Members of Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Immigrant, Asian, and People of Color populations who lead nonprofit organizations and businesses in Eastern Iowa announced the creation of a collective that addresses racial equity in Eastern Iowa. The group will go by RE | Connect, which stands for Racial Equity Connect.
Their mission is to discuss ways to “move our communities towards informed action to disrupt racial inequity impacting socioeconomically vulnerable and underserved residents in Johnson County,” according to a press release.
The RE | Connect group consists of professionals and leaders with experience in business development, STEM education, strategic planning, mentorship, food security, civil rights, poverty reduction, community organizing, immigrant and refugee support, youth and family services, and more.
“Leaders from our communities of color have been left out of the process to impact real change in racial equity and have been historically limited to stakeholder roles rather than policy and decision makers,” said Tracy Jon Sargeant, co-founder of RE | Connect and founder of the Multicultural Development Center of Iowa. “This collective brings together several agencies already serving our communities with the single focus of giving a voice to those who have been underserved for far too long.”
The group’s main proponents are Astig Planning and the Multicultural Development Center of Iowa. Other key members are the Immigrant Entrepreneurs Summit, Coralville Community Food Pantry, Dream City, Seven Jewels Foundation, and Iowa City Bike Library. The Iowa City Area Development Group and Iowa City Area Business Partnership will provide support as well.
“We are very excited to see the Racial Equity Collective come together,” said Kate Moreland, president of the Iowa City Area Development Group. “It is critical that we think of economic development differently and work to reduce barriers to success. Now more than ever, communities need to work together to ensure an inclusive economic recovery.”
“Though members of RE | Connect have had a front seat to the inequities that exist in Iowa communities, they are rarely offered a front seat at the decision-making table,” said V Fixmer-Oraiz, co-founder of RE | Connect. “Now is the time to collectively take action and create our own table – one that will provide a link to the leaders of our communities of color so we can expand the important services that are already being offered, fill gaps, and remove barriers we know exist.”
The Multicultural Development Center of Iowa provides services to underserved communities. They offer free STEM training, mentoring programs, and business incubation, according to their website.