Picture courtesy of Andrea Smith and Studio 57
Photo courtesy of Andrea Smith and Studio 57

Do More to engage black voters than go to church

May 24, 2019

Recently, I had a conversation with an Indiana politician who struggled to get black voters to the polls during his last campaign.

He noted he visited with many of the clergy in the area, hoping they would help turn out the black vote. I tried to explain that he might have needed to connect with voters outside the black church, because not all black people go to church. He pushed back and explained that, in his community, talking to clergy was the most effective way to reach the black community. However, he then went on to express his disappointment in not getting at least 20% black voter turnout, which was one of the reasons he lost the race.

I didn’t have the heart to suggest to this obviously intelligent man that, if you didn’t get the desired results from reaching out only to black clergy, maybe it wasn’t the best—or only—way.

It has been said before—the black community is not a monolith. Now it is important to understand what that means. Yes, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center report, blacks identify as “more religious” than both whites and Latinos. But that doesn’t mean all blacks follow the Christian faith and attend Christian churches on a regular basis. It is important to understand this distinction because candidates are missing voting blocs in the black community.

It is understandable why many outside the black community associate black politics with the black church. For so long, America was a segregated nation, and blacks weren’t given the opportunity to participate fully in the Democratic process. The black church was where organizing occurred. Parishioners felt safe to have political meetings and the church cultivated community leaders. But things change, and campaigns must also change and expand their approach to black communities.

As the Pew research shows, a full 79% of blacks identify as Christian, leaving 21% who are of other faiths or of no faith. But even among the high percentage of blacks who identify as a person of faith, only 47% attend religious services on a regular basis. If a campaign’s only strategy is the black Christian church, that campaign’s message is failing to reach more than half the black population. And that can’t be considered a winning strategy.

(I won’t even get into a conversation about showing up to black churches two weeks before Election Day—when you haven’t previously engaged the community—and think that is sufficient. Show some respect.)

We can’t increase black voter turnout if we ignore 53% of the black population. Meet voters where they are. Dedicate time and effort into connecting with black voters at black small-business events, service-industry worker organizations, sororities and fraternities, and, yes, even the beauty and barber shops.

Connect with the black voter the same way one would with any other voter—and not at the last minute. Do the hard work and inspire black voters to turn out. Building relationships builds community confidence. If campaigns don’t step outside the black church to increase black voter turnout, races will be lost.

Primary season is complete; most campaigns are moving into general election mode. There is enough time to devise a real strategy to engage black communities. Don’t be half-hearted and unimaginative in campaigning and think it is only necessary to engage Christian black voters who attend church regularly to encourage greater black voter turnout.•

Dana Black: Holcomb struggles to persuade GOP to follow his lead

March 29, 2019

As we reach the final months of the 2019 session of the Indiana General Assembly, I’m questioning the strength of our executive branch and the governor’s ability to shape the discussion with elected leaders in the Legislature, especially within his own party.

I attended a legislative conference earlier this year and Gov. Eric Holcomb made it clear what he wanted from the 2019 legislative session. He stated emphatically the need for comprehensive hate crimes legislation, he boasted about his desire to improve teacher pay, and he wanted to improve the Department of Child Services, just to name a few of his initiatives. The governor delivered a visually beautiful presentation detailing the 2019 Next Level Agenda.

The House did come through for DSC by passing House Bill 1006, which modifies guidelines for the agency about how children and families should be cared for. However, this bill does not address the second half of the issue—and that is the DCS employee. Setting the limits on the case load could create a bottle neck in the system if employee retention is not a part of the discussion. The implementation of the new guidelines will only be as effective as the case workers employed by DCS. And while the House budget included new money for DCS, Senate leaders have indicated they may cut that funding.

That seems to be a theme with this governor. He suggests what he wants from his supermajority General Assembly and they send him back something watered down and not meeting the stated goal. Another example is Senate Bill 12, the Senate’s version of hate crimes legislation. After an attack on the Hamilton County Jewish community, Gov. Holcomb finally woke up and realized all the things people in the black, Hispanic, Muslim and LGBTQ+ communities have been saying for decades was true and hate crimes legislation was needed. But SB 12—as passed by the Senate—doesn’t even list any protected victims’ groups. Don’t be fooled; this is by design because some of our elected officials think there is something inherently wrong with protecting our tax-paying transgender community.

