(Indianapolis, IN) -- An Eastside pastor is concerned that black voters have grown complacent about voting, and he's using images of one of the most painful chapters in the state's history to urge people to exercise a right he says was hard won.
The sign features the haunting photo of the 1930 lynching of two black teenagers in Marion and the white mob gathered around to watch. Atop the photo is the word "VOTE!!!" Beneath it is the question: "Is this a reason to vote?"
Rev. Joy Thornton, senior pastor of Greater St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church, personally commissioned the sign, which has stood for nearly a week along the street in front of the church at 5502 E. 38th St.
"The sign is a reminder of what price has been paid for a precious privilege," Thornton said, "which is to vote."
To some, it's a reminder they'd rather not see.
Ronnie Judd, 52, Greenwood, was delivering medical supplies in the neighborhood when he saw the sign last week. He's white and he said he found the image embarrassing. He took it as a message that if blacks don't vote for President Obama, the days of lynchings will return.
"We have come too far to go back to those ways," Judd said.
Thornton, who is black and leads a church that he says is multiracial, said the sign's message isn't partisan. But he said he senses some complacency in the black community for this election, in part because of people who are displeased with Obama's stance on issues such as same-sex relationships.
As for whether the image - and the painful history that it evokes - is harsh, Thornton said he has received just two complaints. And he says its harshness is relative.
"I don't think it is as harsh as the fact that when we talk about African-Americans being murdered and killed at an alarming rate," he said. "It's not as harsh as the fact we make up about 12 percent of the population and about 90 percent of the incarceration. It is not as harsh as the drugs that we are being exploited within our communities."
Thornton said he has no plans to remove the sign "until the Lord says so."