Justice for Black Coloradans, Community Orgs, and State Lawmakers Unveil Racial Justice Study Bill for 2024

Top priority bill for Black Democratic Legislative Caucus

 

Denver, CO – Today at the Blair Caldwell Library, state Senator and Vice Chair of the Black Caucus James Coleman, state Representative and Chair of the Black Caucus Jen Bacon and state Representative Leslie Herod, and a coalition of community organizations held a press conference to launch Justice for Black Coloradans and unveiled plans for a bill for the 2024 legislative session.

This bill would commission an independent taskforce to study injustices and disparities faced by Black Coloradans as a result of the impacts of slavery and systematic racism, and the degree to which the government may have played a role in these impacts. This study will help the State quantify and qualify inequities in health care, housing, education, the criminal justice system, and our economy, and help understand how these systems may interact with or amplify each other.

“Today marks a pivotal moment in our commitment to racial justice, as we unveil plans for a groundbreaking bill to establish an independent task force dedicated to commissioning a comprehensive study on the impact of systemic structures such as slavery and racism on Black Coloradans,” said state Senator and Black Caucus Vice Chair James Coleman (D-SD33).

“Today, we celebrate a triumph for democracy and inclusivity as Colorado embraces the importance of community input in shaping our future,” said state Representative and Black Caucus Chair Jen Bacon (D-HD7). “The bill establishing an independent task force ensures that the voices of Black Coloradans are heard and incorporated into the study, fostering a collaborative approach to dismantling systemic barriers.”

“This bill marks a resounding call for accountability and transformation,” said state Representative Leslie Herod (D-HD8). “Colorado embraces the responsibility of confronting the past to build a future where everyone, including Black Coloradans, can thrive without the weight of historical inequities.”

“We believe the legacy of slavery and ongoing systemic racism has harmed Black Coloradans – and all of us – in material ways across key issue areas from health care, to housing, to criminal justice, to education to economic mobility,” said Sade Cooper, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Collaborative Healing Initiative within Communities (CHIC). “Justice for Black Coloradans is a coalition of people and organizations from across Colorado, from all different faiths, backgrounds, and races that believes we have a responsibility and an opportunity to better understand how we got here, where we are, and where we need to go.”

“Black youth in Colorado have been and continue to be negatively affected by the impacts of ongoing systemic racism and slavery,” said Charlyn Moss, Founder & CEO of Working Within & Chief Operating Officer for EDA For Black Communities. “Whether it’s disparities in our K-12 education system, a lack of access to the funding necessary for higher education, or a criminal justice system that seems stacked against us, our generation deserves better.”

Though Colorado was not a slave state, slavery was only fully abolished in the state constitution in 2018, and our state’s history is still steeped in prejudice and discrimination. In fact, the Ku Klux Klan wielded immense power and influence at all levels of government, and sun down towns existed across the state where Black communities were not welcome and faced discrimination and the threat of violence. Today, only 25% of Black Coloradans have received a post-secondary degree, the Black maternal mortality rate has increased by 40%, nearly 50% of Black Coloradans are considered low-income, and Black Americans are five times more likely to be stopped by law enforcement.