/ Oh my! Oh my!

Walk Saturday 11-13-2016

OH MY! OH MY!  Of all the walks, we have done over the past 27 months what Chief Mike Butler’s initiated renewed walk in a Longmont East side predominately Latino neighborhood how wonderful this last Saturday was! And I needed this walk so very much to lift my spirits and it did lift my spirits big time! We met and talked to many Latinos and others who have worries, about what may be happening because of the election. And made me feel so very good when Mike talked to Socorro the Latina lady who was worried big time as to what may be happening to her daughters and Mike consoled her and told her not to worry that they will not need to go to Canada! and how wonderful it was when Mike made her husband Jose Manuel an elderly Latino who had a stroke and who Socorro invited us to meet at their casa and Mike made him feel oh so good! And Mike made the others we met to feel they belonged that it was going to be okay! 

And oh, my, how great a feeling to have Jake, Alicia and Jessica there with us talking to those we met and helping them cope with their worries and fears. And a personal huge thanks to Jake, Alicia and Jessica for helping me to cope with my personal stresses over past racial issues that I have dealt with as the memories were coming back to haunt me! And of course, to Mike who also has been helping me continually for one hell of a long time to cope with my continuing fear of racial issues coming back to haunt us! ,,,he da man!!!

YES it’s going to be okay! Because we together have for decades worked together to make us Longmonter’s know and feel that we for sure “BELONG” 

And huge thanks to our great City Leaders who have made Longmont such a caring, beautiful and inclusive city! and YES everyone we have met and talked to all love Longmont!!!

 

Mike's Perspective

Dan and I decided to walk a neighborhood in which the vast majority of people were Latino. It also happened to be the first neighborhood we walked way back in July of 2014. At one point, years ago, it was a neighborhood in which no police officer would enter by her or himself. Our police received 200 calls for service every month in this small neighborhood. As a result of a great partnership between the residents, the management of the apartment complex and police, this neighborhood receives about 5 calls for service. Everyone we spoke to felt safe in their neighborhood. Many of those we met lived in this neighborhood for 10-15-20 years. We were also honored to have Jessica, Jake and Alicia walk with us. Each of them added the beautiful flavors of their personalities to our conversations!

Having said that, what we encountered were powerful post-election emotions. For certain folks, their feelings of fear, abandonment, being ostracized and uncertainty were visceral.

Dan and I will continue to focus on Latino neighborhoods in our future walks.  



Jake Matlak
Associate Director of Programs, 
Philanthropiece Foundation, Inc. 

The Belonging Revolution team decided to change it up this past weekend and walk on Saturday instead of Sunday to avoid conflict with those Broncos. I had the honor of once again joining Dan and Mike, as well as Jessica and Alicia, to walk through the Stonehenge community on Martin street. This was the first walk since the national elections, and we knew that tensions were high. Dan and Mike decided to return to one of the first communities they had visited years earlier in an effort to connect with Longmont's Latino population.  

Along with millions of people across our country, this segment of our population finds itself directly in the cross hairs of an ugly surge of hateful rhetoric and violent behavior inspired by our new president-elect. Many of us our wondering what to expect next. The Latino population in particular is already experiencing the repercussions. Our community members are experiencing everything from disrespectful language in the schools to flatly being denied service at local businesses because of their ethnicity. More than anything, a sense of fear and uncertainty has overtaken many families. "Will my parents be home when I return from school or will they be apprehended? Will I be separated from my children? Is it safer to flee the country now while I can do it safely? Will my DACA application be used to track me down and deport me?" 

The Belonging Revolution has never been needed as much as now. Residents of Longmont and the entire nation are confused and scared and bewildered. Now is the time to reinforce the bonds that make us a community. Now is the time to stand up for that community. There is no space for hatred or bigotry. We must be bold and resolute. I witnessed this resolve in both Dan and Mike on Saturday as well as at the community meeting held Monday night at Casa de la Esperanza. These two men reaffirmed their commitment to all residents of Longmont. "You are all welcome, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, immigration status, or anything." They could say this without hesitation and then back it up with the legal power of the Chief of Public Safety as well as the mayor and City Council members who also attended Monday's meeting. "Your immigration status does not matter here. You are here and you are part of the community. We will protect you like every other member of this community. You are not alone."

