PROGRAM AND ACTIVITIES
Since the staff was brought up to full strength as allowed by the present budget, the program of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission has steadily expanded and accelerated. The hiring of Executive Director James A. Thomas on February 1, 1966, completed the first year staff of three persons.
The Commission program began with the decision to hold Commission meetings periodically in Iowa cities other than Des Moines. The first such meeting was held in Waterloo on January 5, 1966. The format established at the Waterloo meeting was one later followed for meetings in Sioux City and Davenport--a closed commission meeting for the purpose of conducting normal commission business, much of which is confidential in nature, and an open public meeting at which citizens could raise questions or state problems directly to the commission. The Waterloo public meeting indicated that matters of primary concern in many of Iowa's racial minority communities are housing discrimination and discrimination in job advancement.
Following the Waterloo meeting, the commission met in Sioux City on March 3, 1966. The commission held its closed meeting in the City Council's Chambers in City Hall, then held a public meeting at 7:30 p.m. at the Sanford Community Center. Prior to the public meeting, the commission had supper with a number of the members of the Sioux City Human Relations Commission.
In Davenport, Iowa, on April .14, 1966, the Iowa commission met at a luncheon meeting with the Davenport Human Relations Commission at the Black Hawk Hotel. The commission was then taken on a tour of the racial minority community in Davenport before meeting in closed session during the afternoon. At 7:00 p.m., the commission held a public meeting at the Children's Library in Davenport.
On May 12, 1966, at the Des Moines YMCA, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission sponsored its first conference, a Conference on Civil Rights in Iowa. The day-long conference included speeches, workshops and an open forum panel discussion led by the Iowa commission. The conferees were from throughout the state and the program participants were nationally known figures.
The opening session of the conference featured Mr. Benjamin D. Segal, Liaison Officer, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Washington, D.C. Mr. Segal discussed developments with regard to activities at the state level all over the nation and outlined progress on enforcement of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. The luncheon included a welcome by Governor Harold Hughes and a speech by Mr. Frederick B. Routh, Executive Director, National Association of Intergroup Relations Officials. Mr. Routh outlined the responsibilities of states in human relations work and pointed out what is needed to deal successfully with anticipated problems in the field. The afternoon workshops consisted of lively discussion in three areas: (1) Housing, (2) Legislation, and (3) Organization and Techniques. Leading these workshops were: Mr. Perry Hooks, Executive Director, Des Moines Commission on Human Rights; Mr. Peter Robertson, Executive Director, Missouri Commission on Human Rights; Mr. Donald Frey, Executive Secretary, Foundation for Freedom and Democracy in Community Life, Evanston, Illinois; Mr. Lawrence Borom, Executive Director, Governor's Commission on Human Rights, State of Minnesota; Professor Arthur Bonfield, School of Law, State University of Iowa; Honorable Roy Gillette, Representative, Story County, Iowa State Legislature.
The conference marked the first effort by the Iowa commission to bring together the various interested organizations and individuals from all over the state of Iowa. About 90 persons attended, representing all of the major Iowa cities, including Des Moines, Davenport, Waterloo, Sioux City, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Mason City, Ottumwa, Burlington, Council Bluffs, Fort Madison, Keokuk, Ames, Clinton, and Dubuque. Approximately 85 per cent of those originally contacted concerning the conference actually attended.
Members of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission are many times called upon to speak, not only as Commissioners, but in other capacities representing the many diverse organizations to which they belong. As a professor of government, professor of sociology, doctor of medicine, credit bureau manager or a homemaker active in civic affairs, each Commissioner conveys to the audience which is being addressed the perspective in which improved inter-group relations benefit everyone.
Know Your Neighbor Panel
About six years ago, a Des Moines, Iowa, woman named Mrs. Arthur Stein, Jr. took the first step to organize a group that has since become well known in the Mid-west and parts of the East. She came up with the unique approach. She brought together five other women of widely different backgrounds, but with one thing in common. . . the belief that the barriers of prejudice could be and must be broken down. The five were an Irish Catholic, a Jew, a Negro, an Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and a Japanese-American. The latter two are Commissioners Kruidenier and Goldman, respectively.
Thus was the "Know Your Neighbor" panel born. With Mrs. Stein acting as moderator, and with each of the other five speaking individually, the group made its first public appearance on September 27, 1960. Including that first presentation nearly six years ago, the panel has spoken before 235 audiences totaling more than 75,000 people. Most of the panel discussions have been before chambers of commerce, P.T.A.'s and women's clubs. It is this type of activity that the Commission encourages. It is through the discussion of problems by informed citizens at the local level that most of the devisive problems resulting from discrimination can be resolved.
Staff Speaking Engagements
The Iowa Civil Rights Commission staff has made 76 public appearances discussing with the group in attendance the operation of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission in the unlimited opportunities for community development in Iowa today. The first such public address was given by Administrative Director, Donald W. Burger, on November 14 before the Inter Faith-Inter Racial Council of Clinton at its annual general session. Since that meeting, Mr. Burger has met with 20 organizations throughout the state. Some of the communities in which addresses were given were Council Bluffs, Sioux City, Remsen, Mason City, Waterloo, Dubuque, Davenport, Fort Madison, Waukee, and Des Moines.
Executive Director James A. Thomas has had speaking engagements before 55 groups since his appointment as director on February 1, 1966. These speaking engagements include a gathering of lawyers at a luncheon meeting in Des Moines; a sub-district meeting of Methodists in Forest City; a Negro lodge in Davenport; a Negro sorority group in Des Moines; church and civic groups in Ottumwa, Creston, Des Moines, Waterloo, Sioux City, Cedar Rapids, Fort Madison, Dubuque and other Iowa cities. Mr. Thomas was also a featured speaker at the annual convention of the Iowa Civil Liberties.
The task of informing Iowa citizens about civil rights matters in Iowa can in part be met through the personal approach outlined above. In addition, the mass media may be used. Director Thomas appeared on the WHO Phone Forum program on Friday, April 29, 1966. Thomas and Chairman Hamilton appeared on KRNT-TV's People's Press Conference on May 12, 1966. In addition, the Commission has given numerous feature articles to various newspapers around the state. It is anticipated that these stories by the press on civil rights activities in Iowa will increase in the forthcoming year, thus helping to provide the climate of opinion in which true racial progress can be made.
A considerable volume of educational material was sent out by the Commission during the first year. Most of the material was obtained from other agency sources, especially from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Until such time as the Commission budget permits otherwise, primary reliance must continue to be placed upon such agencies to provide educational materials.
Domestic Student Exchange
Pursuant to Section 5(8) of the Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965, the commission, during its January session, directed the staff to initiate a study of the feasibility of encouraging visits of minority group youngsters with rural and small town Iowa families. It was initially envisioned that programs similar to the one sponsored by the Iowa State University Lutheran Student Union might be encouraged by the Commission. The success of student exchanges already existing in Iowa prompted the Commission to assign additional staff time to develop a detailed student exchange proposal.
The basic objective of the final proposal as developed by Administrative Director, Donald W. Burger, is to enable secondary school students of normal intelligence but of disadvantaged backgrounds to enter and succeed in post high school training programs. It is first and foremost a program to excite an interest in young people in job opportunities which require additional education and which they feasibly might attain.
A program proposal was drawn up and submitted for finding to the Office of Ecnomic Opportunity through several of the local Community Action Programs around the state. The project proposal called for federal government financial participation of approximately $300,000 to be matched by approximately $75,000 of state support, provided primarily by the in kind services of foster family homes. At the end of the fiscal year, the project proposal was awaiting final approval after having been accepted on its merits by many educators and informed lay persons.