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Empowering Communities.
Changing Lives in Lake, Porter, & LaPorte Counties






What is America’s promise to all its people?

What is the promise of America?  Is it bestowed on certain sections of the population to the detriment of everyone else?  Does this promise create inequality and imbalance or equity and opportunity?  We know what the answer should be, but if we are honest, we understand that the promise is a long way from being fulfilled.

We in Northwest Indiana are no different than the rest of the country.  We face the test of our determination to make good on the promise of America to all of our citizens.

Today, we do this in the face of massive support for that promise.  We can see it in the “days of absence” we have witnessed and will continue to see throughout the country.

Take for instance, the recent “Day without Immigrants” where restaurants, food markets, factories and other businesses closed because immigrants instead took to the streets in general strikes and demonstrations from coast to coast.    The purpose was to show all of America the important role immigrants play in the economy and to make a profound statement about the value of all human life in the face of inhumane incarcerations and deportations that break up families and destroy innocent lives.

There is a hunger for justice in America-a hunger for diversity and inclusion in all areas of life.  We will see this on March 8, International Women’s Day, when another general strike will take place in America which is part of the fight back against the misogyny and mistreatment women in our country endure on a daily basis.

In this context, the Urban League Diversity and Inclusion Luncheon is a beacon of hope that like-minded people in Northwest Indiana will come together to celebrate those who are leading our region in the right direction.

The 5th Annual Diversity Awards Luncheon will be held on Friday, March 23, 2017 at 11:30 a.m. The deadline to submit an application for an award has been extended to Friday, March 3, 2017 by 12 noon. The event will be hosted at the Avalon Banquet Center in Merrillville, Indiana where awards will be presented to businesses and organizations throughout Lake, LaPorte and Porter counties that embrace and celebrate inclusion and participation of a diverse people in their workforces.

Last year, this annual event hosted over 500 people who came together to recognize those who are in the forefront of making Northwest Indiana a better place in which to live, work and recreate.

Recognition will be given for outstanding performance, in one or all of the following six categories.  Where does your business or agency fit in?

  • Community Award: To be presented to an organization or group that actively supports activities and services which engage diverse citizens and develops opportunities for inclusion.
  • Leadership Award: To be presented to an organization that promotes diversity and inclusion on a local and regional level.
  • Workforce Diversity Award: To be presented to an organization that implements innovative strategies to attract, select, promote and maintain a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
  • Moving the Needle Award: To be presented to nominees with exceptional effort in all above three categories.
  • Youth Award: To be presented to an organization or group that involves and engages the youth in activities that promote diversity and inclusion.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: To be presented to one individual or organization for outstanding vision, dedication and lifelong commitment to advance diversity and inclusion.

Sponsorship and ticket information is located on our website. Payments can be made online at www.ulofnwi.org. For more information, please phone the Urban League office at 219-887-9621.

We must act now on behalf of ourselves and all future generations.


Celebrating local heroes and heroines

On Thursday,, March 23, 2017, the Urban League of Northwest Indiana, Inc. hosted its 5th Annual Luncheon where organizations and individuals were honored for exceptional work focused on diversity and inclusion in the fight against racism.

Over 500 people from all over the region attentively listened as awards were given and honored guests took to the podium to offer their sharp critiques of the state of racism in America.  Keynote speaker Shari Runner, President and CEO of the Chicago Urban League warned us that “Many people in positions of authority talk about wanting to achieve equity, but more need to be willing to demonstrate the courage that it takes to actually transform the environment in which they work and play to ensure true inclusion … the root is in the narrative, language and policy and practices that we allow to persist … the images and stereotypes, the racism, we must call by name.”

Speaking of courage, this year we presented our first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award to a person of exceptional courage.  It went to former Mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher who, in the words of his nominator, longtime friend and supporter Carolyn McCrady, “… was and is to this day an iconic figure, a man of quiet dignity who over his lifetime has been a part of every struggle for diversity and inclusion, beginning with his political career in the Gary City Council to his continuing dedication to achieving justice in the city of Gary, Northwest Indiana and the nation.

