“in community, our potential is truly realized…we have the capacity to hold each other, serve each other, heal each other, create for and with each other, forgive each other, and liberate ourselves and each other.” – adrienne maree brown, “in relationship with others” blog post, July 7, 2009
The rapid worldwide spread of COVID-19 greatly transformed our communities as the healthcare, and subsequent economic, crisis unfolded last year, compounding impact disparities that our BBIPOC partners face ongoingly, while highlighting the fragility of the systems upon which we collectively depend. The resilience of our region continues to be challenged amidst uncertainty, a dearth of clear and accurate information, lack of access to goods and services (including vaccines), and overall isolation. However, if there is one lesson that continues to shine through for us all to learn from, it is that hyper-local, community-driven solutions that build true community power and shared wealth are the keys to equitable, resilient and restorative systems where everyone not only survives, they thrive.
The indispensable role of community and its collective power has been tragically called forth by the pandemic and beautifully displayed through emergency response efforts of community groups such as the Colorado Changemakers Collective, also known as the Colectiva Creando Cambios, CCC, or Colectiva. This Montbello-based group was created in 2018 with a long-term vision of community transformation that is grounded in the belief that those most affected by social inequalities must be central to the work that has to be done. In 2020, the critical nature of Colectiva’s work was laid bare, as they quickly mobilized community partners to meet the emerging needs of the Latinx community, including access to basic needs and food.
We learned about Colectiva’s journey by way of our community partners, Montbello Organizing Committee (MOC), who were integral contributors to the collective response. We were eager to learn more and have them share their experience at a community gathering on Zoom in February. At the gathering, Maricruz Herrera, founder of Colectiva, gave a heart-felt, up close and personal account of their COVID-19 Community Response Network’s fast evolving work throughout last year, as 13 separate neighborhood organizations banded together to create a resourceful response network that worked tirelessly to meet the emergency needs of community as our region locked down to curb the coronavirus outbreak. To date, they have served over 2,500 families in Denver, Westminster, Aurora, Commerce City, Rifle, and beyond!
In a very short period, the Montbello community mobilized its network – a net that works; a net that has always worked but has been hindered by systemic barriers – by connecting community members to resources through trusted relationships. La Colectiva’s powerful engine was driven by the work of community navigators or promotoras and fueled by local volunteers and funders, including The Denver Foundation, Mile High Connects, and COVID relief funds. As our communities continue to recover and redefine normal, we can no longer collectively turn our gaze from the disproportionate impacts of concurrent crises on BBIPOC communities, nor can we afford to miss any opportunity to support and build on the wisdom of and solution in community centered response.
It is time to learn from community and support their tried-and-true efforts, like Colectiva’s COVID-19 Community Response Network. In partnership with Colectiva, Montbello Organizing Committee, and many other local community serving organizations, Mile High Connects is committed to its community stewardship where our work centers community, responding to immediate local needs while elevating local voice in recovery and redevelopment. Our goal is to unlock community power through greater local control, community ownership, and preservation of place, and we must heed the pathways to liberation that communities keep showing us.