My Recent Articles

Martin Luther King and Malcolm X only met once. Here’s the story behind an iconic image.

On March 26, 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X met for the first and only time.

The men were two of the most influential Black activists of the 20th century—and had long been pitted against each other in the media. They had both come to the U.S. Senate for the outcome of the vote on the Civil Rights Act.

For King, this was a big moment. In January, he’d been named Time magazine’s “Man of the Year.” In October, he would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for his non-violent struggle fo

Opinion: Iowa private school benefits from school choice; wish there were more like them

Over the past couple of months, as I watched an expansive school choice program implemented in Iowa, I kept thinking about a 2004 study co-authored by Anita Fleming-Rife, whom I’d interviewed for another column. The article was titled, “The More Public School Reform Changes, the More It Stays the Same: A Framing Analysis of the Newspaper Coverage of Brown v. Board of Education.”

The study points out that, during the 1950s, after the Brown decision enforced the integration of public schools, cha

Trailblazers & Trendsetters: Bri Martin launched a successful travel agency — during COVID

Rachelle Chase started Trailblazers & Trendsetters, an occasional feature in the Des Moines Register, to shine the spotlight on Iowans who are taking charge and making a difference in their own way.

At a time when most people make their own travel arrangements, a personalized travel service probably isn’t the first start-up business that pops into one’s mind.

It wasn’t the first idea for Bri Martin, either. Martin founded Alexander’s Retreat, “a travel agency specializing in honeymoon and dest

Trailblazers & Trendsetters: Iowa author Leigh Michaels wrote more than 100 books

Rachelle Chase shines the spotlight on Iowans who are taking charge and making a difference in their own way in Trailblazers & Trendsetters, an occasional feature in the Des Moines Register.

Leigh Michaels (whose legal name is LeAnn Lemberger) is a successful author of more than 100 books. But that doesn’t stop the haters.

One time, a student from Des Moines' Drake University, her alma mater, was interviewing her for an article.

Michaels said, “The student said, 'My professor wanted me to ask

King of Busoga, Uganda, visits the Iowa State Fair to view agriculture in Iowa

It’s not every day that a king visits Iowa. On Monday, His Majesty William Wilberforce Gabula Nadiope IV, King of Busoga, Uganda, spent the day at the Iowa State Fair.

His Majesty — along with his personal secretary John Kairu; security/logistics officer Karoli Mwiiru; executive director of Developing Lives, Livelihoods and Nutrition Daniel Kitimbo; and national director of Iowa State University–Uganda Program Dr. Gideon Nadiope — were there to learn about agriculture in Iowa.

Though the Kyaba

Filmmaker in Iowa for RAGBRAI to share history of Black 1899 cycling champion Major Taylor

As the 20th century was dawning, bicycle racing was one of most popular spectator sports in the U.S. and Marshall “Major” Taylor, a Black cyclist from Indianapolis, was one of its biggest international stars.

By 1898, 20-year-old Taylor held seven world records and in August 1899 he had reached world championship status after winning the one-mile sprint in the world cycling championships in Montreal.

When he retired in 1910, he’d won thousands of dollars and made headlines across the U.S., Aus

Opinion: Nearly 1 in 4 Iowans eat less than 1 vegetable per day. This drive-through could help.

Iowans could use some help with “active living and healthy eating.”

Only 27.1% of adult Iowans have a healthy body weight, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health's June 2022 Healthy Iowans: Iowa’s State Health Assessment report. And while the federal 2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults and adolescents eat 2½ to 4 cups of vegetables and 1½ to 2½ cups of fruit daily, Healthy Iowans revealed that 22.7% of adult Iowans eat less than one vegetable per day and 40.4% eat less that

Opinion: 'Swine Republic' proves Iowa's water is contaminated. Can it help force change?

As I write this, "The Swine Republic: Struggles With the Truth About Agriculture and Water Quality" is temporarily out of stock on Amazon. According to Steve Semken, publisher at Ice Cube Press, demand is high, and the book is now in its third printing since it was released May 19.

