History & Structure


Des Moines SURJ formed in October 2016. At our first meeting nearly 50 people interested in increasing the visibility of antiracist organizing among white Iowans turned out. Over the course of that fall and the next spring, we familiarized ourselves with national SURJ’s values, built connections with other organizations and began antiracist education work among ourselves, as well as supporting such efforts in the Des Moines more broadly.

Within a few months of our early organizing we broke into several working groups–immigrant justice, education, and racial justice. We hosted numerous newcomer orientation meetings. Early participants in SURJ hosted individual “house parties” in their homes as we worked to invite Iowans into more active engagement against racism and for racial justice in the Des Moines area.

In the spring of 2017, DSM SURJ focused much of our work on immigration justice. We challenged several pieces of legislation moving the the Iowa Statehouse that attempted to coerce local governing bodies against declaring “sanctuary”  and compel local law enforcement to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). We participated as a sponsor to host a grassroots teach-in on how the legislative process functions. We mobilized in response to reports of ICE raids.

DSM SURJ has had a presence in many of the justice marches and initiatives in the Des Moines area in 2017 and 2018. For example, we mobilized a presence at the International Women’s March that was planned by Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa, Nisaa African Family Services and activists affiliated withe Black Lives Matter.



Newcomers are always welcome at any DSM SURJ meeting. We are committed to having childcare available at every meeting as well (and, for those who are reluctant to leave their parents, kids are always welcome to stay in the larger meeting too).

A small leadership team is responsible for facilitating the meeting agendas, reflecting on DSM SURJ’s vision and direction, and maintaining consistent communication within the chapter, and with National SURJ. The Leadership Core (LC) meets once a month to plan. As of fall 2017 its membership includes, Luci Collins, Janee Harvey, Jen Harvey, Mike McGuire, Aliza Rosenthal, Darcie Vandegrift and Jenna Wilcox.

All SURJ participants are encouraged to communicate directly with the Leadership Core (dsmsurj@gmail.com). DSM SURJ aspires to be a collaborative group and wants all committed participants to share your vision, needs and questions.

SURJ-ites are also always invited to bring ideas, initiatives and questions to the first meeting of the month (see below). At this monthly meeting we grow our connections to one another, communicate progress on various initiatives, and discuss various issues of mutual concern, hope and vision. DSM SURJ seeks to function in a manner that is as collaborative, constructive and transparent as possible. Members of the Leadership Core take seriously our responsibility for enabling this kind of process.

In the fall of 2017, the LC invited DSM SURJ into a new structure* and process that reflects the ways we are growing as an organization and our desire to increase the opportunities for folks committed to SURJ to move into more responsibilities and leadership within DSM SURJ. Since September 2017, meetings held on the first Sunday of every month serve an all-chapter meeting where we will connect, communicate, and plan our direction together as a chapter. The third Sunday meeting is a working meeting. At this meeting, nuts-and-bolts organizing on the various initiatives we are engaged in, attention to logistics, and other necessary planning will constitute the bulk of our meeting time.

*Changes to this structure if we have a special event or action will be announced well in advance (here, on Facebook, and in our monthly newsletter mailing).