Discover more from Deep Midwest: Politics and Culture
"You Change Enough Hearts, they'll Vote the Right Way"
And a grassroots challenge to readers...
I am honored to be part of my friend Caleb Rainey’s performance at Central College in Pella last week. The event was titled “A Night with Caleb Rainey; the Heart of a Negro Artist,” sponsored by Central College and the Pella Public Library.
Caleb gave a brilliant, challenging, and inspirational performance. One friend called it “breathtaking.” When he finished, I asked Caleb a few questions, and then we opened it up to the audience. Finally, Caleb gave a powerful and loving closing. We ALL need his message.
Here is the link to the performance. Kristi Leonard with Central College provided an introduction, which begins about nine minutes and 30 seconds in. Scroll down a bit to find it under “recent.”
I would sum it up, but I’m not a good enough writer to capture even a glimmer of Caleb’s performance. Please watch if you can.
I will say that after his performance, among the topics discussed were the challenges marginalized communities face by oppressive laws passed and bills under consideration by Republicans in Iowa and nationwide and how to change hearts and minds. It’s important to point out that these challenges don’t only impact marginalized communities. We all suffer under this legislation and are all diminished because of it.
Deep Midwest: Politics and Culture is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Let me cut to the chase. One of the things I’m doing in this post is consciously elevating Caleb and his progressive message to you. If enough people listen and engage, we can help him change the world. As Caleb says, “if you change enough hearts, they’ll vote the right way.”
My ask of you is to elevate Caleb and his message. Draw on his inspiration. Draw on his truths. Our truths. Invite him into your community. Buy his books. Give them away as gifts! But not just Caleb…
Caleb doesn’t need me/us to elevate him. He’s a brilliant force of nature charting his own path. Yet, if I/we can play a small role in getting him into places he might not otherwise be invited, it will help. It was easy for me to get Caleb to Central College. I just told a couple of friends at Central about him; they watched his videos, and the next thing I knew, he was booked for a performance—and a two-day session with students, faculty, and staff. They were all in. Central College is invested in diversity, equity, and inclusion, as everyone should be. Central says, “Everyone Belongs Here.”
Caleb’s visit to Central changed lives. Hearts and minds. Friends at Simpson College will host him soon, as will the Knoxville Public Library.
I first met Caleb at Julie Gammack’s amazing Okoboji Writers Retreat. After I saw him perform, I could have just told myself, “WOW!” that was incredible, and not do anything else. That’s what I do almost all of the time. That’s what most of us do. But that isn’t how a progressive grassroots movement is built. It’s built by us, together, recognizing talent and, if we can, elevating and resourcing it.
Is the Iowa Democratic party recognizing talent, elevating it, and resourcing it? I don’t know. But I do know that throwing party leadership and candidates under the bus after midterm losses isn’t a smart move.
I also know that former Democratic Party chair Ross Wilburn was here in rural Iowa, regularly doing his best to support and elevate rural candidates and their messages. We owe him our thanks. Now Democrats need to get behind the new chair, Rita Hart. She knows rural Iowa as well as anyone, and I look forward to hearing her ideas on how to move the party, and our nation, forward. I am comforted by the fact she is a good listener.
But she can’t do it alone. We have to help and do it conscientiously and systematically. I’m asking you to help elevate people like Caleb who have important progressive messages to share. Open doors for them. Especially young people. Especially brilliant young people who don’t even know that there is a door to be opened, let alone where the door is, or that someone is there and ready to open it and invite them in to lead.
That’s where all of you come in.
We all have circles of influence. Please consider using yours, and even if you think you don’t have that power, you do. We all have power. Please consider using yours. Our democracy depends on it. If you choose, please share with me in the comments section who you think we all should be elevating and resourcing, and tell us a little about them. If I get enough recommendations, I will do a post on who you believe can help lead us into the future.
Also, please remember the fight is about values, not policy. Democratic policy is overwhelmingly popular.
