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Will the Oracles of Iowa City Enhance Engagement with Racial Issues?

I will be honest, most of my life racial issues were not talked about. I grew up in the 80's, in a small rural town with a population just shy of 16,000. The demographics looked like this,

96.9% White

1.5% Hispanic or Latin a/x of any race

0.7% Asian or Pacific Islander

0.5% African American

0.2% Native American

0.3% from other races

1.3% from two or more races

So, when I tell people our family was one of a handful of African-American/BIPOC families in town, it is no exaggeration.

In 1999, I moved to Des Moines and according to the census of 2010, there were 203,433 people living there at the time. The demographics looked like this,

66.2% White

15.5% African Americans

4.0% Asian or Pacific Islander

0.5% Native American

12.1% Hispanic or Latin a/x of any race

2.6% from two or more races.

In 2021, I ventured to Iowa City to complete a public work of art directly related to current conversations in America on race, diversity, equity and inclusion. I was brought on as the lead artist for the mural in partnership with artists Marissa Hernandez and Janiece Maddox. This was all in collaboration with Public Space One and Center for Afrofuturist Studies, Antoine Williams and Donté K. Hayes. As of 2020, the population of Iowa city was 73,998. It is the 5th largest city in Iowa and the demographics look like this:

78.52% White

8.28% Black or African American

7.34% Asian

2.76% from other races

2.74% from two or more races

0.25% Native American

0.11% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander

*NOTE: No demographics were given for Hispanic or Latin a/x of any race in the most recent ACS, racial composition of Iowa City 2021**

So, why do I give ALL these statistics? Simply put, to add context to the question: Will the Oracles of Iowa City enhance engagement with racial issues? By design the murals were created to spark challenging conversations surrounding racial issues, with messages reading, WEAPONIZE YOUR PRIVLEDGE TO SAVE BLACK BODIES and BLACK JOY NEEDS NO PERMISSION. Public Space One conducted a community response survey to find some answers. Below is a breakdown of whether or not survey respondents believe the installation of the Oracles of Iowa City will foster Iowa City engagement with racial issues, by self-identified race.

Throughout history artists and other creatives have used their practices to confront social injustice and racial inequity, to educate or promote empathy. I read a quote once that said, "It is a fundamental respect for life not to politicise races." The way the Oracles project plan to continue that mission, to ensure this project does not become a one-time, “feel good” action is by establishing consistent community chats. Which was a primary goal of the mural project. Also, by providing paid opportunities for BIPOC artists, and fostering public discourse and action toward racial justice in Iowa City and beyond.

The statistics above are my reality and the reality of many I know. If the racial demographics in any given community look like Iowa's demographics, then it is easy to see why the lack in engagement with racial issues exists. To talk about race, is to study race and to study race, is to study the history of the world.The concept and ultimate vision for this mural project is a beacon or a visual call out for social change to the community and to the greater region of people who will visit Iowa City.

Visit: to learn more about The Oracles of Iowa City surveys and/or share your voice. If you choose to share, you will remain anonymous, unless you choose to reach out to us at the end of this survey.

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