And then there was Gov. Holcomb’s commitment to raising teacher pay and public school funding. You can always tell what is most important by how people spend their money. Interesting information shared by Rep. Karlee Macer: Charter school funding will increase by 11.35 percent in 2020 and an additional 10.35 percent in 2021. Funding for virtual schools will increase by 9.17 percent in 2020 and an additional 8.93 percent in 2021. Voucher schools will receive an increase in funding of 10.33 percent in 2020 and an additional 5.66 percent in 2021. But what will public schools get? In 2020, a 1.59 percent increase and an additional 1.75 percent in 2021. About 92 percent of Indiana students attend a public school, yet they are only seeing a fraction of the additional funding non-public schools are receiving.

If these budget numbers hold true, then Gov. Holcomb’s goal of increasing pay for public school teachers is not going to happen anytime soon and that speaks profoundly to his level of influence and effectiveness as a leader. He was ignored.

But wait! The House did find funding for arming teachers and staff in schools with guns and marksmanship training to the tune of $2,000 per person with the passing of HB 1253. But we can’t give teachers raises? Gov. Holcomb has no control over his party and obviously his party is not interested in the future of our state when they can ignore one basic simple fact:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela•


Quality of life in Indiana—we can do better!

April 27, 2018

When Gov. Eric Holcomb outlined his 2018 Next Level Agenda, among his lofty initiatives was creating a much stronger and more attractive workforce. And during the 2018 session of the General Assembly, despite lawmakers’ inability to complete all their work on time, they did manage to introduce legislation that would improve workforce development.

House Bill 1002 will add more dollars to the state’s workforce development program, and Senate Bill 50 changes oversight on how those dollars are spent. Both bills are admirable as they address one of the reasons Indiana has a reported 95,000 job opportunities going unfilled.

But let’s look at Indiana and its desire to fill those roles from a holistic point of few.

With an unemployment rate of about 3.2 percent, job training and career retooling is just one of the solutions to consider. There’s something else we need to discuss: the quality of life for Hoosiers. And until we as a state are willing to address this, we will continue to struggle with attracting the best talent and higher-paying career options.

We all know we don’t have miles and miles of beach-front property overlooking pristine gulf shores or oceans. Nor do we have mountains to ski down for a winter getaway. Brown County is awesome with its fall natural beauty, but Indiana simply does not have some of the natural landscape that would invite young, active, outdoor-loving people to consider moving to our state.

Add to that the social climate created from our Statehouse:

◗ RFRA, a bill signed by our previous governor designed to allow discrimination against an already-marginalized group that was disguised as a bill to protect religious freedom.

◗ HB 1337, a bill signed to continually make it more difficult for women to make their own family-planning decisions, which was later overturned by the Indiana Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

◗ SB 309, a bill signed by our current governor to discourage renewable energy and continue to keep Indiana at 48th in the nation in air quality. Got asthma? You probably shouldn’t move to Indiana. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why clean air is a partisan issue.

State leaders love to say we attract industry and jobs to Indiana—and for the most part we do. Our corporate tax rate is one of the lowest in the nation, and we love to offer tax abatements to any company who looks our way.

But significant cuts in revenue also means cuts in funding for public education and teacher salaries; this helps to exacerbate our current teacher shortage. Those cuts also mean many of our state infrastructure needs go unaddressed, and I’m not talking about just roads and bridges. Services we should be providing like child protective services are hampered. Over the past several months, we have all been awakened to the plight of the Department of Child Services and the number of children at risk because of budgetary constraints.

All of this makes one ask: What is the quality of life like in Indiana? Given a choice, who wants to move where the roads are crappy, one could experience discrimination in public accommodations and poor air quality?

