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Stand4Peace initiative uses library exhibit to open dialogue about Indianapolis violence

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INDIANAPOLIS — The names were read one by one. A bell was rung after each name.

Jim Madison. Brandon Ford. J'von Ellis. Dexter Smith. Michael Hall. Perry Renn. Nathan Trapuzzano.

In all, the names of 74 people killed this year were read Tuesday as part of an event that launched Stand4Peace. The two-month initiative by the Indianapolis Public Library aims to open a dialogue in the community about solving the city's violent crime problem, particularly black-on-black violence.

The centerpiece of the initiative is the "Kin Killin' Kin" exhibit, which features images of young black men shooting each other. The men in the images are wearing white cloaks and pointed hoods. Some wear glittery chains and rings embedded with the letters KKK.

Jackie Nytes, the library's CEO, told The Indianapolis Star (http://indy.st/1sY9U2Z ) she hopes the 13 images drawn in charcoal by Dayton, Ohio, visual artist James Pate will resonate with the public, particularly with youths, and prompt conversations "about the change that has to happen in the community."

"We thought maybe this, because it's so visual and so powerful, it would really drive home to people how painful this is, how challenging it is what's going on for the families in this community," Nytes said during the event at the Central Library in Downtown Indianapolis. "People don't know how to problem-solve anymore. And we've got to talk to these young people. How do you solve problems? How do you get through life? You don't do it shooting each other."

Pate, who was not at the event, used the images to compare the Ku Klux Klan's terrorism of the black community with existing black-on-black violence. African-Americans have killed more of their own since the Reconstruction Era than the Klan did, Pate wrote in his explanation of the images.

Derren Chapman, 30, Indianapolis, said the images are a powerful eye-opener that brutally point out what has become a standard among the black community.

"Most young black males, they don't think of us as the KKK. We dislike it," Chapman said. "When you think about it, we're worse. It's war against ourselves."

The initiative comes as the city's homicide rate keeps climbing. Indianapolis has seen at least 84 criminal homicides since January and is on pace for 150 this year, well above last year's 125, which was the highest in seven years.

As part of Stand4Peace, library officials plan to have groups of high school students visit the exhibit in the coming weeks, Nytes said. Students also can meet with counselors to talk about the artwork. There also will be meetings with community and political leaders, she said.

Paije Jones, 14, said the exhibit was "eye-opening" for her.

"It's not just people shooting at each other. Some victims are innocent bystanders," said Jones, a freshman and one of a handful of students from Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School who attended the event. "There's a bigger issue than what I thought."

Mayor Greg Ballard, who cut a crime-scene ribbon during the exhibit's opening, said the city's problem with violence will not be solved with short-term solutions.

Ballard said 1,800 Indianapolis children get expelled or drop out of school annually.

He said officials need to do a better job of rehabilitating those who are in prison by offering substance abuse treatment before they are released.

"No skill set, no job prospects ... and they are among us. What are they doing every day? We have failed to address that," Ballard said. "We simply have to do better by our kids growing up, and frankly, we have to do better by those coming out of prison"

Last month, Ballard announced a proposal to invest $50 million in public and private funds to finance preschool education for 1,300 children from low-income families. The proposal is part of Ballard's three-tiered crime-fighting plan, which also includes adding more police officers and calling for tougher sentences on gun crimes.

Also part of the library exhibit is a street memorial with the names of victims of violence. People can write the names of those they knew on a card and add it to the memorial. A memorial of teddy bears and candles stands in one corner. The edges of the floor are riddled with bullets.

The exhibit, which was initiated by the library's African American History Committee, will be open to the public until Sept. 28 at the Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair St.


Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com

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