It should not take a national uprising for those in positions of power to recognize their long-standing history of neglect or outright violence against our communities, and it certainly shouldn’t take communities of color banding together to make sure we hear from the people who want to make huge, sweeping decisions that impact our lives and our families.
Before the State Primary election held June 30, a group of 10 organizations brought together the only conversation entirely focused on racial justice with the candidates running to represent Colorado in the United States Senate. This event looked at issues ranging from the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, immigration, reproductive and environmental justice to workers’ rights, as well as the for-profit incarceration system, and the recent just rebellion against militarized police violence. The goal was to get a better sense of what candidates plan to do about the very real issues of structural racism that have plagued our society for generations.
From the very beginning of the establishment of this country, it has been structured around narratives and systems rooted in white supremacy. The result is laws, policies, and racist culture that continually benefit those in power over the voices and needs of communities of color. A lack of representation for our communities has only made it worse.
This is true in the nation’s capital and right here in Colorado. Local history buffs will tell you the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) had elected officials and leaders representing their ideology at all levels of government and law enforcement. While we have made some progress, communities of color still feel like we are in a perpetual time loop, facing the same issues of access and exclusion that we always have. In the shortened COVID response session of 2020, the most diverse Colorado State Legislature in history led by the Black and Latino Caucus’, passed a bill to improve police accountability (SB20-217) and collective bargaining (HB20-1153) along with other policies to help support families. These are important wins, but we also saw other members of this same legislative body cut housing assistance and refuse to pass a bill to extend the Governor’s moratorium on evictions. It is clear that we still have a lot of work to do, but the leadership and perspectives of the Black and Latinx Caucuses show us that continuing to elect more womxn and people of color DOES make a difference.
When we organized the Senate candidate conversation, we chose to have two women of color leaders facilitate. We thought this was important since all three major party candidates on the June Primary ballot indicated the state’s ongoing tradition of electing white men to the Senate. Black and Brown Coloradans, and women of color especially, need real solid commitments not to merely “stand with” us, but to include us and most importantly- to value our perspectives while crafting legislation or making decisions that almost always disproportionately impact the lives of our communities. “Representation Matters” is not a buzzword, it’s a necessary component of true progressive policy.
The fight for Racial Justice cannot and must not be treated as a passing fad or merely a box to check. Both Governor Hickenlooper and Speaker Romanoff released various statements in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and racial justice throughout their campaigns, and we applaud them for that. Our hope and commitment are that someday soon Colorado voters will have more diverse options on their ballot, but in the meantime, the choice before us in November is clear. Cory has hidden from his constituents, played Trump’s games, condoned the abusive treatment of immigrants, and been silent regarding the attacks on Black Lives. Now that Governor Hickenlooper has emerged victorious, we hope his team will continue to demonstrate their commitment to our communities and to take it to the next level. Not only in words but in practice; engaging community organizations serving communities of color, including our communities in the crafting of their policy not just in their statements, identifying diverse community leaders as surrogates, and other substantive actions. We are here, and we are already leading. Come and work with us.
COLOR Action Fund and Colorado Black Women for Political Action (CBWPA) work to empower our communities by engaging them in the political process and connecting them to those in power. We have a chance to leverage our collective power to fight for human rights, racial justice and to ensure our society no longer devalues Black lives. To do that, we need intentional, thoughtful, and inclusive Champions.
Together, we will push for authentic, ongoing commitments from allies in order to create real and lasting change. That is how we will ensure the liberation of Black people and all people in our state and that is how we will honor the lives and legacies of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and all those who have lost their lives or experienced harm due to racism and white supremacy.
Tamra DeBrady was born in Frankfurt, Germany and grew up in Fontana, California. She graduated from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) with a Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems and a Bachelor of Science in Business Management. Shortly after moving to Denver in 2009, she finished her Masters in Business Administration. Tamra is currently an Account Executive for Cigna. In addition to her professional career – Tamra is an activist and leader in the community. She is currently the President of Colorado Black Women for Political Action and on the Board of Directors for the Women’s Lobby of Colorado. Tamra pledged Alpha Kappa Psi (AKPsi) Professional Business Fraternity as an undergrad at California State University of San Bernardino. She is a co-founder of the AKPsi Denver Alumni Chapter and is currently the Regional Manager of Professional Development for the Western Great Plains Region. She is a Precinct Committee Person (PCP) for the Democratic Party. Tamra has worked on and consulted for political organizations, elected officials, and campaigns. Tamra is passionate about educating, empowering, and advocating for the community.
Dusti Gurule is an accomplished executive leader with more than 20 years of national, state and local public sector and nonprofit experience. She has an extensive track record in collaborative leadership, strategic planning, public relations, organizational management, public engagement and coalition/ partnership building. Dusti is a founding partner in Dimension Strategies, LLC, a new political affairs full-service agency adding a new dimension to Colorado’s political landscape. Dimension Strategies offers clients a deep understanding and knowledge on the issues facing women voters; energy, environment and climate change policies; and reproductive rights and health care issues across urban and rural areas. With their tactical expertise, the firm will guide clients through fundraising strategies to ensure they meet their financial goals and report them accurately. Dusti served as a political appointee under the Obama administration, representing the U.S. Secretary of Labor in a seven state region where she developed connections between community-based stakeholders and federal, state and local entities. As the founding Executive Director of the Latina Initiative in 2004, Dusti built the organization to a nationally recognized civic engagement and leadership entity, launching programs like Colorado Latina/o Advocacy Day and Latinas Increasing Political Strength (LIPS). Dusti has received numerous awards and accolades for her leadership in civic engagement and community building.