Hoosiers from Across the State Gather for Vigil & Call to Action to Reclaim Indiana’s Future on One-Year Anniversary of COVID-19 Lockdown
March 23, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE PRESS RELEASE
On March 23rd, the one-year anniversary of Indiana’s COVID-19 lockdown, over 150 Hoosiers from Indiana’s smallest towns and biggest cities across the state joined together at the Statehouse for a socially-distanced vigil, white paper report release, and press conference. They were joined virtually by nearly 75 other Hoosiers on a Zoom call. At the event, diverse Hoosiers came together across race, place, and faith to mourn their losses and call for bold leadership from their legislators to ensure our state’s recovery.
In conjunction with the event, Hoosier Action Resource Center released “One Year Under COVID-19: What Hoosier’s Faced and the Indiana General Assembly’s Response,” a white paper report outlining “the struggles Hoosiers have faced over the last year, the failure of the legislature to advance bills to support everyday Hoosiers, and how we can move forward toward a brighter future for all people in Indiana.” At 11 am in the second-floor rotunda, Hoosier Action leaders and other groups set-up tables and displays about what they’ve struggled with in the past year, from environmental contamination to unsafe working conditions to mental health. State legislators toured the toll and spoke with leaders about their experiences.
At 11:30 am, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh faith leaders held an interfaith vigil where they shared their perspectives on grief. “We are one in our humanity,” said Rabbi Brett Krichiver from the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation. “Plague has brought us together in sacrifice and celebrating our freedom.” During the vigil, Hoosiers built a memorial altar with flowers, photographs, and other mementos representing loved ones who passed last year as faith leaders read their names out loud. As Pastor Amanda Meade from First Christian Church in Jeffersonville explained, “Death won’t get the last word. We must acknowledge our grief and finding meaning in it.”
At the press conference which followed, leaders from different backgrounds with different struggles aligned in their shared struggle to have their voices heard at the statehouse. As Hoosier Action leader Kim White-Mills explained, “The hope for the future is that our legislators can take a look at the individual experiences of Hoosiers from across the state and they should take that into account as they pass legislation.” From navigating unemployment to the overdose crisis to unsafe working conditions, Hoosiers all shared how COVID-19 has exacerbated challenges many of them were facing even before the pandemic.
Mary McCloskey from New Albany shared how she started Indiana Unemployment Peer to Peer Information after getting laid off in March 2020. Her group has now helped over 9,300 Hoosiers navigate a complex, underfunded, and privatized system run by Navient, a student loan company. After she started the group, “I quickly began to see I was not alone in suffering and feeling left behind by our state.” She called on the Indiana General Assembly to take action to improve the system by adding a call center, more transparency, and “a state that works for the people.”
David Schell from Martinsville shared a photo of and the story of his niece Jennifer, a working mom who passed away from a rare cancer caused by toxic contamination long left unaddressed in Martinsville. Unfortunately David’s story is not a unique one, “there are at least 38 other sites that are toxic that someone or someones like us need to do something to clean-up to make a change, make a difference.” He went on to express frustration about the Indiana General Assembly’s inaction on the issue, “the House environmental committee hasn’t brought this up, hasn’t talked about this” and hasn’t heard any House bills this session.
Hoosier Action leaders will continue to advocate for themselves and their neighbors for the remainder of the session, and hopes that the Indiana General Assembly will take further legislative action to address the harms of COVID-19. Over the spring and summer, Hoosier Action leaders are committed to holding 10,000 conversations with their neighbors and listening sessions across the state.
Faith Leaders & Press Conference Speakers:
Pastor Amanda Meade, First Christian Church of Jeffersonville
Rabbi Brett Krichiver, Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation
Imam Michael Saahir, Nur-Allah Islamic Center, Indianapolis
Pastor Everett Pimpleton, Empowerment Church, New Albany
Minister Alexis Tardy, Zionsville Christian Church
Kim White-Mills, Hamilton County Hoosier Action Leader
April Lopossa, Morgan County Hoosier Action Leader
Mary Hess, Southwestern Indiana Citizens for Quality of Life
David Schell, Morgan County Hoosier Action Leader
Taylor Gibson, Campus Action Student Leader from Lake County
Destiny Faceson, Grassroots Maternal and Child Health Leader
Samantha Kern, Hamilton County Hoosier Action Leader
Dr. William Cooke, Scott County Physician
Justin Phillips, Overdose Lifeline
Kathy Thorpe, Morgan County Hoosier Action Leader
Mary McCloskey, Indiana Unemployment Peer to Peer Information Facebook Group
Lane Fulton, Monroe County Hoosier Action Leader
ABOUT HOOSIER ACTION
Hoosier Action is a nonpartisan, homegrown community organization made up of thousands of Hoosiers, mostly from rural and small-town Indiana. We believe that all Hoosiers, regardless of how much money they make, should have a say in the decisions which affect our lives.