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Racial Justice Advocates Continue to Build Community Assistance Efforts in Iowa

Katarina Sostaric/Iowa Public Radio
Aaliyah Quinn and Zakariyah Hill, co-founders of The Supply Hive, and Emani DuBoise, who is on the nonprofit's board of directors, pose for a picture at their Celebration of Black Motherhood event in Des Moines.

A winning raffle number got called out to cheers and applause at Evelyn K. Davis Park in Des Moines Sunday, where winners got to pick out new baby supplies like cribs and bassinets.

The second annual Celebration of Black Motherhood, hosted by local nonprofit The Supply Hive, is an example of one of the many community assistance efforts that racial justice advocates started last spring and summer. The group was also giving out free diapers, children’s clothes, meals from Black-owned food trucks, and offering connections to other community services.

“It’s titled a Celebration of Black Motherhood, but it really is just for the community in general,” said Emani DuBoise, a member of The Supply Hive’s board of directors. “We really wanted to emphasize that this is for all moms, all families. We live under this motto that it really is no questions asked. Whatever we can support, or however we can support, we’re going to do that.”

Massive protests against police brutality got most of the headlines and attention last spring, but organizers in Iowa were also starting to come together to help people in need. A year later, racial justice advocates are continuing to try to fill the needs of Iowans facing food insecurity, homelessness, and other issues.

Aaliyah Quinn and Zakariyah Hill formed The Supply Hive in the very early days of last year’s protests.

“We just thought about how we want to do more than just holding up cardboard, and, you know, marching,” Quinn said. “That is still powerful, but we wanted to do more in our way. And so we just came together and thought about how we can make a nonprofit and we can do things that target marginalized people that we want to help.”

They started out by giving food and water to protesters.

In the past year, The Supply Hive has provided supplies to people experiencing homelessness, held a safety training for women, and helped cover costs for people to go to therapy. They started a “supply library” that has essential items like hygiene products and clothes that people can access at all hours, along with a community garden that provides free food.

“That’s our big key word within our mission, is nourishment,” Hill said. “And it comes in all shapes, formats, sizes. It’s not always physical. It’s not always food. It’s also warmth, it’s shelter, it’s your inner being, it’s your outer being.”

Credit Katarina Sostaric
Volunteers started planting vegetables in April in a community garden run by the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement.

Hill said the group doesn’t question the people they serve. They trust people to communicate what they need and how the nonprofit can help. Hill said The Supply Hive also strives to make all of its events joyful.

“The problems are always severe,” Hill said. “The problems are always deep and rooted into a system that isn’t getting any better, as we see. But we want to get away from the darkness of it all, and look towards the light, and how we can help.”

The Des Moines Black Liberation Movement also started a community garden, and they gathered there on Earth Day back in April with some volunteers to start planting vegetables.

“We’re planting spinach, kale, a couple of different types of kale, a couple different types of cabbage, some strawberries, and we’ll have another planting date later,” said Maté Muhammad of Des Moines BLM.

Credit Katarina Sostaric
Volunteers gathered at the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement's community garden in April to start planting vegetables.

Muhammad said the group plans to distribute most of the food for free, and the proceeds from any food they sell will go back into organizing efforts.

“It’s something that’s always existed within any liberation struggle for Black people,” Muhammad said. "We’ve always been connected to the land and to the fundamentals of human existence.”

Muhammad said it’s part of building “survival infrastructure” to support people. Des Moines BLM has also raised tens of thousands of dollars to help people pay their rent and utility bills during the pandemic. The group has held free children’s hair care events, and collected and distributed winter clothing and school supplies, often working in partnership with The Supply Hive.

These kinds of efforts aren’t just happening in Des Moines. In Cedar Rapids, Turé Morrow started the group We Are CR.

“It started out as an initiative to keep the community and those who were protesting from rioting and looting in our own city,” Morrow said.

Then the group helped people register to vote, gave out free Thanksgiving meals, and Morrow is now working with a violence intervention program. He said he is proud that there were no shots fired in Cedar Rapids over the weekend of Juneteenth.

Overall, Morrow said he has seen more community activism and unity since the protests started last spring, and that more Iowans are ready to jump into action when they’re needed.

“I think it’s been great,” Morrow said. “Because of the increase, it shows that there are a lot of people in the community who actually cares about the community, and who want to see change.”

Click here for more information about The Supply Hive.

You can find more information about Des Moines Black Liberation Movement’s mutual aid efforts on the group’s Instagram or Twitter.

For more information about We Are CR, check the group’s Facebook page or website.