Nightclub JY's, formerly Eden, is being accused by other area club owners of catering to hip-hop crowds. JY's is also being criticized for attracting "people who have a lack of respect and have very big attitudes," said owner of the Vogue Steve Ross, quoted in The Indianapolis Star, a remark that was interpreted as referring to blacks.
The Vogue later issued a communication, saying that Ross' quotes "were used out of context and have misrepresented our venue."
Many in the community are calling the accusations blatant racism. And some even feel as if it's a ploy to discourage African-Americans from frequenting Broad Ripple clubs. Kendale Adams, an officer for the Indianapolis Police Department who also works at JY's three nights a week, says that within the last five months, the club has only had one incident. "The only altercation we've had that drew attention was Thanksgiving weekend. We had a small fight that carried out to the street, [but] there's been nothing big [happen] since then."
When asked if he feels JY's is a victim of racial discrimination, Adams is adamant in his response. "There is no doubt in my mind. Those bar owners do not want that type of element when you get a lot of black people in the same place, they [club owners] get concerned."
And exactly what type of response does Adams get from the patrons? "A lot of people are offended that Broad Ripple would not want to target the black population. They feel like they have just as much money to spend and invest in [the area] as whites."
Clubgoer Henry Rogers agrees. "Black people's money spends just like everyone else"s. It"s really unfortunate that an issue is even being made because many of the other Broad Ripple clubs have crowds that can get out of control. Nobody's requesting that they stop playing techno music."
For years the Broad Ripple club scene has been dominated by mostly white patrons, which is a problem in itself says Amos Brown, who is director of strategic research for Radio One and a Recorder correspondent: "Broad Ripple is not [racially] diverse [and] Broad Ripple has not reached out to the African-American community."
Rogers observes, "It's obvious that they just don"t want us there. Maybe the fact that JY"s actually treats its black customers with respect is a problem for the other bars. I feel that African-Americans are not welcome. Broad Ripple clubs should post signs that say "Whites Only." At least then, they're being honest with their feelings."
So, exactly what is being done to rectify the situation that many in the community view as offensive and racist? The Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee's Race Relations Leadership Network meets on a regular basis to discuss issues that may arise dealing with race and cultural conflict. When GIPC talks about these particular issues, the situation is just generally being observed and considered. They address issues "before they become a real problem."
"In this situation, there seemed to be some question about what happened and what's going on," explained Ellen Quigley, executive director of GIPC. "The mayor asked us to look into it and gather some information about what's really happening and [what] the perceptions in the community are. Then, based off whatever we've learned, [we] try to come up with thoughts about handling issues, if there are any."
At press time, the GIPC had pulled together a small group that works with the Leadership Network and the Mayor's Office to figure out what information they need to gather and who they should be talking to. These initiatives will determine what their next steps are.
When asked if GIPC is finding the accusation of racial discrimination to be true, Quigley answers diplomatically. "I'd be misspeaking to say that that is a correct assumption at this point. I don't have all the information, but we've certainly heard [people complaining]. People have opinions about it, so we're taking those comments and questions very seriously. If people are having questions, then they need to be explored," Quigley said.
Unlike the special committee that handled complaints regarding IPD and Indiana Black Expo last year, GIPC is not a task force. It will be determined if a task force is needed once GIPC identifies the scope of the problem. At that point, if GIPC's Leadership Network can't handle the problem, a special task force will intervene and correct the problem. Quigley said, as of now, she can't put a time frame on determining the problem because GIPC members "just don't know yet."
Shannon Williams is the editor of The Indianapolis Recorder.