Fred Newell, left, sits at young father support group on 9/10/20.
IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - Since the start of June, the fight for racial equality has been at the top of the agenda for city leaders, young activists and Black families in Iowa City. The frustration from activists and desire for immediate change has led to roughly 30 local demonstrations over the last 3 1/2 months.
"I think a lot of that is happening because people realize...we've been talking for years," Fred Newell said.
Newell has lived in Iowa City for 15 years and is currently raising five daughters. He's also a pastor at The Kingdom Center and the president of Dream City, a nonprofit for underserved youth.
Dream City also includes a support group for young fathers. This summer, the topic has been social justice more often than not. Newell feels there's a very strong connection between fighting for equality and parenting.
Newell, 32, sometimes hears group members in their early 20s get passionate when talking about insensitive things they hear around town. Davonte Foster spoke last Thursday about a coworker telling him he's boycotting the NFL because of players kneeling during the national anthem.
"He doesn't understand that innocent Black people are being killed and that's whey they're protesting," Foster said.
Before responding to his coworker, Foster called Newell and asked for advice. Newell told him to pause and think.
"Just make sure whatever action you take is going to be action that you can live with. And also think about your child," Newell said.
Newell would also like college-aged protesters in Iowa City to stop and think before doing something like marching onto Interstate 80. While the protesters have said it's necessary to get the city's attention, Newell knows it makes some people resist change.
"It closed some people off before change could even happen," Newell said.
While Newell calls himself a "behind the scenes guy", he says he's committed to creating relationships between protest organizers and a range of community figures; who'll be here long after the demonstrations have stopped.
"The only way change will happen is not necessarily the protests but if our community would rise up together and say, 'You know what, they're protesting for a reason. Let's figure out what that reason is,'" Newell said.