One America Community Efforts
Little Bar

Program: Lt. Governor's Committee on Diversity, Des Moines, IA
Contact(s): Carol Zeigler, Coordinator: (515) 281-3421
Purpose: To provide information, resources and support to the communities of Iowa so they can combat prejudice and racism by having a greater appreciation of diversity

Background Program Operations Outcomes

Background

In late 1991, a series of racially motivated hate crimes occurred in Dubuque, Iowa. In response, the Lt. Governor formed the Committee on Diversity to design short-term awareness and healing activities throughout the state. When the activities were completed, the committee broadened its scope, but chose to apply for nonprofit status to avoid the appearance of partisan politics.

Program Operations

In 1992, with support from the Iowa Public Television Network, a 2 -hour television production, "Racism in Iowa," was produced to create awareness of racial issues in the state. In addition, for the last three years, the Lt. Governor's Committee on Diversity has given out the Prism Award for Outstanding Programs and Projects, an award that recognizes groups or individuals in Iowa whose efforts promote, educate and inform other of the value of diversity. With the aid of some modest grants by the Iowa Humanities Board and the Iowa Arts Council, the committee has produced booklets that provide a variety of resources for communities to use in pursuing their diversity activities. At least twice a year, the committee holds monthly public meetings at locations throughout the state. After the meeting, a community forum is convened to hear the issues concerning race. Usually community officials, law enforcement, merchants, members of the religious community, educators and the local chamber of commerce attend. The committee listens to the public's concerns and offers suggestions based on their experiences with other communities and as trained diversity facilitators. Each of these events has proved to be beneficial in providing a forum for dialogue and a working approach to a solution. In 1994, the committee organized its first conference, "The Faces and Voices of Iowa-Building CommUNITY," to provide dialogue, interaction, information and leadership skills focused on diversity training. Mayors of every city in Iowa with a population over 500 are contacted and invited to send a team of community leaders to participate in the conference. Event organizers help the mayors assess the racial situation in their cities, and then they address issues, identify resources and take action through various workshops. At the first conference in 1994, an appearance by Maya Angelou filled the city's Civic Center to capacity at 2,500 people. Since then, the conference has been held annually.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

The committee has implemented several ongoing activities since its inception, including an annual conference and the Prism Award. It also regularly produces pamphlets and informational material for the general public to learn more about diversity-related issues.

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