Black Lives Matter in Rural Iowa, Too
If you’d driven down an out-of-the-way Dallas County road one night a few weeks ago, you would have seen a cluster of grain silos lit up like a drive-in movie screen. There, glowing in the darkness, was a montage of African-American faces flashing across the words “Black Lives Matter” — a reminder that the renewed call for racial justice echoes beyond the big cities in the news.
“It was like projecting a Bat Signal for Black Lives Matter out in rural Iowa,” said the project’s creator, the Des Moines artist Robert Moore. “It was a bit unsettling. We didn’t know how people would respond.”
At one point, a car pulled off the road and a woman stepped out. She approached Moore near the projector and told him how much the video meant to her as the mother of a biracial son in a town where not many people looked like him.
“She started crying,” said Moore, who is also biracial. “She didn’t realize she was making me cry, too, because I knew the experience she was describing.”
Moore created the project he calls “Harvesting Humanity” in response to George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. He assembled some gear, recruited friends to help and got the owner’s permission to use the silos.
Encouraged by the response to photos he posted on Instagram, he is planning a couple of similar projects in the next few weeks. He hopes to project an LGBTQ video this weekend, during Pride month, in Des Moines’ East Village and another Black Lives Matter video on July 4 in downtown Iowa City. That event was postponed from last Friday’s Juneteenth festivities due to worries about rain.
But those clouds had a silver lining.
As Moore put it, “There’s some beauty and irony about moving it from Black Independence Day to the Fourth of July.”
Meanwhile, in Ames . . .
The Octagon Center for the Arts (one of the Iowa Arts Council’s Cultural Leadership Partners) more than doubled its recent goal to raise enough money to pay six artists of color $500 apiece to display their artwork in six storefronts in downtown Ames. After extending the fundraising campaign through Juneteenth, the Octagon raised more than $6,000 and now has enough to pay at least 14 artists, who will start installing their work on July 1. So far the list of exhibiting artists includes Amara Agba, Jordan Brooks, Zach Frazier, Cameron Gray, Jamila Johnson, Juliana Jones and Jamie Malone. Find updates about the “Outrage to Change Project” at octagonarts.org.
— Michael Morain, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs