A new grassroots coalition seeking to create equity and develop safe spaces for historically excluded and marginalized communities within Delta County is gaining momentum thanks to a number of businesses and organizations.
“This is kind of an extension from Decolonizing Delta County School District,” said organizer Marisa Edmonson. “We really wanted to look at how we could work with the community to support students of color and LGBTQ students in the district since we weren’t getting very far with some of our initial requests with the district.”
DC Cares (Delta County Cares) operating under the umbrella of The Learning Council aims to bring together organizations, business and citizens who have similar concerns about inclusivity in the county.
Edmonson said that at least two non-profit organizations in Paonia told DC Cares that potential interns or program residents of color or LGBTQ did not feel welcome in the area.
“DC Cares brought up all of those concerns that we’ve talked about for about a year now,” Edmonson said. “The goal is to have individuals, businesses and other organizations sign a coalition agreement saying that they are dedicated to making Delta County a safe and equitable place for everybody.”
Edmonson said anyone who joins the coalition will be required to pay yearly membership fees. The funds will then be redistributed, with half going to fund scholarships for students of color, first generation students and LGBTQ students for post high school education.
The second half of the dues will go to sponsor events that promote equity such the Mexican Heritage Day and the upcoming Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrated on the first day of November.
One goal of the recent Mexican Heritage Day sponsored by DC Cares and the Western Colorado Migrant Rural Coalition was to highlight the migrant workers’ contribution to the local agricultural community and food supply.
In addition to cultural events, DC Cares offers a number of educational events, workshops and DC Cares specific training.
One event on tap is a visit from the ACLU of Colorado in November to host talks around LGBT and racial issues in the area. The event will highlight “Know Your Rights” teaching individuals about their basic rights under the U.S. Constitution and civil rights laws.
First launched in April, DC Cares currently has over 20 members made up of businesses, individuals and organizations. Membership fees are based on the size of the business/organization and range from $50 to $150. To date, the group has raised over $2,000. Individuals, groups and businesses can join the coalition year round.
“The more people that sign on, the more economic power that we’ll have to continue our education initiatives to support students of color and support students in the district. Also, the more people that join DC Cares means more political power also,” Edmonson said.
DC Cares boldly advocates for radically equitable spaces and isn’t shy about tackling some very tough and touchy questions revolving around the demographics of Delta County.
“We’re just asking questions like why is the area so predominately white? It didn’t used to be back when the Ute nation lived here. Obviously some historical events have gone down and the colonization of this land has resulted in our current demographics which are pretty skewed to be predominately white. We have to start asking those questions and thinking about those things as we make this journey towards equity,” Edmonson said.
According to the 2020 census 81.2% of Delta County residents identify as white alone, non-Hispanic or Latin while 15.3% identify as Hispanic or Latin, 2% identify as two or more races, 1.4% identify as American Indian and Alaska Native alone and 0.9% identify as Black or African American alone.
DC Cares organizers say they expect some pushback and misunderstanding from the broader community, but hope to bring quality education about their equity work in Delta County and why it’s needed.
More information on DC Cares can be found at: The Learning Council website.