Three new members named to Iowa City Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 6:23 AM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - The Ad Hoc Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established with a goal of bearing witness to the truth of racial injustice in Iowa City and carrying out restorative justice, has three new members.

The new additions are the result of four of the TRC’s original members resigning during a tumultuous first few months of existence.

The nine-member commission was formed last September as one of the major commitments from Iowa City council in response to the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer.

By March, four members and the commission’s hired facilitator had resigned from the TRC after infighting and differences of opinions among the group.

That led to the city council acting on March 17 to suspend the commission until mid-April, in a 5-2 vote, while looking to fill the four open seats.

The three new members are Clif Johnson, Wangui Gathua, and Chastity Dillard, all appointed by city council members Tuesday.

Johnson, a retired Marine who owns a boxing gym in Iowa City and has lived in the city for seven years, said he doesn’t want to look back at the commission’s past as much as he wants to contribute to its future.

“Nothing in life is easy, but what we have to do is work toward a common goal together and bringing people together,” he said. “I am a firm believer that unity is better than anything else, so the more we can push our goal together to be a better city, we’ll be fine.”

Johnson said he wants to listen and find out as much about people’s concerns as he can as a member of the commission.

“I hope we can make positive change for Iowa City. I love Iowa City. I feel like Iowa City’s a beautiful place, and its beauty is in its diversity, having different kinds of people here, all rolled up together to work toward a common goal of just living a positive life,” he said.

The fourth and final member of the commission will be chosen by city council members during a special meeting Monday at 8 a.m.

The TRC will not include any members of the Iowa Freedom Riders, the Black Lives Matter group that led last summer’s protests against racial inequities and called for the commission to be established.

They have said they won’t participate in the city’s TRC, calling it a “puppet” controlled by the city council.

Instead, the Freedom Riders are forming another commission, the Peoples TRC, which will begin its work April 15, the same day the city-backed TRC and city council will meet to discuss the commission’s future.

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