Thursday, July 3, 2008

Asian Academy - Week Five - Administrative Services

By Dawn Campbell

Administrative Services is like the behind the scenes team for Des Moines Police Department and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Des Moines Police Department’s Captain Joanne Pollock told attendees of the Asian citizens academy how the department’s Administrative Services Bureau is separated into four divisions: property management section, records section/police report unit, communications section and the police technology unit.

Academy attendees were shown before and after photos of the property management locker located at the Des Moines Police Department. Pollock awed the class when she told of the audit which detailed every single item in the property locker. “There was only one item, a laundry basket, which was not accounted for during the audit,” Pollock advised.

When asked how far back items were dated, Pollock stated, “Items from the 1930’s were found.” The captain continued by telling the class that there were over 11,000 property sheets attached to various items. Those property sheets could have one to two items listed and up to a dozen or more. The class immediately understood the magnitude of only having one item missing in the audit process.

Pollock continued her presentation and discussed the records section and police report unit. Pollock shared statistics of how this area of the department works. The records management system is shared with Polk County Sheriffs Department as well as other law enforcement agencies in the area. Ten people enter reports 24 hours a day. Sales of these reports, because they are public information, generated $165,000 in revenue which goes directly back into the budget.

This particular section of the department also has a false alarm coordinator. This employee helps with the magnitude of false alarm trips the department answers every year. Last year, the department received 4,400 alarm trips. Of those trips, 3,793 of those trips were false. For every false alarm trip, the owner of the residence or business is fined $50. This money was generated and put back into the budget.

Because the class was briefed on the communications section a few weeks ago, Pollock focused the last part of her presentation on the technology section. This section of the department is what keeps people in touch with each other. Pollock explained this section keeps the 75 mobile units in the vehicles used by officers in working order. She also shared this unit is in charge of approximately 300 desktop units used by various employees within the department.

The class did learn something most did not know prior to this course. On every cellular phone bill, there is a charge titled “E911.” Pollock explained the money received from this charge is what funds the seven employees who maintain these precious systems for the police department.

As the class broke for intermission, attendees had a chance to speak to Pollock one on one. During one of those discussions, the class did learn the significance of their speaker. Pollock is the second highest ranking female officer in the police department.

For the second half of this week’s section, the class heard from Lieutenant Dave Knight regarding Polk County Sheriffs Office’s administrative bureau. Knight, who is a 21 year veteran of the department, reiterated much of what Pollock stated in her presentation. Yet, he also talked about the new jail being built, the civil division, the human resource department and a little on what people should know about law enforcement as a career.

“Law enforcement officers have the highest rate of suicide and divorce,” Knight said. “I tell this to all the new people I talk to. You have to have a sense of humor and you have to have friends outside of law enforcement.”

Knight took a story telling approach to the presentation topics. As he spoke about the new jail and the impact it is going to have on how the sheriffs department works, he shared the following:

Knight told members of the class the jail is three football fields wide and three football fields long so they could get an idea of how large the facility is and how many inmates it can hold.

Knight shared with the class how the department is hiring civilian detention officers and what those individuals can expect when they are working in the jail. “We have a man who is housed that plays with his own fecal matter,” Knight stated. “Detention officers will see things that you wouldn’t believe.” As a pre-employment test, detention officer candidates have to run and drag a dummy for a certain amount of feet. This is in case there is an altercation in the jail setting and the detention officer has to drag an injured inmate or colleague.

One of the duties assigned to the sheriff’s office is civil matters. Knight discussed how the department is bombarded with work due to the rapid rise of foreclosures. He also discussed some of the unpleasant issues associated with civil matters such as child custody issues. The sheriff’s office is the department assigned to go to residences and remove children from homes based on court orders. This department is also responsible for serving individuals regarding court issues.

Prior to dismissing the course, Knight engaged the class by sharing with them one of the unique duties he chose to take on – death notification. This task is also part of administrative services for the sheriff’s department. He shared two particular stories with the class. Knight began his stories by simply saying, “You never know what you are going to get.”

Knight didn’t go into particular details of the circumstances involved with this notification. In a conversational tone, Knight told of a deputy who did not ask if there was anyone else in the residence prior to the stating the fact that this person’s loved one had passed. When the loved one receiving the death notification screamed, a person from upstairs came down ready for a physical altercation. Knight chuckled and said, “I made sure to ask if anyone else was in the house from that point on.”

Reiterating the “you never know what you are going to get” motto, Knight shared a story that he said he’ll never forget. The sheriff’s department responded to a call of a motorcycle accident and the rider was pronounced dead shortly after. When deputies arrived at the deceased residence, they advised the wife that her husband had passed away. The wife stood, smiled and said thank you. The deputies who arrived with a person from victim’s services were a little shocked at the reaction. “There was no crying or anything,” Knight said. Deputies learned later, the wife had been a victim of domestic abuse. “I guess it was relief,” Knight told attendees.


Lt. Dave Knight with the Polk County Sheriff's Office addresses attendees of
the Asian Citizens Academy.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Asian Citizen's Academy Week Four: "In Pursuit"

By Dawn Campbell

“I have a vehicle that took off on me. In pursuit.”

The officer pursues a vehicle which would not stop for a simple traffic violation. The officer accelerates, but follows at a distance where he can react if the vehicle he is pursuing wrecks. Every few seconds, the officer provides dispatch with details of his location and the direction the vehicle.

“West bound University. Crossing M.L. King.”

The chase has been going for a few minutes and the officer in pursuit has several other police units with him for backup. The officer giving chase sternly asks, “Permission to P.I.T?”

Dispatch calls the watch commander on the air and asks the same question. “Permission granted,” a commanding voice says simply.

The officer lines up the way he was taught in the academy’s four days of driving training and taps the back of the chased vehicle. The chased vehicle spins around and comes to a stop. The chase ends with no injuries and slight damage to a police car.

“P.I.T. stands for pursuit intervention technique. On average we use the P.I.T. maneuver once a month,” Des Moines Senior Police Officer Chuck Guhl told the Asian Citizen’s Academy on May 21. “The Des Moines Police Department was the first agency to train in P.I.T. in 1996,” Guhl proudly shared.

