Vandalism at a Denver elementary school that followed the election of President Donald Trump has sparked a positive reaction from the community.
Five Denverites founded the Brave Coalition in the wake of vandalism that hit particularly close to home: In November 2016, a swastika was painted on the doors of Isabella Bird Community School in northeast Denver. Immediately following the incident, city officials and the Jewish Life Center held an emergency conference, followed by a solidarity parade.
While Denver police and Denver Public Schools addressed immediate safety concerns at the meeting, a group of parents in the crowd wanted to do more, among them Katica Roy. Roy and some parents launched the Brave Coalition, a nonprofit focused on childhood inclusion and safety. City dignitaries including Mayor Michael Hancock and Councilman Albus Brooks attended the nonprofit's launch on March 23.
We caught up with Roy to find out more about the nonprofit's mission and to discuss solutions to racial and political tension in our city.
Westword: Tell us about the Brave Coalition.
Katica Roy: The Brave Coalition focuses on childhood inclusion and safety. We really do that in three ways: through outreach, through partnership and through education and involvement with the community. The goal is not to teach children; it is to teach adults. Ultimately, adults are responsible for their children and need to be the ones who can talk to them about the world.
When did you decide to form the Brave Coalition?
I am a parent. Two of my children go to the school. When I found out what happened at Isabella Bird, we have some Facebook groups and I posted on them. I said, "Look, I'm going to go meet with our elected officials, and you can join me." And the response was immediate. The idea is, we need to figure out how to partner across all levels. We worked with the Denver Police as well as Denver Public Schools security to figure out, how can we partner together? What can we do? Some of the more immediate things were the support of the solidarity parade and community memo.
Who in the government has been supportive, and who have you partnered with?
Christopher Herndon, our councilman for Stapleton, has been really supportive, coming out to the solidarity parade. We've had full support from the DPD, which is important, because they still haven't caught the perpetrators who vandalized Isabella Bird.
Do you have a formal partnership with the city?
I wouldn't say we have a formal partnership with them, but all of our elected officials have been remarkably supportive. We had reps from both senators' offices, as well as the police department, at the solidarity parade. Right now they are informal partnerships, but we've gotten tremendous support from Mayor Hancock, [Congresswoman] Diana DeGette. The commander of the district of the DPD was there, actually, which was amazing. Councilman Christopher Herndon was at the parade.
What is the goal of the nonprofit?
Bringing people together, that's why the Brave Coalition was born. The goal is to raise awareness, to shape mindsets and then to inspire action. Oftentimes, people want to do something but don't know what to do or don't know what would be the most impactful action to take. We want to make it easy for people to take that step. Our ultimate goal is to increase community engagement, really, to inspire positive action.
How can people get involved?
There will be several community events coming up that will be really cool. Go to bravecoaltion.com to find more info. Really, the two things we can use help with are donations and volunteers. We're a Colorado nonprofit so not yet tax-deductible, and also, we urge people to join us. We are looking for volunteers to help us. We are five people who started this, so to have more people within the community get involved would be amazing. We have different ideas of what that would look like. We do have something scheduled: a seminar on children's safety on May 13, which is different than the type of event that we did last week [March 23], which was a film screening with Mayor Hancock and Denise Soler Cox of Project Enye (Ñ). She's a Denverite, as well. She has a really powerful documentary about first-generation Latinos who were born here, the duality of growing up here, and we were able to screen her director's cut for the event.
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What do the students know about the hate crime? Is there tension at the school still?
That's a good question. When the hate graffiti happened, it happened the weekend before Thanksgiving, so the kids were on break. It wasn't like it was there when they returned, so the level of what children actually know is probably parent-specific. I know that for myself, when my children went back to school, I just told them there was going to be added security. I said if there's a drill, a lock-down drill, I just told them to listen. Because it might not be a drill.
What do you think the community needs right now?
The community is looking for what we've somewhat provided, and what that is will continue to evolve. We want to create an environment to talk about things that are really difficult to talk about. We are intentionally non-partisan. What we really want to do is tell different stories, provide people with the platform to speak about these uncomfortable things, embrace our common humanity and find common ground. It's about the willingness to work together.
So the Brave Coalition is non-partisan?
We felt like the pointing of fingers doesn't serve anyone. We are trying to hold people accountable, but ultimately, if we support people, we are stronger together. It's the idea that if we come together, we will send ripples out with strength to do this. Our children look to us to keep them safe. It's the job of the adults in the community to keep them safe, not just talk about it. We have to walk the walk, and that's what we're asking people to do.