With Notre Dame, Valparaiso, Rose-Hulman, Ball State, Purdue, Indiana University, Indiana State University and Butler, Indiana has some of the best colleges and universities in the nation. We have one of the best community college systems in Ivy Tech. Training folks isn’t the issue; maintaining trained folks is.

Because of the quality-of-life concerns, Indiana has become the exporter of talent and not an importer of talent and, until we are willing to address this issue, no amount of extra money will fill those 95,000 jobs.•

Leadership in life, politics is about uplifting others

March 23, 2018


When we hear this word, many of us conjure up someone able to influence people, places and events, someone who has the capability to look at situations from multiple angles and come to a good conclusion. Leaders don’t always make the correct decision, but they are willing to make a decision, especially in stressful situations.

Over the years, I have met people who liked being called leaders, but I wouldn’t allow them to lead me across the street, let alone in a serious decision-making situation.

Often, they can be pushy, demanding and downright disrespectful to co-workers, teammates and, yes, even constituents. They tend to draw conclusions based on stereotypes and unfounded expectations.

I will never forget the project manager who said, some 20 years ago, that I was “surprisingly articulate.” These types of folks work harder at finding fault in others than at finding assets to uplift them.

Then again, I have met people through my years whom I would follow to the end of the earth because they worked harder at being servants than they did anything else. They give credit for a job well done, coach when the work isn’t where it should be, and are an optimistic and positive influence on the people around them. Good leaders always work to find the good in people and try to shed light on what makes them great.

I have had people refer to me as a leader, but as I am wrapping up my fourth decade on this planet, I’m still coming to terms with what that means because I feel there is still too much to learn.

Some people believe leaders are born, but I tend to lean toward the notion that good leaders can be made. I think about Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player in the history of the NBA.

When he came into the league, he could electrify the crowd and light up the scoreboard. But he wasn’t winning, especially not championships. He had to learn he couldn’t do it all by himself; he needed his teammates to help finish the job.

However, I think the greatest of lessons Jordan would learn, no matter how great he was as a player, was that he had to make the people around him better. In some of those championships, it was John Paxon or Steve Kerr taking the big shot at the end of the game. They were ready to produce because Jordan had shown confidence in their abilities.

What is all this talk about leadership?

I hope it will give you something to think about in your everyday lives. More important, election season is upon us. In just a few months, we will have a primary election. Early voting begins April 10. Already, high-priced commercials are making their way to my TV screen. As you start to learn about the candidates, listen to how they speak about the issues, listen to how they speak about themselves, and listen to how they speak of their constituents and opponents.

Are they running for office because of their surname, or do they want to be a servant for the people? Are they working to improve the lives of Hoosier families or just their family? Are they only finding fault in other people or are they working to uplift those around them?

As you begin to make your decisions, I hope the folks asking for your vote meet your standards of what leadership should look like.•

Women need to be present and recognize our power

February 23, 2018

There was quite a bit of skepticism on Jan. 21, 2017. I’m not talking about the inauguration of 45, although I understand why that would be your logical conclusion. There was concern by some—as expressed by Shikha Dalmia in The Week—that the Women’s March was “shaping up to be a feel-good exercise in search of a cause.” But from my observation, the cause and intent of the march and all the “sister” marches and rallies across the country were, indeed, very clear: Women need to be present and recognize our power.

When we are honest, we know many women stayed home for the 2016 election because they assumed there was no way America, with all its intellect and compassion, would ever elect a boisterous misogynist as president of the United States. Wrong! An election is never won or lost because of simply one reason; the missteps from 2016 have been well-documented. Still, no one saw Donald Trump’s election coming—including him.

Many women knew action was needed, and the Women’s March was the rallying cry that women need to be in the game. Indy, too, had a march, and at the end of a long list of active, socially conscious and diverse speakers, the message was obvious: To protect what we value most in America, we cannot leave it up to just our menfolk. Inaction and complacency are no longer options.

Now, weeks after the 2018 candidate filing deadline, what do we have here? More women than previously recorded have placed their names on the ballot to represent their communities at all levels of government. According to the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office, 126 women (68 Democrats, 58 Republicans) have stepped up and are being heard. And there are that many more at the county levels. That was the point of the Women’s March.