During the classroom discussion, Guhl explained how officers in training spend four days in driving school during their time at the Des Moines regional Police Academy. On the last day of driving school, recruits spend four hours in P.I.T. training. This past year, the academy class had a new opportunity. The recruits spent four hours training in high speed pursuits at the Knoxville Speedway.

Police Officer Brookelyn Budd, who graduated in 2008 from the Des Moines Regional Police Academy said, “The new training was effective; it gave us the opportunity to actually participate in a high speed chase while in a safe, secure environment. It is definitely something my fellow classmates learned from and enjoyed.”

When asked how do officers who have been with the department for a length of time receive P.I.T and pursuit training, Guhl informed the class that those officers receive refresher courses. At this time, every three years officers receive a refresher in P.I.T. and pursuit driving.

Following the classroom discussion, the citizen’s academy moved outdoors to the Des Moines Area Community College driving course to watch a P.I.T. demonstration take place.

Attendees watched as a black Crown Victoria driven by Senior Police Officer Chad McFarland drove around the DMACC driving course mimicking a pursuit with an old squad car. Just as McFarland rounded a corner, Senior Officer Chad Cornwell and Senior Officer Tony Gomez lined up their vehicle and performed a P.I.T. maneuver. The vehicles with metal bumper guards made contact and the helmet clad McFarland sent dust flying as his vehicle spun to a stop.

Students watched as the officers performed the demonstration approximately five to six times. Guhl, Sergeant Larry Davey, Sergeant Tony Knox and Senior Officer Doua Lor mingled amongst students to assist in explaining what was occurring and what signified a good P.I.T. versus a bad P.I.T.

After the P.I.T demonstration, attendees got the opportunity to become up close and personal with a DMPD squad car and learn about what makes traffic stops nerve racking for law enforcement officers.

Lor showed the class how an officer looks up license plates of a stopped vehicle on I-Mobile, the computer unit located in squad cars. Lor also briefly explained Tracs, the computer program that is used for traffic accidents.

For the last part of the class, Officer Gomez who works in the traffic, unit shared what things make officers nervous during traffic stops. Gomez advised attendees not to exit the vehicle they are in when being approached by an officer during a traffic stop. He also advised attendees to keep their hands where the officer can see them. “Please don’t dig around in your glove compartment or under your seat,” Gomez said. Officers don’t know if the person in the vehicle is merely searching for license and registration or if they are searching for a firearm.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Asian Citizen's Academy Week Three: Crime Scene Investigation

By Dawn Campbell

“Solving a crime does not happen in an hour and we don’t wear thousand dollar suits,” Sergeant Mike McDermott of the Des Moines Police Department (DMPD) told participants of the first Asian Citizens Academy. The statement dissolved any assumptions that crime scene investigations occur exactly as they do on the numerous CSI programs.

McDermott, who has been with the department 20 years this August, spoke to the academy class this past week regarding how DMPD’s crime scene investigation section operates. McDermott shared his experience which includes, approximately 10 years of working with crime scene investigation.

The identification unit is the only part of the detective’s bureau which operates 24-7, 365 days a year. It consists of a lieutenant, two sergeants, 13 identification technicians and one secretary.

This department is the best identification and investigation unit in the state. “We have a nationally recognized blood splatter expert as part of the team,” McDermott told attendees. The unit also has someone who is considered very knowledgeable and is highly regarded in the area of fingerprints.

McDermott proceeded to share some of the major accomplishments this particular division has achieved. One of those accomplishments occurred approximately 10 years ago. DMPD’s identification unit was the first crime scene investigation unit to ever raise a fingerprint off of a dead body.

After McDermott told about the structure and accomplishments of this staff, he shared a slide show with the class. “If anyone has a weak stomach, this may be a good a time to leave the room,” he warned.

McDermott began a homicide crime scene slide show. He stated with homicide investigations, crime scene investigators can be at the scene of the crime two to three days.

The class sat very still and quietly viewed the slide show which included the photos of an actual crime scene, evidence and autopsy photos used to prosecute a suspect in an especially violent homicide case which occurred about eleven years ago. McDermott shared what detectives learned during the investigation with the class. “The victim was random,” he said referring to the fact the suspect in the case did not know the victim. The victim’s body was discovered by their relative; McDermott believed the body was found by the victim’s daughter.

As the slide show progressed to the autopsy photos, the horrific act of violence was exposed and one attendee exited the room. “This person I believe has a special place in heaven because they fought back,” stated McDermott. The autopsy photos clearly showed numerous defensive stab wounds on the victim’s hands and arms. McDermott asked the class to count the wounds, but everyone remained silent. McDermott said quietly, “Too many to count.”

At the end of the slide show, a class participant asked how he does his job. McDermott answered, “What bothers me is that some times my job doesn’t bother me.”

McDermott then shared an experience and a piece of advice he was given early on in his career. The Drake Diner murders were the first crime scene McDermott ever worked. McDermott asked the class how many had been inside the diner. Most of the class raised their hands. He shared the layout of the diner to those who were not familiar. Then, McDermott shared how he walked in the diner, saw the victim’s bodies lying close to the entrance and how he looked at the walls which were very far away and were covered with blood and brain matter.

The piece of advice given to McDermott by a supervisor that night was, don’t look at bodies as people; look at the bodies as evidence.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Asian Citizens Academy – Week Two: Operations and Communications

By Dawn Campbell

“Des Moines Police Department is a big business. Polk County Sheriff’s Office is a big business. We’re selling trust. We’re selling goodwill,” Des Moines Police Department Captain Kelly Willis told attendees of the Asian Citizens Academy.

Week two was a long session for attendees on May 6th, but they learned critical information. For the first half of the session students learned how the Des Moines Police Department and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office operate. Willis from Des Moines Police Department (DMPD) and Chief Neil Schultz from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) presented to the class. The second half focused on the communications and dispatch for both organizations.

“Public safety is a common goal for Polk County Sheriff’s Office and for the police department,” Willis explained.