My walk on Saturday both saddened and inspired me. Nobody deserves to be treated like this. Nevertheless, now is not the time to retreat into fear and sadness. Now is the time to resist the hatred and to support our fellow community members. Thank you Dan and Mike for leading the way. We all must now play our part and take responsibility for the Belonging Revolution.    

 

Alicia Zezza Conte
Youth Global Leadership Program Coordinator

Last Saturday, I had the honor of participating in a neighborhood walk with Mike, Dan, Jessica Dancingheart, and my colleague Jake. I participated in a neighborhood walk for the first time back in February, and something that struck me then were the simple yet salient questions that Dan and Mike asked each community member who they came into contact with.

How do you feel about the Longmont community?

Do you feel like you belong?

Have you ever had any interactions with the police? If so, how did that interaction go?

This weekend, however, Mike and Dan added another question to the mix:  important.

Have you been discriminated against or noticed acts of discrimination in the last week?

All of the stories that community members shared on Saturday impacted me deeply, but the one that sticks with me the most is that of a young woman who is a sophomore at Longmont High.

When we first asked her if she’s felt discriminated against, she said no; however, when we started to talk with her more she opened up and shared many instances of how she’s been the target of bullying and hate speech in the classroom. She shared with us that as a Latina, she’s use to being discriminated against. However, she feels like discrimination against students of color at school has noticeable increased in the wake of the recent presidential election. She also spoke about what it’s like to know that racism pervades the classroom and that in order to get through the day, get good grades, and continue to work hard so that she can accomplish her goal of becoming a dental hygienist, she has to “pick and choose her battles.” Sometimes, this means defending herself when peers tell her to “pack her bags and go back to Mexico.” Often times, though, it means being silent.

There were many stories shared with us from Latino community members who detailed experiences of discrimination, deportation, and families being torn apart. To these stories, Mike and Dan firmly and loving responded, you matter to us, and we are going to fight to keep our community together. While words must be paired with action, I know that their words are an important start.

In the wake of the presidential election, these neighborhood walks are one of the most important things we can be doing. Talking to our neighbors. Asking critical questions. Turning towards one another with compassion and engaging in dialogue. Listening, listening, listening, and then listening some more. And while I feel a deep sense of despair and rage when hear stories of racism, I will not be paralyzed by these feelings. As a white woman who benefits from racism, I will leverage my privilege to fight for a more just and equitable world. I will be intolerant of intolerance. I will mobilize, organize and strategize other white allies//accomplices and with the Boulder County youth whom I work with. I will condemn hate speech. I will continue to seek out and listen to the stories of marginalized and oppressed members of our community. I will continue neighborhood-walking and question-asking.

I was moved by all of the stories of everyday life, courage, love, loss and tenacity that were shared with us, and I continue to be moved by the power of the Belonging Revolution. There’s a lot of work to be done to end racism and all forms of oppression, and the Belonging Revolution is an inspiring approach to creating communities that are more inclusive, accepting, love-based, and equitable. We need even more creative approaches to healing, organizing and community building. We need new ways of relating to one another. After being a part of Saturday’s walk, I’m reminded of a quote from one of my favorite Adrienne Rich poems, “Natural Resources.”

My heart is moved by all I cannot save:

so much has been destroyed

I have to cast my lot with those

who age after age, perversely,

with no extraordinary power,

reconstitute the world.

Mike and Dan and many other local community members are re-constituting the world. They are walking, and in doing so, beginning to visualize a world that we haven’t yet seen.  I encourage you to join in and walk alongside them, too. We have a long road ahead of us.