everyone together in a stable social environment where we don’t have to worry about hurting each other or talking to each other in a bad way that would spark violence in our neighborhood,” Booker said.

Booker said he had created a safe environment for the community and was feeding around 100 families a month.

“Giving the community something to look forward to on top of seeing all the violence,” he said.

Booker has expanded barbecues with the Safe Summer Community Grill. He plans to have one every month at different locations in the Far East. He had his first Saturday at the Ross Center.

“Everything you see is fun, you see the kids having fun, you see everyone having fun,” Booker said.

Booker said he is an example of how it only takes one person to start something that can make a difference.

“If I can do it, anyone can do it,” he said.

Both Booker and Wilson said they think there are ways the legislation could help gun violence, but now they want to work in the community rather than waiting for something to happen or not.