Cedar Rapids advocate: fight for racial justice ‘nonending effort’

The moment of heightened awareness due to the death of Tyre Nichols overlaps with issues we're already seeing here at home.
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 10:50 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Mimi Daoud, Director of Operations for Advocates for Social Justice, said efforts to address racial equality are like a “rollercoaster,” with moments of fatigue and of renewed attention. She said the current moment of heightened awareness due to the death of Tyre Nichols overlaps with issues and reform efforts here in Cedar Rapids.

Nichols was laid to rest Wednesday. He was part of a traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee last month. Police body cam footage shows five officers pull him out of his car and beat him. He died three days later.

Advocates for Social Justice (ASJ) is a Cedar Rapids group that formed after the death of George Floyd in May 2020 in order to elevate the Black Lives Matter movement in Cedar Rapids. However, national stories of racial inequality are still on their radar.

Daoud said ASJ has been in contact with organizations in Memphis, Tennessee, “making sure that they know they have support nationwide.”

Ultimately, Daoud said the work of ASJ is to change whole systems. That means keeping track of what happens, both in other states as well as at home.

“We look at the sort of response that our law enforcement in Cedar Rapids has had towards Devonna Walker’s killer,” said Daoud.

Devonna Walker, a black woman, was fatally stabbed in Cedar Rapids in January. No arrests have been made in her case.

“I think that racial equity and implementing a deep understanding of racial justice and racial equity in Cedar Rapids is a very difficult task that is going to take lots of work,” said Daoud. She added, “But we’re making progress.”

Advocates for Social Justice made seven demands to further their mission. One of those led to the creation of a police review board in early 2021

“The citizens review board, I think, more than anything has made it clear that public pressure works,” said Daoud.

In spite of stories like Nichols’, and her criticism of officials’ approach to the Walker case, Daoud said she is still an optimist, adding, she has to be.

“I think that if we were in this line of work, and we truly ever believed it was impossible, there would be no purpose to organizations like advocates for social justice,” said Daoud.