ANALYSIS: Liz Bennett: open, bold, bi and progressive

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The national political scene is all abuzz over Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema and her boldly femme presentation of open bisexuality at her swearing-in ceremony while touting boldly progressive policies. Turns out Iowa has its own “Sinema,” a female politician almost more bold than Arizona’s Democratic upset victor. Rep. Liz Bennett, D-Cedar Rapids, has for years sported bold styles with meaning, offered an openness about her lifestyle, and pressed even her fellow Democrats to do better for marginalized people. Bennett, who first met Sinema almost 10 years ago, is her Midwestern parallel…

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The best of protest music

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Every year, I dive through the music industry’s “best of” lists, looking for albums and artists that made a splash or flew under my radar. This January, scrolling through lists from NPR, Pitchfork, the Guardian, and other tastemakers, one pattern became extremely clear: 2018 was a year for resistance music. Pop, hip hop, and indie music took a strongly political stance in 2018, reflecting resistance, frustration, and courage in the Trump era. From the cool, devastating rhymes of Noname, to the lonely alt-country ballads of Brandi Carlile, the rhetoric of…

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Black activism and ‘Facebook jail’

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Dec. 16, 2017:   Reported by a disgruntled person for a 90-day-old post about a bag of crackers. 30-day suspension. May 11: Facebook removes a repost about the Yale student who called the cops on a sleeping black student, saying it did not fit “community standards.” Original post not removed or flagged. 30-day suspension. July 3: Post of “You call me a f*ggot, I’m calling you an ambulance” removed for hate speech. 30-day suspension. Secondary page banned for use of “queer” community. Oct. 24: Both accounts put on 30-day suspension.…

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REVIEW: Young lesbian love tested in “Rafiki”


A village in Kenya serves as the colorful backdrop for the drama that unfolds in the film “Rafiki” meaning ‘friend’ or ‘companion’ in Swahili. “Rafiki” is adapted from a short story by Monica Arac de Nyeko called “Jambula Tree.”  For a short story adaptation, the complexity of multi-layered political oppression, bigotry and a sweet first love come through in a rich and bold way.   “Rafiki” packs an emotional punch, (directed by Wanuri Kahiu) and like the similarly adapted short story to film, has much in common with “Brokeback Mountain.”…

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Being black in ‘progressive’ Iowa City

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After living in the South most of my life, I decided to leave Texas back in 2012, decidedly headed to a mainly white state. When I visited Iowa City, I fell in love with the city-like feeling minus traffic hassles or long commutes or high crime rates. I called it “mini-Austin” and sought out things that non-Black people would not: Cajun seasonings, places that serve grits, stores with Black hair care products, Black hair salons, or authentic Mexican restaurants. I wasn’t surprised at the small numbers of Black people, but…

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EDITORIAL: Leaving behind The Music Man’s “Iowa Stubborn”

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Remember these lyrics in “The Music Man,” that famous Iowa-based musical from the ‘50s by Meredith Wilson? “We can be cold as our falling thermometer in December, if you ask about our weather in July. And we’re so by God stubborn, we can stand touchin’ noses for a week at a time, and never see eye to eye. “But we’ll give you our shirt and a back to go with it, if your crops should happen to die. So what the heck? You’re welcome; glad to have you with us…

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Roller derby’s women power through Iowa

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IOWA CITY — Seeking out bruising physical contact, and falling and rolling around on top of each other are things normally associated with guys. But in roller derby, the world’s fastest-growing sport and one growing in popularity throughout Iowa, women are the ones displaying this kind of non-stop physical dominance and strength. Few players illustrate that better than Hannah Wyland, the strapping jammer and player/coach/trainer for Old Capitol City Roller Derby. Wyland’s fancy footwork, muscular moves and speedy skating make her a standout at every match. And no wonder; she…

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“Goddess,” sword, old friend: spoken word (COLUMN)

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Where does spoken word fit in with Black history? The art of spoken word is like an old friend to Black people, people of color, and other marginalized communities. The two have depended on and grown with each other for decades, even centuries. Since the beginning, Africa has had a strong commitment to the oral tradition. Many African countries and tribes didn’t have a written language, but still held on to their history and morals. The art of storytelling was born out of necessity to pass on one generation’s knowledge…

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World of health records changing

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A graduate of One Iowa’s Leadership Institute is paving the way in making digital healthcare records more inclusive and sensitive to marginalized people, including those who are transgender.   Emily Brown, who works for UnityPoint Health in Des Moines, recently graduated from One Iowa’s Leadership Institute. She is researching how to change electronic health records to be more LGBTQ-friendly, impassioned by her own personal experience as a workforce planner and openly bisexual woman.   “We want to be inclusive for all patients— all are welcome,” she said. “We are holding…

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