THANK YOU for making the 2015 Creating Community Breakfast a success!

byJane Ard-Smith, Chair, Citizens Project Board of Directors

What an incredible journey this morning at Citizens Project’s Eleventh Annual Creating Community Breakfast! We looked at our past, through the eyes of Peg Bacon and Richard Skorman, we explored the Citizens Project of today through the inspiring words of Courtney Stone and Reverend Benjamin Broadbent, and we peeked into the future through the eyes of amazing community leaders. We capped it off with a performance by spoken word artist Idris Goodwin, who had the audience on their feet and cheering!

What could top that? I can think of three things – first, everyone in attendance helped create a vision for the community we’d like to see. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this future:

Second, we introduced the Citizens Project community to our new Executive Director, Deb Walker. As Acting Director, Deb has proven to be a thoughtful and articulate leader – we are confident that she will help us turn our shared vision for the future into a reality.

Finally, our amazing community responded in a big waywe raised $38,000 in new and increased pledges to Citizens Project. That’s in addition to the ongoing support from our wonderful CP family!

If you didn’t make it to the breakfast, don’t despair – you can still invest in the shared vision by making a donation making a donation HERE. Next week, we’ll post a video from the breakfast on our website.

Thanks to everyone who planned, participated in, and pledged support during the Creating Community Breakfast. Now let’s get to work!

Becoming Whole

By Sarah Musick

DSC_1906I had a lovely childhood. I sincerely did. My parents were hardworking, god-fearing, loving people with big imaginations. They taught my siblings and I that “If you can dream it, you can find a way to make it happen.” They took the twenty acres my grandfather gave them and built a stunning log cabin. It took them five years to complete. They cut 115 straight, tall, poplar trees to build our home.

In hindsight, they wanted their children to be like those poplar trees. Straight. And tall.

I aspired to follow in the footsteps of my father and my father’s father and become a Southern Baptist preacher. I couldn’t because I was a woman, so I settled on being a missionary instead.

I attended Jerry Falwell’s, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia: leader of the Moral Majority, a voice for the extremist conservative movement, a man who attacked the Purple Teletubby and Spongebob Squarepants for being gay.

Coincidentally, I also met my first girlfriend at Liberty University, while saving my virginity for my husband, of course.

My roommate and I were Resident Assistants. We were like dirty cops, writing girls’ tickets for short skirts and being late for curfew while sharing silent orgasms after the lights went out. Things were complicated. It ate away at me like a dark cancer. I dressed myself in guilt, shame and confusion daily.

I lacked authenticity in every way.

Eventually, I confided in our Resident Director about the relationship and she reported us. We were brought before the Dean of Women, separately. Scholarships were pulled. Our leadership responsibilities dissolved. We were both placed in corrective therapy with strict orders to have absolutely no contact with each other.

I completed my Bachelor’s degree quietly and with my head down in December of 2004.

Then, in January after a painful confession of my “sins” to my parents I was sent cross country to none other than Colorado Springs to receive ex-gay therapy at Focus on the Family. My parents felt this would protect my father’s reputation in his church and allow me to seek the help they thought I needed.

I was cooperative. I even tried.

My early days here were spent with a Gender Issues Analyst at Focus. I came here to be de-gayed through corrective therapy. I often joke that I flunked out of the Focus program. It’s simultaneously funny and horrifically sad.

During and after my time at Focus I came out to my parents at least three times. Finally, I told them how I was going to live my life and they chose to have no part in it. This realization was painful beyond belief.

Why do you live  in Colorado Springs? You wouldn’t believe the reasons that bring us here. AND the reasons that keep us here. This too is what makes our community beautifully vibrant.

In 2006, while working at my first full time job and racing mountain bikes I meet the woman of my dreams, in the 7-1-9.

I fell in love instantly but, truth be told, I was still a disaster. Erika’s perseverance, courage and kindness astounded me at every turn.

My now wife, whether recognized by law or not, is the most remarkably beautiful person I know.

