What started as two concerned white Adel residents, turned into a gathering of over 150 people Wednesday night for the Community for Solidarity event.
Sparked with the idea even before the recent graffiti slurs in town, Meg Kinney and Crystal Macallister wanted to bring other community members together, perhaps who didn’t know where to turn to find relevant voices to listen to and engage in deeper conversations in the wake of the George Floyd protests across the country.
“To me, this event made me feel like it’s bringing those of us who are a little bit more quiet together,” Macallister said. “To make us feel like there are more people here for the movement for anti-racism than what we believe we’re surrounded by.”
For a town with only a 2.5 percent minority population, the relevant voices for such a conversation are not always easily accessible. After making calls, Macallister and Kinney found a number of prominent leaders from around the area to speak, leading a conversation on how to enact change from within.
That conversation included two people that were in the front lines of the Des Moines protests. As the closing speaker, Rev. Ron Woods of Prevailing Church in Waukee, talked about seeing one of the other featured guests Justyn Lewis and how they both found avenues to create change beyond a protest.
Both coming from an experience of frustration at the protest, Woods applauded Lewis’ initiative to start Des Moines’ Selma.
“Over 2,000 kids and they got to the same area in the Capitol [where they almost pepper sprayed us] and they gave him a mic and they were able to speak their voice because somebody understood they mattered,” Woods recalled as he explained his outlook of black lives matter’s importance compared to alternative phrasing.
As an organizer coming from a political science background at Iowa State, Lewis talked to the predominantly white crowd to discuss their importance to the movement despite perhaps limited interaction with the Black community (or minorities at large).
“The goal is to bring white allies, white Anglo-Americans, and bring them up to speed on what has transpired through the history of America where 400 years ago we had slavery and Jim Crow and red-lining,” Lewis said. “And now we’re at this current place in time where we have laws and systems that are in place that a lot of people don’t know are currently holding certain people that look like me back. Whether it’s chokeholds or use of illegal force or just a lack of training, there’s so much that can be done.”
Pat Stalter, a former English teacher from Adel, spoke first as one of those allies in regards to some of the impact close to home regarding the recent events.
“The words sprayed on the walls in Adel this last week show just how much harm words produce, how much they matter, how much power words have to wound and intimidate. As a retired English teacher, I’ve always sensed the value of how much word choice matters,” Stalter said.
With all the above and more in mind, it was Lewis that got one of the biggest reactions of the night as he closed his 10 minutes:
“This shouldn’t be a hot topic issue. This should be something bringing us together,” Lewis said. “Civil Rights was never brought overnight.”