What? You thought every woman in the United States of America had just one issue we were marching and rallying around? Please, how could that be when we all come from different geographical, socio-economic, cultural, religious and educational backgrounds? The misconception that there had to be a single issue of focus is exactly the reason more women need to be elected to office and have a say in the legislation that governs us. That is the one area organizers of the march recognized: No matter the issue, no matter the impact on communities, until we have real representation in our government, we may never be heard.

We know the numbers: Only 19.8 percent of the members of the U.S. Congress are women, 23.7 percent of statewide elected officials are women, and 25.3 percent of the members of state legislatures are women. Yet we are 50.8 percent of our population. Added to the lack of real representation, many of our elected leaders refuse to have an adequate number of town halls or discussion groups to hear firsthand the needs of their constituents—you know, the people who actually voted them into office.

I’m not saying men don’t have the capability to have compassion for women’s issues; after all, it was all men who voted for and ratified the 19th Amendment. But conversations are being silenced because women’s voices and power are being muted. The good news is that it appears, after the 2018 midterm election, more conversations will be had, but with less testosterone.•


The Movement

Everybody has a calling. Everybody has a gift. You know that one something that makes them; on a planet with billions of humans, uniquely themselves. But how they choose to use that gift is what separates those who desire to prosper selfishly, or create a better world for the people around them.

Some people can create music the reaches the soul so purely that it evokes emotions that pour out in body movement. A visual artist can create a piece so soothing to the eyes one can’t stop staring. And then there are those who inspire a movement.  They have the ability to motivate people to examine their behaviors and actions, while working to influence societal changes.


We have all bore witness to the dark movements that brought destruction to humanity. Some are well documented and studied like the Hitler’s movement to remove Jews from the planet, and others not so studied and discussed as with the annihilation of the indigenous people of Tasmania. But then there are movements that inspire good in people that bring out the best in people like Doctors without Borders who give their talents freely in places that don’t see modern medicine. And Earth Day a movement designed to help humans understand we have an enormous impact on our environment and we must protect it.


I share these thoughts with you today because we as a country are at a crossroads. We have the option of following a movement of selfishness and looking away from those in need or we can alter that course and create a movement designed to uplift people and be the shining light at the end of a long dark tunnel. I for one have it in my heart to be a part of the latter with the gifts that I have been given. I will never be able to write a song like “We are the World” that raised money to feed people who were suffering from a famine, or even be the creator of a quilt to travel the country to shed light on those that were dying from a disease that was being ignored.


But what I have to share with you, to hopefully add to the movement is my passion for having a government that works for every inhabitant of this country without bias or prejudice. Yes it is a lofty goal, but it is one that can be attained, because we are in control. The biggest words written on our constitution are “WE THE PEOPLE”. We have the ability to control how our tax dollars fund public education; we have the ability control how our infrastructure is maintained because we want no more Flints.  We don’t want children going hungry in the richest county in the world, simply because of the choices their parents have made. And we don’t want people having to decide between eating and medication. We are in control and this can be our movement.


I am by no means a religious scholar, but in every spiritual teaching I have ever been exposed to, looking out for those with less has always been the prevailing theme. Now I ask you, what are your gifts? How will you use your gifts to help right this ship? We all have the power to make changes; we have the power to inspire a movement. 

As posted in the September issue of The Word Magazine.

Time to Move Indiana Forward!

I have not lived anywhere else in the world, but there must be some truth to the notion that America is the greatest country on earth to live in. In America, your birthright does not determine your ability to serve your community via the political system. No matter where you are from or what your history is, you can work to earn a voice and a seat at the table. But as with many things, America is not perfect, but she continues to work toward a more perfect union.

I have the same love and affection for Indiana, the state I grew up in. But like America as a whole, Indiana has much work to do to become a more perfect state. That is why I am running for the Indiana House of Representatives, District 88. I am running against a 30-year incumbent and Speaker of the House, so winning this seat is going to require hard work, perseverance and a huge amount of support from all voting demographics; including my Republican neighbors.

