DSM SURJ Newsletter and Action Alert, 6/4/2020

Welcome to all SURJ newcomers. We’re glad you’re here to show up for racial justice.

Actions to take this week and beyond

Drive up. Sign the letter. Hold DMPD accountable

Saturday, June 6. 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm. Drive to one of two locations to meet SURJ to sign pre-printed letters. We need 200 people to help make an impact with the Des Moines City Manager and City Councilors. Two teams of SURJ leaders will meet you with pre-printed letters! Any time during that three hour window, you’ll drive up, sign your name, take a selfie with your letter and a mailbox, post to your social media and drive away! All under 5 minutes!
*Open to Des Moines residents and metro allies.

Both locations have the same letter and a mailbox for premium selfies!

Location 1 – 24th and Ingersoll
Location 2 – Beaverdale Price Chopper, 1819 Beaver Ave (location may change, check here for details)

PPE will be worn by the SURJ leaders and you’re welcome to bring your own pen for writing! Please wear a mask.

We’ve written a letter with 3 asks for the City to hold the Des Moines Police Department accountable for. The impact of the City Manager receiving 200 letters in the mail will be huge! Help us make it happen.

1) Focus on diversifying ALL the ranks of DMPD through innovative, intentional strategies whose methods, success metrics and results are transparent. Did you know 80% of the sworn protective services in Des Moines is white male, with 10% white female. Fully 100% of the non-sworn services is white (meaning the chiefs and supervisors, etc).
2) Police officers should be required to give citizens their business cards at each and every stop.
3) In the case of a complaint against an officer, we ask that all evidence related to the complaint be shared verbatim with the City Manager, the City Attorney, and the Human Rights Director.


Today (Thursday 6/4): Write or call to restore voting rights to felons

1 in 13 adult Black Iowans are banned for life from voting due to convictions in a racist criminal justice system. Friday, the Iowa Senate will vote on HJR14, the constitutional amendment to restore the voting rights of people who have a past felony. The Judiciary Committee must pass HJR14 and then the full Senate must pass it in order for this amendment to move forward (it passed the House last year).

Who to contact:
Leadership of Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Brad Zaun
Senate Leadership Sen. Jack Whitver Sen. Charles Schneider
Your Senator, particularly if they are on the Judiciary Committee

These links will have an email template, but you are also encouraged to use your own words and stories. In all communications with legislators, please: Be brief. Use your own words. Be civil.

What to say:

Your own words on why everyone deserves the right to vote after they have paid their debt to society. But here’s some talking points:

Iowans take voting seriously and every citizen deserves to exercise the right to vote. A change in our state’s Constitution would allow more than 60,000 Iowans with past felonies to vote, just like everyone else can vote.

Voting Restoration would mean thousands of Iowans will more successfully reintegrate into society and become active citizens and invested participants in our communities and our state, which will also keep our communities safer.

77% of Iowans, including 70% of Republicans, support the restoration of voting rights for people with past felonies.

Iowa disenfranchisement law is unforgiving and provides no mercy. Iowans from all walks of life believe in second chances and our Constitution should reflect that.


Ask City Council to pass an anti-racial profiling bill

Monday June 8 4:30 PM. We fully support the anti-racial profiling ordinance sitting with the City Council and encourage all SURJ’rs to attend the Monday June 8th Council Meeting. https://www.dsm.city/government/council_meetings_and_agendas/index.php


Zoom intro party with SURJ

Saturday, June 13 1:00 pm -2:00 pm. To attend this event, you must register here. We will email you a link to join the meeting. We’re going to learn about the basics of SURJ, grow our relationships with one another, and learn about the larger strategies behind focusing on antiracism with white folks. This is a great first meeting for anyone interested in better understanding DSM SURJ!

Please don’t stop at following us on Facebook. Newcomers and long-time members, white folks and people of color, are invited to this introduction. You can RSVP and track this event on Facebook here.


Support Latinx families during the COVID crisis

Undocumented Iowans are not eligible for stimulus payment and other crisis assistance. Help your neighbors by donating to Al Exito, a Latino youth-development and leadership organization that is stepping up to help. Donate here: paypal.me/AlExitoINC or our website: https://www.alexitoiowa.org/donation

Al Éxito continues to deliver free groceries weekly to 21 families around the Des Moines metro who are food insecure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many families have lost their jobs and have limited access to support due to status. We are thankful to everyone who has donated to Al Éxito recently to help us further our mission and support marginalized communities in Iowa during this frightening time!

Al Éxito is conducting a needs assessment statewide of all our families and we are expecting to hear from more families that are in need.


Organize: The murder of Ahmaud Arbery

We are heartbroken by the brutal murder of Ahmaud Arbery. In response, we must act boldly against white supremacy in all its forms. At SURJ, we know that systems of white supremacy and other oppression rely on keeping white people and communities silent or actively opposed to movements for racial justice. We know our work is to break silence and organize more of our people into movements for racial justice and against white supremacy.

