I rise today as tens of thousands of peaceful protesters are rising in cities across our country and around the world to say enough is enough. People from all walks of life are coming together to call for real change to address the inequities and failures of our systems, to shine a light on persistent and systemic racism, and to demand justice for the senseless deaths of African American men and women like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.
Moments like these in history force us to confront the sobering truths of who and where we are as a nation. Many will have their eyes opened to realities and perspectives they did not see before, thus beginning or furthering their journeys to unlearn deeply engrained beliefs and better understand how racism continues to shape our daily lives. Others still will feel emboldened to turn their knowledge and empathy into action for the first time.
And then there are those leaders who have been in this fight for much longer. I rise today to honor as Iowan of the Week one such leader who has been on the front lines not only of recent peaceful protests, but also of the day-to-day work of lifting up a community from within: Kameron Middlebrooks.
Kam’s history of activism and accomplishments belie his relative youth. Now in his early thirties, he’s already spent half his life advocating for Des Moines’ black community. If you mention Kam’s name to someone in central Iowa, it’s likely they’ve already heard of him. That could be because they went to school together at Roosevelt High, read about him as one of the Des Moines Register’s 15 People to Watch in 2019, heard about the work he’s done on the Des Moines Human and Civil Rights Commission, or for a host of other reasons. As busy as life in Congress keeps me, I wonder how Kameron fits everything into his day.
Kam currently serves as President of the Des Moines Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), an organization he joined in high school before becoming its youngest-ever Midwestern Regional Field Director and successfully leading a campaign to register more than 15,000 people of color to vote across the Midwest. He’s owned his own small business, and now coaches African Americans interested in becoming small business owners through that process as minority business coordinator for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. He hosts annual trainings at Des Moines’ Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families to equip participants with essential skills to successfully run their own shops. He coordinates multiple work groups to address disparities among black and white residents of Polk County in critical areas like employment, education, and housing. And his efforts to create a more equitable society without racial discrimination don’t stop there.
Kam and I spoke on the phone last Monday. He’d spent each of the several nights prior at peaceful protests until the early hours of the morning to make sure the younger generation got home safely. When thanked for his work, he praised others. When asked what comes next, he already had plans for how we can empower youth voices and create a stronger community. His passion, selflessness, and drive were infectious. It’s no surprise he’s emerged as someone Iowans are eager to follow.
Across my state and the country, thousands continue to gather day after day to stand together against injustice. Young leaders like Kameron are among them. While it is imperative current elected officials heed their calls for action, it is also my hope that the young voices powering this movement are inspired to stay involved and ultimately become the officeholders called upon to enact more just and equitable policies.
For many reasons, the people of Iowa are fortunate to call Kameron Middlebrooks one of our own. I ask today that the House of Representatives join me in honoring his continued service and leadership by naming him our Iowan of the Week.