Attendees listened as Willis explained the 10 hour work day patrol officers began the day before. The 10 hour shift will make the department work more efficient. Prior to this change, the department had three eight hour shifts which only covered 24 hours. Willis detailed how it was difficult for patrol officers to respond to emergency trips during shift change. Willis said, “We want to be able to respond to our community’s needs quickly. That’s hard when officers are loading their gear at the station and we need them over by Merle Hay Mall for a child choking.” Willis clearly explained that there was not a time when there were no officers on the street. There were times with the eight hour shifts, there were not that many officers on the street and those officers would take trips which may endanger themselves to serve the community.

Willis also explained how the department developed how the shifts would change. “Due to crime analysis, we know that from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., we have a larger number of police assistance calls. Because of these statistics, we made sure there are additional officers are the street.”

Schultz, who heads the field headquarters for PCSO detailed the operation overview of the sheriff’s office and specifically answered questions regarding the county’s jail system.

“At this time, we spend a lot transporting prisoners to Missouri for holding. With the new jail facility, we’ll cut costs,” explained Schultz.

When asked why we use Missouri facilities to hold prisoners, Schultz stated that Missouri state law allows private industry to run jails; whereas the State of Iowa does not allow this. “At this time it is not cost effective. We spend approximately, $4.5 to $6 million transporting and holding prisoners. Private industry charges because it is a business,” Schultz said.

The class seemed surprised, but whispers about food costs and gas prices could be heard as the class broke for a break.

The second half of the class explained the communications sections of both DMPD and PCSO.

Academy attendees were shown statistics of what types and number of calls the sheriff’s office and police department receive during a year.

Polk County Sheriff’s Office

40,207 law enforcement trips

54,192 911 calls

13,073 fire/rescue trips

5,172 warrants entered

7,008 no contact orders

10,886 criminal history checks

Des Moines Police Department

368,515 telephone calls

61,312 wireline 911 calls (also known as landline calls)

89,331 wireless 911 calls

202,087 police trips

19,394 fire/rescue trip

283,027 Lencir (this includes but is not limited to criminal history checks)

One tip given to the class by John Smith, a PCSO dispatcher and Sandy Morris from the DMPD communications section is when calling from a cell phone make sure you give your location. “Depending on your phone, GPS may work or it may not. Be patient and make sure you answer the question where are you located. It can make a difference,” explained Morris.
Part two in a series by Dawn Campbell.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Police Academy for Asians

By Dawn Campbell

A retired police sergeant teaching Asian citizens about the history of the Des Moines Police Department doesn’t happen everyday at the Des Moines Regional Police Academy, but it happened April 29, 2008. This was part of the content for the first day of class for Asian citizens attending the 1st Annual Asian Citizens Police Academy.

Retired Sgt. Mike Leeper, who is in charge of the police department’s museum, shared interesting facts about the police department and how things have changed over the years. Attendees learned how officers in the early 1900’s, without the use of cell phones and communication units, communicated with dispatch via special phones located within their patrol areas. Officers were required to phone once every hour or half hour whether they were in need of assistance or not.

Leeper also shared the somber side of being a police officer with attendees. Photos of officers who have died in the line of duty were shown to students. Leeper explained how this slide show is shown to every new officer who joins the department. It gives new officers an awareness of the dangers associated with this job, he explained to the group.

Over the next eleven weeks, citizens in this class will learn more than just the history of the police department. They will meet officers, learn about the different bureaus within the department and also go through some of the training police recruits do while they are at the academy.

Senior Police and Asian Outreach Resource Officer Doua Lor assisted in the creation of this program. According to Lor, this program will assist in bridging the communication gap that occurs often between law enforcement and the Asian community. To Lor’s knowledge, this is the only program in the Midwest offered by a law enforcement agency specifically for the Asian community. will be following the citizens attending this eleven week course and sharing what the members of this class learn on a weekly basis.

Cut line for photo: Retired Sgt. Mike Leeper shares the history of the
Des Moines Police Department with citizens in the Asian Citizens Academy.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Education Brain Trust

Get Connected

Stay Connected


Funded by Polk County Decat/Iowa Department of Human Services &

Des Moines Public Schools

May 3

Moulton School

Introduction and Kick Off

10 a.m. to Noon

May 17:

Carver Elementary

9:00 am to 3:00 pm

June 7:



9:00 am to 3:00 pm

June 21:

Callanan Middle School

9:00 am to 3:00 pm

Parents attending the Empowerment summits will receive special incentives, including $$$$$$ for their participation. For more information please contact;

Paulette Wiley- Volunteer Director Education Brain Trust 515 664 8670, or

Nansi J Woods- Project Coordinator, Ask Resource Center 515 243 1713


Our Children,


Iowa's Smoking Ban

By Dana Boone

As we all know (but like to forget) smoking is a serious addiction that can be very destructive -- not only to those who smoke, but to others around them who don't have a choice.

There is still a lot of discussion about how Iowa's new smoking ban will be enforced and people looking for ways to go around it. Instead of looking for ways to quit.

If smokers spent time in an hospital ICU with someone battling a smoking-related illness, I guarantee you, they could not hold onto the idea that smoking is a right to be championed. That idea would disappear as quickly as a puff of smoke.

Smokers don't need to scrable to find NEW places to indulge; what they likely need is help (and prayers) so they can quit for good.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Mother Teaches Her Son How to Play the Game: Race & Basketball

By Coy Bundy

Basketball is a renowned sport that expresses all the laws of gravity.

There are players that broke the racial boundaries of basketball in our American past. Ya Ming alone is the first Asian basketball player I have ever seen. Larry Byrd actually was a very good white basketball player (he could actually play like a black man). The other day my oldest son saw two young boys from India in his three-on-three tournament and was excited because he didn't even know what race they were. The beauty of basketball is that the kids and adults playing the sport becomes more and more diverse everyday. The problem of basketball is that the Referees have not changed as the years go by.

