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01/28/2016 | Fighting for an Inclusive Democracy

Conversing with Candidates in Iowa

The presidential campaign kicks off every election cycle with the Iowa caucuses, where the presidential candidates compete for the first time and the national political agenda begins to form. The Center for Community Change (CCC), Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI) and organizations from across the Midwest gathered together to attend sessions on bold, progressive visions on racial justice, environmental justice, and economic justice, to shape the national agenda toward the ambitious goal of investing in disinvested communities – particularly communities of color and rural communities.

Community members also had the opportunity to question Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders in front of a packed crowd of 750 Iowans and others from the Midwest.

The day before the event, CPD partner, Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (MNNOC) convened an historic convening of 25 Black EDs and Senior Staff of Black-led organizations from across the Midwest to begin building relationships with each other and exploring the possibility of building a shared framework for addressing racial justice issues in the Midwest together. The Organization for Black Struggle (OBS), Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), and Sunflower Community Action were among the CPD partners in attendance.

This group also made a big impact on the event. To open up the Presidential Forum, six leaders of the Black ED meeting addressed the crowd sharing why they came together, what their communities are facing, and why they came to Iowa. Kandace Montgomery from Black Lives Matter Minneapolis ended by asking the crowd of mostly white Iowans to stand with young Black leaders when they are taking actions, occupying police precincts, and shutting down malls and airports, which was met by a standing ovation and chants of “Black lives matter!” by the whole crowd. It was electric and the response from the crowd was overwhelmingly more supportive than the organizers had anticipated.

Staff at CPD led sessions on the Fair Workweek and Fed Up campaigns, and on over-policing and mass incarceration. Rod Adams of MNNOC asked Martin O’Malley about the Federal Reserve, Montague Simmons, the ED of Organization for Black Struggle also asked Martin O’Malley about racial justice. Finally, Anthony Newby, the ED of MNNOC got Bernie Sanders to agree to invest $1 Trillion into economically distressed areas, if elected.

In Iowa, the grassroots leadership of CPD has begun to build power in the Midwest in a lasting way and is moving the national dialogue toward visionary, transformative change for communities of color.