“Resiliency funds” are helping Black-owned business stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, continuing a long tradition of mutual aid within African American communities with limited access to capital, networks and government programs. (Sept. 28)

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A coalition of executives in business, civic life, sports, health care and utilities joined Mayor Joe Hogsett on Thursday in pledging to take measurable actions to make Indianapolis and neighboring communities racially equitable. 

In taking the Indy Racial Equity Pledge, the executives outlined a host of initiatives their companies would undertake to address racial disparities, such as hiring and retaining Black workers, increasing spending with Black-owned businesses and vendors, and investing philanthropic dollars in Black-led organizations. 

“At Cummins, we will continue to demand racial justice and to drive the change in our communities so that all people may advance and achieve,” said Sharon Barner, vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary for Cummins. “We pledge that we will ensure the inclusion of Black people and other people of color at all levels of our organization.”

The executives made the pledge during a virtual press conference. Participating companies besides Cummins include Pacers Sports & Entertainment, Eli Lilly and Co., Roche Diagnostics, Anthem Inc., Indiana University Health, Citizens Energy Group, Salesforce and the Indianapolis Colts.

The group of mostly Black executives along with Eli Lilly Chairman and CEO Dave Ricks and IU Health President and CEO Dennis Murphy vowed to hold each other accountable and share their progress for creating short- and long-term positive change for Black residents. The companies’ pledges and progress can be found online at

Sharon Barner, vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary for Cummins Inc. (Photo: Photo submitted by Cummins Inc.)

The formulation of the pledges and action plans follows a late spring and summer of protests across the U.S. against systemic racism and the killing of Black Americans by police officers.

“Racial inequity has been a long-standing challenge in our city in our state’s history,” said Tony Mason, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Urban League. “I am filled with hope that we have reached a turning point in our city’s history that will lead to real change for everyone in this community regardless of race.”

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Mason said 28% of Indianapolis’ approximately 248,000 Black residents live in poverty, about 82,000 live in food deserts, roughly 70% of Black students fail standardized tests and Black-owned businesses are underutilized. 

Too often, leaps of civic and economic progress in Indianapolis have often been at the expense of Black and low-income communities, Hogsett added. 

Tony Mason is president and CEO of the Indianapolis Urban League (Photo: Provided)

The mayor noted the interstate system that made Indianapolis the “Crossroads of America” tore through and upended Black neighborhoods downtown. The creation of Uni-Gov also undercut Black residents, he said. 

Uni-Gov resulted in the merger of 60 governments in Marion County in 1970. And while it doubled Indianapolis’ population to more than 740,000 and merged some government services, schools and emergency services remained separate. 

“Uni-Gov undeniably brought Indy into a new realm of economic and civic might, but its plan excluded the Indianapolis Public Schools, which was largely utilized by Black students, and it sharply reduced Black political power in this city for decades,” the mayor said. 

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By pledging to eliminate racial barriers, Hogsett said business and civic groups can address the source of racial inequality while benefitting from the untapped potential of diverse talent, businesses and partnerships. 

The events unfolding across the country this year sparked overdue conversations about racism, Ricks said. “We’ve seen an awakening to an urgent need for meaningful change. … Now is the time for action.”

In June, Eli Lilly pledged to invest $25 million toward fighting systemic racism while Anthem offered $50 million over five years. 

Along with the Indy Racial Equity Pledge, Jeffrey Harrison, president and CEO of Citizens Energy Group, announced the creation of the Business Equity for Indy Committee — a joint venture of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership and Indy Chamber, with support from the Indianapolis Urban League.

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Jeffrey Harrison, president & CEO of Citizens Energy Group. (Photo: Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar)

In addition to Harrison, CICP and the Indy Chamber, the committee includes at least 13 other corporate leaders representing enterprises such OneAmerica, Mays Chemical Co., Indianapolis International Airport, and Corteva Agriscience. 

The committee will identify, develop and scale programs aimed at increasing inclusivity and equitable participation in the local economy by Black and brown residents, said Harrison, the committee’s chair. 

