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Meet Iowa's Legislative Black Caucus

(from left) Rep. Ras Smith, Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, and Rep. Ruth Ann Gaines in IPR's Des Moines studio

Roughly 15 percent of Iowa residents are ethnic minorities, yet the state has just a few non-white legislators.

In this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with the four members of Iowa's Legislative Black Caucus, formed last month: Rep. Ruth Ann Gaines, D-Des Moines; Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo; Rep. Phyllis Thede, D-Bettendorf; and Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines.

This new caucus is pushing for the addition of minority impact statements to bills in upcoming legislative sessions, which would include data detailing the impact of new legislation on Iowa's minority communities.

During the conversation, the representatives also talk about how they got into politics, the challenges they've faced in their political pursuits, and what they think needs to happen for more ethnic minorities to be elected to office.

"We need to not only recruit minorities, but we need to stay with them and support them, and show them how to run, and help that candidate get a firm group surrounding them to support them on the way to success," says Gaines.

Ben Kieffer's conversation with Dwain Coleman

Later in the program, University of Iowa PhD student Dwain Coleman talks about how in the 1800s, free and once-captive African Americans came together in what were called Colored Conventions. Coleman is involved in the first pilot satellite partner of the acclaimed national Colored Conventions Project.

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River