In May of 2010, I attempted suicide. It was grand and by most measures I should not be here speaking to you. I spent that summer in an in-patient psychiatric unit. The doctors diagnosed me with severe, chronic depression due to an existential crisis –  their clinical analysis was spot-on, but it was my now wife who truly saved me: she found me just before I left this world and she pumped air back into my lungs and blood back into my heart, without breaking one rib..

Once I was through the worst of it I began to learn the power of community.The authenticity I had lacked for so long began to regenerate me from the inside and pieces of my life started to follow.

Something happens when you choose death over life and then fail. If you can get through the darkness, the color on the other side is brighter than you could ever imagine. Following months of hard work on myself I started looking for places to plug in. Ways to give to the community in which we had decided to remain and raise our family.

You’re here today because you or someone next to you values the work of Citizens Project. That’s why I’m here too. Over a year ago, I applied for a non-profit position with the Pikes Peak Equality Coalition. Around its table are a number of influential organizations with amazing missions and visions. Citizens Project is a among this group. My ability to turn twenty years of service in my father’s church into a future of service to this community, with no pretense, has been one of the biggest healing pieces I’ve experienced.

Openly professing my love to a woman has been another, and that too is something Citizens Project fights for: equality, diversity, and pride.

DSC_1909In May of 2012 Erika and I gathered with nearly a hundred family, friends and our brilliant son Jack to vow our love and lifelong commitment. Then, in November of 2013 we welcomed our gorgeous daughter, Wren, into the world. We know our family is a valued part of Colorado Springs and we devote ourselves to giving back to this community.

I, with the support of each of you, overcome much adversity and live an authentic life now. How vital it is to protect our rights of equality, diversity, religious freedom and simple humanity and to guard it for the next generation. You and I can create a better world. I know this because I am becoming whole. I belong here.

6 Unique Ways to Make a Difference and Support Citizens Project!

We’ve comprised a list of fun ways for you to help support Citizens Project and our mission, check them out:

1. Invite Citizens Project to come speak at your group or club meetings. We are experts on voting, anti-bullying measures, religious freedom and legal issues, and we can provide many ways to get involved in the community. Send us an email to find out how we can work together!

2. Donate to Citizens Project through AmazonSmile.

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3. Do you have a birthday, anniversary, graduation, or other gift-giving event coming up? Ask that donations be made to Citizens Project in lieu of traditional gifts.

4. Give to us through Colorado Gives. You can give online right now through Colorado Gives, without having to leave the comfort of your own home.

5. Ask your employer to provide workplace giving through Community Shares. With Community Shares, you can request that money from each paycheck go directly to Citizens Project. You designate the amount, and Community Shares takes care of the rest.

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6. Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram. Keep up to date with everything we’re up to, and share the good work with the rest of your social media networks.

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Creating Community Breakfast Raises over $51,000

DSC_1912More than 500 community members gathered to create community and celebrate diversity at Citizens Project’s tenth annual Creating Community Breakfast.  The breakfast highlighted the work Citizens Project is doing in the Pikes Peak region to promote equal rights, diversity, and religious freedom through separation of church and state, and civic engagement.

This event raised over $51,000 in general operating support for Citizens Project’s many programs including: candidate survey voter guides, its monthly publication Citizens Project Online News, and the Citizens Project Activist Network, which currently serves over 1,500 subscribers. Corporate and in-kind sponsorship for the event was provided by Cascade Investment Group, Platinum Relations, and The Colorado Springs Independent.

The Creating Community Breakfast featured a diverse array of speakers including: Heather Zambrano, Kristy Milligan, Lionel Washington, Emma Brachtenbach, Sarah Musick, and Siri Everett, with featured musical performance by Russ Ware, Crystal Lardy, Ryan Flores, and Yemi Mobolade.

The Creating Community Breakfast celebrated the role Citizens Project has played in creating a community which values diversity, equality and religious freedom. Citizens Project has worked tirelessly to combat extremism and promote respect for diversity in the Pikes Peak region seen since its inception in 1992.