My son is 5'6" and weighs 135 pounds. He is a basketball player. It's as though he has the size of Shaquille O'neal and the ball control of Kobe Bryant. Having these skills in little ol' Iowa is not always good. It's a blessing for him because of his future. That's as far as it goes. My son is continuously fouled because of his size and is fouled out of games also because of his size. He is a very caring young man and has great sportsmanship with other players. Until the referees get involved. My son's East High 6th grade AAU team is the best in the league. They don't win championships in Iowa because of bogus referee calls.

To focus on the reasoning behind these bogus calls by referees, I have came to the conclusion that they are intimidated by the fact that a young black man in Iowa can excel. Is it good to teach an all white team that if you cheat and call outrageous fouls that they will succeed in life? It is more harmful than helpful to do this to young men whether they are in Iowa or Atlanta? It doesn't matter if it is an all white team or an all black team. When the white kids on the opposing team get out of AAU and Jr. High School they have to face the fact that they are not as good as the black players. There is a world outside of Iowa and you are giving these kids a bad start. I wonder sometimes if the coaches from the other teams actually approve of this for their children. If you know your team is winning because they are the color that is preferred in the state, why do you allow it?

Every kid has a future and a need for scholarships when they go to college through basketball. Why mentally breakdown the kids that have more balling skills than the ones who don't? Yes, it is hard enough to keep my son out of jail in the state of Iowa when he gets older. But you are making a child face discrimination before he even turns 12 years old, he doesn't know how to handle that. So, what does a child do? He lashes out at the other child and gives him a hard foul. Then what does the parent have to do? We have to punish the kid for being upset because he can see and feel the reason of why he is being mistreated.

We're in the year of 2008, when is this going to stop? Shouldn't our children with mad balling skills be protected against these prejudices of older white men? As a parent, what do you say to your child when you know that he is being treated unfairly? Is there cause to discipline your child for outburst that he cannot help because he can't handle the pain in his heart from this treatment? Are we still living in the Civil Rights Movement days as our parents lived in? Will he hate white people all together and believe they are sneaky and conniving because of this? Should you pull your son out of a sport that you know may get him into a good college instead of letting him succeed in life like the kids that live in Ankeny, Johnston, Altoona, West Des Moines and Waukee?

I'll tell you what I am doing as a parent with my son. I know that racism is still out there in Iowa, even in the year of 2008. My son is protected against prejudices referees because I protect him. I tell my son that this is a part of life and even though I do not agree with it, it makes him stronger than the kids he is playing against. When my son has an outburst and is crying because of unfair treatment I tell my son to respect authority and respect the call. I do believe that we are still living in the Civil Rights Movement days and will not stop until the older generation has stopped making the decisions they made in the 1960's. Yes, my son will not trust white people because of how he is being treated by white referees that discriminate against him. Although his feelings are hurt I still encourage him to love all races of people and "my son's best friend is a white kid". The last answer to my last question, is No. I'm not pulling my son from basketball because he is being mistreated and fouled out of games. He is a strong black young man and he will succeed in life no matter who tries to break his spirit because I am right there to mend them back together for him. I am my son's mother, lawyer, therapist, life coach and confidant. I will never let him fail.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Donnybrook? Call It What It Was

A newspaper story today about a recent fight at Des Moines' Lincoln High School had a rather curious word in the opening paragraph, which read: "Monday's donnybrook at Lincoln High School, stemmed from a week-end-long dispute which erupted over the lunch hour, Des Moines police said Tuesday."

Donnybrook. Schmonnybrook. Let's just stick to what it was -- a fight. I wonder if this had happened at some other school in the city if it would have been called a riot. I bet.

I darn sure know it wouldn't have been called a "donnybrook." LOL. But not really.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Black Students in Des Moines Shine in ACT-SO Competition

By Dana Boone

With so much attention paid to academic achievement gaps, lagging test scores and graduation rates, one might think all African-American students in Des Moines were struggling. But that is far from accurate.

Nearly 50 of Des Moines' highest achieving, gifted and brilliant black students on Saturday participated in an academic competition at Corinthian Baptist Church. The competition is called ACT-SO. It stands for Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics and is part activities for youth by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Students, who came from high schools in Des Moines, Urbandale and West Des Moines, competed in five areas: the sciences, humanities, performing arts, visual arts and business. I had the honor of helping judge the students' essays, poetry and a play.

Students wrote and performed their own musical compositions. One sang in Italian. They penned moving poetry, a through-provoking play about burying the N-Word and even business plans. They performed science experiments and math projects.

A core group of dedicated volunteers led by the phenomenal Gretchen Woods spent months organizing the event. Others served as mentors and judges.

Some of the students will advance to the national competition held in July in Orlando Fla. Some will not. Only the best go on from here.

These students -- and this academic competition - help remind us all that there are high achieving black students in our midst -- despite the headlines we read nearly every day.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama "A More Perfect Union"

"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution - a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign - to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners - an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts - that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either "too black" or "not black enough." We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely - just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems - two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth - by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

"People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend's voice up into the rafters....And in that single note - hope! - I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories - of survival, and freedom, and hope - became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn't need to feel shame about...memories that all people might study and cherish - and with which we could start to rebuild."

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety - the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments - meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today's urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families - a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods - parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement - all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances - for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives - by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American - and yes, conservative - notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright's sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country - a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen - is that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope - the audacity to hope - for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds - by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation - the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today - a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.


Monday, March 17, 2008

State Rep. Wayne Ford Announces Re-Election Bid

For immediate Release:
For more information - 515-720-3495

Des Moines, Iowa – Iowa State Representative Wayne Ford of Des Moines recently announced he will be seeking another term in the Iowa House of Representatives. Ford is a Democrat and represents House District 65, which covers north-central Des Moines. Ford has served in the Iowa House since 1997 and is the longest-serving black state legislator in the history of Iowa.

“In the 12 years I have served in the Iowa House of Representatives, I believe we have made progress in the areas of education, health care, and job opportunity, but more needs to be accomplished. I am also seeking re-election to make sure that we continue to make progress that will help the people of my district and the state of Iowa.,” said Ford.

My platform emphasizes my involvement in and support of environment/health issues, economic development, and equity for all Iowans.