We must show up in solidarity with communities most targeted by white supremacy and do the work of organizing in majority white communities to end racist structures and policies.

Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael are now in jail and have been charged. Here are 4 ways to take further action:

1 Push for the resignation of District Attorneys George Barnhill and Jackie Johnson: sign this Color of Change petition, which highlights their gross negligence or call Jackie Johnson’s office at 912-554-7200 to make your voice heard.

2 Support Black-led and multiracial work led by people of color on the ground in Georgia to stop this legacy of violence and racism: Just Georgia, Georgia NAACP, Women on the Rise, Black Voters Matter, New Georgia Project, Southerners on New Ground, and the Southern Center for Human Rights.

3 Sign up to participate in SURJ’s outreach calls with white voters in Georgia next Thursday, May 21, 6pm Eastern. White voters voted Trump in, and we need to do our part to get him out.

4 Sign up to Collect Your Cousins. Get updates with tools on how to engage in local and national elections as an anti-racist activist, as well as tools about how to “call in your cousins” and engage with other white folks around anti-racism.


Donate now: Provide COVID-19 resources to Central Iowa refugee communities

Please consider a donation to the Refugee Alliance of Central Iowa (RACI).  Their mission is “To assure a welcoming community for refugees in which they have an equal opportunity to achieve individual growth and prosperity and to fully participate in civic and cultural life and to increase awareness of and access to services, resources and programs so that refugees receive the maximum benefit as they resettle and become participatory citizens in central Iowa.”

They need funds to make videos of updated public health COVID-19 information for non-English speaking and non-literate folks.  The cost is about $50 per video and there are many languages spoken by refugees in central Iowa.  There are no public health funds to support this work.

They do not have a way to donate online, so you will need to mail a check or contact them directly to ask how to donate:
Stephanie Moris, Director
1401 Center Street
Des Moines, IA 50314
Stephanie@RefugeeAllianceOfCentralIowa.org
515.344.1209


SURJ in-person meetings on hold – take action through these educational resources

Currently, SURJ is not meeting in person because of the need for bodily distancing. Keep social solidarity going by taking another step in your journey to better understand the immigrant detention system in the US. Then, take action!  During times of systemic shock like our current circumstances, corporate interests will use the opportunity to strengthen their power and profits. But we have an opportunity to work and advocate for systemic change in the immigration and incarceration systems.

Below is a list of things you can do. SURJ is working with the American Friends Service Committee, Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) and Iowans for Immigrant Freedom (IFIF), an organization based in eastern Iowa that has been working on visitations at the Linn and Hardin county jails. These groups organize to support people detained by ICE in the Polk County jail visitation program for persons detained by ICE. Will you support this work by educating yourself and taking action?

Education resources – choose one or more:

    1. Watch Brave New Films Immigrant Prison Series.
    2. Visit the immigrant rights page at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) website.
    3. Visit the Freedom for Immigrants website to learn about their work.  IFIF and DSM SURJ agree to their values and they provide resources to jail visitation programs and persons detained.
    4. Subscribe to IMM-Print, a publication by and for persons affected by immigrant detention.
    5. Read Detention-101 from the Detention Watch Network.
    6. Read the ACLU-Iowa letter to state agencies regarding the coronavirus crisis and it’s impact on prison populations including persons detained by ICE.
    7. Watch this segment from Democracy Now! On mutual aid to consider new ways of building resilient communities.
    8. Watch this segment from Common Dreams on how powerful interests such as corporations will use this pandemic to increase their power and how we can frame an alternative narrative.

Financial Support – local organizations need our support

    1. Support any of the organizations listed above by going to their donation link.
    2. Support local organizations provided support to persons detained and their families.

Advocacy: Take action

    1. Become part of ACLU-Iowa’s Rapid Response Team to get updates on state legislation related to immigrant rights that you can use to contact legislators.
    2. Freedom for Immigrants, Detention Watch Network, and AFSC all have national campaigns you can participate in.  Find these on their websites.  They provide drafts of letters and talking points.
    3. Reach out to your state legislators to advocate for immigrants in detention, particularly, as it relates to the issues outlined in the ACLU-Iowa letter.

Direct Action

    1. Join the DSM SURJ Immigrant Rights or Education working groups.  Contact dsmsurj@gmail.com for more information.
    2. Contact dsmsurj@gmail.com if you might be interested in being involved in the Jail Visitation program either as a visitor volunteer or as a member of our steering committee.
    3. Volunteer with Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a Des Moines based mutual aid group run by the Central Iowa Democratic Socialists.
    4. Volunteer with Community Support Des Moines, a bi-lingual (Spanish-English) mutual aid group.

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