New Local Coalition Delivers Anti-Racism and Equity Petition to Chaffee County Elected Officials
More than 1,500 people have signed a petition (https://www.change.org/p/call-for-a-statement-on-equality-from-chaffee-county-leaders) calling on elected officials in Chaffee County to issue statements about inequalities and racism that exist in the community. Today, the newly formed Community Equity Coalition, which is currently housed within the Ark Valley Equality Network, remotely “delivered” the petition to the Salida, BV and Poncha Springs City Councils, as well as the Chaffee County Commissioners. Concurrently, the petition will be presented to the Salida CIty Council at their bi-weekly meeting on Tuesday night. The petition asks for a statement from the elected bodies about what current inequities and racism exist in the community, and what action steps should be taken to correct those problems.
The petition authors state, “Systemic racism is pervasive in our world, our country, in Colorado, and in Chaffee County. It is part of our history and institutions…it is embedded in each of us. But as current events have shown, silence is no longer an option. We must speak openly and honestly about racism and inequality. And we must work together for change. Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) have been subject to harassment, hate, and threats - here in Salida, in Poncha Springs, and in BV. They do not always experience Chaffee County as a safe place to live. That is something that should feel personal to all of us.”
Kimi Uno, local Salida business owner of Howl Mercantile, and one of the organization’s founders, says that local leaders need to join forces to identify and dismantle systemic inequalities. “As a mother, as a community member, and as a business owner, I’m concerned about whether Chaffee County is a safe and equitable environment for Black, Indigenous and People of Color. This includes tourists, who fuel our economy, and locals alike. I know folks in Chaffee County have big hearts and I encourage my community to open their eyes and ears to the stories of People of Color and their experiences with racism.”
As an outcome from the petition, local organizers hope for better and more frequent dialogue with City and County leaders about racism and equity. Jimmy Sellars, Director of Programs and Policy of the Ark Valley Equality Network says, “Some say they don’t see racism in Chaffee County. But that is a privilege held by those in a community that is 94 percent white. As long-time advocates for LGBTQ+ people, we have long been ringing alarm bells about inequities in Chaffee County. Racism is another way that inequity is manifested. And as we open this conversation, we are hearing from our Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other friends of color about mistreatment and discrimination here in our County.”
Chaffee County residents, tourists, business owners, second-home owners and community leaders signed the petition, citing various reasons. One local business owner shared, “Chaffee County should be a safe community for BIPOC to live and recreate within. Rural America has a long history of racism. It's past time our leaders and citizens of Chaffee County took a stand against White Supremacy and Inequality. This is not just a fad. This is a demand.”
Another Chaffee resident said, “I have seen acts of racism in our community and see the quiet conversations that allow racist behavior to continue. It is time to take a stand and create an anti-racist community which works toward equity for all our diverse neighbors.”
The Community Equity Coalition is a burgeoning group of local activists interested in identifying, and addressing, systemic inequalities in our community. The group is currently hosting a series of discussions about how inequalities manifest in various sectors – including education, government, housing, law enforcement and healthcare. To find out more, join the Facebook Community Equity Coalition group or visit www.communityequitycoalition.org