Certainly Mayor Hatcher knows a lot about the struggle against racism having survived death threats and a plot to steal the election he ultimately won in 1967 by members of his own Democratic party.  It took remarkable courage to withstand those assaults and the continuing rhetorical violence leveled against him over his 20 years in office.  But as he remained steadfastly at the helm of his city, he was able to bring about social and economic change.  In 1963, he authored and steered passage of the city’s groundbreaking Open Housing Law.  He was able to open a city airport, restart the public bus system, construct numerous new senior housing complexes, and retain Methodist Hospital in the city all of which led to new jobs and continuing access to health care.

He even lent his considerable name, talents and resources to join the fight to free Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

But this column does not have the space for even a small fraction of his many accomplishments. He paved the way for others to take their rightful places where others like them had been historically denied. He has shown courage in the face of tremendous adversity and love in the face of hatred. Those who understand the difference he made, realize that he richly deserved this award.

We all want to believe that we are free of bias, intolerance and frankly bigotry.  And yet, here we are, as Shari Runner has told us “…saturated with verbal and nonverbal expressions that cross the line from free speech to hate speech … and the line is increasingly thin, blurry and dangerous, that in 2017 this should still be an issue, creates cognitive dissonance that lends itself to a conspiracy of silence.”

We therefore celebrate the other awardees including Project Outreach and Prevention, organized in Northwest Indiana to provide activities for young people struggling with social, racial and economic problems. We celebrate the Women United of LaPorte County for their outstanding dedication to tackling the issues of poverty where 37% of persons living in that county struggle with financial instability and LaPorte Circuit Court Judge, Thomas J. Alevizos for his local and regional leadership in promoting diversity and inclusion as well as the Racial Justice Taskforce of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Hobart.  And finally, we were glad to honor the Northwest Indiana Community Action group whose mission is to develop innovative strategies to help people live independently.

During the event, guest speakers Shari Runner, President and CEO of the Chicago Urban League and Dr. Andrea Lyons, Dean of the Valparaiso Law School spoke strongly about the need to confront racism and extolled us to not remain silent in the face of hatred and to confront racism wherever it exists. “Everyone can do something.”

According to Runner, the Urban League of Northwest Indiana is playing a key role to bring the communities of the region together.

“Without question, the Urban League of Northwest Indiana has done a monumental job of shining a light on racial inequities and building a bridge to diversity and inclusion … But that is a bridge whose infrastructure is being weakened by persistent racism.”



(March 28, 2017…Gary, IN)—In an event today highlighting the availability of tax preparation assistance, The Urban League of Northwest Indiana called for more tax preparer volunteers to assist in helping Northwest Hoosiers in filling out their taxes by the April 18 deadline. The Urban League is one of a number of sites in the area providing free income tax services for anyone earning less than $54,000 a year.

The Urban League is participating in VITA, a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program that encourages certified tax preparers to volunteer to prepare income taxes for those who are income eligible. The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and Mayor Karen Freeman Wilson joined Dr. Vanessa Allen to express their appreciation for the work of the local affiliate and its volunteers to provide this service to the community.

According to Allen, “The policy of providing free tax preparation is in line with the Urban League’s Financial Stability efforts., and we encourage tax professionals who would like to volunteer their services to contact the Urban League Office at 219-887- 9621 and ask for Tersina Jones.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and USCM representatives will join the Urban League in a Press event to highlight the VITA services on Tuesday, March 28, 2017, 10:00 a.m. at the Urban League office. The Media is encouraged to attend. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson stated, “We thank all the volunteers who are helping Gary residents with their tax returns and making sure that they receive the full benefits of their refunds,” said Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson. “The Urban League of Northwest Indiana is providing an invaluable service to the community,” she said.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors also highlighted the availability of Free File, an IRS facilitated free ,online tax preparation service for those who make less than $64,000. This service is available for those who may not be able to physically come to a VITA site. Residents can access the service through www.irs.gov/freefile.

“We congratulate the Urban League of Northwest Indiana and the City for working to provide this service to residents,” said Dave Gatton of the US. Conference of Mayors. The tax code has a variety of refundable credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit that eligible tax filers should take full advantage of,” he said. “We also want to make sure that residents know they can file their taxes, free of charge by using the IRS Free File program by going to IRS.gov.