Ford indicated he was especially proud of several of his personal accomplishments in the legislature. “After years of working on issues that Iowans face in regards to lead paint, we’ve passed my bill which was considered to be landmark legislation.” HF 158 was a bill that required all children in the state of Iowa receive a lead blood test by age six or prior to enrollment in an elementary school. If not detected early, lead paint poisoning can cause brain development and physical problems, including death. “The next step must be to develop programs to help repair the homes and apartments that contain lead paint. I have been working with other local and state officials since last fall on this aspect of the problem,” Ford said. "I've been working with officials at every level to find ways to fund what I think is one of the most challenging issues facing our state."

“I am also proud of my work improving the state’s Targeted Small Business program to help businesses owned by minority members,” Ford said. “After serving on a special task force created by Governor Vilsack, I introduced legislation last session to change the program to make it more effective. The program has been on the books for years, but was not very effective. Legislation passed last session is making this program work, helping more minorities get their businesses off the ground, and improving opportunities for minority businesses owners to obtain state contracts for goods and services. “I am pleased that Governor Culver has included the T.S.B. program in the state budget this session.” Ford also said.

“Also in this session, I have sponsored legislation that would make it a requirement that any state agency which distributes funds through a grant or contract require a Minority Impact Statement as part of the application process.” HF 2288 will require the application to include three types of information: whether the proposed activity will have a disproportionate or unique impact on a minority population in the state; a rationale for the existence of the activity if it will have a disproportionate impact on a minority population; and evidence that the applicant has consulted with representatives of the affected minority community, or communities, if there is such an effect on minority persons.

I have received a lot of positive feedback and look forward as we get ready to debate this bill in the House Chamber.

Like many Iowans, I am not proud of the state's being number one in America when it comes to the incarceration of blacks. “Although we still have a long ways to go, I have worked and will continue to work on why a disproportionate number of African-Americans are in Iowa prisons. HF 2227 is a bill for an act relating to the preparation of a correctional impact statement. This statement will look at the impact of certain legislation on racial and ethnic minorities. This legislation will make sure that, when we increase penalties on certain crimes, we do not inadvertently discriminate against African-Americans or other minorities, causing even more of our youth to go to prison.” Ford said. The Sentencing Project, based in Washington, DC, has work with Ford on this legislation. Sentencing Project Executive Director, Marc Mauer, has said that, if passed, it could be the first law of its kind in America.

I am also concerned with disproportionately high minority dropout rates and disproportionately low minority high school graduation rates in our schools. I have been working at every level to address these problems in our schools and communities and will continue to do so.

Ford currently serves as Chair of the Community Outreach Subcommittee of the Iowa House Appropriations Committee, Vice Chair of the House Government Oversight Committee, and sits on the House Economic Growth, and Human Resources Committees.

Ford played football at Drake University and graduated with a degree in Education. He has done graduate work in public administration at Drake University and in the Masters of Social Work program at the University of Iowa.

In 1985, he founded Urban Dreams, a United Way agency created to serve the needs of Des Moines’ inner-city residents. Ford has served as its Executive Director since its inception. Urban Dreams has evolved into a statewide organization and is working with Simpson College to develop an Urban Institute to deal with the challenges facing Iowa as it continues its rural to urban transition.

Ford has received national acclaim for the Brown & Black Presidential Forum, which is the oldest minority Presidential Forum in America. He and his Co-Founder and Co-Chair, Mary Campos, created the Forum in 1984.

Ford has been profiled in the Washington Post, the Washington Times and nationally in Parade Magazine about his rise from Washington, DC’s inner city to the Iowa Statehouse. He has also been profiled nationally on BET and HDNet TV. Representative Ford is also included in a book called “The American Dream,” written by former CBS News anchor Dan Rather.

Ford has been inducted into numerous Halls of Fame including Rochester Community College’s Alumni Hall of Fame in 1994, Drake University’s Double-D award for athletics and civic involvement in 1995, Des Moines B’nai Brith Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Iowa State African-American Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2007, he received the University of Iowa Black Law Students Association's Alexander G. Clark Jr. and Sr. Award. In 2008, the Iowa Commission on the Status of Blacks presented Ford with it’s first ever Harold Washington Pinnacle Award during this year’s state of Iowa’s Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration. Ford and Mary Campos were finalists for The Des Moines Register's Iowa Star Award and Urban Dreams was a finalist for The Register's Aurora Award in 2008.

Wayne is married to Romonda Belcher Ford, an Assistant Polk County Attorney. He has one son, Ryan Ford, who resides in Los Angeles, CA. Ryan graduated from Roosevelt high school in 1995 and is currently Executive Editor of The Source Magazine.

Help Keep the Harding Hills Hy-Vee Open!

Another door closed???

Not if we can help it!

The Importance of Keeping Harding Hills Hy-Vee Open

What: CCI members and supporters have asked that Hy-Vee representatives meet with us to discuss the closing of the Harding Hills Hy-Vee.

Why is this important? It has been reported that the Harding Hills Hy-Vee is not profitable. Hy-Vee claims that a mega store would better serve our community even if we have to travel further to access their services. Should they close their current location, Hy-Vee will not allow another grocer to move into the location to prevent competition with the new store. This will leave many families without access to a local grocery store. Representatives have stated there hasn’t been enough concern expressed from families in this area.

What do we want? If you are concerned about the relocation of Harding Hills Hy-Vee to the Beaverdale neighborhood (which already has a grocery store) Let your voice be heard starting Monday, March 17, call CEO Richard Jurgens at 267-2800 and tell him he needs to meet with the community that has supported the store for over 30 years. Or you can e-mail Richard at

When? Starting Monday, March 17th please call and e-mail Richard Jurgens. Tell your friends and family that care about this issue to do the same. Let Hy-Vee know they need to meet with us. Don’t wait, contact Richard Jurgens today!

