August 16, 2022

Creston native offers ways to ease divisiveness

In an ever increasing divide with nearly everything imaginable, one Creston native is hoping her words and work can offer some hope toward at least creating respect among people. The most would be to give Creston opportunity and growth.

Angela Kenyon Davis, daughter of Skip and MaryAnn Kenyon, spoke Wednesday at Gibson Memorial Library about how people can appropriately approach people or issues they may not agree with and maybe learn they have some things in common.

“Every single person in a community has that willingness, that desire and craving to belong to something; community, tribe, family, book club, anything. We have that instinct,” she said.

The more people feel connected and included by their community, the community benefits she said.

She showed a picture of a person appearing to be yelling beside a picture of a typical flower garden implying a feeling of comfort and cooperation.

“We also get this. This angry face to change. Sometimes change is hard,” she said. “How do we get to the garden? I don’t have all the answers.”

Davis Kenyon is an attorney who had spent 12 years working for the state of Iowa in the secretary of state office. She has become a spokesperson for human trafficking, water quality, rural pharmacy access and children’s health. She is working for Gaumont Productions in Los Angeles working on a television series about Delcina Stevenson, a Black opera singer from Coffeyville, Kansas, during the 1960s.

As an example, she explained how two school children can still pursue the American dream of being who they want to be as and adult, but one of them may have more obstacles than the other to reach those goals.

“If the first child has a single parent that maybe has a tighter budgetary framework and can’t go to soccer practice or sign up for the all-star team or doesn’t have money for violin lessons. They have different type of avenues open to them than someone that may have two parents in the home or extra income to spend,” she said.

She said economics is an easy example as she said she was single mother raising two children.

“Compassionately acknowledge the challenges of others and provide pathways for achievement, " she said.

Kenyon Davis localized her presentation.

“Create an environment where all people feel truly valued, welcomed and respected for all of how they are regardless of those differences. This is one I feel like is meeting some resistance in the community right now. There is a sense of recognizing diversity and not necessarily feeling comfortable with the inclusion aspect of that,” she said. “I think it’s very fear based. If we can address that fear in a loving way we have an opportunity for growth. How we do that is really the challenge.”

Kenyon Davis said emotion and fear can block logic and reasoning. Finding ways to circumvent the fear to get people to logic and reasoning creates “an opportunity for growth.”

She said those emotions and fears can be fed from media, entertainment and movies which have depicted biases against certain images. She used an vague image of a person in a hoodie sweatshirt with the hood over the head.

“What if that person is happy,” she said, implying the image is not a threat to the viewer.

Those emotions alter decisions and behavior, but can be mitigated through awareness, education and engagement with groups in question.

She said the United States is the highest ranking country in the world with division among various categories.

“That is really tough for me,” she said. “We sometimes get a tribal mentality, which can be great. Sometimes we are encouraged to think of with me or against me, us or them, winners, losers, heroes, villains. You can’t be both. That’s when things become problematic.”

She used an example of a rainbow flag, an accepted symbol for LGTBQ, being dangerous to certain others.

“As silly as that sounds, it’s just a flag. Our brains are wired to protect us. That is why education and discussion about these things are so important.”

Angela Davis explained a setting for women to be dominated by men in certain industries; one she has experienced. The sentiment was women were not as important as the men. Her own daughter, who identifies herself as Black, said she had those feelings in a setting being the only woman and Black.

Angela Davis gave a list of words to use a reminder for learning how to respectfully understand others; access, attitude, choice, partnerships, communication, policy and opportunity.

“Everybody has a skill. Everybody has a strength,” she said. “We all have an understanding of humanity that links us.”

John Van Nostrand

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.