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Waterloo rights group launches year of MLK events during Black History Month

WATERLOO – The Waterloo Human Rights Commission plans a “Year of King” activities marking the 50th anniversary of the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Details are being worked out by an organizing committee. Events may include a “march in March” — from Lincoln Park across the Fourth Street Bridge to the Waterloo Center for the Arts — commemorating the historic march King led from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in March 1965.

Also included will be a commemoration of the September 1968 riot in Waterloo that brought long-simmering racial tensions to a head, leading the establishment of the Human Rights Commission.

The goal, said the Rev. Abraham L. Funchess Jr., commission director, is to make King’s legacy tangible, apply his message of nonviolent engagement to the present day and encourage community involvement to effect positive change.

“Today we know he’s very co-opted. He’s been homogenized and sanitized,” Funchess said. “This year, we want to strip Dr. King of all these other layers people have put on top of him to expose him for what he really was. He was a flawed individual who has a big, big heart who was a great American hero.

“We want to get back to that King — who had a radical critique of community that thrust leadership forward,” Funchess said. “That’s the King we want to celebrate.”

He envisions a recording and video documentary of the year’s events, including recollections of local civil rights pioneers, will be complied into a book along with action recommendations to the City Council for the community going forward, underscored by a theme of service.

“We want to capture a number of stories that might come out of this over the course of the year, but come up with recommendations that might be good for our locale,” Funchess said. “There’s some iconic people still in the city, but we’re also talking about moving forward.”

The year was announced in conjunction with International Human Rights Day in December, but will kick off in earnest Feb. 8 with a screening of the documentary film “King: From Montgomery to Memphis.”

The screening, followed by a panel discussion, will begin at 5 p.m. at the Jubilee United Methodist Church resource center, 1621 E. Fourth St. The event is open to the public and a free meal will be offered. Additional segments of the documentary will be show Feb. 15 and 22 at the same times at Jubilee.

There will be regular updates and discussions of “Year of King” activities on radio station KBBG, 88.1 FM.

Some of the events are designed to call attention to issues that are still a concern today.

“Obviously we’re still dealing with voter disenfranchisement. Those issues are just as relevant today as they were then,” Funchess said.

He wants to engage people in the importance voting. “Because that’s our voice. Everybody seems to be really excited about that. We believe that will be a great galvanizing opportunity for us,” Funchess said.

Another event, contemplated in March during Holy Week leading up to Easter April 1, could be a symbolic washing of feet. The idea, from discussions of members of the Eastside Ministerial Alliance, is “to remind us of the idea of service, which is King at his best ... his admonition to love one another.”

Other activities include group discussions about a King biography and economic justice. A civil rights program is planned at the Waterloo Center for the Arts on the anniversary of King’s assassination April 4.

The overall goal, Funchess said, is to create “gathering opportunities, but also instructional opportunities as we teach more about Dr. King, his legacy as it impacted housing and other civil rights issues.”

Waterloo chief bonds with kidney recipient

WATERLOO — Police Chief Dan Trelka has aided an Outlaw — Jimmy Outlaw, to be exact — in a way that may improve both their lives.

The Waterloo chief had intended to donate a kidney to a retired law officer in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., where he worked prior to coming to Waterloo, who was a police partner of a close friend.

However, ultimately they weren’t a match. Trelka donated a kidney anyway — to a total stranger he now calls a friend.

Trelka’s kidney on Jan. 17 went to another Wisconsinite — Jimmy Outlaw of Milwaukee.

“He’s been on dialysis for about seven years,” Trelka said, and they were an ideal match. “My kidney was apparently huge. Not enlarged, just very strong and just what he needed.”

Trelka met Outlaw at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa, near Milwaukee.

“It was very emotional,” Trelka said. “He has six kids. He has grandkids. Jimmy is 53.” Trelka is 54. “Gosh, we just hugged and it was very emotional. We met about 10 or 15 minutes. When I left his room, he told me he loved me. I said, ‘I love you, brother.’ “

Outlaw like Trelka is a big fan of Wisconsin sports teams, including the Milwaukee Brewers. They’re staying in touch.

“We text every day,” Trelka said.

He wants to learn more about Outlaw. He said Outlaw is a native of Mississippi. Trelka is as yet unaware if Outlaw is related to individuals of the same surname in Waterloo, though many of the city’s African-American families also can trace their heritage back to the Magnolia State. Outlaw is still in the hospital until his body adapts to the new kidney. He’s been functioning off dialysis since receiving the kidney.

Trelka is back in Waterloo and feels fine. It’ll mean a lifestyle change for him, for the better.

“I probably don’t exercise enough, don’t drink enough water and probably occasionally drink more alcohol than I should,” Trelka said.

He intends to keep in shape. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran and an avid cyclist, he will resume cycling this summer. He plans a three-mile run today. He said he’ll probably end up healthier.

“I learned a lot,” Trelka said. “It’s neat. It was a positive impact on two people’s lives — my friend’s partner and Jimmy. I want to encourage other people to think about being living donors.”

Trelka has been Waterloo chief since 2010. He was at the Sturgeon Bay police department from 1992-2010, including seven years as chief.

Younkers store in Cedar Falls to close; one of 47 Bon-Ton stores closing

CEDAR FALLS — A cornerstone department store in College Square Mall will be closing in the next few months.

Bon-Ton Stores, which operates Younkers as well as Bon-Ton, Elder-Beerman, Carson’s, Herberger’s and Boston Store in 24 states, announced Wednesday 47 stores under their umbrella would close in 2018.

The Younkers in Cedar Falls is one of two stores in Iowa that will close; the other is the Younkers in Westdale Mall in Cedar Rapids.

All of the locations will begin closing sales today and be closed 10 to 12 weeks after that.

“We would like to thank the loyal customers who have shopped at these locations and express deep gratitude to our team of hard-working associates for their commitment to Bon-Ton and to serving our customers,” said Bon-Ton President and CEO Bill Tracy in a statement.

A manager answering the phone at Younkers in Cedar Falls on Wednesday directed all questions to Bon-Ton’s public relations staff, who did not immediately return a message asking about an exact closing date or how many employees would be affected by the closure.

The Younkers in Crossroads Mall in Waterloo will remain open.

That leaves Von Maur as the lone department store in College Square Mall, according to the mall’s store listings.

Shares of Bon-Ton were down a penny, to 16 cents, on Wednesday. The stock was trading at $1.25 on Feb. 1 of last year.

Police: Lakisha Owens Williams' death ruled a homicide

WATERLOO — Police said they are treating the death of a Waterloo woman who had been missing as a homicide.

Details of how 40-year-old Lakisha Owens Williams died were not released. Her autopsy was earlier this week, but full results are pending, according to police.

The announcement came as Lakisha Williams’ husband — Fredrick Williams, 27, of Waterloo — arrived at the Black Hawk County Jail on Tuesday after he was detained on a parole violation warrant in Minnesota over the weekend.

During an initial court appearance Wednesday morning, Judge Nathan Callahan ordered Fredrick Williams be held without bond pending a parole violation hearing. That will likely be held in two to three weeks.

Lakisha Williams’ mother reported her missing Jan. 25 after not hearing from her for several days. Williams’ employer also called to report her missing.

Fredrick Williams talked with police in Waterloo as they investigated his wife’s disappearance, then left the area and was found in Minnesota, apparently breaking provisions that prohibit him from leaving Iowa. He was detained on the probation violation warrant over the weekend in the St. Paul area.

Lakisha Williams’ body was found Friday afternoon in Garden of Memories Cemetery on Logan Avenue.

F. Williams

Lakisha Quintel Williams