Briana Gipson, a third year student at Coe College, has made significant contributions on campus and in our local community. Perhaps the most notable activities are her involvement with researching and presenting African American history in our region, where she has taken a leadership role. She has become well known (and highly regarded) in the Cedar Rapids community as the result of these high-profile activities, through which our region has come to a new understanding of our African American heritage and what it means for the future of the City. Briana has also served as an intern with the Civil Rights Commission, where she has interviewed people involved with alleged discrimination cases and become involved with training sessions on employment and housing discrimination and rights. Through her exceptional academic ability, stellar character, and the spirit of service that guides all of her work, she is making a difference in our wider community in a way that is extraordinary for a college student.
While experiencing the effects of inherited poverty, my mother included me in her labor activism and fight for economic justice at a young age. At age five, I participated in my first labor protest at the Illinois Capital. In high school, I joined my mother's labor union's efforts to mobilize Chicago communities for increased minimum wages and active democracies. It was not until my college career that I discovered we were fighting against powerful structural and cultural forces perpetuating generational poverty. After learning of those forces, I continued my mother's momentum through community engagement on and off campus. On campus, I led women of color in establishing the first black sorority to create a space where women who are marginalized in America's economic system can co-create power. I am currently developing educational seminars emphasizing the collective financial well-being of women of color. This work has been supplemented by my experience at the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission- an organization that ensures Cedar Rapidians are free from discrimination in employment, housing, and credit-where I am serving in my second term as an Iowa College AmeriCorps member.