Business Record forms Racial Equity Advisory Board

Top row left to right: Almardi Abdalla, Josefina Lopez Valdivia, Tar Macias, Claudia Schabel Bottom row left to right: Dwana Bradley, Renee Hardman, Bridget Cravens-Neely, Tej Dhawan

By Emily Barske, Originally published on The Business Record

In response to long-overdue national conversations about racism, we asserted the following promise of our Business Record news team in a letter in June:

We will do everything we can to report on racial inequity in our community and state. We will not simplify what is complex. And we will empower underrepresented voices that often are silenced intentionally or unintentionally by people with privilege and power.


We know these goals are not easy and cannot be accomplished overnight. We also know that journalists, including ourselves, have at times fallen short when fairly representing people of color and the issues their communities face. We must do better.

We also promised that beyond holding these ideals, we would hold ourselves accountable for acting on them. We promised we would start a racial equity advisory board with the goal of holding our news team accountable for raising awareness about barriers to racial equity while also elevating community members of color through representation in our coverage and events.

In the past few months, we have spent time strategizing the framework of the board and recruiting its initial members. This collective board will comprise folks from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. These board members will not only help share story ideas about equity issues, but also will be asked to tell us when we fall short of achieving our ideals.


Our board members are volunteering their time and we thank them for their support of our efforts and, in turn, our community. You will see our board members featured in the Business Record throughout the year. This is an ongoing initiative, and we will continue to expand the board in the future.

We are committed to doing journalism that uplifts Black community members, Indigenous people and other people of color with an intersectional approach. We believe the only way to truly help businesses do business better is through complex, solution-oriented conversations regarding racial equity in Greater Des Moines. 

We welcome any thoughts and feedback. Reach out to me at [email protected] or 515-661-6085.


– Emily Barske, associate editor 

Top row left to right:

Almardi Abdalla

Director of adult & family programs, Oakridge Neighborhood Services

Almardi Abdalla is a Sudanese American. He has over 12 years of experience working in the social work field. Besides Oakridge Neighborhood Services, Almardi worked for Des Moines Public Schools and City of Des Moines Housing Services. Almardi has a master’s and bachelor’s degree in public administration. Almardi is community leader and a proud father. Almardi enjoys watching documentaries, soccer, cooking programs and spending time with his family.


Josefina Lopez Valdivia

Marketing communications coordinator, Proteus

Josefina Lopez Valdivia is originally from northwest Iowa, but her parents migrated here from a small town in Jalisco, Mexico. She studied marketing management at the University of Iowa, where she was also heavily involved in sports marketing. Before her role at Proteus, she was an admission counselor at Drake University, recruiting students from the northern suburbs of Chicago and the Quad Cities. She finds joy in supporting people in doing what they are passionate about. She strives to be a better version of herself every day as much as she wants to assist others in the same mission. She is happiest when she is in nature with beautiful landscapes and beautiful company.


Tar Macias


Founder, Hola America and Hola Iowa

Tar Macias was born in Mexico City, and on July 4, 1987, he and his family migrated to live in Moline, Ill. Although he is an immigrant himself, his mom’s side of the family has lived in Moline for seven generations. In 2000, he started Hola America News, a bilingual media company that covers news of the Latino communities of western Illinois and eastern Iowa. In 2014, thanks to the influence of social media, they launched Hola Iowa, a sister publication for Hola America, that covers the whole state starting with the top 10 Latino markets in Iowa. In 2018, Macias and his family relocated to Des Moines to better connect with the Latino communities of central Iowa and beyond. He believes the audience for Hola Iowa and Hola America has expanded beyond the Latino audience to anyone who values diversity and inclusion. The news organization’s most popular social media platform is its Facebook page, Hola America News, which reaches around 350,000 on a monthly basis with 100,000 engaging with its content consistently every month.


Claudia Schabel

Founder, president and CEO, Schabel Solutions

Claudia Schabel, founder, president and CEO of Schabel Solutions Inc., has been on a 20-plus-year mission to raise awareness and consciousness about social justice, race relations and equity. She has more than 15 years of experience as a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and human resources practitioner, largely with Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies. Schabel Solutions uses her signature framework and people-centric tools to deliver customizable DEI consulting, training, public speaking and coaching services to businesses, governmental, educational and not-for-profit organizations.


Bottom row left to right: 

Dwana Bradley

Editor-in-chief, the Des Moines Urban Experience

Dwana Bradley is the owner of Iowa Urban Media, which publishes the Urban Experience Magazine, an African American publication that covers arts and culture, education, health, spirituality, community and public affairs. She also serves on the Des Moines school board and was recently elected its board chair.


Renee Hardman

CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa

Renee Hardman is CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa, a national premier mentoring organization that provides one-to-one mentoring relationships between children and adults. Hardman has been defending the potential of youths for over 30 years. She made history as the first elected African American councilwoman in West Des Moines.  She is also serving as mayor pro tem. She earned her undergraduate and MBA degrees from Drake University. She has been recognized through many awards, such as her induction into Iowa Women Hall of Fame, 2020 Forty Under 40 Alumna of the Year, and the West Des Moines Martin Luther King Jr. Service Award. 


Bridget Cravens-Neely


Co-owner, Bottle & Bottega Des Moines

Bridget Cravens-Neely is a native of Illinois, but has lived in Iowa for over 25 years. She and her husband have raised their three sons in the Greater Des Moines community. She is co-owner of Bottle & Bottega Des Moines, a wine and art party business located in downtown Des Moines. Bridget also has a professional career in insurance, and is very active in the community, serving on various boards and committees. Her passion and commitment for diversity, equity and inclusion have led her to work with many organizations that promote and actively practice DEI, where equity is the priority.


Tej Dhawan

Chief data officer, Principal Financial Group

Tej Dhawan is a proud member of Iowa’s technology community spanning startups to corporate partners. An Iowan since his freshman year at Central College, he is grateful for Iowa’s rich history of welcoming immigrants and hopes for our return to the welcoming climate nurtured by Gov. Robert Ray. Dhawan is also grateful for his technology community, which lives its commitment to diversity and inclusion.

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