Iowa’s Women of Color are Ready for 2016

In 2015, I learned the importance of solidarity and how easy it is to get involved in the different movements happening around us. Now more than ever we need to stick together, learn from each other, and support our different initiatives.

We are lucky to have young inspiring leaders in our state.  Some of their movements have gone viral, many received important awards, and others continue to grow everyday.  I’m excited to see everything they will accomplish in 2016.  Therefore, I asked some of them to share what they accomplished in 2015 and what is their vision for the new year? Here’s what these amazing women shared with me.


Jacqui Joi Branch, Student Activist, Drake University 2016

“While I could say that my biggest accomplishment was organizing a protest in November with Brytani, or protesting in DC with USSA, these last semesters have been my best semesters even with all of the activism and traveling I’ve done. I think my biggest accomplishment was being able to understand a and achieve some healthy balance between work, school, and activism. This was very difficult and became a new kind of”work”. It took a lot of learned self care.”

“I envision a new attitude for myself. I think with the frequency of devaluation of Black life by institutions in the United States, especially recently, I’ve gotten a little discouraged. I think that that can be a product of a lack of self-care which is something that I’m trying to correct now. I think that with this new attitude I will have a better understanding of this movement and love for the people in it.”


Kaija Carter, Student Activist, DMACC 2016

“This year I had the opportunity to continue doing work in the Movement For Black Lives. I organized a solidarity demonstration during the #Balitmore Uprising. There was a banner drop and rally. It was a shape shifting moment for my organizing, I feel like that demonstration made me a bit bolder because it shed light on how important this work will be in my own city. Lots of work to do. All of it will be rewarding despite its challenge.”

“Over the summer I had honor of working with an amazing team of concerned citizens from Des Moines over #Justice4MeaganTaylor. Meagan Taylor was wrongfully arrested at the Drury Inn Hotel in West Des Moines. She was solely arrested of the fact that she was a Black Trans woman in a predominantly white space. We successfully got her out of jail and her story was uplifted nationally. ACLU in Des Moines is working with her now in efforts to handle the manager at Drury in who had her arrested off of transphobic and racists assumptions. This two was beyond rewarding and eye opening.”

“This year has shaped me and my vision for organizing and I’m grateful for it. I’am now working on bringing the work that’s being done nationally in the movement for Black Lives to Iowa. The work will be lead by young black people and it’ll be state wide.”


Maria Alcivar, Immigration Activist, ISU Grad Program 2017

“I was able to get into grad school , get an assistantship, get my citizenship but all with help from people that truly care about me, I would have not been able to do it alone. As far as activism I helped start a coalition of brown and black students that will kickoff next semester. I helped get the attention of ISU administration on issues of racism, discrimination and safety on campus and actually force them to take action.”

“In 2016, I want to encourage my community to go out to caucus and to vote. So I will continue to do what I’ve started this last few months of the year … Talking about the importance of the Latino vote , teaching people how to caucus and encouraging Latinos who have the opportunity to become citizens to do so.”


Monica Reyes, Immigration Activist, UNI 2015

“2015 was a year of laying out the groundwork for years to come. I spent many days away from home. I traveled to different towns throughout Iowa to talk about immigration. I also was able to complete the DREAM Iowa documentary with the help of other DREAMers that were brave enough to share their story to the world. I met with several presidential candidates to talk about immigration and their plans for undocumented immigrants. Best of all, I developed an even stronger statewide network of immigrant advocates and DREAMers for DREAM Iowa. Lastly, I was also awarded one of the LULAC Latino Leadership awards for all of my work with DREAM Iowa.”

“Higher education is still a far fetch for most undocumented youth because of the complexity of getting in-state tuition here in Iowa. 2016 is going to be a big year for myself and DREAM Iowa. One of our biggest focuses will be organizing around a tuition equity bill. Passing a tuition equity bill in Iowa is essential to getting more undocumented youth higher education that helps improve their socio-economic status, which will then impact their communities.”

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Yesenia Ayala,  Student Activist, Grinell College 2018

“My accomplishments as a seed planter for change in my community has been for the Latino community giving me an opportunity to share my experiences and challenges that I faced during my journey to gaining access to higher education. Through the open doors Al Éxifo provided to work with their students, parents, staff, and mentors I had the opportunity along with amazing Grinnell students to facilitate and conduct workshops in several different cities in the state of Iowa to inform families about the US education system, financial aid, essay writing, and ways to navigate the college application process. The biggest gain was hearing back and seeing the change these workshops brought into people’s lives and their courage and fight to overcome stereotypes and strive for higher education.”

“This year, I envision the number of activists growing because like I said in the White House as a Champion of Change, the issues around the Latino Community isn’t only about one group, it’s an issue relevant to everyone as we are part of one larger community. It’s time for everyone to work together as our school systems don’t represent our demographics. It’s time we become one as our students need to see there’s a whole village that believes in them despite all the problems and challenges they face as minority students.”

I am grateful for their leadership and I can’t wait to see the impact these women will have in our communities this year. – Kenia Calderon

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One thought on “Iowa’s Women of Color are Ready for 2016

  1. Great article Kenia as always, you do an amazing job. It is important to highlight the effort these courageous young activists are doing and how they are influencing others.


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