Peaceful Conversation for Change held on June 14

‘The easiest way to make change is to start calling people out.’ — Kendel Butikofer
Cresco - The country is hurting right now.
There have been peaceful protests and destructive rioting and looting ever since George Floyd was pronounced dead on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, after being restrained by four police officers.
Most people have seen all or part of an eight minute, 46-second video of the black man’s death at the hand [or knee to the throat] of a white officer. The following day, Derek Chauvin and three other officers were fired. Chauvin was ultimately arrested for third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on May 29.
On June 3, the other three officers, Tou Thao, Thomas K. Lane and J. Alexander Kueng were charged with aiding and abetting murder. Chauvin’s charge was increased from third to second-degree murder.
The murder has brought outrage from all colors, and for good reason.
A few individuals in Howard County have stepped forward to stand with people of color in Howard County, Iowa and the United States.
Around 100 individuals attended a Peaceful Conversation for Change on Sunday, June 14. The event was organized by teens Kendel Butikofer and Lilly Sauceda Millage, with adult help from Laura Hubka and Kelli Gosch. Butikofer started the conversation by telling attendees to keep it peaceful and swearing would not be tolerated.
Drop the mic moment
Those speaking at the event included adults, teens, educators, city officials, law enforcement and more, but the most eloquent speaker was a young woman who has seen and heard racism directed at her. The 14-year-old attends school at Crestwood.
“I am one of the children who has been going through racism for six years now.
“A few weeks ago, I counted how many times I’ve been in a racial problem this year. I was called [the ‘N’ word] six times and while in school more than 16 times. I’ve been told, ‘Mallory, why aren’t you picking cotton in the fields?,’ ‘Nobody wants to be your friend because you are a [‘N’ word], and that’s all you are.’
“And it’s hard, because there is nothing I can really do about it. None of the friends I had would stick up for me, and I didn’t have that shoulder to lean on.” It was at about this point, that her dad, Joe, came up to show his support.
Mallory continued, “There are some people I do see here who have said stuff to me and I want you to know, I’m not afraid to call you out. I’m not afraid. And I will call you out, because I have a voice and I will use it. I will use it. And I am not ashamed to be half black and half white.”
At this point, she got a standing ovation. She continued, “And students, please do something. It doesn’t have to be about race. If someone is being made fun of because of a disability or sexual orientation anything they can’t help, do something. You have a voice, and you have the right to use it.”
Local law enforcement
Lilly Sauceda Millage was happy with the turnout.
Hubka addressed the crowd, “People think we are anti-police, and that’s not true. This is just a conversation.”
Cresco Police Lieutenant David Godman stated he has been on the Cresco police force for 17 years. He and his wife are raising three girls in Cresco. He noted Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Hollenbeck and Chief Tim Ruroden (both present) are raising their families in Howard County as well. 
“This is our community, too. We care about each one of your rights. If you have concerns, come to us,” he said.
Members of the audience starting asking questions about what has happened in other parts of the country. Gosch, a woman of color, stopped the questions. She said, “Let’s keep on topic. We are having a conversation. The focus should be to have long-term change in our community. My momma always said, ‘If you want to change things, you have to start at home.’”
Ruroden addressed a question about how to change the stigma with race in Cresco and Howard County. He noted he has been in the area for eight years, and in those years, law enforcement has organized a National Night Out event. “We want families to hang out. When children are little, they are easy to mold. We want them to be friends with others. A lot of things have to start in the home.
Gosch added, “They also have Coffee with a Cop. We need to go to these things.”
Racism, bullying
“I think we can agree on two things — racism sucks, and we want equality for everyone. My personal experience has mostly been awesome, but my beautiful offspring have not had such a good experience.”
She went on to say bullying and racism in the Howard-Winneshiek school system is horrific. “I would like to see consequences for hate speech my daughter receives at school. There needs to be consequences. As adults, we have to get our heads out of the sand.”
More speakers
On equality, Jane Callahan shared her daughter and husband live in Alaska with her granddaughter, age six. When this started, they sat down with her. She didn’t understand what they were saying, because she has friends of all colors. “Color isn’t going to be a thing for her. Isn’t that the most amazing thing in the world?”
Rick Nance said, “I would like to see the white residents sit down and listen. Flip your perspective. Look at the other side. It’s time to quit saying, ‘We’ll give you our prayers and thoughts.’ We need to do some action!”
Butikofer noted, “There are a lot of kids here. The easiest way to make change is to start calling people out. You need to call out that friend, who made that racist comment, the racist joke, the racist remark. You need to call that out. You can’t let that slide any more, because there’s not going to be change, unless you are calling the people out who you are close to — your family. Use your white privilege to do that. You’re not allowed to be scared.”
One retired educator noted there are a lot of bi-racial kids in the community, who have a right to know their history, to know their culture. She reminded the crowd, there are Czech festivals and Norwegian festivals and others who celebrate their heritage.
Gosch said, “We need action-oriented change. Several speakers talked about white privilege. Privilege doesn’t mean white people don’t have struggles. But skin tone is not one of the reasons for your struggles. Instead of privilege, we should use advantages.” 
She then some of the struggles she goes through, such as worrying if a store has make-up to match her skin tone or if salons know how to fix her hair.
Hubka said, “It’s time to get uncomfortable. We don’t like to talk to Uncle George or our neighbor or someone else, but it’s time to do it. That’s what got us here — not standing up. Not saying what needs to be said. It’s time to get uncomfortable. It takes one person. Then this person hears you and stands next to you and another. It’s not going to get better if we don’t take that first step.”

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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