“ While a great number of Northwest Indiana residents have been served through the program, there is dire need for more volunteer tax preparers. Those interested and available to volunteer their services, should contact the Urban League office at 219-887- 9621 and ask for Tersina Jones.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program and its partners include United Way, Chase Bank, IRS, and Northwest Indiana Asset Building Campaign.

NWI Coalition for Civil Discourse and Lakeshore Public Media Present Third Town Hall Event on ‘Race, Justice, Community and Policing’

Michigan City, Indiana –  Acts of violence between police and citizens across our nation over the last year have sparked important discussions in our communities about race and fair policing. The NWI Coalition for Civil Discourse will convene a town hall forum in Michigan City to bring together citizens, law enforcement, government officials and representatives from community groups to discuss these issues that have become topics of major concern for Northwest Indiana residents.

A Town Hall Forum on Race, Justice, Community and Policing will be held on Tuesday, April 11 from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at the Michigan City High School Auditorium.  The meeting will be a public dialogue among Northwest Indiana communities aimed at identifying innovative solutions to critical concerns in the face of current racial polarization.

The meeting will be moderated by Dr. Garrard McClendon, a region native and host of the Lakeshore PBS public affairs show, CounterPoint with Garrard McClendon.  A portion of the forum will be recorded and will be aired the following night on Tuesday, April 12 at 6:30 p.m. on Lakeshore PBS.

McClendon hopes that these public forums will improve communication and relationships among citizens and law enforcement.  “This is a community conversation to start the process of clearly identifying the challenges we face.  We need to explore the perceptions that people have on all sides of the topic which is instrumental to leading us to a better understanding.”

The panelists scheduled to appear include Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer, LaPorte County Prosecuting Attorney John Espar, Assistant Police Chief Julie Smith of the LaPorte Police Department, IUN Sociology Professor and ACLU Indiana Board Member Kevin McElmurry , Wesley Scully of the LaPorte County NAACP and Erika Stallworth, Executive Director LaPorte County Juvenile Services Center.

James A. Muhammad, President and CEO of Lakeshore Public Media, welcomes the opportunity to convene this community conversation.  “Our goal is to have a true dialogue with the community and with government officials and law enforcement,” Muhammad stated. “It is an opportunity to engage in conversations that challenge assumptions and improve understanding across the board in order to move Northwest Indiana forward collectively.”

The NWI Coalition for Civil Discourse is comprised of partners from the government, non-profit, education, media, criminal justice, and corporate sectors committed to furthering dialogue across differences for the public good. The NWI Coalition for Civil Discourse includes the Urban League of Northwest Indiana, Valparaiso University, Lakeshore Public Media, the City of Valparaiso, and the City of Gary, with support from NIPSCO and other community organizations

The mission of the Coalition aims to foster constructive conversations about difficult issues that challenge residents collectively, and cultivate solutions that promote tolerance, honor diverse perspectives, and improve the quality of life throughout the Northwest Indiana Region.  The Coalition held two previous town hall forums which attracted nearly 500 residents.  The first event in the series was held on Aug. 30, 2016 at the Genesis Convention Center in Gary and the second event was held on Nov. 28, 2016 and hosted by Valparaiso University.

McClendon hopes that people from all across Northwest Indiana will attend.  “We are looking for a civil discussion in which we need to hear multiple points of view, so we want to hear questions from people that represent our diverse communities,” McClendon said.

How to Attend the Town Hall Meeting

The event will take place in the Michigan City High School Auditorium, located at 8466 W Pahs Road in Michigan City. Admission is free.  The Coalition asks the community to preregister for this event at https://laportecountytownhall.eventbrite.com/.   All are urged to attend this important public forum.


Lakeshore Public Media provides quality local and original programming that educates, enlightens, and informs. Lakeshore Public Media chooses the best of NPR and PBS and other public media providers, broadcasting to millions of homes throughout Northwest Indiana, Chicago and its surrounding suburbs.  Lakeshore Public Radio can be heard on 89.1fm.   Lakeshore Public Television broadcasts its main channel over the air on 56, on Comcast on 17 or 21 (HD Channel 239), on RCN Cable on 44, on Dish Network (HD Channel 6320), AT&T U-verse (HD Channel 1056) and DirecTV on 56. 

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