Iowa City Council plans to remove Truth and Reconciliation Commission head

President Amel Ali faces impeachment calls after using racial slurs against other black leaders

Amel Ali

IOWA CITY — The new chairman of the Iowa City Truth and Reconciliation Commission is facing impeachment calls after he used a racial slur against other black community leaders and made inappropriate comments on a local podcast.

The Iowa City Council will meet at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at City Hall to discuss Amel Ali’s removal from the commission. Ali’s comments were discussed during the public comment session at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Johnson County Supervisor Royceann Porter learned of Ali’s comments through an anonymous letter she received in the mail. Porter shared a photo of the letter with The Gazette.

The envelope also contained a USB drive containing recordings of the “Rock Hard Caucus” podcast. The June 9 and June 16 podcast episodes, which Ali was a guest on, are no longer uploaded.

“She called out a number of members of the Black Voices Project and other community leaders by name using the most racist and offensive terms,” ​​Porter said in a public comment, reading a letter that she and other leaders of the Black Voices Project wrote.

The Iowa City Council created the nine-member commission in 2020 following Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. The mission of the commission is to gather testimonies about racial injustices, foster ways for people to share their stories, and encourage conversations in the community.

The commission has faced challenges since its inception, including resignations, a four-week hiatus and calls from Mayor Bruce Teague to “reboot” and “reinvent.”

Porter urged the board to remove Ali from the commission and appoint Chastity Dillard as chair so the panel could move forward. Dillard is currently vice president.

Porter, a former member of the commission, said it goes beyond disagreement between current and former members of the commission.

“She verbally attacked a whole section of our local community leaders, a choice completely inconsistent with the charge of the commission she is supposed to lead,” Porter said.

During Tuesday’s public comment, Ali apologized for her comments and said they were wrong, inconsiderate and hurtful.

“Despite the call from the mayor and others for me to step down, I cannot walk away and turn my back on the trust, hope and responsibilities entrusted to all of us in this commission,” Ali said.

She said she believed the recording was released to disrupt the commission’s work. Tensions between current and former commissioners have been high in previous council meetings as the commission struggles to identify a way forward, including hiring a facilitator.

At least four speakers during the meeting’s public comment period expressed support for keeping Ali on the commission. They said it is a targeted campaign against Ali that aims to stop the work of the commission.

“I learned a lot about myself through this hurt I caused and I will continue to learn and heal with this community and the mental health professionals who support me,” Ali said.

Ali, who previously served as vice-chairman of the panel, was unanimously elected president last month after Mohamed Traore left the leadership post. Ali has been part of the commission since its inception.

Traore became chairman of the commission in March 2021 after Porter resigned, and vice-chairman T’Shailyn Harrington was elected chairwoman after Porter.

The commission has been working for months to hire a facilitator to help it carry out its mission and is reworking its proposal for a facilitator.

The commission is tasked with delivering a report to city council by June 2023, with recommendations for changes and whether the commission should continue or be disbanded.

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