OPINION

Get some skin in the game

LaTasha DeLoach, co-chairwoman of the Johnson County Disproportionate Minority Contact Committee, helps a break-out group at the Coralville Public Library begin discussions on racial disparities within youth systems on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)
LaTasha DeLoach, co-chairwoman of the Johnson County Disproportionate Minority Contact Committee, helps a break-out group at the Coralville Public Library begin discussions on racial disparities within youth systems on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)
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How’s cynicism working out for you?

Perhaps it is ill timing that during 2014 election mega millions racing across televisions, radios, computer screens and roadsides, I’m hoping Eastern Iowans are willing to set aside cynicism and work for the betterment of all.

Yet, apathy has significantly stained our communities, and hasn’t resulted in positive outcomes. In few places is this more apparent than in our justice system. In Johnson County, however, there is an organization attempting to turn the tide. But, without your help and your neighbor’s help, prospects are diminished.

“Of course we are really glad to share information about the diversion program, the work that’s been done, and make sure people have the information they need about this program. But what’s most important to us at this time is hearing from the community about if what we are doing is working and where we should go next,” said Sara Barron, co-chairwoman of the Johnson County Disproportionate Minority Contact Committee, following a community conversation this week on how best to resolve racial disparities in county systems that serve youth.

After receiving a quick presentation on the newly launched diversion program for seventh to 12th grade youth involved in disorderly conduct incidents, meeting attendees broke into several small focus groups to share their thoughts on what the community and the various systems needed to be able to move forward and reduce racial disparities.

Transportation, for instance, was a hot topic. “We really think this is a barrier that is preventing some students from fully participating in school and community activities,” one focus group noted.

County systems developing a network of paid community liaisons, and allowing older juveniles to be trained and serve as mentors were two more areas the focus groups thought would increase overall representation and communication.

“This was an opportunity, but it won’t be the only one. We’re going to do this again. If this day and this time doesn’t work, we will find another one,” said LaTasha DeLoach, also a co-chairwoman with Johnson County DMC.

“Not everyone can ultimately be at the table because of jobs and other responsibilities, but the more understanding we have, the more voices can be represented at that table. There has to be a system change. I think we are all in agreement on that, but we also need change to be meaningful. We will never have true, sustainable system change without the community piece.”

We are all busy. And, even when we make time to get involved, it’s easy to get bogged down in misguided belief that our time and energy investment can’t compete with the large, special interest wallets that seem to be driving community and political discussions. We must remember, if we give up and remove our voices, the only noise remaining will be the wallets.

If you have thoughts regarding racial disparities among Johnson County youth or simply want to be kept in the loop on upcoming meetings planned by the DMC, please send a note to JoCoDMC@gmail.com.

• Comments: @LyndaIowa, lynda.waddington@thegazette.com or (319) 339-3144.

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