Jonathan Narcisse, Remembered

State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad’s tribute to his friend Jonathan Narcisse. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Jonathan Narcisse, advocate, media presence, and publisher of several newspapers, including “The Bystander,” Iowa’s most enduring publication geared towards an African American audience, died last Saturday, February 17. He was 54–young, but not unusual for a black man in America.

He was also my former campaign manager, business associate, peer, and friend. So I write this with sadness in my heart for the loss Iowa experiences as a result of his death, and with joy in my soul that he is no longer in pain.

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The story has changed, but not the economy

Jon Muller fact-checks some assertions from the State of the Union. -promoted by desmoinesdem

The president bragged about the economy last night, suggesting the dawn of a new era of growth after decades of stagnation. It isn’t true. Well, it’s partly true. The economy is doing fairly well by most measures. But have we seen any appreciable change in trend?

This post will address four claims made by the president, related to manufacturing, wage growth, black unemployment, and coal production.

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Doug Gross used Des Moines Register to lobby for his law firm's client

Longtime Republican power-broker Doug Gross published two Des Moines Register guest columns within a three-month period criticizing a planned Polk County program to assess the risk of releasing defendants before trial. The BrownWinick partner did not disclose to the newspaper’s editors that his law firm’s lobbying team represents Lederman Bail Bonds, a company that would be adversely affected if fewer low-risk offenders are required to post a cash bond to get out of jail.

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"We must match our proclamations with courage": Remarks for Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday

Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker spoke about institutional racism, injustice, and discrimination at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids on Monday, January 15. You can watch his keynote address for the MLK Day Celebration here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

In 1963 President Kennedy was asked by a journalist if he felt that his Administration was pushing integration too fast or not fast enough, citing a recent Gallup poll that showed fifty percent of the country felt he was moving too quickly on issues of race. President Kennedy responded, “This is not a matter on which you can take the temperature every few weeks, depending on what the newspaper headlines might be. You judged 1863 after a good many years – its full effect. The same poll showed forty percent or so thought it was more or less right. I thought that was rather impressive, because it is a change and change always disturbs, and therefore I was surprised there wasn’t greater opposition.”

Great is the person who can understand how the present fits into the larger picture of history. The battles we fight today may be obscured and distorted by the detractors, but we fight for the future, knowing full well that one day, history will affirm the moral certainty of our cause.

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Four links for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

For some, today’s holiday is just a day off from work or school. But thousands of people will be honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at events around Iowa. State government’s official celebration begins at 10:45 a.m. at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, 909 Robert D. Ray Drive in Des Moines. Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker will discuss Dr. King’s legacy and various justice reform issues at three events in Mount Vernon or Cedar Rapids.

The African-American Museum of Iowa (55 12th Ave. SE in Cedar Rapids) is offering free admission between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, with children’s activities between 11 and 3. After the regular opening hours, the museum is hosting a job fair and a free screening of the movie “Hidden Figures.” On January 25 from 6:30 to 7:30 pm, museum staff will hold an event at the North Liberty Public Library highlighting “the fight for equal rights, both nationwide and in the state of Iowa. Featured individuals include Alexander Clark, the man who helped desegregate Iowa schools in 1867, and Edna Griffin, the woman who led sit-ins at the Katz Drugstore in Des Moines in 1948.”

I enclose below excerpts from a few articles related to racial inequality or the civil rights movement. Bleeding Heartland has compiled other links related to this holiday or to Dr. King’s work here, here, here, here, and here. The quote pictured at the top of this post first appeared in Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (April 1963).

Many politicians will quote the civil rights icon today. If Iowa lawmakers want to honor his legacy, they could pass some of the criminal justice reform bills introduced in recent years, or other ideas advocated by the NAACP. Instead, members of the Iowa Senate and perhaps the state House are likely to debate a bill to reinstate capital punishment this year. Many years of data point to racial disparities in how the death penalty is applied. (Rod Boshart’s reporting suggests the death penalty bill probably will not pass.)

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A Des Moines principal's heartfelt message to immigrant students

“Tonight I feel compelled to discuss something that’s been weighing on my mind heavily,” said Des Moines Roosevelt High School principal Kevin Biggs in a recorded message to students, parents, and guardians on January 12.

Without referring to President Donald Trump or his widely reported comments denigrating immigrants from “shithole countries” and Haitians specifically, Biggs went on to emphasize his pride in the diversity of the Roosevelt student body and the staff’s support for refugees, immigrants, and students of color. “To our Haitian students,” he added, “you are a valuable part of our community, and you’ve elevated the strength of our building simply with your presence.” The principal also promised “those of you who have traveled across oceans to experience the American dream, we’re here for you, too.”

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