For more information contact CCI at 255-0800.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Good Friday Service in Waterloo

Seven "Anointed" Women of God
"The Seven Last Words of Jesus at Calvary"

Good Friday Service
March 21, 2008 at 5:00pm

At Faith Temple Baptist Church,
415 Walnut Street, Waterloo, Iowa

Come Join Us For An Afternoon of Divine Inspiration

Sis Vergestene Cooper - Antioch
Rev Evette Fantroy - Faith Temple Church ABC
Rev Patricia King
Rev Verna Dedrick - Payne AME Church
Pastor Belinda Creighton-Smith Faith Temple Church ABC
Rev Shara Adderley
Pastor Mary Robinson -All Nations Church, ABC

"When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion!" African Proverb

Faith Temple Baptist Church, ABC
415 Walnut Street, Waterloo, Ia 50703

Do You Know What School Employees Are Saying to Your Children?

By Coy Bundy

A ninth-grader was in the hallway walking with a vice-principal and a student was on his cellphone, the vice-principal said, "Put it away or go home." The kid responded,"Okay. Okay." The vice-principal said "Get your butt to class and stop being an a**hole."

A Des Moines ninth-grader told me this. After this, the vice-principal and the student kept exchanging words. Do you know what these teachers, advisors and principals are saying to your kids?

This to me is an outrage. It is very inappropriate for teachers or anybody in the school district to speak to our children in this manner. Another instance happened in a middle school. A kid reported to me that a teacher bet a kid $500 they wouldn't make it past the seventh grade. Wow, I wonder why the majority of our minority students struggle in academics? Why should they try if their teachers are already condemning them to be nothings?

In another instance, an eighth grader was having a dispute with the teacher. The teacher told the student if we were outside it would be a different story. Implying that if they stepped out of the school they would be fighting. This was a child, somebody's child. Do all the school's employees speak like this or is it just the urban community? It is hard to believe that all this is happening right under our noses. We as parents need to listen to our children when they tell us an adult was disrespectful to them. Our children have rights, and we have the right to voice our concerns about how our children are treated.

Another instance is a vice-principal telling a student that he overrules her mother's decisions. What exactly does that mean to us as parents? Does this mean that the school can just tell us what they are going to do with our children and talk to our children any way they feel? We have a voice. They are our children. We pay their wages through our taxes. We have more say than they want us to believe. We do not bow down to the schools, we raise up and defend our children. I'm not saying that they have to let our children speak to them in any form and fashion. I just want them to be the adult and show it by example. If I called their child out of their name and bet them they couldn't make it to the next grade, would they like that? I think not. If we don't talk to our children like this, why would we want some total stranger to speak to them like this?

Parents if your child comes home and tells you that they were spoken to in this manner, this is what you have the right to do:

1. You have the right to call the Vice Principal at the school to report the abuse and get a follow up.
2. If this does not work you have the right to have a meeting with the Principal, Vice Principal and teacher who offended your child.
3. If this does not work, you can call the Superintendent's office for your school district at 515-242-7911 (Des Moines.)
4. Usually this is the last stop because the Superintendent's office is really good at listening to the concerns of parents (I know from experience).
5. If all else fails you can go above that office and request to speak to the supervisor.
6. Go to the school board meeting to complain. Call or email school board members.

Please don't turn your ear to your child when they report this to you. This behavior toward your student can affect them in their future. They will have difficulty trusting teachers and they will loose academic self-esteem.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

DSM: School Board of Cowards?

By Les Cason Jr.

The School Board Of Cowards: Dick Murphy, Patty Link, Connie Boesen, Ginny Strong, and Nancy Sebring. It is easy to gang up and attack Jonathan Narcisse who is doing his job, who is keeping his promise to the people who elected him to the School Board! It is easy to overlook Graduation Rates, Poor Academic Scores, and High drop out rates, and take your frustrations out on Jonathan Narcisse. It is easy to avoid asking questions about how taxpayer money is spent! It is easy to avoid how Connie Bossen's Brother-in-Law received $130,000 dollars for land Des Moines Public Schools never used! However, it is hard to stand up to the questions and challenges Jonathan has put on the table. If Nancy Sebring has the academic credentials, Nancy would welcome Jonathan's challenge with open arms. With the data and budget book at hand, if Dick, Connie, Ginny and Patty believed Jonathan's information was wrong! Instead of putting on a show for the public they would have made it a point on Tuesday to have their information ready to challenge Jonathan!

Reasons you've seen the display of ignorance and immaturity from the Coward Of Five, because they are not being forthright, they are hiding information from the public which they do not want you to know. Everyone is pointing the finger at Jonathan Narcisse, however if you attend a School Board Meeting you will see Jonathan do two things, ask questions and demand answers! Which the last I looked was not a crime unless you are AFRICAN AMERICAN AND IN A POSITION OF INFLUENCE!

The last couple of weeks, I have witnessed some of the most RACIST REMARKS AND BEHAVIOR FROM THE SCHOOL MEETING TO THE DES MOINES REGISTER BLOGS! I have yet to have one person tell me what Jonathan did was wrong, from the School Board meeting to his radio program, no one has yet pointed out what did Johnthan did was wrong! Yet many on the Des Moines Register Blogs have DEFENDED JOHNATHAN NARCISSE WHICH MAKES ME PROUD! The ones against Johnathan Narcisse have yet to tell me what has Jonathan done wrong.

So you mean to tell me asking questions and raising issues is a crime? If one goes to the School Board Meetings, listens to the radio or watches the meetings on TV will see this is all that Jonathan is doing. Jonathan is doing what he said he would do during his campaign,so now people are surprised? Jonathan has not sold out unlike other members of the African American Community. Jonathan has set out and demanded the truth about Drop Out Rate, how the Board Spent Tax Payers Money, Poor Academic Scores. The Reason African Americans are doing so poorly in Academics and Attendance. Why African American students have the highest Suspension Rates Among a Majority White population!

However according to Dick Murphy, teachers are doing a fine job, in fact Dick made sure to make this point clear to a concerned parent who dared to criticize Teachers at Merrill were his children attend. Because his Children attended Merrill all the Teachers at Merrill are doing a good job. This Parent saw it differently and Dick Murphy made sure she felt his rage! However this was never posted on the web site. You do not have the opportunity to see this on the Internet. However they made sure, the people saw the attack on Jonathan Narcisse. Now you have individuals trying to destroy his character and question his credentials.

