Racial slur prompts calls to remove chair of Iowa City’s commission focused on racial justice

Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 10:28 AM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - The newly elected chair of Iowa City’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission is facing calls for removal after the leak of a podcast where she disparaged other Black leaders in Iowa City, referring to some as “coons”.

The Iowa City Council has set a meeting for Thursday morning to remove Amel Ali from the commission. Iowa City created the TRC in the wake of protests over the murder of George Floyd in 2020 in order to “bear witness to the truth of racial injustice and carry out restorative justice”.

The issue came up during public comment at Tuesday’s Iowa City Council meeting when Johnson County Supervisor Royceann Porter demanded the council remove Amel Ali from the commission. Porter said she received an anonymous letter containing recordings of a podcast “Rock Hard Caucus”. In it, Ali refers to Porter and other community leaders as coons, makes other derogatory comments and describes herself as getting intoxicated before meetings and driving drunk. Porter says the comments came on multiple episodes of the podcast.

“Her choice to speak this way clearly demonstrates that she is not capable of leading us towards reconciliation,” Porter said demanding the City Council remove Ali.

“If you don’t remove her soon, I’m telling you now, we will remove her,” Porter added.

Ali was selected as chair of the commission just last month. She also spoke remotely at the meeting and apologized for her statements, calling them “wrong” and “ill-considered” but refused to resign.

“Despite the call by the mayor to have me resign, I cannot walk away and turn my back on the trust, hope and responsibilities entrusted to all of us on this commission,” Ali said.

Ali said she believed the recordings were released intentionally to disrupt the work of the commission.

“Let’s put out words over these past few years to the test and follow through on forgiveness, belonging and truth,” Ali said. “You may not always like what you hear but, like me, we will be bringing our community to the table to share their experience.”

A handful of others spoke both in support of Ali and in joining the calls for her removal during the meeting.

The TRC has faced a tumultuous first two years. Porter resigned as the commission’s first chair, citing disagreements with other members. Several others resigned shortly afterward, forcing the city council to suspend the commission in order to fill the vacancies. Ali is at least the fourth chair of the commission in less than two years.

The TRC is currently trying to hire a facilitator to help carry out its mission but the council has rejected previous versions of the proposal. At Tuesday’s work session, it presented council members with an update to that plan. The TRC is set to meet again Thursday to discuss the plan.

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