Last week, Colorado legislators and members of the Black Caucus and a coalition of community organizations announced the launch of the Justice for Black Coloradans initiative and plans for legislation in the 2024 session. 

“Today marks a pivotal moment in our commitment to racial justice, as we unveil plans for a groundbreaking bill to establish an independent task force dedicated to commissioning a comprehensive study on the impact of systemic structures such as slavery and racism on Black Coloradans,” said Black Caucus Vice Chair Sen. James Coleman (D-Denver).

The proposed bill would commission an independent task force to study injustices and disparities faced by Black Coloradans as a result of the impacts of slavery and systematic racism, and the degree to which the government may have played a role in these impacts. This study will help legislators quantify and qualify inequities in health care, housing, education, the criminal justice system, and our economy, and help understand how these systems may interact with or amplify each other. 

State Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver) noted the while Colorado was not a slave state, slavery was only fully abolished in the state constitution in 2018. The Ku Klux Klan wielded immense power and influence at all levels of government, and sundown towns — all-white municipalities or neighborhoods prevalent before the mid-20th century, which practiced a form of racial segregation by excluding non-whites via some combination of discriminatory local laws, intimidation or violence, named for signs that directed people of color to leave town by sundown — existed across the state. 

During her time in the legislature, Herod has advocated for solutions to the Black maternal mortality crisis, using American Rescue Plan dollars to improve maternal health outcomes for Black women. Herod also co-sponsored the 2020 police reform bill, Senate Bill 20-217.

From left: Bacon, Herod, Coleman.

“This bill marks a resounding call for accountability and transformation,” said Herod. “Colorado embraces the responsibility of confronting the past to build a future where everyone, including Black Coloradans, can thrive without the weight of historical inequities.”

“Today, we celebrate a triumph for democracy and inclusivity as Colorado embraces the importance of community input in shaping our future,” said Black Caucus Chair Rep. Jen Bacon (D-Denver). “The bill establishing an independent task force ensures that the voices of Black Coloradans are heard and incorporated into the study, fostering a collaborative approach to dismantling systemic barriers.”