It's popular because Iowa’s water is contaminated. Its Corn Belt pollutants, a cocktail of fertilizer and manure, nitrogen and phosphorus, travel from Iowa's rivers and streams to the Mississippi River and then to th

OPINION: Homosexuality in Uganda is now punishable by death. LGBTQ+ Ugandans need help

“They are going to start killing us,” Henry Mukiibi, an LGBTQ+ activist and founder of Uganda’s Children of the Sun Foundation, told me Monday.

Mukiibi is afraid because Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023,into law that day.

The bill — to which minor revisions were made at Museveni’s request in April — still mandates these harsh sentences: the death penalty to those convicted of committing “aggravated homosexuality”; life in prison if convicted of “committ

Trailblazers & Trendsetters: Marissa Friesen sells handmade clothes, teaches joy of sewing

It’s Me-Made-May and sewist Marissa Friesen is joining thousands of creatives around the globe by wearing her handmade clothing every day in May.

“It's kind of nice to see how most of my closet has changed from only store-bought stuff to mostly handmade.” Her goal is for all her clothing to be handmade.

Friesen is the founder of RisSewn, where she sells her handmade clothing and accessories, takes custom orders, and offers in-person classes to teach others the joy of sewing. In fact, her next

Trailblazers & Trendsetters: Peckish for a Kool-Aid pickle? Seth Watson offers 37 flavors.

Tropical punch. Peach mango. Green apple. Black Mamba. Black Panther. What are these? Just a few of the 37 original and signature Kool-Aid pickle flavors Seth’s Flavor of Pickles offers.

Before they became a TikTok trend in 2021, Kool-Aid pickles have been popular in the South seemingly forever — well, not before 1927 when Kool-Aid was invented. Sometimes called a Koolickle or Pickoola, they’re especially popular in the Mississippi Delta region. Especially among Black people.

Sethethel Watson,

Trailblazers & Trendsetters: At 8, Solomon Ondoma treated wounds. Now he's a neurosurgeon.

Rachelle Chase shines the spotlight on Iowans who are taking charge and making a difference in their own way in Trailblazers & Trendsetters, a weekly feature in the Des Moines Register. Know someone who should be featured in this series? Contact Rachelle at

Solomon Ondoma always knew he would become a doctor.

During holiday breaks from kindergarten through first grade, he'd hang out with his mother at the military hospital in Uganda — where she was a psychiatric nurse

Opinion: Maybe I’m the ‘Nefarious’ target audience, but I wasn’t moved

I stumbled upon the movie "Nefarious" and decided to go see it. It wasn’t the movie itself that intrigued me enough to decide to go see it. It was the marketing of the movie.

“Nefarious” is being marketed as a horror film. Though “Christian” and “faith-based” appeared in reviews, the words were missing from the movie description, posters, and theater advertising.

I was curious: How could you omit those words from all marketing, label “Nefarious” a horror movie, and expect non-religious viewers

Opinion: A year later, Rachelle Chase has new feature and reflects on what's next

It is hard to believe that March 14 will mark my one-year anniversary at the Register. This past year I’ve felt fortunate that both my manager, opinion editor Lucas Grundmeier, and executive editor Carol Hunter, have allowed me to “find my voice” — a phrase that has reverberated in my head ever since I read my former colleague, the esteemed Rekha Basu’s book, “Finding Her Voice.”

New feature, "Trailblazers & Trendsetters," is part of my “voice”

Since I oftentimes amplify the stories and histor

Trailblazers & Trendsetters: Basi Affia launches Iowa's first Black comic book company

A flagship is pummeled by debris in deep space. The crackle of flames, slap of running feet, explosions, firing of “plasma weapons,” growls of aliens, and an original theme song fill the air. Images of a multicultural crew of captains and admirals and heroes — two teen engineers — slide on and off the screen. Voice actors bring the crew to life.

No, it’s not an animated version of Marvel’s new "Alien" comic series. It’s “Lost With All Hands — The Motion Comic” by Sensi’il Studios LLC, Iowa’s fi

Opinion: Youth town hall unites all to end violence

It was powerful watching everyone bring “it takes a village to raise a child” to life. People were emotional. People were passionate. People were ready for action as they shared their concerns.

