Standing up for justice & equality

By Carol / August 29, 2023 /

Human rights have been under attack in Iowa. The onslaught of abortion bans, book bans, and laws targeting LGBTQ+ children – all laws passed by the Iowa legislature this year – has been soul crushing. How can we continue standing up for justice and equality when things are dark and likely to get darker?

This past weekend, I received a much needed boost when the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame inducted three trailblazing women and awarded the Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice. 

Teree Caldwell-Johnson (left) received the Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice. Inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame were Paula Dierenfeld, Romanda Belcher, and Bridget Reed.

I was honored to introduce Teree Caldwell-Johnson, the recipient of the 2023 Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice. President and CEO of Oakridge Neighborhood and Chair the Des Moines Public School Board, Teree has dedicated her life to standing up for the marginalized and those who cannot speak for themselves.

Teree centered her remarks on the lyrics of the Stand – a song that inspires her and keeps her going.

Stand by Donnie McClurkin

What do you do when you’ve done all you can

And it seems like it’s never enough?

And what do you say

When your friends turn away

And you’re all alone, alone?

Tell me, what do you give when you’ve given your all

And it seems like you can’t make it through?

Well, you just stand when there’s nothing left to do

You just stand, watch the lord see you through

Yes, after you’ve done all you can

You just stand.

Teree talked about her parents who were involved in the Civil Rights movement. Her father served as principal of the segregated school in Salina, Kansas, before the Brown v. Board of Education decision and went on to become the first African American elected to the Salina city council and later to serve as mayor. Turbulent times that needed someone willing to stand and offer calm, wise leadership.

She talked about how all the advances in equality and justice fought for over decades are going backwards – not just in Iowa, but nationally – but that we can’t give up.

I came away from Teree’s presentation wishing everyone could have heard it, especially my grandchildren. How can we continue standing up for justice and equality when things are so dark and likely to get darker? A better question is, How can we not?


During the last session, the Iowa legislature passed a six-week abortion ban; passed a ban on books depicting sex for all public schools, including classics like The Color Purple, A Farewell to Arms, Sophie’s Choice, Brave New World, and Ulysses, as well as current books giving voice to people of color and those who are LGBTQ+; and passed laws targeting, restricting, and stigmatizing LGBTQ+ children. 

The Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame ceremony coincided with the anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment (in 1920), giving women the right to the vote and the 60th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. 

Click and read more about Teree Caldwell-Johnson and the other Inspiring inductees: Romanda Belcher, Paula Dierenfeld and Bridget Reed.


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  1. Chris Irvine on August 29, 2023 at 2:12 pm

    Love this, Carol. Thank you.

    • Carol on August 29, 2023 at 2:24 pm

      Thanks for dropping by, Chris. It was such an inspiring event.

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