116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Iowa City’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission is back to full strength heading into next week’s meeting with the Iowa City Council.
At the end of its Tuesday meeting, the council selected four new members for the commission. Wangui Gathua, David Borger Germann, Chastity Dillard and Clifton Johnson were unanimously selected from a list of 27 applicants.
The appointments come on the heels of a contentious beginning for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was created last year to hear evidence of discrimination and racial injustice and provide opportunities for those impacted to share their stories and feelings through art, theater and other avenues. During a contentious March 4 meeting just three months into the commission’s existence, then-chair Royceann Porter resigned from her leadership role and vice chair T’Shailyn Harrington was voted out as chair after briefly succeeding Porter. Commissioner Mohamed Traore was selected as the new chairperson, and Amel Ali was selected as vice chairperson during the meeting.
Following the meeting, Porter, Harrington and commissioner Anthony Currin resigned, arguing the group lacked the necessary structure to be productive. Jesse Case, who had been hired as the group’s facilitator, also resigned.
Faced with one-third of the nine-member commission having departed, the City Council was forced to contend with how to move forward. After nearly two hours of heated public comment, the council agreed to suspend the commission for a month and refill the open seats.
“It’s an unsafe space for a lot of people who would like to go and be on the TRC,” Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague said during the meeting. “We had three people resign. That sends a signal that should be concerning to all of us.”
The move from the City Council prompted another member — Raneem Hamad — to resign from the commission, bringing the number of vacancies to four.
“The sad but unavoidable fact is that the TRC is limited to telling truths that the council wants to hear,” Hamad wrote in her resignation letter. “These are not the truths I and others from (Iowa Freedom Riders) wanted to focus on when we originally demanded a TRC in June 2020. ... We wanted to focus on precisely those voices and truths that the council desperately does NOT want to hear. Truths that the council continues to ignore, sideline, shut out, gaslight and delegitimize in countless ways.”
Hamad was the lone representative on the board from the Iowa Freedom Riders — a group representing the Black Lives Matter movement in Iowa City. The Iowa Freedom Riders have since announced a “Peoples Truth and Reckoning Commission” that will be independent of the city and begin meeting April 15.
The Iowa City Council now is scheduled to meet with the city’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on April 15.