By Victor Ochieng
Iowa City Councilman Kingsley Botchway, alongside Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart, is working tirelessly to get black issues addressed. This comes at a time when eastern Iowa City Council’s African American representation is almost non-existent.
The state’s population is 3.4% African American, but that percentage is on the rise. In fact, the black population in Johnson, Linn and Black Hawk counties practically doubled within the last decade.
Only three African Americans currently hold city council seats. Mayor Hart served an eight year stint on the Waterloo City Council before making history by becoming the first African American mayor in the city.
He spends time engaging in community outreach via his monthly radio show, hosted by the black-owned and black-operated KBBG. The show has proven to be a great way to reach the African American community.
He reckons there are lots of things the community faces that need to be addressed including unemployment, drugs and challenges facing the youth which create disparities between African Americans and other racial categories when it comes to general livelihood. Only 30% of black Iowans own homes compared to the state average of 70%.Botchway and Hart are trying to change these dynamics.
Botchway has been on the Iowa City Council for two years and admits part of the challenge is to represent back voices and to foster trust in the local government. Leading by example, he says he wants African Americans to believe in themselves and develop a positive attitude towards life. He teaches that leadership requires only passion and concern and says that to be elected as a leader does not call for one to be a rocket scientist or a surgeon.
He is also of the notion that one can’t easily do it alone. Botchway is a strong proponent of teamwork and calls for African Americans to come together and mentor one another for the inevitable benefit of everyone.
Hart agrees and says that coming together as a community is the best way to work through some of the hindering issues that the black community faces while creating a sense of hope and optimism in one another. He urges that it is the best way to make a difference and improve overall conditions of living
Both Botchway and Hart are starting new media outfits to enhance the exposure and amplify the voice of everyone in the community so that everyone can be readily heard and get involved in the cause.