’We still have work to do’: Speakers at Coralville gathering urge public to keep fighting for change

Published: Jun. 7, 2020 at 9:55 PM CDT
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CORALVILLE, Iowa (KCRG) - At “Reflect, Heal, Act: A Community Gathering” on Sunday in Coralville, incoming West High School senior Phoebe Burt earned a standing ovation from the crowd at S.T. Morrison Park for her rendition of Andra Day’s song “Rise Up.”

After more than a week of protests and civil unrest across the United States, including in eastern Iowa, sparked by the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis, Burt said the song choice was intentional.

“If we all band together, eventually the situation will get so much better and so much brighter,” she said.

A couple of hundred people turned out for the community gathering, hearing Burt’s songs and listening to speeches from several speakers, many of whom echoed a similar theme: that the work done across the country over the last week to try to bring an end to racial injustice and racism is just getting started.

“These rallies and gatherings are an important part of that healing, but it shouldn’t be the only place or time that you engage in healing,” said Ruthina Malone, the only Black school board member in the Iowa City Community School District.

Most of the speakers Sunday were educators or students in the Iowa City Community School District, and many of them pointed to education as a key component needed in the process of healing and rectifying inequalities and injustices.

“When you educate yourself within the walls of your own house, when you educate your children, then you are giving people a piece of history that actually needs to be told,” said Dasia Taylor, who is also an incoming senior at West High School in Iowa City.

In her speech, Taylor offered three action steps for people going forward: listen, amplify, and do better.

“By doing that, I was hoping to give people who are lost a direction of where to go, what to do, how to really get out there and have those conversations with family and really listen to people of color when they’re sharing their experiences, knowing that that comes from a very vulnerable place,” she said.

Both Taylor and Burt said they agreed with the notion voiced by several of their fellow speakers, that now is not the time to let up in this work for equality.

“Until our administrative teams at the school and district level have more administrators of color, we still have work to do,” Taylor Scudder, a teacher at Northwest Junior High School in Coralville, said.

Burt said she’d also hope to see more Black representation in what students are learning in class.

“There are so many names that were listed today that I have not heard, and that’s frustrating to me because I’m just hearing the same names in my books, and I’m like, there has to be others,” she said.

Johnson County Supervisor Royceann Porter reiterated to Sunday’s crowd what she told protesters in Iowa City on Saturday, many of whom, she said, were growing impatient at the pace at which change comes.

“This has been going on for 400 years, and if it takes another 20 years to move the needle, then that’s what we’re going to do,” she said. “Nothing happens overnight — nothing.”

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