'The First,' Or 'The Only,' Being Black In Small-Town Iowa
In today's "Iowa Week" episode of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe takes us out of the cities to small-town, rural Iowa where Black Iowans are often "the first," or "the only."
In small-town Iowa, it can feel like everyone knows everyone else’s business and that’s true when it comes to racism too. Kelli Gosch lives in Cresco, in northeastern Iowa, with a population of about 3,700. According to Gosch, just 12 adults in Cresco are black. She is the varsity cheer coach at Cresco High School, and also a mother of three.
"The kids come up to me and they're like, 'Oh, Miss Kelly,' and they hug me and I'm like, 'you just called my daughter the n-word.'"
Chris Robinson has lived in Des Moines for about 30 years, but he grew up in western Iowa in the 1960's and 70's. His grandparents raised him and owned a farm, but the family moved to Sioux City near Morningside College. They were the first Black family in the neighborhood.
"That's when we had people protesting. They just didn't want us there. Come to find out, I used to work at a gas station there on the avenue, and that's when I found out they had a petition going around to get us removed from the neighborhood."
Ty Rushing is originally from Kansas City and freely admits he didn't know much about Iowa until he moved here to take a job in Newton. He's been the first Black journalist at seven Iowa newspapers in the eight years he's lived in the state. Now, working at the Northwest Iowa Review, he's one of the few Black or brown faces in Sheldon. This summer of protest, as the Black Lives Matter movement was reignited by the killing of George Floyd, led to some interesting and frank conversations with coworkers, friends and others.
"This isn't a black versus white issue, this is an everybody against racism issue."