Black Iowa News is interviewing Black Iowans across the state about their communities: the good, the bad, the real. I’ll pose similar questions to Black residents and leaders to uncover the triumphs and challenges of life in a state where Blacks comprise 4% of the state's population. This is the first installment of an ongoing interview series. Know someone who would make for a great interview? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name: Alanda Gregory
Spouse: Matt Gregory
Children: 5 grown children each
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois
Move to Dubuque: May, 2013
Occupation: Media manager/personal development coach
Black Iowa News: What do people say when you tell them that you live in Dubuque, Iowa?
Alanda: ‘Why Dubuque? You know that city was on the news and they are the most racist town in Iowa.”
Black Iowa News: So tell me a little bit about the Black community. Is there a sense of community togetherness? What's it like?
Alanda: “People that want to be a part of something, they will connect with the people that they identify with. It’s segregated. The Black community here is segregated. There’s also classism."
Black Iowa News: If I visited Dubuque, where are the Black neighborhoods situated?
Alanda: “We’re spread out, but the majority of Black people are downtown and the north end of Dubuque because the property is less expensive. The majority of the Black community here are renters. You have a large population of people that are on Section 8. The ones that would rather not stay in these areas, they buy property in better and safer areas, which is the west end of Dubuque — with good reason. Most people come from Chicago, but there are some from Wisconsin and Minnesota.”
Black Iowa News: When you were looking for places to live, did you know about Dubuque’s history of racism?
Alanda: “We were very unbothered by it because my husband and I move around in such a way that unless you are straight up racist to me — like say something crazy — I'm not giving you any energy. You’ll be more bothered by me being Black than I'm bothered by you being bothered.”
Black Iowa News: A portion of Iowa’s Black movers and shakers seem to come from outside of Iowa. Is there some difference in perspective you have compared to homegrown Iowans?
Alanda: “Yes. I know exactly what it is — it’s being complacent. Because when you live in a place that you've grown up in all your life, things are just the way they are. When I worked in corporate America, they had the Midwest nice quiet racism — the very microaggressive racism. You can’t be complacent in a new environment because why did you move there?”
Black Iowa News: What are the main issues facing “Black Dubuquers”?
Alanda: “This town prides itself on providing opportunity, diversity, equity and inclusion, and it's just a talking point. They like to talk about it. They like to research a lot. They just say that to make you think that they're engaged — when in fact they aren’t.”
Black Iowa News: Is employment an issue for Blacks?
Alanda: “I wouldn't want to say a lot of unemployment. It's just not the right employment. There's not a lot of employment opportunities even though you see it all over that they're hiring for this and hiring for that.”
Black Iowa News: Are there issues with the schools?
Alanda: “So there's a lot of parents here they're experiencing profiling with the teachers. We have the first Black woman running for school board (Dereka Williams-Robinson) and she wants to change these conversations. There’s a lot of people here who want to see change.”
Black Iowa News: Are there Black people on boards and commissions there?
Alanda: “We have several. We have an NAACP here that’s mostly white. There's a lot of Black people that don't want to be part of the NAACP because of the local leadership that’s been there for years.”
Black Iowa News: How many Black businesses are there?
Alanda: “There were about 30 the last time I checked. We have a form that we sent out so we can update our business list. We also have Black organizations here. Dusty Rogers was a former baseball player. He has a baseball and softball academy. We have a lot of Black businesses that we're trying to really push to get out there and to keep them on the forefront. We have a lot of different types of businesses here. One woman I know personally serves on the Human Rights Commission here in Dubuque, Carla Anderson, who is also starting the Black Women’s Coalition.”
Black Iowa News: Are there adequate activities and programs for Black youth there?
Alanda: “The baseball academy has scholarships. The Dream Center has an excellent and affordable program. Here's the problem with the youth programs that they have: If you do not have money, your children can't be part of the program. Although there are free programs at the Multi-Cultural Center, we still need more."
Black Iowa News: What do Black youth in Dubuque need?
Alanda: “They need more mentors. They need involvement. They need mental health services just like everybody else. We really need to get into and talk about mental health for Black people. We lack that. We are in a deficit when it comes to that.”
Black Iowa News: Tell me about the Tri-State Black Business Expo you held on Aug. 28.
Alanda: “The Tri-State Black Business Expo was to highlight Black businesses in the tri-state area of Wisconsin, Illinois, and the eastern part of the state. The expo became an event that stemmed from the Black business list and it was to highlight the Black businesses here so people know what's available. To get more engagement, we had an awards ceremony. People were voting and getting connected. So that was to just really just to get our presence out there. That was the point of the event to show a presence, to give us a face, rather than just a list that can be forgotten. Now, there was a face to the Black-owned businesses. We had between 100-330 people. The awards ceremony was a separate event. People came dressed up. It was just nice and intimate. We had 12 Black businesses represented that day. We're thinking about combining ours with the folks that did theirs in Cedar Rapids. We will still have the award ceremony for our businesses separately.”
4.2% Black↑ (4,126)
.1% American Indian/Alaska Native ↓
.8 Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander↑
Alanda: “There's a lot of distrust because of the history of medical experimentation, and the doctors here ain’t that nice when it comes to Black folks going to see them. They’re not that nice. They do some of the same things educators do — they just assume.”
Black Iowa News: What are your hopes for the future of Blacks in Dubuque?
Alanda: “To pull together a community of trust. My hope is that we can trust each other, more so than harm each other. We have such a strong distrust in the Black community. I mean very strong, and it's with good reason because you don't know who to trust, because you have people, I call them collaborators, that will see you as a threat, and they run back and tell it all. I see why Harriet Tubman had a problem trying to free folks. We need to have better trust. We need to have better support. We need to also be accountable. There are a lot of people that want to stay in power and they are hindering community and unity because they don’t want to move out of their spot. So in the future, we have to build trust in order to be a unified front. You have to be unified within your own community because we also have a large biracial population here. They have to understand that both parts of them are equally important. There's a lot of biracial children that are not seeing the Black experience."
Black Iowa News: What makes you proudest about Blacks in Dubuque?
Alanda: “More of us have stepped up. More of us are stepping up to own businesses, more are stepping up to speak authentically. More are taking the steps of faith to support the community. There are people working to get us all to a place where we can accept each other, but it's just a challenge when you have people standing in a way. This has been happening for so long that people get used to things not happening, but there are more people saying, ‘No, this is not right, and we cannot keep going like this.’ So I am proud that there are people making efforts to bridge a gap that a lot of people were skipping over.”
Black Iowa News: What else should people know about Black Dubuquers?
Alanda: “There are pioneers here. The Blacks who have been here longer and endured much more, they are to be definitely acknowledged because of what they have come through and conquered.”
A peek into Dubuque history