Mariachi band obtains funding at high school as part of Racial Justice Fund Grants


The Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine announced Monday the recipients of the Racial Justice Grant to the Diversity Service Center of Iowa as well as the West Liberty High School Band.

The Racial Justice Fund was established earlier this year to further advance racial justice, equity, and inclusion in Muscatine and Louisa Counties. Granting funds are available to qualified, charitable organizations whose work acts as an accelerator or reduces barriers towards racial justice, centered on those most marginalized in our service area.

The West Liberty High School Band has served the community since its inception in 1938. The music program plans to use the grant to create the Los Cometas Mariachi band. Funding will be used for students of any socioeconomic status to participate in the program by funding all necessary instruments, instruction, and sheet music.

This will also allow the group to hire local community musicians from West Liberty and Muscatine to assist in teaching lessons and rehearsals, enabling them to uplift Latinx voices and maintain the integrity and authenticity of the mariachi tradition.

West Liberty represents the first majority Hispanic town in the state of Iowa, and their school district features the second K-12 dual-language program in the state. This program will offer equity in access to the materials and instructions needed for participation in a school mariachi ensemble. Everyone in the community will be able to expand their understanding of and respect for the Mexican culture.

“Adding a mariachi component to our instrumental music programs is one strategy to improve the equity within the programs,” stated Ashley Smith, the Director of Bands at West Liberty High School. “This will help increase participation in music for students and families that are not being served by our music education ensembles.”

The Diversity Service Center of Iowa was founded in 2001 by five Latino members of Muscatine that saw the need to assist families with their immigration process and advocate for senior citizens ages 60-plus. The purpose of DSCI is to improve the quality of life through economic development by providing education,information and social services.

DSCI plans to use the funds for the Minority Senior Program which assists seniors with retirement process, housing, financial supports, health, immigration, and US citizenship.

Rosa Mendoza, Executive Director at DSCI states “We advocate for our constituents. Through information and services, we help them through their processes from the very beginning with whatever benefit they are applying for. The population we provide services to has language barriers, lack of knowledge how the systems work, and the inability to access a computer to apply for the services needed. This grant will give us an opportunity extend our hours."