It has been my position that as a U.S. citizen with the right and responsibility to vote, I will vote my conscious. As a person of color, I have always believed that just because a Latino(a) is running for office, it does not mean that I will vote for that candidate. Now, I will not deny it, it is exciting to see diverse individuals who put themselves out there and run for public office.
In my view, just like any other candidate, they must represent our communities well and be ready to do the job. When election time is near there is always research involved — I want to know the candidate’s involvement, support and contributions to our communities of color. Only then will I decide if they deserve my vote.
So, when I heard about Cedar Rapids mayoral candidate Amara Andrews, I was curious and excited. There is the potential to make history here. If elected this November, she would be the first African American in that job and the second African American woman to lead a city in the entire state of Iowa. Amara’s background did not disappoint.
Originally from Los Angeles, California, she earned her law degree at UCLA School of Law after graduating from the University of California at Berkley. Because of her husband’s profession as a surgeon, they moved constantly from one state to another until they lived in Champaign, Illinois and had a taste of the Midwest. They decided to move with their four kids to Cedar Rapids nearly ten years ago.
“Cedar Rapids is a great place to raise a family. It is affordable and there are lots of opportunities here,” she told me last week.
Andrews is currently the head of business development and communications for the transportation division of TrueNorth Companies in Cedar Rapids. She has served on the board of the Boys & Girls Club of Cedar Rapids and currently serves as president of the board for the Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success and, finally, she is vice president of the board for the Advocates for Social Justice.
“There’s so much potential here, and with new leadership and new vision, we can really achieve much more,” she said. “In the last year in particular with the pandemic and the derecho … we really need to focus on recovery, and I feel with new leadership we can do better.”
Last summer the derecho hit Iowa hard and fast, devastating many communities, with Cedar Rapids one of the hardest hit. Many saw the local official response lacking, and volunteers from different grassroots organizations and non-profits around the state mobilized to help the most vulnerable victims of this natural disaster.
“Seeing the lack of response from our government breaks your heart when you know we can do so much better,” Andrews said.
It is important for Amara that voters and community members know that her campaign is about all people, and she wants to have a special focus on the most vulnerable. Equally important to her is to reach out to business owners, executives, people in all different walks of life because she feels everyone can benefit from her new vision.
I also asked her about what candidates need to do to motivate communities of color to show up at the polls for local elections. Andrews said she hopes to speak directly to them, get out in the community, talk to people that have never voted in local elections and inspire them, make them feel that they are part of this campaign and to get out and vote.
“I am on the board of two nonprofit organizations that work very closely with the community — we are very involved with community efforts, including events giving out food and school supplies,” she said. “I feel connected with the community and vulnerable populations, and that is really one of the reasons why I am running, to represent those voices that I don’t think other people are paying attention to.”
After the George Floyd murder last summer, Advocates for Social Justice started a movement in Cedar Rapids and put forth seven demands of local government, including a citizens review board, which the city council agreed to last June.
“We are incredibly proud of that work, and it is one of the reasons that I decided to run because we had to push so hard for those demands,” Amara said.
“As a woman of color, I hope to provide the leadership and the vision to show other woman of color that anything is possible, there is so much opportunity and so much potential. It does not matter the color of your skin or the gender you are, if we work hard we can get it done. Diversity, equity and inclusion are very important to me,” she added.
The three pillars of Andrew’s campaign are: recovery, economy and community.
When talking about her leadership style and values, she told me, “I am a compassionate and caring person, and I vow to listen to all people, whatever their stand or situation might be. I really hope to lead with a compassionate heart and a servant heart.”
I am excited to see that not only are women running for public office, but people of color, and most importantly persons with experience as activist and advocates for social justice.
The community of Cedar Rapids has the opportunity to not only make history but also to choose a candidate who will work for everyone.
by Claudia Thrane
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