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What Lies Between Us: First Steps to Racial Healing

What Lies Between Us Course

September 22, 2023

Recently the Ankeny chamber hosted the 6-week course What Lies Between Us.

Content Compiled by Mackenzie Cowden; Thoughts from Dan Berry, one of the instructors

This curriculum is for those who are being stirred toward racial healing but don’t know where to begin. Historically, the race conversation and topic are treacherous waters to navigate, and the ‘colorblind’ approach has robbed us of the framework, language and power to effectively address and dismantle it.

Most of us think and talk about race/ism but few of us really understand how this construct works. When we don’t understand how race/ism actually works (e.g. if we are only kind to one another, or censor “racist” language), we are ineffective in our resolution. We have the right heart, but we don’t have the right tools.

Dr. Berry created this course to help begin the process of equipping us with the right tools. We learned how to take our first steps towards analyzing race/ism and its personal, social, economic, and psychological impact.

In our ever-changing world Ankeny residents are grappling with complex issues that must be addressed. Self-evaluation of our beliefs, identity and behaviors will help us all find the answers we need to move forward in a healing manner.

Thoughts From Darius Potts, Ankeny Chief of Police:

I grew up on the south side of Chicago. There was no need for me to go outside of my neighborhood. At that time, everything was located a few blocks away. I could walk three blocks to 87th Street near Stony Island Avenue and see restaurants, clothing stores, records stores, grocery/fresh fruit stores and gas stations. You could buy ANYTHING on 87th Street. My neighborhood was 99% African American. I attended an African-American elementary and Catholic High School. While attending Iowa State University, I experienced “culture shock.”

My first experience with the book/course, “What Lies Between Us,” was after George Floyd and during COVID-19. I was always in tune with the consequences of racism, but I never knew how calculated the agenda was to separate humans based on skin color, nationality, ethnicity, physical characteristic and culture. After the first few days of the class, I was angry, depressed and felt hopeless. I was emotionally and physically drained at the end of the course.

The class is not designed to make people feel guilty for the past sins of our nation. The class does an excellent job explaining how and why the term “race” started. It also examines the desired outcome of creating separation and divisions between people and the long-term negative affects you see in our country today. “What Lies Between Us” opens your eyes to understanding and empathy.

The course made me reflect on my own biases which began to change after I moved to Phoenix Arizona and joined the Phoenix Police Department. I began experiencing other races, ethnicities and cultures. I developed friendships with all kinds of people in the Police Department and the community. I started to appreciate and embrace everyone’s similarities, differences, cultures and backgrounds. The second time I took the course, I was able to engage more in group conversations. The most important part of this was the ability and freedom to express your thoughts and reflections without judgement. This type of interaction made it easier to have honest and open conversations about “race.” Take the course!

Thoughts from Carole Eckles-Harding, one of the instructors

The “What Lies Between Us” course has been life and mind changing for me.

My family, for more than 30 years, has consisted of many different hues, from what we call white to black and in between, it wasn’t until a couple of my granddaughters confided in me that they felt out of place and treated differently in school that I even had any awareness that we had not solved the race problem in the ‘60s. As a proud Ankeny native, I couldn’t imagine that we had not solved these problems. Even though they told me these things, I thought that they must were either being dramatic or that they had misunderstood. A few years later, I had the opportunity to hear Ankeny kids of color talk about their school experiences. I heard the same issues expressed in almost the same words. It broke my heart that I had not really heard or understood my granddaughters.

Something in me (I call it the Holy Spirit) would not leave me alone, I could not just pretend that I didn’t know, hadn’t heard these things. I had an opportunity to attend a “What Lies Between Us” course. I was shocked at what I did not know about the origins of slavery, why it happened, who and how it was perpetrated and for what reasons. The course helped me to be able to see and understand a more complete and real picture of American history.

I assisted with several classes, became a Certified Instructor, and continue to help facilitate this course. Every single time I participate I learn new things; I see the seeds of change being planted and I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the seeds grow. This course was first taught in churches and recently was offered by the Ankeny Chamber of Commerce. I’m so proud to be a member of the Chamber and of the effort and willingness of the Chamber to tackle this “difficult to talk about” topic.

As people who have been racialized as white and those who have been racialized as black begin to understand the systems which advantage some and disadvantage others, together we can join hands in making changes so that we all live in a more equitable and inclusive world.

I have never-ending gratitude for Dr. Lucretia Berry and Pastor Dan Berry who have been steadfast in their dedication to creating and continuing this education.

Thoughts from Reyna Immerfall, a Chamber Board Member:

I joined the Chamber before I even opened my door. In my previous jobs, I learned how important it was to get involved with the chamber. I attended at least two events a month and invited my team to do the same. A couple of years ago, we invited Dr. Marvin DeJear, Ph.D, MBA to talk about how to grow your workforce and tap into a diverse workforce. His advice was spot on. If we are not getting the workforce, we want to do the same thing, then we need to do something different. I made it a mission to get involved with Latinos Unidos of Iowa again, to join a Latino networking group and to get more heavily involved with other Latino community organizations.

Fast forward a couple of years, I was asked to be on the Chamber board, and it was an honor. In part of my interview, I shared how I would like to invite more people of color to the Ankeny Chamber and make connections. A few months later I, along with others, were invited to start the Multicultural Committee within the Chamber. I was on cloud nine. I am proud to be a Latina business owner and would love to help others succeed as well. This was right up my alley... but where do we start? Thank goodness there are so many community members wanting the same thing. We were presented with an educational opportunity to kick off our work with “What Lies Between Us, Racial Healing,” a six-week course of digging into our history, finding out about where racism started and how it exists today.

Race is a big topic. What do we do? Where do we go? It can be overwhelming.

The day before we held our first Minority Owned Business Summit I thought, here’s a start, this could be something. And it was a start, and it was another eye-opening experience for me. Where did all these people of color come from, where do they hang out, what networking groups do they participate in and how can I get them to join me at an event at the Chamber?

Learn more about the Ankeny Chamber’s Multicultural Taskforce.

Greater Des Moines (DSM) welcomes diverse talent to the region. As one of the fastest growing business communities, inclusion and attracting diverse talent in the workplace is a key strategy of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Learn more here.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership calendar of events is a one-stop resource for activities taking place throughout the region. Find networking information for Greater Des Moines (DSM) businesses or events specific to Downtown DSM.

Mackenzie Cowden

Mackenzie Cowden is the graphic designer and genius behind the Ankeny Business Journal that goes out each month to our members. She has not only taken our monthly newsletter to the next level in design she has increased our readership by 20%. e graphic designer and genius behind the Ankeny Business Journal that goes out each month to our members. She has not only taken our monthly newsletter to the next level in design she has increased our readership by 20%.