Raised just a mile east of I-65 in neighboring Lake Station, I have had the privilege of working off and on at a small engineering contractor on Gary’s west side since high school. Whether it is a walk at Marquette Park, eating at establishments or engaging the locals at the train station, my time in Gary has been more than positive over the past 12 years.
The spirit of faith, hard work, family and community are firmly rooted within the city, stronger than many are led to believe. These values are consistently overshadowed by the media’s magnet toward reporting the negative happenings within the city streets.
Every time I read about a murder in Gary, I know a false stereotype is reaffirmed in the minds of many. Allowing 80 people to brand 80,000 is not only a disservice to the community, but also a perpetuation of institutional racism in America.
It is easy to sit back and criticize, point fingers, diffuse responsibility, and blame issues of the past — politics, racism, corporate outsourcing, socio-economics — which only serves to weaken this important link in Northwest Indiana. Only through collaboration – by taking action now – can we strengthen Gary for the future.
With its proximity to Chicago, one of the largest economies in the world and Indiana’s business-friendly policies, Gary is poised to be one of the most vibrant cities in America.
Given my experience in government and politics, I believe the city’s administrative leadership is stronger than it has been in decades. However, it will take partnerships beyond the walls to rebuild Rome, to shine this diamond in the rough. Whether one lives in Lowell, Valparaiso or Michigan City, we all have a stake in Gary’s success and should embrace the city as our true hub to Chicago.
At the NAACP Life Member Banquet in 2013, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson made a statement that has continued to resonate with me to this day regarding the future success of Gary: “You are either part of the solution, or you are part of the problem.”
When it comes to making the region a better place to work, live and play, which part are you?