DSM SURJ News & Action, 12/1/2020

This time of year, we give thanks for you, dear reader; for all those working to bring about a better world; for all the little things we have done this year together–because they add up to a lot.


A SURJ Call To Action! 

As some of you may know, the Marijuana Task Force finalized and submitted their report to the City Council. Though the police department was invited to attend these meetings and to give input, they continually ignored the requests. 

We want to demonstrate to the City Council that people are watching them and want them to take action on these recommendations. The recommendations of the Marijuana Task Force are intended to reduce over policing of Black people and people of color and to reduce enforcement and criminalization inequities that exist in Des Moines and our country. Black people are much more likely to be arrested for a marijuana-related offense than white people are in the City of Des Moines.

We have drafted a letter for you to fill out and send here. Please send your letter this week by 12/4 for biggest impact! 

If this is your first time participating in one of our letter writing campaigns, we have prepared some answers to questions you may have:

  1. How do I know who my city councilperson is? 
    • Mayor and At Large. There are two “At Large” City Council members that represent the city as a whole. The Mayor also represents the entire city. You can send letters to them if you live, work, or recreate in Des Moines. 
    • Wards. You can also send a letter or email to the city council person that represents your ward (the part of the city you live in). There are four wards. You can find your ward and the councilperson that represents you online at: https://showmemyhouse.dsm.city/ (After you put your address in and press enter, you’ll need to scroll down a bit to see your council person’s name)
  2. Where is the contact information for the Mayor and City Council Members? Hover over or click the “i” on each person’s photo to get their email address: https://www.dsm.city/government/index.php
  3. When should I send this letter? You can send it any time, but we are asking you to send it by the end of the week 12/4/2020 to have maximum impact.
  4. Should I mail or email the letter? Each member of the City Council has a preference, but in general emails are easier to respond to. Make sure to list where you live, work, or recreate so the council person knows the way their decisions impact you.
  5. Why should I send this letter? Whether you send this letter is up to you. The recommendations of the Marijuana Task Force are intended to reduce over policing of Black people and people of color and to reduce enforcement and criminalization inequities that exist in Des Moines and our country. Black people are much more likely to be arrested for a marijuana-related offense than white people are in the City of Des Moines.
  6. I have more questions!? Great! You can contact SURJ’s Local Legislative Education Coordinator, Noah Beacom, at nmbeacom@gmail.com.

SURJ Monthly Meeting has been moved to the second Sunday for the month of December. 

How do we not take the mic, but also speak up when we need to? Center people of color & listen deeply while also not expecting POC to do all the work or teach us? Antiracist postures are complex and have to be learned and practiced. Let’s talk about how we show up in people of color-led spaces in ways that are accountable–supporting and amplifying the work people of color are doing for justice & empowerment.

When: December 13, 2020 6:00pm
Where: Zoom, Register Here

Join us for an engaging dialogue with Matthew Gilbert and Jennifer Harvey co-facilitating. Matthew will also share about his work in Des Moines, related specifically to the Edna Griffin building downtown. He is going to offer this in a way to have us think about more collective forms of white accountability to history and Black empowerment.

About our co-facilitators! 

Matthew R. Gilbert, Esq. is a native of Waterloo, Iowa who descends from generations of servant leadership. The Furgerson – Harris – Nash family is well known for being champions in advancing civil rights, healthcare, and welfare for African Americans in Iowa. Among many other roles and recognitions, Matthew is the Founder and President of the Iowa Center for Opportunity Resources & Equity Inc., an Iowa non-profit whose mission is to strengthen philanthropy practices and promote the collective impact of leaders of color and the communities they serve.

Jennifer Harvey is a professor of religion at Drake University where she serves as the Faculty Director for the Crew Scholars program, an academic excellence and leadership development program for students of color at Drake. Jen is a committed educator and the author of several books focused on growing white anti-racism capacity and engagement, including Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America and Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation.


SURJ Book Club

A new book has been selected for the next SURJ book club meeting and it is committed to education around undermining white supremacy and working toward racial justice. 

The new book is My Grandmother’s Hands by trauma specialist and author Resmaa Menakem. If you are planning to buy the book new, we encourage you to order from a local DSM bookstore, Storyhouse Bookpub and ALL proceeds will go to SURJ’s accountability partner, Des Moines BLM! 