Hundreds of people filled the room and stood along the back walls before spilling out into the lobby of Des Moines’ Masonic Lodge on Monday for a youth town hall, an event spearheaded by RJ Miller, executive director of Greater Opportunities, in response to the fatal shootings at Starts Right Here charte

Opinion: Everyone should know the history behind Black History Month. It's applicable today.

It’s ironic that, amid the celebration of Black History Month, headlines tell of diversity programs being gutted and content that some conservatives find offensive being stripped from Advanced Placement African American history courses.

Predictable backlash against "The 1619 Project" docuseries has hit social media since it first aired Jan. 26. Some Iowans have promised renewed plans to ban critical race theory and prevent "indoctrination" in public schools. On Monday, I listened to mothers, mo

Opinion: Conference will help 300 girls 'know their worth' again this year

• Valora James, co-chair of Hip-Hope, Inc.'s Many Shades of Color Young Women’s Conference, shares what to expect on March 4, 2023, how to register, and how the conference will change girl's lives.
• Fourteen-year-old Naomi Thames, co-facilitator of "Pushing Buttons," a workshop on emotional health, discusses her workshop and why girls need to attend the conference.

Many girls struggle with self-identity. That’s why Valora James and her sister, Valerie Jones, created Hip-Hope Inc.’s annual Man

Opinion: Kim Reynolds told a great story about a family's triumph. Then she ruined it.

A lot of things were worth commenting on in Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Condition of the State address Tuesday. But I’m going to focus on something that affected me personally: how Reynolds took a story that was heartwarming and moralized it into one that was not.

Nearly halfway through her address, Reynolds introduced Sarah Hurm, a single mom who had been stressed by the unplanned pregnancy of her fourth child.

“Looking for help, she called the father,” Reynolds said, “who told her they needed to be '

Opinion: An Iowan wants all Black students to succeed in math and reading. Here's what she's doing to help.

Opinion: An Iowan wants all Black students to succeed in math and reading. Here's what she's doing to help. Anita Fleming-Rife said she was surprised to find in 2015 that these problems didn’t seem to be at the top of anyone’s agenda, including the Black community’s.

In 2003, Anita Fleming-Rife was working on a study of how the media had framed the Brown v. Board of Education decision for the case's 50th anniversary when she became curious about Iowa data.

“In looking at the literature reviewe

Opinion: The 1619 Project IS patriotic

I walked onto the stage at Iowa State University’s Stephens Auditorium while seemingly thousands of students and adults were taking their seats. Anxiety pooled in my stomach. My tongue felt stuck in my throat. I was nervous.

Not because I was a keynote speaker at another convocation for college students. Not because I was sharing another Storytellers Project.

I was simply walking across the stage to meet Nikole Hannah-Jones and ask her to sign my book. In November, the Iowa native was the 2022

Opinion: 5 Iowa research farms and businesses you'll want to know about

Opinion: 5 Iowa research farms and businesses you'll want to know about Did you know you can make asphalt out of soybean oil? That's just one innovative solution I and others saw during a tour.

By happy accident during the World Food Prize events this fall, an invitation to an "Agricultural Day Tour" from Borlaug Dialogue attendee Tacarra Birmingham, board member of the Africa Global Chamber of Commerce, landed in my email inbox. The tour featured visits to five Iowa farms and businesses addres

Opinion: It's time for NaNoWriMo — and reality TV's 'America's Next Great Author'

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo (also the name of the 501(c)3 nonprofit), is held annually in November. Every year, hundreds of thousands of writers — 427,653 in 2021 — around the world, from newbies to pros, enter the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days at Some writers begin preparing in September, taking advantage of NaNoWriMo’s weekly curriculum, which covers topics such as developing a story idea, characterization, world building and time management. Other

Opinion: Conference for Young Men of Color in Des Moines set out to change lives

Eight years ago, Bo James had just returned to his grandmother’s house after a community safety meeting at Urban Dreams in Des Moines, which he’d been invited to by Wayne Ford, Urban Dreams' founder and then the executive director.

The meeting was to discuss ways to make the urban core of Des Moines safe. James, who had been away working in the entertainment industry, was invited because Ford, a former state representative, considered him a person of influence.

“It was my first time sitting in
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