Panel to discuss racial bias in Eastern Iowa


For The Catholic Messenger

From the rise of the alt-right to the controversy over issues such as kneeling during the national anthem, racism continues to plague the country. Truthful and candid discussions are needed to confront this complex problem which affects all Americans.

A panel discussion will be held at the De Witt Opera House at 2 p.m. on Sept. 16. It will feature people from eastern Iowa and western Illinois who have had to overcome racial bias on the job, in education and in their personal relationships. The event, entitled “Encountering Racism” is being presented by the Franciscan Peace Center in observation of the International Day of Peace and Campaign Nonviolence. The event is free and open to the public.

“We clearly have a long way to go in resolving racial issues in our country,” said Lori Freudenberg, outreach director for the Franciscan Peace Center. “We have heard countless stories from people who are still experiencing prejudice because of racial bias. It is crucial that we listen to each other to gain an understanding of what our neighbors are facing and learn what we need to do to bring about change.”


The panel discussion will feature WHBF news reporter, Tahera Rahman — the first woman in hijab to work as an on-air reporter for American television. Also on the panel will be Dr. Bianca and Ty Perkins. Bianca Perkins is the director of Adult Education at Black Hawk College in Moline, Ill. Ty Perkins is the associate dean of students at Scott Community College. Ty and Bianca Perkins will talk about their experiences with raising children in a divided society. The third panelist will be Dr. Savannah Mussington, partnership director for the Equal Opportunity Schools organization.

The International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”) is observed around the world each year on Sept. 21. Established in 1981 by unanimous United Nations resolution, Peace Day provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to peace above all differences and to contribute to building a culture of peace.

Campaign Nonviolence is a grassroots movement to mainstream active nonviolence using the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr. that calls us to become people of nonviolence and to resolve personal and global conflicts nonviolently.

The Franciscan Peace Center was established by the Sisters of St. Francis as means for integrating Franciscan spirituality with the mission of promoting active nonviolence and peacemaking, as well as advocating for social justice issues and care for the earth. Most recently, the center has focused on immigration reform, human trafficking, abolition of the death penalty, domestic violence and sexual assault, poverty, environmental concerns, and active nonviolence. More information is available at

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