Celebrating Black History Month: Black Iowa News invited Black Iowans to share their feelings about the importance of teaching Black history, voting rights and more — in their own words. Here's the next installment from RJ Miller, 31, who is gathering signatures to run as an independent for Iowa House District 34, which is currently served by State Rep. Ako Abdul Samad. The district comprises north Des Moines neighborhoods. Miller, an activist who was born in Minneapolis, said he's running for office because he wants to fight for people whose voices are unheard — the poor, the middle class, incarcerated individuals and children who have been caught up in violence. "Those are the people I want to represent and bring to the table," Miller said.
Check back tomorrow for the next installment. Black History Month isn't over yet. There is still time to share your point of view. Learn more below.
We should be voting based off the needs of our people
RJ Miller, Des Moines
RJ Miller is gathering signatures to run for Iowa House District 34. Photo courtesy of Miller.
We should be teaching about Black culture, but we must not limit it to Black American history because Black people have contributed to different civilizations across the globe, all across the Caribbean, within Africa and various other places in the diaspora. So, we need to be teaching that, and we also need to be teaching self-determination — self-determination in the sense of us being in control of our own destiny. And we need to be working towards ownership, because that's one of the main problems right now.
We don't own anything. We're taught to be consumers, and we're taught to spend our money outside of our communities — instead of investing into our communities and building them up and making them better.
We need to start having our own farmland so we can be the distributors and producers of our own food for the well-being of our families. We need to start owning our own houses and owning our own businesses.
If we're complaining about the system, then we need to be working so we can be as independent as we can (from) the system. We need to be teaching self-defense. Our brothers and sisters and our children should know how to defend themselves if anybody's ever trying to bring harm to them. They should know how to defend themselves on a physical level, and if they're old enough, they should have responsible safety training when it comes to firearms.
Voting is very essential. We have to be a part of that process. We have to be a part of the local process when it comes to electing our city council members (and others) to have transparency.
We need to hold these individuals accountable — as well as running and taking these offices ourselves.
We know people are corrupt and people are not doing what they're supposed to be doing. Voting is important, but voting is not the end all or be all when it comes to achieving independence and overall liberation when it comes to Black people. We need to have a very good understanding when it comes to civics. Not only are we supposed to vote, but we should vote intellectually.
We shouldn't vote for a person because he's a Democrat, or they're a Republican or an independent or whatever their voting party may be.
We should be voting based off the needs of our people. If this individual is going to help uplift our families and our communities or put some form of policy in place that's going to be for the greater good of us, then we should get behind them.
Not just get behind the person because they're popular or they get a lot of likes on Facebook or Instagram or any of that other stuff.
We also need to be teaching to uplift the overall health and well-being of Black people.
A lot of us have been traumatized with PTSD — post traumatic slave disorder. A lot of us are suffering from that.
A lot of us are colonized. We need to decolonize our brothers and sisters because a lot of our brothers and sisters knowingly and unknowingly are perpetuating white supremacy and helping them uphold the power and carrying out their agenda to destroy the Black community and to oppress the Black community.
So, we have to definitely teach that because we have to get out of the self-hate and start getting more into self-love and self-nurture and take care of our mental health. We need to start loving ourselves and loving the people who look like us — moving into a more healthier future for ourselves and our community.
Read: Black History Month reflections by Black Iowans
- Top Black Iowa Democrats: 'Black history is Iowa's history'
- Black Iowa parent: Teaching history without Black culture is 'reminder of how systemic racism continues' its cycle
- Black Iowa activist, TEDx speaker: 'Survival is our cultural ethos'
- Black Iowa professor, musician: 'If it were left up to my schools, I would have never learned the truth of my history'
- Black Iowa lawmaker slams Black History Month tributes at the state Capitol by those seeking 'to block Black History being taught'
- Black Iowa community servant: 'When I think of all the things Blacks have endured in America, I am inspired'
- Black Iowa businesswoman: 'We aren't just slavery and civil rights or any other uncomfortable parts of history'
- Black Iowa mayor: 'Seize this unique moment' to make Black history
Thank you for subscribing to Black Iowa News . Your support helps Black Iowa News cover important issues concerning Black Iowans. Learn more about the mission of Black Iowa News. ⬛Subscribe for exclusive content. Follow Black Iowa News on Facebook and Instagram.
Share your opinion with Black Iowa News
There is still time. Celebrate Black History Month. Black Iowa News will publish short original quotes from Black Iowans on the topics of Black history and voting rights. Email your quote, city, short bio and a photo to Dana James, founder of Black Iowa News: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Banner: Black History Month art by Christopher Harrison, of Harrison Art Studio.
Learn about Carter G. Woodson and the origins of Black History Month.