Iowa track and field program’s ‘Speak Your Truth’ diversity committee looks to make Iowa City more inclusive

Founded in June, the committee aims to start having uncomfortable but necessary conversations about racial injustice and inequality and addressing the sources of these problems.


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Paxto

Antonio Woodward and Raymonte Dow make an exchange in the 4×400 meter relay during the Larry Wieczorek Invitational meet in Iowa City, Iowa; Saturday January 20, 2018. Their relay team finished second in the heat. (Paxton Corey/The Daily Iowan)

Jordan Winke, Sports Reporter

The Iowa track and field program announced in June the creation of a diversity committee to address racial injustice.

The “Speak Your Truth” committee is co-chaired by seniors Laulauga Tausaga and Antonio Woodard. Associate head coach Clive Roberts will oversee the committee.

Woodard said that the creation of the committee was a collaborative effort.

“I had been thinking about how I could help combat the racial injustices that surround and impact us but was trying to figure out where to start,” Woodard said. “[Thrower Nia Britt] sent out a mass message to all of the Black and Brown athletes on our team, stating how she was also wanting to be proactive about making much-needed changes.”

Shortly after that, Woodard said Roberts also reached out to athletes on the team about starting a committee and it took off.

The committee is made up of 10 track and field student-athletes. The committee’s mission is to actively engage in social justice work by spreading awareness on why Black lives and marginalized communities need to be prioritized in all spaces on Iowa’s campus.

“The people in our program understand that we can create meaningful change, starting locally and growing within the athletic department and Iowa City community,” Iowa director of track and field Joey Woody said when the committee was announced June 22. “We have a leadership group ready to act and fight systemic racism. We have a diverse group of individuals on our team that support the mission. We need to educate and learn to fight together, and for us it starts with understanding others’ truths.”

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Finding a starting point to begin addressing large, systemic problems can be daunting. The committee’s short-term goal is to challenge people’s ideologies, beliefs, and ways of thinking that have been, in some cases, held for generations.

Long term, the committee wants this to be something that will stay in place moving forward.

“We are hoping for longevity as well as sustainable and attainable action steps where we can look back one day and say, ‘We have made it. The work has been put in, the work has been done, but the work is far from over,’” Woodard said.

He said changes need to happen in the University of Iowa community, and the Speak Your Truth committee aims to help make these changes.

Woodard said that starts with having uncomfortable conversations.

“I don’t like the idea of generalizing issues and not calling them out for what they truly are… oppression and unfair treatment against people of color created by systems that are meant to benefit whites and oppress non-dominant groups.”

The Speak Your Truth committee is another example of student-athletes speaking out and fighting for change.

The committee has goals in mind to make Iowa City a more inclusive place.

“The committee will work from the top down and to the top again, discussing these problems with administration, police chiefs, and other teams across campus, implementing the right curriculum, identifying holes and policies that need to be tweaked, and much more,” Woodard said.

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