28-year-old Indira Shuemaker is the first Black woman to sit on the Des Moines City Council member in decades, and the youngest elected member. Elected in 2021, she ran on a platform of defunding the police and was a strong and powerful voice of advocacy for the Black community in many council meetings, backed by many of her constituents and supporters. But now, she hasn’t been seen or heard from in 7 months. She hasn’t attended any council meetings, hasn’t responded to constituent concerns via phone or email, and has not reached or responded to communication from anyone on the board.
It’s concerning. For someone in such a prominent position to go unheard from should raise red flags. And those red flags have been raised - but maybe the wrong red flags.
After having a difficult time getting in contact with Shuemaker, her constituents were quick to raise red flags on her lack of communication and, ultimately, her absences from meetings. While there are no strict attendance requirements for council members, the essence of their role lies in consistent engagement and representation. The absence of Councilmember Sheumaker from key meetings, including a significant public hearing and vote on the city's 2023-2024 budget, has raised concerns about the effectiveness of the city's decision-making processes.Yes, community members should rightfully be expecting their councilmen and women to be available to assist with projects that require city involvement. However, the concerns were quickly turned to a petition for her removal.
Back in July 2022, Sheumaker released a statement attributing her absences to her battle with COVID-19 and a dip in her mental health she’s experineced since then. She expressed her intention to seek the necessary personal and professional accommodations. However, since that statement, she again missed multiple meetings and has been unable to be reached.
So why, when it is clear this Black woman is struggling, is it that the red flags being raised aren’t about her health and well-being - no questions being asked about how she’s doing? Instead, it’s all about reprimanding her and removing her from her position. Yes, there should be accountability. Yes, Ward 1 deserves representation. And yes, Indira matters, too.
Instead of focusing on how to oust another Black woman, let’s #ChangeTheNarrative and start talking about mental health care, accessibility, and the stressors that come along with advocating for minority communities so fervently, just as Indira has been.