You live under a rock if you haven't heard about the Ink! Coffee incident in November, when a branch of the coffee chain in the Five Points neighborhood sparked outrage with a sidewalk sign that declared, “Happily Gentrifying the Neighborhood Since 2014.”
The insensitive advertisement — for which the company apologized — became a catalyst for a broader discussion about gentrification and displacement, culminating in a large protest on November 25, when hundreds of people gathered in front of the coffee shop at 2851 Larimer Street. City officials such as Mayor Michael Hancock and City Councilman Albus Brooks were taken to task by protesters who claimed they weren't doing enough for residents being priced out of Denver.
So what came of the protests?
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According to Tay Anderson, who organized the main demonstration in November: "You don't know what has just begun!"
On Saturday, January 13, a new coalition will host a Gentrification Summit from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Shorter Community AME Church, located at 3100 Richard Allen Court.
The result of more than a month's worth of planning, the free summit was organized by the Denver Community Action Network (DenverCAN), which formed in the wake of the Ink! Coffee episode. The event will host many of the same speakers as the November 25 protest, including Anderson, Lisa Calderón, Candi CdeBaca and Kayvan Khalatbari.
Calderón, a member of DenverCAN and the co-chair of the Denver chapter of the Colorado Latino Forum, says the Ink! outrage was about much more than a sign.
"I think people could relate to the painful tensions of a rapidly growing city without a whole lot of city response or acknowledgment that, 'Yes, we hear you about being priced out, we know your wages aren't high enough, the traffic is bad, etc.' The city has failed in realizing the opportunity to bring together the community,” says Calderón. "The [Ink!] moment was a launching point for something bigger. And that something bigger is a summit — not just for the sake of having a summit, but really to be the foundation for a movement.”
That movement will harness community power to challenge unresponsive politicians, pressure businesses to be socially responsible, and find creative housing solutions, she says.
Saturday’s summit kicks off with a welcome speech from Reverend Timothy Tyler of Shorter AME Community Church, followed by news from some of the speakers who participated in the November 25 Ink! protest.
The updates will include an introduction to DenverCAN, which has already coalesced long-established groups like the Colorado Latino Forum, Cross Community Coalition, GES Coalition, Ditch the I-70 Ditch, Project VOYCE, Black Lives Matter 5280, Indivisible Denver, Denver Food Rescue, All In Denver, Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance and the Shorter Community AME Church.
“It isn't that we're against change; we're against segregation and inequity," Calderón explains. "And everyone has been affected by gentrification. The question is, what will we bring to the table, and what are we willing to do as solutions?"
She says that attendees will be encouraged to break into smaller discussion groups in the afternoon.
"We've set it up to be very participatory, so if someone has an idea about how we should address gentrification, their voice will be heard,” she promises. “But we are also centering the experiences of people who have been displaced or who are at risk of being displaced. And disproportionately, these are people of color from historical communities and poor folks. So while everyone is welcome to come, we really want to put emphasis and prioritization on those voices. And those are really the voices that are creating this summit in the first place."
A Facebook event page for the summit gives the following descriptions of the four discussion groups:
1. Promoting Business Social Responsibility: What makes a good business owner and what elements should be included in good neighbor agreements? This session will explore how individual businesses can achieve a level of social responsibility by examining their hiring policies to reflect culturally diverse communities, developing community advisory boards, paying a living wage, preserving hubs of history and culture, and creating good neighbor funds to invest in local initiatives in order to develop better and more integrated ways of doing business with impacted residents.
2. Systemic Accountability - Holding Politicians Accountable through Direct Democracy: Even though Denver elections are non-partisan, the city is essentially run by a one party political establishment. Challenging those who look like us and sound like us, but who are not serving all of us us through policies that accelerate gentrification requires new leadership with fresh perspectives. This session will explore how to build the next wave of political leadership, identify current progressive candidates, and promote campaign funding mechanisms that do not rely on corporate money.
3. Developing Affordable and Accessible Home and Business Ownership Opportunities - Those who control the land control the power. Because communities of color and low-income residents have been destabilized by both public and private initiatives designed to deprive us of economic opportunity and home ownership access, it is time to create our own power base for wealth building. This session will explore various avenues to develop our own land and business ownership opportunities including community banks, co-op investment clubs, community development corporations, model inclusionary housing ordinances, housing bonds, land trusts, and zoning ordinances as all part of both short and long-term comprehensive solutions.
4. Cultural Preservation: A Celebration of Resistance - A key characteristic of neo-colonialist expansion is the renaming and remaking of communities of color. In order to reclaim and preserve our rich cultural legacies, it is imperative to connect the keepers of our historical memories with the next generation of expressionists. This session will be a multifaceted and interactive experience that will celebrate the various ways that we resist gentrification through creative forms of expression, while reinforcing the need to maintain our cultural hubs of identity.
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While the event will span six hours, Calderón expects that some people will come and go, and she says it’s possible to drop in on the summit midway through if necessary.
A few politicians, like city council members Debbie Ortega and Paul Lopez, have already promised to attend, but Calderón says that the entire summit is being organized separately from the city. “And there have been no overtures from city leaders saying, ‘We hear you. Let us know what we can do,'” she adds.
The overarching goal of the summit is to create a sustainable movement, and doing so with a leaderless structure that honors everyone's input. "We recognize that we don't have all the answers, but when you build collective power, you get thinking from unexpected places," Calderón says. “We want to be as representative as we can."
For more information about the summit, including how to register, visit the event's Facebook page.