However I wonder why individuals who are questioning Jonathan's credentials are not Questioning Nancy Sebring, Dick Murphy, Patty Link, Ginny Strong and Connie Bossen' Credentials? Is it because the individuals feel their Credentials are legit and do not need to be checked? Or is it because They are White and Individuals who are raising the question feel Jonathan has no business challenging the status quo?

What the School Board of Cowards needs to do is to figure out why Des Moines kids are graduating at 79% second worse graduation rate in the state of Iowa! Dick Murphy told me Des Moines Public Schools has the best teachers, however the district has a graduation rate of 79.5%. You tell me what went wrong and why is Dick, Connie, Ginny, Patty and Nancy are attacking Jonathan about irrelevant issues when our kids in Des Moines Public School are failing? The Five Cowards got on the radio and attacked Jonathan Narcisse, however could not DISPROVE Jonathan's ARGUMENT! When Dick and Ginny ran for school board they made a promise they would make sure Des Moines Public Schools education is back to the top of the national class where it once was! Two years later it dropped further behind the National Class. States we used to dominate are now dominating us. Instead of working with Jonathan they'd rather show their immaturity and make a fool of themselves.

This is what I have to ask, since the Five Cowards disagree with Jonathan and they feel his numbers are not correct. Where is their evidence, how do they plan on bringing Des Moines Public School back on the map? What is their plan on raising the Graduation rate and getting Des Moines Public Schools from the Second Worst with 79.5 percent back to 100%. Problem is the five Cowards are too busy hiding and worrying about Test Scores and Mismanagement of Money! Rather than worry about how can the Board improve test scores and graduation rates. For if they do not all ready know the rest will be exposed with in due time any way!

Les Cason, Jr.

Editor's note:
So what do you think? Does Les have a point? Or is he totally off base? Post your thoughts by clicking on comments below.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Butt Out Iowa Legislators!!!

By Coy Logan

Oh my gosh, you have got to be kidding me! They seriously want to pass a law to tell us we can't smoke in public places. Well, that is not what is actually bothering me about the whole thing. It is actually the fact that they raised our cigarette prices, so now I'm paying $6.00 per pack and I can't smoke em. This is ridiculous.

I'm already can tell you that when I go to the casino (Prairie Meadows) instead of spending $300 per visit, I'm going to spend $20 since I'll have to leave the property all together to smoke. Don't you know that is such an inconvenience? The smoking section in the casino is completely separate from the non-smoking section. We don't bother the non-smokers and they don't bother us. So, do you honestly think I'm going to call a floor attendant to hold my machine while I go have a half-an-hour smoke break? NO! I might as well leave. I'm not going to spend my money somewhere I can't relax.

If you guys are trying to get me to stop gambling and save my money for my carton of cigarettes, thank you. First of all, at the casino there are only adults. Who are we influencing to smoke at the casino? If the kids are there to see the races they aren't supposed to be on the Casino floor anyways. Next thing you know, I won't be able to go on my back porch to light a cigarette. Oh wait, will that still be legal?

I can't believe that they are treating us smokers like second hand citizens. Get it? We bowed down and paid the extra taxes on our cigarettes. I agree that it's polluting the air and affecting others but so is smog in California. Are we going to shut down all the companies that pollute our air, which is killing the ozone layer? No. That's where the dollar bills are. How can you tell me what to do so easily and where to do it at? Where are my rights? Why do I feel as though you are spending more time giving us a hard time than illegal immigrants in Iowa. A couple of years ago my mom's car was totalled and she was injured by an illegal immigrant who was driving with no insurance and no license. If you put this much effort into something worth the while then I would support it. There's repeat offenders out there that are still raping, robbing, embezzling and stealing. Of course, we as a state have no time to deal with those not so serious problems. But we need to crusade against the SMOKERS. Am I not an Iowan too? Am I not an American? When you cut me don't I bleed? And when I bleed isn't it red just like yours? I feel offended that I would even feel as though my freedom will change so drastically. I am not able to go to the casino for long periods of time any longer because I can't smoke there. Now what? I already couldn't go to some restaurants.

There's no chance that my $13,000 a year to the casino is going to continue. I will be honest with you my fellow Iowans. Those nice new schools that were built and those nice new freeways...that's all over. You are not getting my contribution any longer. It's already bad when you can't win at the casino, now I can't smoke to calm my nerves because I gave up $13,000 for the better cause. Well, where's my cause?

EDITOR'S NOTE: So what do you think? Does Coy have a point? Or is she off base? Post a comment.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Never Forget the Price Paid

By Dawn Campbell

I received this message in my inbox the other day. Its message: simple, yet powerful. A message too powerful not to share with others. As Black History Month fades into a memory, it is important not to forget the struggle.

Never forget the price paid for where you stand today.

This was once our resume.

None of us has had to experience the pain of separation or live with the disgrace and humiliation that comes with not being free. When you cast your vote for who will run our country, never forget your history and keep this bill of sale in mind. When we allow ourselves to forget our not so distant past, then we are destined to repeat these actions in our future.

Stand for those who came before us and those who could not stand up for themselves. VOTE!

Acknowledgement: Thank you Chris for sharing this powerful message.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Drake University Production Helps to End Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

By Dawn Campbell

“I Love VM!” read one of the buttons used as tickets at the production of The Vagina Monologues at Drake University this past weekend. Another button looked like a delicate orchid flower, but upon closer observation, one would realize the design depicted the female anatomy the monologues are named after.

Beth Younger, professor at Drake University said, “I believe that The Vagina Monologues are important, even crucial, to getting the word out about domestic violence because the voices of women in the production are very real.”

As in years past, the Drake production sold out. To the delight of those involved, 80 percent of the proceeds were donated to Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa (also known simply as Monsoon). The remaining 20 percent will go to the V-Day campaign to help Hurricane Katrina survivors. Approximately, $3,000 was raised.

Monsoon’s mission is to inspire and support sustainable community action for ending violence against women in the Asian communities of Iowa.

