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Racial Justice

The Founder Of Black Iowa News Shares Her Perspective On The Last Year

In May, IPR asked Iowans to share their perspectives about how life in the state has changed since George Floyd was murdered one year ago. One response came from Dana James, the founder of Black Iowa News, a digital news publication about "Black Iowans in the era of COVID-19 and the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder," according to its website.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. The views and opinions expressed are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the position of Iowa Public Radio or its staff.

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Dana James
Dana James is the founder of Black Iowa News

"My name is Dana James and I'm the founder of Black Iowa News.

“The grief I felt over watching Chauvin murder George Floyd, a Black man, on the street like that, and watching the callous indifference of all of the other police officers — it was agony. I cried so many tears. It was like I had lost a member of my own family.

“What I think people fail to realize is that when we as Black people watch the video, we're not just seeing George Floyd down there, we're seeing every Black person we've ever known under the weight of white supremacy, under the knee of systemic racism. We're seeing all of our ancestors, so harmed by the founding of this country — and since the founding of this country — have to bear the weight of being treated like a second-class citizen. We're seeing future generations of Black children having to grow up and be subjected to this. It's intolerable. It's unacceptable, and the murder of George Floyd on video, and all of the other unjust killings of Black men, women and youth that keep coming, it’s just too much to bear. And so George Floyd's murder has really underscored that Black lives don't matter. But they must, and they will.

“So over this year, I've spent more time than I have in my entire life thinking about policing and racism, and talking about justice. You know, you hear words during the Black Lives Matter movement, the Black liberation movement, to defund the police or abolish the police. And there's been a lot of intentional misunderstanding around what those words mean. But when you're Black, and you see other Black people like you being harassed or killed, or arrested, in prisons, for unjust reasons, and at a rate that is not the same as other people in society, it's disproportionate, you'd want to defund and abolish the police, too. If they were an occupying force in your neighborhoods, and if they could end your life with impunity. That's a source of stress and a burden that we, as Black people, bear, and it's not fair. It's not a fair society. It's not a fair Iowa. And so we have to work to change things.

“And so in this year, you would think that with George Floyd's murder being such a vivid, unimaginable, searing moment in racial reckoning, that positive change would be the result. But that has not always been the result. What has been the result is white lawmakers disenfranchising voters and trying to outlaw any discussions about the racist underpinnings of our society.

“As a Black woman and life-long Iowan, I vow to continue fighting injustice and using my platforms to do that. And I vow to always say his name: George Floyd.

“There's a mural at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, and it says 'You changed the world, George.' You certainly changed mine. Rest in peace, brother. Rest in peace.”

You can record and share your own story with IPR by emailing iowaamplified@iowapublicradio.org. Find more information here.