Guest Columnist

Local activist demand that the city let Black leaders lead

As Cedar Rapids plans a citizen's review board, local activists must be part of the process

Mayor Brad Hart speaks as members of the city council and police department meet with protest organizers at the Jean Oxl
Mayor Brad Hart speaks as members of the city council and police department meet with protest organizers at the Jean Oxley Public Service Center in Cedar Rapids Tuesday, June 9, 2020. Organizers presented a list of demands to ensure more transparency in local policing and government and racial equity within the city. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Mayor Hart, there still is time to change the narrative and be an ally to the Black people in your community. Recognizing and understanding white privilege is not an easy task. But, like our organization, the Advocates for Social Justice have tried to impress upon you, reforming the systems that have stifled Black growth and potential for generations can only be accomplished by doing what has not been done before, by bringing Black leaders who have been working tirelessly in this fight for equity in the Cedar Rapids community to the forefront.

In our opinion, what is inherently a challenging process could not have been made simpler for you. The Advocates for Social Justice have done the work and we all are committed to seeing this through to the end. Please do the right thing and harness this incredible resource of knowledge, passion, and drive. Please let the Advocates for Social Justice lead the development of the terms of the Citizen’s Review Board in partnership with the city. No one can be more passionate about the cause of freedom than the group of people who have been denied it for so long.

Let us be clear, this is not an attack on any one individual, this is a fight to reform the institutions that uphold systemic racism. With respect, if you have never been a victim of these systems, it is incredibly difficult to recognize their inherent failures. And when you cannot see or understand these failures and the harm done as a consequence, it is impossible to correct them. We ask that you trust the diverse group of Black leaders that has come together in a matter of weeks to organize peaceful protests, draft specific demands for the city council, and develop concrete solutions with which to address inequality in our community.

This opportunity may not come again in our lifetime. We all have the unique opportunity to set an example for our state, and other communities around the country who started off in the wrong direction but had the maturity to own that mistake, and course correct. Imagine how powerful a statement it would be for you to come to us and say, “I didn’t fully get it before, but I see now I was wrong. Let’s do this together.” What would a movement about liberation be without grace and reconciliation?

There is no shame in the simple but powerful action of admitting an error, in fact, it is just the opposite. It is courageous. There are many in our community who have experienced a similar cognitive shift on the topic of the Black Lives Matter movement. And when they come out in support, acknowledging the barriers that stood in their way of understanding, it unites us. You have the opportunity to be an exemplary leader by demonstrating your growth to our community, to the rest of the state. Please don’t waste it. We are here, and we will support you. We are once again extending our hand to you in good faith. All you need to do is take it.

Tamara Marcus, Leslie Neely, and Nicole LeGrand are the founders of the Advocates for Social Justice.

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