Indianapolis NAACP relies on rich history to focus on the future

INDIANAPOLS - As part of Black History Month, RTV6 anchor Todd Connor talked with NAACP members in Indianapolis about the organization's history and its focus for the future.

Chrystal Ratcliffe, president of the Greater Indianapolis NAACP, said that many African Americans are fighting against the same injustices in 2014 as they did in decades past.

"Some of the things they fight for, the younger generation has not experienced yet, but it's coming back to haunt them," Ratcliffe said.  "We're also looking at voter registration laws changing and actually being set back with laws like that. And we're looking at a lot of criminal justice issues."

Ratcliffe said that health care and education are two areas of concern in the African-American community.

"I don't care if they're in the townships or the city, when we look at charter schools, they do select who they want to go to those schools and that's a problem for children of color," she said.

NAACP member Homer Smith remembers what it was like back in the day when school desegregation split Indianapolis and the country.

"The (NAACP's) biggest thing was the school desegregation case, which they won.  Not everyone was happy with the remedy, one-way busing, but still, it was a win for the local chapter," he said.

Smith first joined the NAACP in the 1950s and recalls the fight to get access to Riverside Amusement Park during the Civil Rights era. The amusement park had a "whites only" policy but it was changed after a series of protests organized by the NAACP.

He also remembers being banned from the Garfield Park pool on the city's south side.

"(African-Americans) could go there, but you couldn't swim. (It was for) whites only," Smith said.

Ratcliffe and Smith said although times have changed, they want to make sure African-Americans are treated equally and given fair representation in the city.

"We've been underrepresented at the police department for a long, long time. The battles continue, and that would include the fire department as well," Smith said.

"We need to understand that people are people and we do not judge them by the color of their skin, by what they wear or what they look like," Ratcliffe said.

She also said another challenge to the organization's future is trying to get young people actively involved.

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