As humans we are not going to agree on all of the social issues that has dominated the conversation in our state house over the last several legislative sessions. We have different experiences that shape how we see the world. But something we can agree on is when we drive up and down Indiana roads and highways, we should not have to purchase new tires every year. I found it offensive Governor Mike Pence told the nation at the Republican National Convention that Indiana had a $2B surplus; yet I-65 was shut down for weeks at a time and our roads and bridges have been graded a D+ over the past several years. We are supposed to be the Crossroads of America but one of our main arteries was shut down. How could that be acceptable to the leaders of our state?

As an African-American woman who is gay, I am not going to suggest discussing social issues is not important. But our leaders should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Lately they have shown they do not have that capability. No one has more of a responsibility to insure our elected officials are living up to their commitment than the Speaker of the House Brian Bosma. Under Bosma’s leadership it appears he is unable or unwilling to keep our legislators focused on the issues that matter to all Hoosier families. How many more years are we going to let our infrastructure crumble under our feet while Bosma and his super-majority focuses on issues that divide Hoosiers instead of the issues that bring us together?

We don't have to keep doing the same thing over and over again hoping for change, we can create the change we seek. We can elect a candidate who loves Indiana and wants to work to move it forward with fresh ideas. Time to move Indiana forward and that is the goal of Indiana’s Own.

Indiana's Own Dana Black
2016 Candidate, House District 88


For Immediate Release: June 12, 2016

Contact: Dana Black, 765-371-9246, dana@indianasown.com

Democratic candidate Dana Black issues statement Orlando = Indiana Indianapolis – Democratic candidate Dana Black issues the following statement in response to the tragic shooting that took place in Orlando, Florida at a nightclub early this morning:

Your hate for who I am led you to believe you had the right to deny me life. This is not an uncommon theme in America; in fact it is as American as apple pie. The same rhetoric that led to the events at Orlando's Pulse Club, although the extreme, are being echoed in many state houses around the country. Other than the massacre at Wounded Knee, this is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of our country.

“Your disapproval of my existence makes you believe you can deny me my civil rights, deny me life. Just this week, State Rep Brian Bosma released a statement suggesting they will study adding the LGBT community to protected class status in our civil rights statutes. And this weekend, Indy Pride Weekend, the Indiana Republicans at their convention are discussing whether they should change their marriage language from only one man and one woman to appear more open and accepting. The idea alone suggests their idea of a family is the only type of family that matters, and all other demographic configurations are not worthy of support or protection.

“See, here is the thing, you don't have to like me or what I stand for or how I live my life, but you don't have the right to deny me life. You don't have the right to suggest that I am somehow less than you because I don't believe the way you do. Please understand when you make these types of assertions you cannot control how they are received. Omar Mateen thought as you do about citizens who identify as LGBT, and there are many others who think the exact same way. They will use your words to justify their destructive actions against the LGBT community.

“I went to bed last night elated that I spent the day celebrating openness we now experience and how our society is moving forward with my wife, my granddaughter and my closest of friends I call family. I woke up this morning to read and see a tragedy that stopped my heart. Republican leaders of Indiana, you have the opportunity to do what is right and protect the citizens of our great state. You have the opportunity to stop any potential violence against my community by proclaiming that all Hoosier have the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness regardless of whom they love. Will you take the necessary steps or will you continue to be a huge part of the problem? It really is up to you.

“Indiana voters, you have a choice in 2016 to elect an individual who believes every citizen of this state has a right to life.”

Dana Black is a candidate for the 88th House District in Indiana.

You can learn more about her at www.indianasown.com.


Paid for and authorized by Indiana’s Own Dana Black

It’s Not About Me: Running Against Indiana’s Brian Bosma

As published in

Over the past 10 months or so, I have had a number of people ask me why on earth would I waste my time running in a district that has been controlled by Brian Bosma for so many years. "He's the Speaker of the House!" they exclaim. They say it is an un-winnable seat and I'm just spinning my wheels. "You can never win." Some people who think I would be a good legislator suggested I move into a district that is winnable because running in district 88 is a waste of time and resources.