I’ve written about Democratic values in a few places before (here is one), but I think we cannot repeat often enough what they are, and why we do what we do. Here are my thoughts on values.
“While there is much yet to be done, Democrats should be proud of how much the party has accomplished in the face of great opposition; it’s the party of Civil Rights, Social Security, Medicare, and Obamacare. The party of the American worker and their families, of greater opportunity for more and more Americans, what it stands for and its values:
For democracy and love of country in a time of insurrection, for voting rights in a time of voter suppression, for public education and libraries when they are under attack, for smart government being part of the solution, not the problem. For a free and honest press in a time of misinformation and lies, for historical truths in a time when they are being outlawed, for a true and deep understanding of our civil rights history, for our for freedom to worship how one sees fit under the rising threat of theocratic authoritarian rule. For reproductive freedom in a time when fourth-grade girls are forced to give birth, women miscarry, and even die because their medical treatment is banned. Where healthcare is a right, not a privilege, where clean water, clean air, and climate solutions are possible, where taxation doesn’t favor the rich, where equal opportunity is for all, and where your chances in life aren’t determined by your ZIP code, race, gender, faith, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
This is your identity, and a declaration, if you want it. A declaration for all Americans who want to save democracy and make the world a better, more humane place. Take it, make it your own, grow it, and build on it as more outrages are forced upon our nation. Sing it with pride where you worship. Shout it from street corners, corn and cotton fields, from shrimp boats and tug boats, from construction sites to restaurant countertops. Beat it on your desk and keyboard, and dance it until you can dance no more.
If these are your values, share your belief that these are our American values and our future will be democratic. To save democracy and lead the world, you must not accept defeat.”
I’m honored to be one of the Iowa Writers’ Collaborative columnists. I believe that in a few months, we have created a remarkable body of work. Hundreds of pieces that seek to make the world a better place! I hope you like what we are doing, and if you can afford it, please become a paid subscriber to our works. Here we are in alphabetical order:
Laura Belin: Iowa Politics with Laura Belin, Windsor Heights
Doug Burns: The Iowa Mercury, Carroll
Dave Busiek: Dave Busiek on Media, Des Moines
Art Cullen: Art Cullen’s Notebook, Storm Lake
Suzanna de Baca Dispatches from the Heartland, Huxley
Debra Engle: A Whole New World, Madison County
Julie Gammack: Julie Gammack’s Iowa Potluck, Des Moines and Okoboji
Joe Geha: Fern and Joe, Ames
Jody Gifford: Benign Inspiration, West Des Moines
Beth Hoffman: In the Dirt, Lovilla
Dana James: New Black Iowa, Des Moines
Pat Kinney: View from Cedar Valley, Waterloo
Fern Kupfer: Fern and Joe, Ames
Robert Leonard: Deep Midwest: Politics and Culture, Bussey
Tar Macias: Hola Iowa, Iowa
Kurt Meyer, Showing Up, St. Ansgar
Kyle Munson, Kyle Munson’s Main Street, Des Moines
Jane Nguyen, The Asian Iowan, West Des Moines
John Naughton: My Life, in Color, Des Moines
Chuck Offenburger: Iowa Boy Chuck Offenburger, Jefferson and Des Moines
Barry Piatt: Piatt on Politic Behind the Curtain, Washington, D.C.
Macey Spensley: The Midwest Creative, Iowa
Mary Swander: Mary Swander’s Buggy Land, Kalona
Mary Swander: Mary Swander’s Emerging Voices, Kalona
Cheryl Tevis: Unfinished Business, Boone County
Ed Tibbetts: Along the Mississippi, Davenport
Teresa Zilk: Talking Good, Des Moines
To receive a weekly roundup of all Iowa Writers’ Collaborative columnists, sign up here (free): ROUNDUP COLUMN
We are proud to have an alliance with Iowa Capital Dispatch.