Priority areas for immediate action include corporate hiring and promotions, expanding procurement opportunities for minority-owned businesses and health disparities.

“This is just the beginning,” he said. “The commitments of the organizations participating today in the Indy Racial Equity Pledge and the Business Equity for Indy Initiative are a huge step forward for achieving racial equity for the people and economy of Central Indiana.

Here’s what each company is pledging:

Eli Lilly and Co. 

  • Increase the current representation of Black employees from about 10% to 13% to align more closely with patient demographics.
  • Double the annualized spending with Black suppliers and vendors over the next two years.
  • Join the Cummins Foundation in committing $500,000 to the Indianapolis Urban League to invest in Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurship.
  • Invest $1 million to Lynx Capital Corp. for growth capital for Black-owned businesses.

Citizens Energy Group

  • Recruit and retain a workforce that reflects diverse communities it serves. Promote diversity and inclusion in its workforce through communications and training for employees.
  • Enhance partnerships with minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses to drive economic development and improve performance as the community’s largest, locally owned utility provider.
  • Continue commitment to improve Indy Parks facilities. 


  • Commit to increasing representation of Black people in every level of the company, foster conversations about race and unconscious bias and improve managers’ understanding and competency in leading these conversations. 
  • Advocate for efforts to improve engagement between law enforcement and all members of the Black community. Support initiatives that enhance accountability structures, review use-of-force policies, and promote a culture of diversity and inclusion in police forces around the country. 
  • Support Black-led community organizations.

Roche Diagnostics USA

  • Increase diversity representation at every level within the organization, encourage development opportunities for diverse talent within the company,  expand recruitment efforts aimed at increasing and progressing a diverse pipeline of talent. 
  • Address health factors that disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minority populations.
  • Engage with community organizations focused on advancing diversity and inclusion in the workplace and in our communities.

Pacers Sports & Entertainment

  • A majority of all philanthropic dollars spent every year by Pacers Sports & Entertainment will fund solutions to racial equity and social justice issues.
  • Create a nationally recognized supplier diversity program that promotes inclusive economic growth, powers local minority-owned businesses, and ensures equitable investment in our communities.
  • Adopt a social justice agenda that focuses energy and resources into bridging the education gap, promote youth mentorship, address neighborhood food deserts, improve relationships and communication between law enforcement and local communities and support Black-owned and minority-owned businesses. 

Anthem Inc. 

  •  Work side by side with local, state and national leaders to address factors driving racial and health disparities in the health care system and society.
  • Use data, research and analytics to drive insights and create solutions and collaborate with provider and community partners to address drivers of health such as food, economic security, behavioral health, and improve health outcomes.
  • Prioritize the health of its associates and advance its efforts to create an inclusive, diverse workforce and environment.

Indianapolis Colts

  • Create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.
  • Highlight and support community organizations that are creating and fostering positive changes in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Colts and the Irsay Family will seek to provide more educational opportunities for the community’s minority students

IU Health

  • Enhance a culture of inclusion at IU Health. Create clear policies and expectations that racist and discriminatory behaviors by individuals (team members, patients, families and external partners) will not be tolerated. 
  • Transform IU Health into a more diverse, inclusive and anti-discriminatory organization.
  • Build partnerships to reduce health care disparities, impact social determinants of health and create more inclusive communities.


  • Spend $100 million with Black-owned businesses over the next three years and commit to a 25% year-over-year growth in spending with minority-owned businesses. Review its supplier onboarding process to mitigate any bias and provide better payment terms for Black-owned and minority-owned businesses where appropriate.
  • Invest a total of $200 million and 1 million volunteer hours globally with organizations working to advance racial equality and justice at the global, national, and local level. Nearly half of the funds will support public education and close the achievement gap for Black and underrepresented minority students.
  • Advocate for meaningful police reform, civic engagement and protection of voting rights and for economic empowerment policies that address the equity gap. Work to advance laws and regulations that protect against racism and discrimination.

Contact IndyStar reporter Alexandria Burris at a[email protected] or call 317-617-2690. Follow her on Twitter: @allyburris.

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