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Black activists described their journey through activism, especially within recent months. 

The Ames Public Library hosted a virtual panel titled “Black Activism in central Iowa” at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The panel featured Black activists from Des Moines, Boone and other places in central Iowa. The discussion opened with the activists introducing themselves. Buffy Jamison, co-founder and co-chair of the Iowa Queer Communities of Color Coalition, described what their activism means to them.

“It's just about changing things,” Jamison said. “I pretty much made the decision when I was about 13 or 14 years old that I wanted to do whatever I could to make sure that no kid had to go through what I went through.”

Panelist Ezra Odole, a senior at Des Moines Roosevelt High School, shared why he is an activist.

“I consider myself a serial optimist,” Odole said. “So I really believe that change can happen and we have the power to make that change.”

The panelists also discussed their most difficult moments as an activist. Another Des Moines Roosevelt High School senior, Georgia B. Page, shared how she was affected by the death of George Floyd.

“I don't know what snapped in me, but I realized there's so much more work to be done,” Page said. “It was at that moment that I realized that the work is continuous. It was at that moment I felt it was never going to end and never had ended before.”

A’Ja Lyons, a first year graduate student in fine arts in creative writing and environment program at Iowa State, described the frustrations that come with her work.

“What's been the most frustrating for me is people telling me what to feel and how to feel,” Lyons said. "You can't tell me I need to adjust my language and my approach simply because it makes your white friends uncomfortable." 

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Luana Nelson-Brown explained her experience with activism and youth. 

The facilitator of this event was Luana Nelson-Brown, the executive director of the Iowa Coalition for Collective Change. When asked about advice for younger activists, Nelson-Brown answered she takes advice from them.

“It's all about the passion, it's all about being unapologetic, and they come with fresh and new ideas that make me stand back and think and redo what I'm doing,” Nelson-Brown said. “You know, they keep me in check, not the other way around.”

Panelist Lynette Kwaw-Mensah, an Iowa State alumna, closed the meeting with a message to the Black community.

“I want everyone listening to remember that Blackness is not monolithic — there’s no one size fits all,” Kwaw-Mensah said. “This is how you're supposed to be. Black liberation is affirming the lives of all Black lives and all Black people. Do not devalue people based on things like gender and sexuality.”

This event was presented in partnership with Ames Pridefest and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames. The Ames Public Library will continue this discussion through Black Lives, Black Stories: A Racial Justice Film Series at 7 p.m. Dec. 7. The conversation about the film “Moonlight” will be facilitated by Iowa State’s own Novotny Lawrence from the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication and the department of English.

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