Indiana Black Legislative Caucus Praises Progress Around 'Call To Action' Days

Mar 12, 2021

Indiana Black Legislative Caucus Chair Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis), center, is flanked by House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers), left, and House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne), right.
Credit Brandon Smith / IPB News

The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus says its “call to action days” – bringing advocates to the Statehouse – are making an impact on the legislature.

The increased advocacy came out of an incident earlier this session in which Black lawmakers were booed and heckled by some Republicans after raising concerns about what they saw as discrimination in a piece of legislation.

Organizations including the Indiana Muslim Alliance Network, the Indiana Minority Health Coalition, the Indiana Poor People’s Campaign, Faith in Indiana, Hoosier Women Forward and Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis showed up at the Statehouse, as did citizens from around the state. People sent letters and emails and made calls. And IBLC leaders say that advocacy has helped halt some legislation they oppose and push forward bills they support.

And Rep. Renee Pack (D-Indianapolis) said it’s not over.

“There’s more to do. Your voice has been heard; your voices have been heard," Pack said. "Keep talking, keep writing.”

Black Caucus Chair Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis) said there’s a continued need for implicit bias training at the legislature.

“I know some people give training, like, a bad red mark, but if you’re going to actually change people’s beliefs and change how they feel about things, they have to be educated,” Shackleford said.

Shackleford said she and House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) have made progress on getting such training implemented. Huston said he's embarrassed by the incident from earlier in session and pledged to do better, personally, to ensure it never happens again.

"Unfortunately, we sometimes take a step back. But you have to sometimes take a step back to take two steps forward," Huston said.

Huston did not address whether he'll implement implicit bias training and did not take questions.

Shackleford praised Huston for halting some legislation opposed by the IBLC, but wouldn't say exactly which ones. And she said there are concrete examples of other legislation that has either been halted or pushed further forward because of the advocacy created through the IBLC's "Call To Action" days. But she wouldn't get into specifics as the session is still far from over.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.