SPECIAL REPORT: Key to Inclusion - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

SPECIAL REPORT: Key to Inclusion

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

The all-American city of Dubuque has seen many changes in its nearly 200-year history.

Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, it attracted primarily Irish and German immigrants. 

So much beauty.

So much history. 

But some have said beyond the beautiful backdrop, they're not feeling the love here in the heartland.  

"I have faced a lot of racial tension here over the last 25 years I've been here -- the N word, thinking you're big, dumb, and black," said Fred Davis. 

Davis moved from Chicago to Dubuque to go to college.  During that time, in the early 1990s, Dubuque was thrust into the national spotlight because of cross-burnings, along with rallies from the KKK and other white nationalist groups. 

Davis remembers it like yesterday.

"That was the most frightening and alarming thing I'd ever seen, cross-burnings in modern-day time," he said.

Fast-forward 25 years, and history repeated itself.  Last year in April, two burned crosses were discovered near Washington Street in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in town. 

More than a year later, no one has been arrested. 

"Those types of incidents allow for the 90s to continue to be here, because we don't get any closure," said Anthony Allen, president of the Dubuque Branch of the NAACP.

KWWL filed an Open Records request with the Dubuque Police Department to learn more about the investigation. Police Chief Mark Dalsing said because it's an ongoing investigation much of the information is confidential, so we don't know where the investigation sits right now.

Despite those negative incidents police have had to investigate there are many positives driving change.

Dubuque has become more diverse.  According to the U.S Census Bureau, the minority population was barely 4 percent in 2000.  In 2015, it more than doubled to an estimated 9 percent.

Mayor Roy Buol said he recognized Dubuque was unlike other places. "We were different from many other communities, we were so homogeneous, we have made big strides," said Mayor Buol. "You know, I think, as far as racial tensions, I really don't see a lot of that myself," said Buol.

"Yes, there is tension in the city," said Davis.

"I believe the root cause is lack of communication," said Miquel Jackson, vice president of the local NAACP.

There are programs helping to address what some say is still an issue. One is Inclusive Dubuque. Its mission is to make the city feel welcoming for all. 

"This work is really long-term work," said Katrina Farren-Eller, coordinator of the program.  "You are not gonna fix 500 years of racism in America with a network of 60 organizations in three or five years. It's just not gonna happen."

Most recently, they launched the 'I'm a Dubuquer' campaign. It features a video with people from different backgrounds, all proclaiming they are 'Dubuquers'.

Another program, Circles Initiative, is based after a national model. It's about bringing people together, and building relationships as they as they engage in ways to thrive. 

"It's bringing the haves and the have-nots together. I've had a lot of white friends before, but it's doubled since I've gotten in this program," Davis said.

Going forward, the people we spoke with hope Dubuque will only continue to progress, as people from different cultures make this town their home. 

"If you're here to live and work, and enjoy life, you're a Dubuquer and I want everyone to understand that," added Mayor Buol

"I still have my thoughts on some of the actions of different races, but I won't let that keep me back from progressing with me and my children," Davis said.

Those focused on making the city more inclusive say it's important to continue having these discussions.

If you're interested in getting involved, Circles Initiative meets every Tuesday night at Prescott Elementary School in Dubuque from 5:30 - 8:00 p.m.

The program, Inclusive Dubuque meets several times during the month, as follows: 

1.     Arts and Culture Sector group: 1st Tuesday of every month: 3:30-5 at the McCarthy Center for Nonprofits, Roshek Building

2.     Neighborhoods Sector group: 2nd Thursday of every month: same as above’

3.     Education Sector group: 1st Wed of every month: same as above.

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