Kesho Scott to speak on diversity in Washington

Kesho Scott will speak in Washington’s Central Park on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. (Photo courtesy of Grinnell College)
Kesho Scott will speak in Washington’s Central Park on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. (Photo courtesy of Grinnell College)

WASHINGTON — Kesho Scott will be speaking in Washington’s Central Park Sunday at 1:30 p.m. about diversity and will share a personal story about her experience in town.

Scott is an associate professor of American studies and sociology at Grinnell College and has been invited to speak in Washington. Scott said she is honored to speak and is looking forward to sharing a personal story about both the history of Washington and her own experience in the town.

“I know that people in Iowa have touched my heart, and I hope to touch theirs back,” she said.

Scott hopes by coming to Washington she is able to support local voices.

“This is about the courageous people in Washington who have diverse views and want to be part of the solution,” she said.

Although the conversation will be about diversity, Scott said she is not associated with Black Lives Matter, a grassroots organization.

At the Washington City council meeting Tuesday, council member Fran Stigers called Black Lives Matter, “a domestic terrorist group.” Stigers along with three other members of the council said they did not support the movement because of their personal views that all lives matter.

“The very fact that we have a diversity movement at all the last 30 years shows that some lives didn’t matter,” she said, explaining that before the Civil Rights movement, many Black voices were not heard or represented.

On a vote of 4-2, the council approved Scott to come speak. Scott said the council should be applauded for the courageous decision to allow the conversation to happen because it shows the residents’ trust in them.

“The people that elected them trusted them to make a decision like they made because they voted that these opinions are more important talked about than not talked about,” she said.

Originally from Detroit, Scott came to Iowa where she studied at the University of Iowa and received her doctorate of American studies in 1988.

Upon graduation, she decided to stay.

In recent months, Scott has been touring Iowa giving talks. Those talks began following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. She called a local church to ask if she could put up a photo of Floyd and asked friends and neighbors to bring flowers for the memorial she was organizing.

When 150 people showed up, she was moved to tears, she said.

“It meant to me that people in small towns have diverse ideas,” she said.

The next day she was requested to speak in another town and has been traveling across the state to hold memorials.

“This is a memorial for the Floyd family and the others who have died because of inappropriate policing,” she said.

Scott said although she is not from Washington, she wants residents to know she can relate to their stories. Having lived in Iowa for the last 33 years, Scott said she is looking forward to supporting the town that is willing to stand up and create a space where diversity and inclusion can be discussed.

“This small town is just doing the next step in democracy,” she said.

Iowa is a diverse state primarily because it is a sanctuary state and has historically been progressive in being one of the first states in the union to allow women the right to vote as well as not being a slave state. Having an honest conversation about the racial divide is the appropriate response to what is happening in the country, and Scott said she is looking forward to sharing her story with the community.

“I am so proud to be invited. I applaud the City Council. The people in Washington must know what they are doing by electing them, and I look forward to coming to the town and telling a very personal story,” she said.