Posted on July 22, 2011

Smith: Finding the Balance Between Safety, Comfort at Summer Celebration

Erika D. Smith, IndyStar, July 19, 2011

It was only a year ago that Tanya Bell, president and CEO of Indiana Black Expo, stood grimly in front of a bank of TV cameras, trying to somehow explain the bursts of gunfire that left 10 teens injured during the nonprofit group’s annual Summer Celebration.

On Monday, she faced the cameras again, but this time with an air of pride.

“This is a victory,” Bell declared.

No one got shot.

No one got beat up in a brawl.

There weren’t gangs of teenagers running around unsupervised.


Indeed, Summer Celebration was safe. Black Expo passed the public’s test to put on a violence-free event.

But at what cost?

It looked like the government had declared martial law after the sun went down Friday.

Police were dozens deep on Pennsylvania Street across from the American Legion Mall. They were on foot, on bikes and in cars. On Meridian Street, there were even more cops, plus civilians who had vowed to help keep the peace.

Even people in the audience were peering through the dark, watching for trouble–while, of course, singing along to old-school R&B.


I kept thinking: All of this so people can have fun? Long term, how is this going to affect the mood of an event that’s supposed to be a “celebration”?


Some thought the police presence was too much. Some said they liked it because they felt safe. Others stayed away altogether.


I understand why a heavy police presence was necessary at this year’s Summer Celebration.

But the fact that it was necessary still strikes me as extremely sad and slightly ridiculous–like watching a Transportation Security Administration agent pat down an old woman with a walker or look suspiciously at a baby in a stroller.