Although the African-American population in Iowa is small, about 2.9 percent (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011), they make about 15.5 percent in Waterloo (2011) and 8.9 percent in Black Hawk County (2010). African-Americans have been continuing to pursue recognition for their contributions to the economic development, cultural richness, social awareness, and political justice in Iowa (Barnes & Bumpers, 2000). However, African-American communities have been under-represented by Iowa’s mass media.
In 2005, the African-American Historical and Cultural Museum in Waterloo (AAHCM) initiated a project entitled African-American Voices of the Cedar Valley, conducting a series of extensive interviews with representative African-Americans in the Cedar Valley. The original purpose of the project was to document the life experiences of ten African-Americans interviewees in the State of Iowa. We started to utilize digital video technology to document and preserve their stories as typical life-experience of African-Americans in the Cedar Valley and a unique aspect of the Iowa cultural experience. We were convinced that by documenting their experience through an oral history presentation, viewers would appreciate hearing voices of African-Americans, their insights and contributions to their community.
Ten DVDs containing the series of interviews were completed in 2006. They have been broadcast on various television stations in Iowa since 2006. The responses to those stories from schools, churches, the media, and the community have been phenomenal. Given the success of the first set of ten DVDs, we have extended the project to the second set of ten interviews, and explored the possibility of doing the project on a statewide basis.
We have been continuing to promote this project by seeking the support of the electronic media and newspapers around the state of Iowa. During the months of January and February 2006 (Black History Month) several of Iowa’s major newspapers and networks used material from African-American Voices of the Cedar Valley for their programming. For instance, the Des Moines Register, Waterloo Courier and Iowa City Press Citizen published articles on the project. Furthermore, two of the State’s institutions, the University of Northern Iowa and the University of Iowa campus newspapers published articles on the project. In Waterloo, Channel 7 (KWWL) broadcasted public service announcements (PSA) on the first ten videos during the months of January and February. In addition, the Waterloo and Cedar Fall’s Public Access Channels and University of Iowa Television (UITV) in Iowa City broadcasted the videos. Other stations in Iowa that broadcasted PSAs include Channel 2 (KGAN) and 9 (KCRG) in Cedar Rapids and Channel 5 and 8 in Des Moines. We are working with these resources in the state of Iowa and other communication outlets to increase the exposure of the project during the 2010 Black History Month.
-- By Jackson & Chen --