Diversity in Cedar Rapids: how are we doing?

When I sent out the invitation to readers and community members to join me for a conversation about diversity in Cedar Rapids, I did not know what to expect. It was my first time organizing such a discussion. My goal was to host an open forum where people could share what was on their mind when it comes to diversity. It is critical for us as a news organization to know what community members are thinking and what their concerns are so we can better address them through our coverage. On Friday afternoon inside the cozy confines of The Early Bird coffee shop in downtown Cedar Rapids, a small group gathered over the lunch hour to talk about why diversity matters to them in the Corridor. I had prepared a few questions for conversation fodder. I asked the group if they felt that local government should play a role in promoting diversity and inclusion in eastern Iowa. Ruth Hairston, who is retired from working in sales at AT&T and information technology at Transamerica, answered yes. Hairston, who is African American, shared what it was like growing up in the small town of Fort Madison, Iowa. During the conversation, we talked about the need for businesses to understand how Iowa’s demographics are changing. We also talked about how understanding and embracing diversity within a company is not as simple as holding a one-time event and considering the job complete. We also talked about whether there was a clear understanding of the term cultural competency within businesses in Cedar Rapids. Brooke Lentz, district manager at Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa, said people…