We plan to have our first discussion on Part I of the book on Saturday, January 23, at 10am on Zoom. We plan to discuss parts II and III of My Grandmother’s Hands in February and March. If you would like to join the SURJ book club and get started on this book please sign up here.


The Immigration Justice Working Group had a busy, and expensive, November supporting people being detained by ICE in Iowa. If you can, please consider making a donation to support this work and most importantly the people impacted by the cruel immigration system we have in place.  Our costs in November reached $450. We want to continue this work and need your financial support to do it. We are working in partnership with Iowans for Immigrant Freedom who just submitted their 501c3 paperwork in November. Until this is approved, we are collecting donations two ways: 

  • Venmo to Amy Luebbert, SURJ Leadership Core Team Member and Program Director for Iowans for Immigrant Freedom at @Amy-Luebbert, put in the note “IFIF”  
  • Check made out to Iowans for Immigrant Freedom mailed to PO Box 8373, Des Moines IA 50301   

Here’s a breakdown of where our funds were spent this month. 

We have supported eight individuals by placing money on their commissary accounts to the sum of $247. Individuals use commissary money to place phone calls to loved ones and lawyers. During COVID times, many jails in Iowa have discontinued in-person visits making phone calls the key way to stay in touch with family members. People also use the funds to purchase hygiene items and supplemental food. We’ve heard that the food in the jails is inadequate and they don’t always have access to hygiene products. 

In addition, we have had six video calls with people detained by ICE in the Polk County Jail. These visits are 30 minutes long and $8 per visitor. We’ve also supported one person’s family to have an hour-long call with a loved one being deported soon. These video calls help break the monotony of everyday life locked inside Polk County Jail where outdoor time is not allowed, there are limited books (one small cart), and the TV is controlled by the guards. Our total costs for video calls in November was $72. We have learned how to do video calls at Hardin County Jail as well and anticipate costs of $6/20 minutes in December for visits there. 

Thanks to the community’s support in October, we have many backpacks filled and ready to go. We shipped two backpacks full of supplies to make travels slightly easier for two individuals, total costs $61 to ship and supplement the backpacks with clothing sized for the individual. Both individuals are being deported to Mexico. 

We wrote and received letters to people at Hardin County, Pottawattamie County, and Linn County jails. 

And finally, our team of volunteers accompanied a family member between Des Moines and Omaha to pay bond for an individual who has been released from ICE custody. We were honored to walk in solidarity with this family and provide hotel stays, transportation, and resources while they journeyed to get their loved one out of ICE detention.   

If you are interested in getting involved or have any questions, please contact us at dsmsurj@gmail.com. Thank you for your support. 


Virtual Town Hall: The DMPS School Resource Officer Program and Alternatives hosted by Young Women’s Resource Center

December 3rd from 5:30 – 7 PMRegistration is required. ¡Register here!

Join this student led, student centered conversation with DMPS high school students and community members to envision what school safety could look like in the future.  

From Young Women’s Resource Center:

‘In the wake of the violence Des Moines Police enacted on our city’s youth this summer, we started working with various groups of DMPS high school students to reimagine what school safety can look like. This town hall is an opportunity for us to share our research, ideas, and experiences. So far, students have been advocating for a divest/invest model; divesting money from the SRO program and investing in more mental health and preventative models of safety in our schools.’

Anyone is allowed to sign up to speak, but they are prioritizing student voices so a speaking spot is not guaranteed. ASL interpretation will be provided. 


Today is Giving Tuesday! The Supply Hive is going to be matching donations up to $2000 to help assemble and disperse winter bags to those in our community experiencing houselessness during the winter months. 

Please consider donating to help keep our family warm and safe. You can donate here.


More Giving Tuesday!

Today, is CCI’s kickoff five-day fundraising and membership drive! This is an organization-wide, all-in effort to build their people power for 2021 and beyond.

CCI Action members are rising to push back against a failed response to the COVID crisis, rising to advance racial and economic justice, and rising to fight for clean water for every single person, no exception.

Their goal: Raise $50,000 in the next 5 days.

To help start things off BIG, a few members have stepped forward with a one-day only $5,000 match!

Donate today using this link: it’s like giving twice! https://bit.ly/CCIAF2020

Please donate TODAY. Do it now and your contribution will be doubled! Give online, or mail your check to:

Iowa CCI Action Fund
2001 Forest Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50311


Thank you for reading!

Please stay in touch with us and reach out at any time to dsmsurj@gmail.com

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