Leaders from the Bloomington community gathered for an annual State of the Black Community Address at City Hall Tuesday night.
The public forum focused on how issues such as education and the criminal justice system are affecting the African American community and other minority populations across the city.
William Hosea, the president of the Monroe County Black Democratic Caucus, says public discussions like these are key to promoting community engagement.
“It’s important because it’s about them. You know, those people from the community who make up the public,” Hosea says. “But it also lets them know exactly where we stand, what the condition of your community is, and it kind of serves to let you know the work that needs to be done.”
Hosea provided an economic analysis of the current state of housing for minorities in the community. He says although blacks make up only 2 percent of the population, they account for nearly 20 percent of Section 8 housing.
Hosea says the startling disparity between home ownership of black and white residents in the county is a key factor in the lack of wealth in the African American community.
Geoff Bradley, a prosecutor for Monroe County, discussed the state of the county’s justice system. He pointed to a 2017 study that showed in Monroe County, white inmates spent an average of 11 days in jail while black inmates spent an average of 13 days in jail.
Stephanie Power-Carter, an Indiana University educator and researcher, spoke on how the education system fails African American students.
She says a lack of representation and disciplinary actions in schools across the community have become a growing obstacle for students.
“We have students in the community who go to school every day who are surviving their education,” she says. “This is a community issue, and we have to address it. We cannot continue to let kids feel the way they feel.”
According to a survey of Bloomington High School North, black students made up 4.9 percent of the study body but account for 14.6 percent of in-school suspensions and 19.6 percent of out-of school suspensions.
Power-Carter says this disparity is part of the “school to prison pipeline,” a systematic disadvantage for minorities facing incarceration due to prior school policy.
“We have to think about how we use the data. How are we using that information and are there other ways that we can look at it?” She says. “And that’s work that I’m hopeful that’s starting to be done.”