Organizers marched Saturday afternoon from the Iowa State Capitol through downtown Des Moines, continuing the calls to end racial injustice and improve school curricula that focus on Black history in America.
The Million-ish (Hu)man March, organized by the nonprofit Des Moines Selma, was modeled off of the historic Million Man March from 1995, where Black men from all over the country descended on Washington D.C promoting African American unity and family values.
“This is a spinoff of that march, but we are making it inclusive so everyone’s welcome. All races, sexes, genders. It doesn’t matter,” said Justyn Lewis, president of Des Moines Selma.
The event attracted about 75 people who gathered on the Capitol grounds with lawn chairs and blankets as several performers took the stage. Lewis says he hopes the event will remind Iowans heading into winter that the Black Lives Matter movement is not slowing down.
The event also aimed to amplify Black female voices with a line up of speakers such as Laural Clinton of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement; Betty Andrews president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP; Abena Imhotep, a Des Moines Selma Board member; and Deidre Dejear, a former 2018 candidate for Iowa Secretary of State.
In each speech, the women addressed the crowd with a message of unity and power.
“We tell the powers that be what we need, we’re not asking. We have always been on the right side of the struggle,” Imhotep said. “Fighting for what is right, for what is true, honest, just and fair — don’t let anyone ever tell you that doing that puts you on the wrong side.”
Most of all, they reminded the crowd of the importance of voting in the general election.
“Regardless of party identity, regardless of the stances on issues, regardless of whether or not somebody has participated in the election or not, it is critical that each and every one of us along with our family members participate in this election,” Dejear said.
Des Moines Selma laid out plans to advocate for increased transparency in the educational curriculum during the next state’s legislative session. Lewis says students need to be properly educated on the Black experience and its history.
“We’re trying to teach and educate what schools should have been doing, but our legislator and leaders have failed us. So we want to work alongside them to create that curriculum,” said Lewis.