Betty Andrews is a living example of leading by example through her passionate efforts to educate the public about social justice issues and about African American history. Now a powerful and expert spokesperson for racial justice and cultural understanding locally and nationally, Betty has spent decades as a leader in communication and heavily involved in community betterment. She began her career in radio news and in the mid-90s, she joined the Iowa Committee on Diversity and began educating communities about diversity-related issues, eventually becoming a consultant to the organization and head of her own communications firm.
Betty also became active in the NAACP, leading the organization’s formation of a prison disparities committee. Soon she created and led the Iowa Summit on Justice and Disparities, and as a result she was appointed by Governor Brandstad to the Governors Working group, reviewing Iowa’s criminal justice policies. Examples of Betty’s work in criminal justice reform include working with others in the community and state to reduce racial and ethnic profiling through legislation, education, community organizing, and advocacy; working to bring about the reform of the jury selection process in Iowa so that Iowa juries truly reflect a fair cross-section of the community; and working on Ban the Box/Fair Chance for employment initiatives to help Iowans with criminal convictions rebuild their lives by more easily obtaining work.
Other causes Betty has embraced include working to raise awareness on the impact that disenfranchisement has on African-American communities and individuals; pushing back on initiatives that would keep qualified voters, especially voters of color, from casting their ballots; and organizing events that not only empower people of color, but also educate and energize all Iowans. One of these events is I’ll Make Me a World in Iowa, Iowa’s African-American festival that brings together a diverse collaboration of Iowans and highlights African American arts, culture and contributions through education, awareness and preservation.
Honors Betty has received are, among others, the Iowa Leader Through Activism award and the 2018 Louise Noun Award. She is truly a lifelong learner and a compelling example of how one individual can empower and enrich the lives of many.