The Iowa Brown & Black Forum was founded in 1984 by Co-Chairs former Iowa State Representative Wayne W. Ford and Mary E. Dominguez Campos. Rep. Ford is the Founder and Executive Director of Urban Dreams, a United Way agency located in Des Moines, Iowa. Ms. Campos is a prominent member of the Des Moines Latino community. MSNBC, C-SPAN, Iowa Public Television and other national and local news organizations have covered the event since its inception. The non-partisan Iowa Brown & Black Forum began with U.S. Presidential candidate forums in 1984 and has resulted in the Iowa caucuses being more inclusive of all Iowans. It is recognized as one of the oldest non-partisan forums for Presidential candidates in the nation.

The Iowa Brown & Black Forum, with a history of over 30 years of addressing issues of concern to the minority community, is the oldest minority-oriented forum for presidential candidates and the fourth oldest, established forum for presidential candidates in the nation.  Addressing public policy issues to which minorities can relate, such as economic development, immigration, education, health care and bias in the justice system has created a tradition of civic engagement in Iowa and around the country.

The Iowa Brown & Black Presidential Forum was established in 1984 with three major objectives:

  1. To focus national and international media attention on Latino and African American issues in Iowa and around the country.
  2. To bridge the gap between Latinos and African Americans and the majority community about the voting process and to educate Latinos and African Americans about the issues and problems that affect them.
  3. To mobilize and motivate members of both Latino and African American communities, in Iowa and around the country, to participate in the political process.

Urban Dreams’ nonpartisan Project V.O.T.E. (Voting Opportunities Through Education) was started in 2000 to increase civic engagement in low-income, disenfranchised neighborhoods in Des Moines, Iowa. Project V.O.T.E. aims to increase voter registration, educate the general public on policy issues and increase voter turnout during elections. In 2004, Urban Dreams incorporated the Iowa Brown & Black Forum as a nonpartisan element of Project V.O.T.E. and expanded the scope of the format to include local, state, and federal elections for both Democratic and Republican candidates.