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Rememering LGBTQ Rights Advocate Donna Red Wing

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John Pemble
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Donna Red Wing

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Hear the full show

Donna Red Wing was once referred to as the most dangerous woman in America. She will be remembered as one of the great civil rights advocates of the 21st century. 

Red Wing died earlier this week, and during this River to River interview, host Ben Kieffer talks with One Iowa Founder Sharon Malheiro about Red Wing's life and legacy.  

"One of the first stories she told me when I was getting to know her was about a fight they had in Oregon," says Malheiro. "Every day Donna and her group had a cooler of ice water and some sandwiches, and they would go over and offer them to these church women on the other side. By the end of the fight, the church women were coming over to their side. They couldn't continue to have the hate they had for gay and lesbian people." 

Malheiro says that anecdote speaks volumes about the type of person Red Wing was. She deeply believed in civil discourse and conversation. 

On this program a few years ago in conversation with Bob Vanderplaats of the Family Leader, Red Wing talked about how she found common ground and understanding with him. She encouraged Iowans to use their example as a model. 

"How do we exhibit our humanity? How do we live best when we're hating? When we're saying 'he's over there, and I'm over here. And I'm not going to extend my hand.' How do we do that?," Red Wing asked. 

"If we can disagree on profound issues, issues that each of us get up in the morning to fight for, if we can have those disagreements and have them without being disagreeable... I think that models how a lot of people can deal with the opponents in their lives, with people who disagree with them." 

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During this hour of River to River, we also hear from Iowa Public Radio's Joyce Russell about issues left to be resolved at the Statehouse before lawmakers can adjourn for this year's session. Stephen Biggs, professor of philosophy at Iowa State University talks about racial bias, and we hear from John Norris and Cathy Glasson, both democrats running for governor. 

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River