Freeman Wilson: What will cause you to take off your shoes
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman Wilson gives a powerful speech Thursday at Muncie Black Expo lunch. Photo Credit: Rick Yencer
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, IN - Freeman Wilson gave a compelling talk about how people should be called to action during the Muncie Black Expo luncheon at Cornerstone Center for the Arts. More than 300 people attended the event and many awaited the kickoff of the yearly event Friday at 6 p.m. in Heekin Park. As Expo President Ren'a Wagner said, the word free was added to all events this weekend, making entertainment, sports and food a delight to Expo goers.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman Wilson has her call to action about any day of the week as she is running one of the toughest cities in America, a city in the shadow of Chicago, the Windy City. Take last week, for example, when Freeman Wilson showed up at an apartment building 13 hours after the second murder in a week. There was still blood on the walls and floor with babies, mothers and others walking through the crime scene to get to their apartments.
Upset that apartment managers had not cleaned up after police investigated the crime, it became obvious that apartment managers did not care whether their residents were dead or alive. After talking with them and federal housing officials, Freeman Wilson then contacted the U.S. Department of Justice to see what could be done about gun violence in Gary, the hometown of the late king of pop, Michael Jackson.
Here locally, the 20th annual Muncie Black Expo is expected to be bigger and better than ever. Ren'a Wagner said it was a delight to have city officials working with the Expo and that she expected big crowds to enjoy the summer celebration. In recent years, the event had conflicts with former Muncie Mayor Sharon McShurley, who was ousted by a 10-1 vote in African American neighborhoods last fall.
Freeman Wilson, the first black female mayor in Indiana, is a Harvard educated lawyer and a sorority sister of Terry Whitt Bailey, Muncie's Community Development director. Bailey said Freeman Wilson was just the type of person to manage a city with tough issues involving unemployment, crime and declining population. Gary, the home of U.S. Steel, fell on hard times like most other Midwest manufacturing cities, losing half its population in the last half century.
Freeman Wilson ran three times before elected mayor last fall, and was a former Indiana Attorney General and also presided over the Indiana Civil Rights Commission. Her no nonsense approach and strong faith in God drove her to help the community she loved so much and called home.
Using a personal story of buying a cheap pair of shoes on the Internet, Freeman Wilson took the crowd through the story of how long it took her to take action and take off her shoes at a formal event. She then asked the rhetorical question of what it took for others to take off their shoes or take action against discrimination or find social justice, peace or enlightenment when it comes to the economy, health care or other issues that impact people.
Many who left the meeting like Ed McNeary, former president of the Muncie NAACP or Delaware Circuit Court 2 Judge Alan Wilson, a former Muncie mayor, left with a sense of action to make Muncie a better place.
And Bailey charged the crowd with feelings of community, saying no one should leave with a negative thought or action about the Muncie community that has faced unemployment, poor health and lack of economic opportunity in recent years.
Muncie Black Expo also recognized a pair of community leaders who sacrificed much to make Muncie a better place. One was physician Max Rudicel who delivered over 5,000 babies, worked tirelessly in the IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital emergency room for years and also provided a health clinic for those in need. And then there was fallen firefighter Scott Davis, who gave his life fighting a church fire in June 2011, leaving his family behind.
Black Expo 2012 kicks off this Friday at 6 p.m. in Heekin Park in beautiful Muncie, Indiana.