Monsoon, led by executive director Mira binti Yusef, has made great strides across the state in partnering with local and state domestic violence, sexual assault and related organizations as their services relate to Asian Pacific Islander (API) citizens.

“Monsoon is very grateful that we are receiving this year’s proceeds. The donation will assist the organization in its mission to end violence against women in the Asian communities in Iowa. In addition, being the recipient for this year’s production helped in exposing Monsoon to the public and, hopefully to the women and their families from the Asian communities that a resource exists specific in the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault. And we hope to participate in the 2009 VM Drake University production to bring more women of color faces and voices,” stated Yusef.

Giving women a voice is very important in the fight against domestic violence. Younger said, “These (referring to The Vagina Monologues) voices are impossible to ignore, or at least hard to ignore, and they make the issue a personal one and not just a statistical or social one. If one listens to the voices of the women one cannot help but be moved, angered, saddened and perhaps infuriated. Violence against women has become so expected and even tolerated in our culture that we need something to make us hear these voices. I think the Vagina Monologues do an amazing job of asking us to listen--it is up to us to do the rest.”

This year celebrates the 10th anniversary of the V-Day campaign. According to, “V-Day is a global movement to end violence against women and girls.” The monies raised by this global campaign aids in educating people about violence against women and the efforts to end it.

Photo cutline: L to R: Monsoon Board President Boursy Quang
and Executive Director Mira binti Yusef and Board Member Alma Reed.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Give It Up For the Big Girls

I am a beautiful person, all 194 pounds of me. I am beautiful person because I am happy with how I look. There are so many big women like me that are so ashamed of their size and displeased with their appearance. We all know that the reason that most women are displeased with their size is because of the social norm that people are beautiful that are skinny. Is that true to you? I don't know about you, but when I was 120 pounds I was no more beautiful than I am at 197 pounds. How is it that especially black women want to compare their bodies to white women? We are so different. If our body shape was to be compared -- all of the black women in America probably would be overweight. I am a healthy 194 pounds and have no health risks. I don't have high blood pressure, diabetes or thyroid problems. I am healthy and thick. All I'm saying is appreciate your body and love what God has given you. If you are not meant to be a size 7 or 9 then don't be dismayed. You don't want a man that wants something you can't give them anyways. Don't hate on the skinny sistas but love the big sistas. There is nothing wrong with being a thick sista, as long as you're healthy, everything is good. Remember you are as beautiful as you believe you are. Show show the people in the world that we are big proud beautiful black women. I wouldn't change me for the world.


Sometime, last night, the ONE MILLIONTH DONOR signed onto Barack Obama's campaign.


One million people who have said, I believe in this campaign.

This is the core of why I believe Obama should reject public financing. Why should he take something that will handicap him? He doesn't take lobbyist or PAC money. So, let the donors decide their funding level of his campaign.

If you'd like to join one million others:

Now Why You Wanna Go and Say That?

By Coy Bundy

Michelle Obama's comment on Monday in Milwaukee
"Let me tell you, for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country."

Reading today on the Presidential candidates I came across a statement made by Michelle Obama. It was quoted in Yahoo that Republican John McCain's wife made a statement that seemed to sarcastically remark about Democrat Obama's wife's statement. The statement was "Let me tell you, for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country." That statement to me actually wasn't as bad as they are trying to make it out to be. It is a very truthful and honest statement. Her statement however was not in any ways implying to me that she was not proud to be an American but happy to see fellow Americans do something for their country that is out of the norm. I, in no way, can tell you why this statement was made by Mrs. Obama but I can tell you why the statement was made by Mrs. McCain.

Mrs. McCain's statement was "I don't think we have any comment on that." Mrs. McCain added, "I just wanted to make the statement that I have, and always will be, proud of my country." Looking at this statement took me off the whole major reason for me looking at the Presidential race. It made me aware that people can twist and innocent statement around to better their own campaign. I have a question for Mrs. McCain: Were you proud of your country when you saw how our Government responded to Katrina? All of the black people that died and all the young women that were raped. All the sadness that surrounded New Orleans, LA. Were you proud then? It is an understatement to say that some Republicans are only focused on the dollar bill. How can you be so oblivious as to question what Mrs. Obama meant by that statement? We all do not live in mansions or in Bell Aire and we don't drive Escalades and Bentley’s. We actually see the real world right out of our front door. So next time a Republican candidate's wife wants to throw stones and an editor wants to put it out there, seriously think about it first. Because if you don't know you better ask somebody.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

What Do You Know About Being A Single Parent?

By Coy Bundy

What do you know about being a single parent? What do you really know about being a father? Is the fact that you gave sperm to make a baby that you think gives you the right to control every little piece of his life? Why? Why do you make it so hard for him to have a relationship with you? Are your partying, drinking and recreational drugs more important than this innocent life? So, I left you or you left me, either way we shouldn't leave him. I loved you when we were together and you loved me. Why can't we love this child the same? Why is it such a battle to come to one accord for his sake? Today we're fine and tomorrow we'll be fighting. You were the one that didn't stay or didn't try and fight to stay. Do you really know what it means to be a single parent? It is so much more than paying child support, it's so much more than giving him that one gift that he wants so bad, it's so much more than having the label -- Dad.

It's taking him to his basketball games, doctor's appointments, dental appointment and football practices. It's driving him to school when it's too cold for him to walk on his own. It's defending him in situations he cannot defend himself. It's wiping his tears and rubbing his head when he's sad. It's calming him down in the middle of a basketball game that he may get a tech for. It's explaining to him why he has to stand strong against all the prejudices in the world against a young black man. It's explaining to him why you're not there.

From the moment you whooped my ass in the car while I was carrying your child, I've been protecting him from the world. I protect him because I don't want him to get hurt. Even if it's from his own father hurting his feelings because he never showed up to pick him up. I was a little girl when we met and you were 20 years older than me. I didn't know anything about being a parent, my life had just begun and it was a hard one for him. But we succeeded without your help and will continue succeeding. And I ask again, what do you know about being a single parent?

--Coy Bundy is a single mother and college student from Des Moines and a guest contributor to Brown Iowa.Com.