Culture and Diversity

Iowa Public Radio's Culture and Diversity reports go in-depth to examine what it is like to be a minority in Iowa. The reports look at the issues, history, cultural traditions, challenges and future of each diverse group of people that are part of Iowa. Correspondent Rob Dillard and other IPR reporters tell the stories by talking with the leaders and having intimate discussions with some members of each group, and taking listeners to the places that exemplify these communities.

Iowa Public Radio's Culture and Diversity reporting is funded in part by The Principal Financial Group Foundation and The Dr. Richard Deming Foundation.

ACLU of Iowa

The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday struck down the state’s policy excluding transgender people from using Medicaid coverage for transition-related surgical care.

Kate Payne

University of Iowa students are sharing their experiences with discrimination at the school under the  hashtag, #DoesUIowaLoveMe. The campaign is attracting attention on campus and online.

Abingdon Press

For white people who are committed to equity and justice, living in a nation that remains racially unjust and still deeply segregated creates unique challenges.  These challenges begin early in life and impact the racial development of white children in powerful ways.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

For many of today’s high school students, life is a daily drama filled with plenty of outside-the-classroom distractions. The job of keeping these young people focused on their studies falls often times on the school counselors.

Michael Dean comes to his position as a counselor at Hoover High with some relevant experience.

“Before I started working in schools, I worked for juvenile delinquents and I did a lot of counseling and mentoring with juvenile delinquents and at-risk kids,” he says.

Brandon Giesbrecht / flickr

The National Alliance for Audition Support is celebrating its first birthday this month. The alliance was formed to make major orchestras look more like the cities in which they're located. 

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

Gunfire in a nearby parking lot disrupted the Hoover High School homecoming football game in Des Moines in September. The incident made vivid the many stories about armed violence in and around the nation’s schools.

Hoover stages drills throughout the year to prepare students, teachers and administrators for emergencies. Vice-Principal Jamie Badger is on the intercom to begin a simulated lockdown of the north-side Des Moines high school.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

The Des Moines branch of the I Have a Dream Foundation is withdrawing from the national organization. It's changing its name and turning local.

Des Moines schools have been part of the education initiative to prepare low-income students for college for 28 years. It will now be known as the By Degrees Foundation. Its chief executive officer, Emily Westergaard, says the name change better reflects the program’s mission.

Katie Peikes / IPR

Members of the Native American community journeyed on foot through Sioux City on Wednesday to memorialize Native children who have been removed from their homes and placed in foster care.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

Hundreds of Drake University students rallied on campus Wednesday in response to some recent racist incidents. It was a call for students of all backgrounds to come together against hate.

In one case, a threatening racist note was slipped under a student’s dorm room door. Then earlier this week, robo-calls from an Idaho-based white supremacist group arrived on some 250 students land lines. Sophomore Manasi Singh from Clive says the incidents have served to galvanize the student body.

Thomas Hawk via flickr creative commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/14471621099/

Veterans from western Iowa gathered at Western Iowa Technical Community College in Sioux City Monday to talk about the challenges in starting or growing a small business and the resources they can use after reentering civilian society.

Joyce Russell/IPR

More Iowans may end up available to serve on juries through a project underway at the Iowa Judicial Branch aimed at making jury pools more inclusive.  

The Committee on Jury Selection wants to ensure that African-Americans and other minorities are fairly represented.   

State court administrator Todd Nuccio says to broaden the jury pool, they hope to tap lists of Iowans registered with the Department of Revenue, in addition to the current lists from voting rolls or driver’s licenses.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

At Hoover High School on the northwest side of Des Moines, the student body is made up of kids who speak 40 languages. This means teachers who specialize in English Language Learners carry an especially heavy burden. 

It’s spelling lesson time in the second-year ELL class taught by Ann Mincks. She's sounding out the word tap and explaining what it means.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Racial profiling by Iowa law enforcement was under discussion Tuesday at the annual Summit on Justice and Disparities, sponsored by the NAACP.   The gathering focuses each year on the disproportionate presence of African-Americans in Iowa’s Criminal Justice System.  

Held on the Ankeny campus of Des Moines Area Community College, the program included panels on getting more black people on juries, disrupting the school to prison pipeline, and racial profiling by police.  

Riverhead Books

Casey Gerald has written a memoir, "There Will Be No Miracles Here." (Riverhead Books)  Gerald was the final speaker in this year's Green Room series, a community-wide educational experiment at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City and a University of Iowa Honors Course taught by Dave Gould.

Courtesy of Erica DeLeon / One Siouxland

Becoming a United States citizen is complicated. Immigrants are often faced with many choices in an unpredictable process that can take years, even decades.

In Sioux City, an immigration services nonprofit recently tried to replicate these challenges, by simulating what the citizenship process is like.


Red Earth Running Company

 

Red Earth Running Company is an athletic outfitter, local race sponsor, and Iowa-based company. But more than that, Red Earth Running Company may very well be the first business of its kind geared at supporting indigenous runners.

Dirk Whitebreast, a member of the Meskwaki Nation, created Red Earth Running Company after noticing a distinct lack of representation for indigenous identity in the national running community and in the outfitting and advertising materials that support the sport.