But see, this race is not about Dana Black. If it were about me, I would not subject my incredibly private wife to such a public platform. if it were about me, my wife and I would be planning our relocation move to a warm climate within the next 18 months. If it were about me, I sure as heck would not subject myself or my family, to the level of scrutiny I have already received simply because of how I choose to present myself to the world.

It is not about me, it has never been about me. This couldn't have been more evident than when standing at the polls on Primary Election day and watching the reactions from Democrats voting in that district; their faces expressing excitement because they know they have a Democrat candidate to vote for. They know they have someone that aligns with their values and ideas about how to move Indiana forward. But more importantly, they know the party has not forsaken them simply because of where they live. Someone is willing to put up a fight to represent them.

Some say I'm brave, I disagree. I say it is my duty. With no opposition candidate on the ballot, how can there be any real change in our state legislature? We must get away from the notion of not fighting because the numbers say we are going to lose. Democracy is about choice. We can't take that away from the voters.

Now, each person in that district has a little more hope that change can happen. Now, they are excited about showing up at the polling place and knowing they have a candidate in all the slots to choose from. That is Democracy. On November 9, 2016 all those folks may ultimately turn out to be right. But when it is about the voters and the citizens of Indiana, it is NEVER a waste of time.

Attention GOP: Stop Telling Me Why I Vote For Democrats

As published in

There are only a few things in life that truly get under my skin:

  1. Disrespecting my wife

  2. The Mistreatment of people who can't defend themselves

  3. The assumption that there is only one way to view the world

But there is one other thing that gets me going and it is hard for me to stop. And that is to tell me what I think and why I think it. Unless you live inside my brain, you are only making assumptions...and you know what happens when you assume…?

Do not, I repeat… DO NOT tell me why as a Black person I vote Democrat and support the Democrat Party. I’m really tired of hearing the 2% of African-Americans who vote Republican suggesting the reason I vote Democrat is because I’m brainwashed, or I have been bamboozled into giving my blind loyalty to the Democrat Party when they have done nothing for our community but keep us in poverty. Yes, it is so obvious, this very unique group of people that includes 2% of African American’s are the only enlightened African American among us. If only the rest of us were as educated and as aware as they are, we would see the light and come to the Republican side of life.

As Winnie the Pooh would say… “Tigga Please!”

Does it not ever dawn on them that the other 98% of us are capable of reading political platforms, comprehending the agenda and then deciding consciously the Republican platform is not our…

...I’m sorry, I don’t want to presume to speak for anyone else…

...is not my way of thinking. Not because I’m so simplistic in thought that I could be brainwashed, but because I like breathing clean air and drinking clean water. I don’t want corporations to poison us by dumping harmful chemicals into the environment that lead to all types of health issues. Health issues that I may not be able to afford to address because healthcare is so expensive and the Republican platform isn’t offering any real solutions on how to curb healthcare costs.

How about I’m not interested in using my tax dollars to help privatize public education and pad the pockets of for profit businesses. The worst part about the privatization of public education is there are no real standards that these schools must adhere to...no real regulations. (Yes Republicans, I just used a bad word.) Education is the best way to lift people out of poverty. But if only the wealthy can get a quality education, then we will continue to see the growth of the wealth gap. And oh yeah, the privatization of public education disproportionately impact the Brown and Black communities negatively.

How about I do believein the United States Declaration of Independence phrase; Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Notice it didn’t say Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Religious Happiness. The hypocrisy of Republicans suggesting they want small government but continue to create legislation that intrude in the Pursuit of Happiness for the LGBT community because it may not align with THEIR faith-based belief system. (yep...gay reference)

Yeah...See...I'm not feeling that. Your definition of happiness is not my definition happiness.

There are many reasons why I vote Democrat, but being stupid is not one of them. So please, to “THE ENLIGHTENED 2%”, stop insulting me by telling me why I vote Democrat, because you really have no idea.