Iowa emerges as national leader in Black Voter Day Sept. 18

The first-ever National Black Voter Day of Action takes place Friday, and Iowa is emerging as a national leader in the movement, which is focused on empowering Blacks to overcome voting barriers they are documented to have experienced throughout history. At least nine Black Voter Day events are happening Friday throughout Iowa. That’s as much or more than larger states such as California, New York, Pennsylvania and Georgia, based on a thorough search of events listed online and in public media. Black Voter Day events are happening in Cedar Rapids,…

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Electoral College must go, but what should take its place?

Soon, we’ll be seeing a lot of posts and articles about getting rid of the Electoral College. We’ll hear a lot about the idea of “one (hu)man, one vote,”  and proposals to use the national popular vote to determine the president.  We’ll hear people point to examples when the Electoral College result differed from the national vote (Trump/Clinton 2016), or to Wyoming’s three electoral votes, as justification for dismantling the Electoral College. The “one human, one vote” solution is popular, but it has many problems. The first is an assumption…

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Thrift Bandit is eastern Iowa’s socially responsible outlaws of recycled fashion

When they realized they were both wearing “polyester grandpa pants” and cardigan sweaters, Michael and Stef Duncan knew they were destined for each other.  They didn’t realize those grandpa pants would also inspire a business they would co-run. Thrift Bandit is the online vintage venture of Michael (from Burlington in southeast Iowa) and Stef (from Jerico in northeast Iowa), who describe themselves as “nerds running this out of our basement.” Launched in the summer of 2019, Thrift Bandit seeks to provide an alternative to first-hand, mass-produced disposable clothing — and…

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Cedar Rapids models success of the ‘peaceful protest’

The protests in 1,700-plus American communities since George Floyd’s May 25 murder have ranged from violent, to peaceful, to showy, to subdued. That includes the protests in Iowa. In Des Moines, clashes between police and demonstrators have been tense. In Iowa City, a mostly youthful protest group opted for more “in your face” tactics like shutting down interstates and marching to council members’ homes. The Quad Cities is dealing with deaths related to random violence that occurred after and near peaceful protest sites. Tiny towns like Fairfield, Washington, and West…

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Des Moines’ history of systemic racism said to be built around housing restrictions

The city of Des Moines intentionally undertook policies in the 1930s and 1960s to limit housing options for Black residents, writes a University of Iowa student. In addition, writes Ross Clowser, the city’s failure to clean up areas deemed by the EPA to be contaminated with toxins have hit Des Moines’ Black residents harder than the general population. As a result, living in Des Moines can be as hard for a Black person as living in some of the nation’s most segregated communities, Clowser writes in a 2018 paper he…

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Iowa Freedom Riders: Beyond the spray paint and marching

Four nights of spray-painting and road-blocking throughout Iowa City, by a group now known as the Iowa Freedom Riders, has inspired the gamut of reactions: anger, support, frustration, sadness, and confusion. But protest leaders are now entering a new phase, which includes a detailed explanation of their demands for steps they believe local institutions should take to help end systemic racism. Read this column from Mandi Nichols, director of the Corridor Community Action Network, authorized by protest leaders to help educate the public on how the Freedom Riders’ requests are…

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Iowa City protesters issue 15 demands

The protesters who have been standing off with the Iowa City Police Department and Iowa State Patrol last week have presented a list of 15 demands that extend beyond those two agencies to at least four other government entities. Now known as the Iowa Freedom Riders, the group that repeatedly converged on Interstate 80 last week is asking through its Instagram account for legal and policy changes that go beyond ending police brutality. The demands extend into how the School Board is elected, how students air grievances, city budgeting decisions,…

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UIHC staff nurse: We can say ‘protest better,’ or we can be better

Not what I expected when I came into work at the hospital tonight. We are starting our night shift, when we learn that the movement many of us have thrown our complete (well, almost complete) support behind is outside vandalizing our building. We gathered for George Floyd, put out statements of solidarity, shared support on social media– I know nurses who even served as medics during Iowa City protests. We were confused, some of us angry. Many still are. Healthcare workers who otherwise are allies to the movement asking: “What…

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A look at two of Iowa’s health care heroes

Especially with the growing coronavirus pandemic and questions it forces us to confront about health care access, few topics are as urgent this year as health care. We’re needing to figure out how those without insurance can receive protection and treatment the same as those with insurance; how immigrants and international travelers can be included in our prevention efforts. Even before the pandemic, health care shaped the campaigns of this year’s Democratic presidential nominee contenders and was the subject of President Trump’s biggest lie in this year’s State of the…

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Iowa Safe Schools leads fight against conversion therapy

DES MOINES – A renewed effort is on to ban conversion therapy in Iowa, and Nate Monson is optimistic that the 2020 legislative session will generate some form of significant progress in outlawing a practice widely regarded as abuse. “This is a bipartisan issue,” says Nate Monson, head of Iowa Safe Schools, the nonprofit that is leading a charge against conversion therapy. “A lot of people don’t realize that seven of the bans in other states, done by executive order, were signed by Republican governors. This is something I believe…

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