North End Update Hosts Win Community Service Award

Posted by Pat Kinney on Friday, January 26, 2024

WATERLOO – They’re the Divas of Discussion. The Countesses of Conversation. The Babes of BOOMSHAKALAKA!

Joshalyn “Rocki” Hickey Johnson and “Chaveevah” Cheryl Banks Ferguson are known collectively as “Rocki ‘n’ Chaveevah,” hosts of “North End Update,” an engaging talk show of local news and entertainment “straight outta Waterloo” they’ve hosted over their own Facebook page for almost seven years.

Each show begins with hosts and guests shouting the “Boomshakalaka!” tag line made famous by the musical group Sly & the Family Stone in the late 1960s.

They’ve created a fun outlet for information and communication that makes a ribbon in the sky across the internet to unify and define those far and wide who claim as home the Cedar Valley area of Waterloo-Cedar Falls and Waverly.

They’re not only elevating the community’s profile, they are filling a need in an era where there’s a dearth of local news and news outlets in many parts of the country, and those still fighting that good fight are struggling.

Their efforts were recently acknowledged when the duo was surprised with a Community Service Award at the annual Martin Luther King Jr.  banquet, held the weekend of the national MLK birthday holiday. Awards were presented by Social Action Inc. and the event was sponsored by Hawkeye Community College, Veridian Credit Union and TruStage, formerly CUNA Mutual, which has an operation in Waverly.

“The reason they received the award is, first of all, they’re phenomenal,” said Black Hawk County NAACP chair LaTanya Graves, who recommended the duo for the award. “There had been so many negative things posted about Waterloo-Cedar Falls and the Cedar Valley, our community. They stared doing their show, and showing all the positive things people do in the Cedar Valley.”
“The niche that we fill is for people who are tired of hearing bad stuff and looking for something good. That’s the people who want to watch us,” Johnson said.

“People say they see us like to interact as friends,” she added. “I think this kind of celebrates friendship.”

“I think we change what some folks might consider as newsworthy,” Ferguson said. “It’s local. Yes, we focus on the good stuff. But we provide, culturally, a platform where people can feel free to come on and talk. There’s always stuff that falls through the cracks you don’t see. We have a lot people that like to see those things that may have fallen through the cracks. They like to tune in and see local stuff.”

The program started as a conversation aired over a smartphone in Johnson’s picturesque, landscaped backyard. Now they broadcast at least weekly from the public access studio at Waterloo City Hall. Mayor Quentin Hart is a frequent guest. 

They’ve developed quite a following of current and former Cedar Valley residents and others, with regular viewers posting greetings from in town, across the country and beyond.
“That’s amazing to me,” Ferguson said. “Somebody in Germany pops in.” Another is in the Philippines.

It’s fun with a purpose. The program name, “North End Update” refers to a section of Waterloo that has been a cultural melting pot through most of the city’s history, and where the bulk of Waterloo’s Black population settled in the 1910s.

While the phrase “north end” was once considered derogatory, “Rock ‘n’ Chaveevah” whole purpose has been to uplift that part of town and the entire Cedar Valley area of Waterloo-Cedar Falls and Waverly in a fun way with news and information on organizations, events and individual achievements – including the one they themselves received at the MLK event. North End Update, tells  the ”Cedar Valley's good news from a North End perspective,”

It gives current and former residents a connection to many events in town like the Waterloo Homecoming celebration, a large reunion of sorts for many of Waterloo’s Black families generally held every three years; church-affiliated drill team competition and community milestones like the opening of All-In Grocers, a Black-owned grocery and the first grocery of an kind in its predominantly Black neighborhood in more than 50 years. 

"People are glad to see that," she said. "There's something good going on in Waterloo." The program, and interns helping produce the show, are supported by the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, the Bakari Project and the Grout Museum District.

The program’s hosts, former sisters in law but lifetime friends, also have individual accomplishments of note. Johnson was one of the first women to work in the foundry at Viking Pump in Cedar Falls. She has published a children’s book “Susie Clark: The Bravest Girl You’ve Ever Seen,” about how she and her attorney father Alexander Clark won a school desegregation case in Muscatine in 1868 – 86 years before the U.S. Supreme Court’s federal desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

Ferguson, a Chicago native, Waterloo resident since the mid-1980s and an award-winning former Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier staff writer, is an accomplished artist and book illustrator. She completed a large mural on local Black history as part of a permanent “Black Stories Collective” exhibit at the Grout Museum District, for which she also conducted oral history interviews of prominent local Black residents.

“North End Update” airs live 4 p.m. Fridays on the North End Update Facebook page, where a recorded version may also be viewed. It’s also available on the program’s YouTube channel. More information is available at https://northendupdate.org/

About The Author

Pat is the Oral Historian for the Grout Museum District.