Immediate change is needed and the community must be willing to step up and have the difficult discussions that are needed to address the racial injustices that led to the protests that followed the slaying of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, the CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership said in a letter released this week. 

“Immediate action is required, and our first step is to listen,” Jay Byers said in the letter posted late Wednesday. “This will be a long-term process that will not happen overnight. Inclusion is a core value of our organization and we have had initiatives for many years focusing on these efforts. We also know we can and must do better, both as an organization and as a community.”

The letter followed the fifth consecutive night of protests in Des Moines, and came hours before protesters peacefully marched to Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie’s home, where the mayor met with demonstrators and promised action.

Byers wrote, “The hurt and pain are evident across our nation and here in Des Moines. People are suffering as a result of years of inequity, oppression or worse.

“The protests we have seen over the past several days … underscore that we must listen and empathize with those who are hurting,” he wrote. “Then we must act as an organization, and as a community.”

In the letter, Byers said systemic biases, racism and discrimination prevent equal opportunity for all. 

He said the Partnership is dedicated to working to create change that will benefit all, but to make that happen, “we must stand together as one community, united.”

While damage of the past cannot be undone, Byers said it’s important to be united moving forward.

“While we cannot undo generations of racial inequities, moving forward we must commit ourselves to diversity, inclusion and equity across DSM as one region, with one voice,” he said.