Much work yet to do in achieving connected, inclusive communities

The date is seared in Naropa President Chuck Lief’s memory: March 1, 2019. The day one of his students,  Zayd Atkinson, an African American, was detained on his front doorstep for picking up trash.

“That response, to me, it was completely mindless,” Lief said. “It was almost primal, that eight cops with three weapons was a result of a kid picking up garbage.“

The confrontation ended when a white Naropa employee, well known to the officers, rushed to the scene and waved them off, assuring them Atkinson was a Naropa student who lived there.

How well do we know our neighbors? Does everyone feel safe, seen and valued? Do we identify with or understand the struggles others in our cities and towns experience, but that most of us are fortunate enough not to endure? The data suggests we have a lot of work to do, across Boulder County, in this regard. Boulder Police are twice as likely to arrest black people than white, non-Hispanic people after stopping them, a recent study shows.

The Community Foundation’s civic participation and giving survey shows our county’s residents feel we are least open to minorities, immigrants and refugees compared with any other subgroup, and we are not very accepting of senior citizens either.

Institutions across our county, including this Community Foundation, are increasingly prioritizing equity in their work. Is this intention leading to a more inclusive community with more equitable outcomes for the most vulnerable and marginalized among us?

Everywhere we look, there’s work to do. Our charitable giving rates are well below the national average. This is driven, in part, by residents not seeing the needs around them and not knowing enough about what local nonprofits are doing to address those needs, our survey finds.

More and more, the Community Foundation is hearing a theme emerge as it listens to members of our community. People feel disconnected. Lonely. They are yearning for the sorts of relationships with one another that might increase awareness of our community’s needs.

The 2020 Census provides communities across the country with an opportunity to get to know each other a little better. So much depends on a complete and accurate count, including this very report, which relies on the census for a majority of its data.

The good news is that communities are strengthened every day, one new relationship at a time. Atkinson had only lived in Boulder for nine months before his run-in with police. But he says he plans to stay, because of the great relationships he’s already made, and the support he feels by many who are calling for change.

“I just feel grateful to be a part of some sort of possible reform,” he said. “It’s good to be in a situation where we’re able to do some good.”

by Chris Barge