U.S. Department of Education / https://www.flickr.com/photos/departmentofed/9606640865/in/photolist-fCUxD4-mzySji-5xgdNT-2bgTqCU-6c5pDL-dXNEZw-dd2He2-b87js8-rLg67-f2QRhF-8KA9Kd-c3mZUo-bbJYkR-5Paz1h-f35VUW-dynUK-fRMKG-bnehn8-ftPooe-8Kx3UV-pMMmYa-8KzWRA-dyopP-8KzziW-fCX9K2-f31Pru-8KA2AC-

 

People often choose to group up with others they relate to in gender, race, and other demographics; but research shows that increasing diversity and inclusion in workplace and educational settings can lead to more creative, productive outcomes.

 

Katie Peikes/IPR

Native American activists say they see a void in northwest Iowa as their people try to heal from alcoholism, drug abuse and traumatic experiences. They built a sweat lodge over the weekend in Sioux City that they hope will inspire people to seek out the healing they need.

planned parenthood clinic
Sarah Boden/IPR File

Sitting outside the Iowa Capitol, Chelsea Chism-Vargas recalled the moment in 2017 when she found out state lawmakers were trying to cut off her access to Planned Parenthood. 

“I felt my shoulders go back and kind of a gasp like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is my program.’”

For years, Chism-Vargas was getting free birth control pills and annual reproductive health exams at Planned Parenthood through a federally-funded family planning program for low-income and underinsured Iowans.

vigil
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Members of Iowa’s Latino community gathered at the state capitol Thursday to honor the memory of Mollie Tibbetts and to unite against hateful rhetoric.

Vanessa Marcano-Kelly translated Lincon Guerra’s words.

“We are meeting here today in an act of solidarity and moral support to her family and loved ones, asking them to receive our deepest condolences and prayers.”

They released balloons, had a moment of silence, and prayed for Tibbetts, her family and others affected by violence.

Girls on the Run of Eastern Iowa via facebook / https://www.facebook.com/GOTREasternIowa/

A girls empowerment organization in Eastern Iowa is offering sports hijabs to help Muslim girls stay active. 

Rehab Center Vita / https://kazan.vperemen.com/ (Own work) CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Advocates for a planned western Iowa detoxification center for people recovering from addiction say there is a real need for one that serves Native American and homeless people.

Amy Mayer / IPR

When communities watch young people grow up, go off and never return, remaining residents and politicians often bemoan there’s been a “brain drain” — especially when such population loss means schools and businesses close.

But plenty of residents are full of love and pride for those communities, and some are working to identify their towns’ best attributes so they can attract new residents and achieve “brain gain.” This effort is happening across New England and in the Mountain West, and is also evident in two Iowa towns.

Bellevue

Public Art Foundation of Greater Des Moines

A new piece of public art in downtown Des Moines honors a little known chapter in the city’s civil rights history.

Daniel Moon

Representatives of Iowa’s Asian community will play a special role on Thursday in observances honoring former Iowa Gov. Robert Ray, who passed away this week at the age of 89.       

A motorcade will transport Ray’s body through Des Moines and to the Capitol where he will lie in state in the rotunda.  

Members of the Asian community will lay one of the wreaths on the coffin and lead the procession of Iowans paying their respects.

Ray oversaw the resettlement of thousands of southeast Asian refugees in Iowa in the 70’s.

Iowa Public Radio

A former justice is warning a lack of diversity on Iowa’s Supreme Court could undermine its legitimacy. With an upcoming vacancy on the bench, state officials could have a chance to consider the issue. The judicial nominating commission began interviewing applicants Monday.

ACLU of Iowa

A Polk County District Court judge this week ordered the Iowa Department of Human Services to cover the costs of sex reassignment surgery for two transgender women.  

The ACLU of Iowa says it’s the first court ruling recognizing the rights of transgender Iowans under the Iowa Constitution and the Iowa Civil Rights Act.    

In his ruling Chief District Judge Arthur Gamble ordered DHS to approve Medicaid coverage for what’s known as gender-affirming surgery for Carol Ann Beal of northwest Iowa and EerieAnna Good of the Quad Cities.   

fez zafar
American Iftar Dinner

After the Trump administration broke a White House tradition last year of celebrating the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a Des Moines teen is trying to revive and expand the tradition.

Starting with the Clinton administration, the White House has hosted an annual iftar dinner to celebrate Ramadan. It continued through the Bush and Obama presidencies, but Donald Trump did not hold the event when he took office in 2017.

Annals of Iowa

The State Historical Society of Iowa is trying to get a better handle on Iowa’s place in the African-American civil rights movement. It’s setting out to locate properties that might help tell the story of this in-state struggle for equality.

Over the next two-and-a-half years, researchers will be looking for workplaces, churches, schools, neighborhoods, any public place where people were fighting for civil rights in Iowa during the 20th Century.

An architectural historian with the Historical Society, Paula Mohr, says it’s difficult to know how many such places exist.

Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio

 At The Law Shop in Van Meter, attorney Amy Skogerson untied a piece of blue yarn from around a bunch of craft sticks.

Each stick had a word or short phrase stamped on it, and she read from them as she placed them on her desk: “negotiate, court representation, research law, draft documents.”

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