Indy business leaders announce racial equity pledge

INDIANAPOLIS– In a public commitment that local leaders hope will be a game changer to Indianapolis’ national reputation and for its Black residents, several corporations announced today their participation in the Indy Racial Equity Pledge.

“We pledge to take meaningful action to address the issues of racial equity and justice in Central Indiana. As leaders in this community, we must hold one another accountable for creating short- and long-term change for African Americans. We pledge to share our progress toward the goal of a racially equitable community,” reads the commitment on the Pledge website.

Eli Lilly & Company, Anthem, Inc., IU Health and Pacers Sports & Entertainment are just a few of the central Indiana corporate leaders committed to the Pledge.

“Their commitment to drive change is, I think, transformative, and has the potential to move Indianapolis into being one of the leaders, if not the leader, of major American cities in dealing with systemic and institutional racism and impoverishment that has held us back in our community,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett.

“28% of African Americans in this community are poor,” said Indianapolis Urban League President & CEO Tony Mason. “The median household income among blacks in our city is $27,908 compared to $56,353 for white families.

“We know that home ownership has declined to 31% since 2007. That’s Black home ownership,” Mason said. “70% of students fail standardized tests and do not have often times access to computers or reliable broadband internet.”

Indiana Fever Vice President and General Manager Tamika Catchings said Pacers Sports & Entertainment has pledged to increase its already substantial commitment to the community.

“We are pledging today that a majority of our philanthropic resources across PS & E will be spent upon solutions impacting equity and social justice issues,” said the WNBA Hall of Famer. “We are also investing in training, rewarding community engagement, and doubling down on our effort to make Bankers Life Fieldhouse a true community asset and we are developing a nationally recognized supplier diversity program because we understand that a diverse local economy benefits us all.”

“Today we’re at about ten percent Black employees. We’re going to get to 13%,” said David Ricks, President & CEO of Eli Lilly & Company. “We plan to double the company’s annual spending with African American suppliers and vendors over the next two years.”

“We have a major project here in Indianapolis that will be over $1.6 billion,” said IU Health President and CEO Dennis Murphy, “and we expect at least 25% of that project to go to diverse and underrepresented businesses.”

Murphy also pledged that IU Health would raise its starting wage to $13 an hour with a goal of paying five year employees $18 an hour.

“As employers I think that the best thing we can do is offer people good jobs,” he said.

“You know, when we take a look at where we are, none of us are happy,” said Felicia Norwood, Executive VP of Anthem, Inc. “We will drive insights and seek solutions to address food insecurity, economic security and behavioral health issues.”

“We pledge that we will engage with criminal justice and law enforcement agencies,” said Cummins, Inc. Corporation Counsel Sharon Barner. “Cummins will advocate for efforts to improve the engagement between law enforcement and all members of the community, especially our black` community. We will support initiatives that will enhance accountability structures, review use of force policies and promote a culture of diversity and inclusion in police forces around the country.”

Last week, a number of corporate leaders threw their support behind a proposal before the City County Council to name a civilian majority to a newly created General Orders Board to write policies and rules for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

Ricks said this past summer’s awareness across the nation of fatal police confrontations with Black Americans and social justice protests galvanized his commitment to help create and sign the Indy Racial Equity Pledge.

“For me, that’s really crystalized the scope of the problem which is large but the need for private enterprise to step in,” he said. “I think businesses can do two things that can fundamentally change things for African American companies in our city and set an example for our country. The first is creating jobs. That’s what companies do.

“The other thing we can do is ignite economic activity which creates an opportunity for African American businesses.”

As the leader of an international pharmaceutical giant, Ricks said Lilly seeks to bring executive talent to Indianapolis from around the world.

“We need to change the reputation of our community as being a welcome place for inbound Black executives,” he said. “I don’t think that’s a strong reputation we have and collectively as business leaders we can change that.”

“I am filled with hope that we have reached a turning point in our city’s history that will lead to real change for everyone in this community regardless of race,” said Mason.

Corporate signers of the commitment said their progress on reaching those equity goals will be charted on the pledge website.

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