As the nation celebrates Black History Month in February, United Way Quad Cities and its African American Leadership Society (AALS) are working with community partners to make it easy to learn about local racial disparities and to lift up contributions and successes of Black Quad Citizens.

United Way’s African American Leadership Society is launching multiple initiatives throughout this month — such as recruiting blood donors, publishing a Black experience video series, and partnering with Black authors to support youth literacy in the Quad-Cities.

“Black History Month is a time of celebration for everyone,” said Kayla Babers, United Way’s African American Leadership Society Manager.

United Way Quad Cities Offers Black History Month Programs

Kayla Babers manages the United Way Quad Cities African American Leadership Society.

“Too often the history and contributions of Black Americans are overlooked and unacknowledged, but Black history is American history.”

“We all have a responsibility toward making the Quad Cities equitable, respectful and offering opportunity for all. As a community, we must ensure all our kids are equipped to succeed in school and life, adults achieve gainful employment and financial stability, and residents have the support and services needed to lead happy, healthy lives.”

A full listing of AALS and other Black History Month programs will be available at

Black Experience in the Q-C

United Way’s AALS donor network will share a video series recorded and produced by Fresh Films and edited and produced by Darryl Cross to celebrate the lives of three Black Quad Citizens who have challenged expectations and influenced life in the community.

The “Quad Cities Black Voices” video series will be published throughout the month, featuring local author and poet Shellie Moore-Guy, high school basketball player Abida Diasso and musician and curator Nate Lawrence. Videos will be shared on both the AALS and United Way Quad Cities Facebook pages throughout Black History Month, as well as the nonprofit’s YouTube page and website.

AALS will also distribute copies of Moore-Guy’s children’s book “How Little Billy Learned to Play,” loosely based on jazz musician and Quad-Cities native Bill Bell, to local students.


The books, underwritten by Quad City Bank & Trust, will be provided to kindergarten through third-grade students at Madison Elementary School in Davenport as part of AALS’ commitment to boost third-grade reading proficiency — a key indicator of how likely a student is to graduate high school.

The AALS partnership will spotlight Moore-Guy in February, and highlight other Black authors in the area throughout the year. During Black History Month, residents can sponsor additional books for classrooms by visiting Similar initiatives throughout the year will allow donors to sponsor classrooms in the Q-C.

Seeking Blood Donors

Partnering with United Way and AALS is the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center, who will host a drive to encourage Black and Brown blood donors, as well as donors of all backgrounds. Throughout the month, AALS will look to recruit donors for the blood drive, scheduled

United Way Quad Cities Offers Black History Month Programs

The African American Leadership Society is a donor network formed under the umbrella of the United Way of the Quad Cities.

for March 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Lincoln School Community Center, 318 E. 7th St., Davenport.

“Blood donations in general are in high demand because of Covid-19,” Babers said. “All eligible donors are encouraged to give blood. And, due to the uneven impact of coronavirus on the Black community as well as genetic health risks that impact African Americans at a higher rate, such as sickle cell disease, the need for Black donors is especially urgent.”

“The blood drive offers a chance for Black neighbors and allies to rally around a shared goal in our community,” said Randy Moore, Tri-Chair of AALS and president of Iowa American Water, sponsor of the blood drive.

“At AALS, we hope to connect with, and bring into the fold, new voices to help advance our goals of fostering the next generation of Black leaders and continuing to help close the racial, economic and academic divides that Black Quad Citizens experience every day.”

Ongoing Equity Efforts

Also, throughout Black History Month, United Way will:

  • Announce the recipients of over $200,000 in United for Equity Fund grants, designated to nonprofits, grassroots organizations and others focused on equity solutions to strengthen families, empower youth and educate the community.
  • Highlight a cohort of 13 education-focused nonprofits, grassroots organizations and social entrepreneurs taking part in Together for Tomorrow. The cohort will meet bi-weekly in guided problem-solving workshops to address challenges and identify ways their organizations can contribute to improving reading skills of Black and Brown Quad-Cities students.
  • Accept applications through Feb. 26 for Strategic Impact Grants from an extended pool of eligible applicants, including nonprofits, grassroots organizations and others working to improve education, income and health outcomes in the Quad-Cities.

To learn more about the AALS, visit

United Way Quad Cities Offers Black History Month Programs
Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.
United Way Quad Cities Offers Black History Month Programs

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