Citizens Proejct Response to Colorado Springs Anti-Refugee Resolution

On March 7, 2016 Colorado Springs Council Member Pico presented imagesresolution “declaring opposition the the relocation of refugees from the United States Refugee Resettlement Program to the City of Colorado Springs.” Citizens Project was quick to respond by contacting every Council Member to express deep concern. The resolution is not currently on the City Council Agenda, which is a small success. We look forward to being an important part of a needed community conversation about how to best welcome and resettle refugees in our community.
The following letter to the editor was published in The Gazette on March 11, 2016.
Since our inception, Citizens Project has championed respect for diversity and has taken action to ensure that everyone in our community is treated equally and fairly. We aspire to create a community in which people from every walk of life and religion come together to call Colorado Springs home. The resolution introduced in our City Council chambers this week puts at risk the tireless efforts of community members over decades to build our reputation as an open and welcoming city. Put simply, we believe that it is never appropriate to encourage exclusionary behavior.

It is essential that policy reflect the will of the whole community, and the resounding outcry against the resolution was a strong indication that the proposed policy was neither a solution to a real problem nor representative of the views of the community. We at Citizens Project were heartened that City Council members listened to the people they represent at this week’s meeting, and we are prepared to lead conversations to ensure deeper understanding of the complex issues surrounding Syrian refugee resettlement.

Our approach is to gather as much information as possible about a situation and then engage in thoughtful community dialogues. Citizens Project is eager to engage with state agencies, local agencies, faith communities, and citizens to come together to learn about the scope of Syrian refugee resettlement in our community. We hope to work together to develop solutions and ideas about how we can best accept these families and ensure that they are welcomed and supported. As always, our process will be open and inclusive to all input. Colorado Springs residents can expect us to host more events like the recent panel discussion that we co-sponsored with the Colorado Springs World Affairs Council, “Understanding Muslim Communities At Home and Abroad” and we encourage all people to be informed and engage.

We are better as a community when we don’t allow ourselves to be reduced to fear-based reaction, and we need all voices at the table to ensure that our formal – and informal – policies represent the wholeness and diversity of our community.

Deb Walker, Citizens Project


VIDEO: Citizens Project Vision for the Future, 2015


This video was featured at the June 2015 Creating Community Breakfast. Featuring interviews from Jody Alyn, Don DeAngelis, Alison Garscadden, Bernie Herpin, Rosemary Lytle, Mary Lou Makepeace, Jan Martin, and Jariah Walker. Citizens Project is excited to be a vital part of the future of the Pikes Peak region!

We invite you to be a part of OUR future!

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.

The Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion has Something to say for Anti-LGBT Propaganda at the Olympics

We’re pretty fond of the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion’s response to much of Russia’s anti-LGBT propaganda surrounding this year’s Olympic Games:

Watch the video on Buzzfeed here




“Transgender People Are Paying The Price For The Media’s Willful Ignorance”

Buzzfeed, often known for its listicles and pop culture reporting, recently posted an article entitled “Transgender People are Paying the Price for the Media’s Willful Ignorance,” where author Saeed Jones points out the media’s clear disinterest in transgender issues lest they “are in prison, brutalized or dead.” Jones’s blunt critique of the media’s portrayal of transgender people and their lives is one that everyone should take to heart and remember next time some article conveniently “forgets” that the person it’s reporting on is first and foremost a person and not not a way to sell papers.

Happy End of the Gregorian Calendar Year!

By Anya Arndt

***Disclaimer: It’s “War on Christmas”-time again, and I’m sick of it. So if you think the “War on Christmas” is a real thing, you should probably stop reading here, because I’m about to take on “Happy Holidays” as well, and explain to you why that too should be removed from casual conversation with strangers.

It’s the “Holiday Season,” and as we grow accustomed to the inundation of society with red and green, it’s sometimes easy to forget how uninclusive even a wish of “Happy Holidays” can be. The “Christmas Spirit” permeates society, and in the back corner at Target, we see a small Hanukkah section that reminds us not everyone appreciates a wish of “Merry Christmas.” But “Happy Holidays” doesn’t do the trick either. While you may be hard pressed to find someone who outwardly takes offense to “Happy Holidays,”  the term still illustrates a relative lack of understanding of religious diversity in this country and of the variety of holidays celebrated throughout the entire year.

While ranking holidays in order of most important to least important in a given religion seems pretty arbitrary, if one were to go about that, he or she would find that December is actually home to only two high-ranking holidays: Christmas and Winter Solstice (Christian and Pagan, respectively). While Judaism is represented in December with Hanukkah, the eight-day festival doesn’t compare in significance to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, or Passover. Additionally, because the scheduling of Hanukkah is based on the Hebrew calendar and not the commercially used Gregorian calendar, Hanukkah doesn’t always even take place entirely in the month of December (this year, Hanukkah is from November 27th to December 5th[1]). December is also home to Bodhi Day (on the 8th), celebrated by some Buddhists, but again, once that day has passed, “Happy Holidays” really isn’t a very inclusive greeting. While Kwanzaa is also celebrated in December, it is not associated with any one particular religious or spiritual tradition, and is not widely celebrated as a result.[2] So if you wish someone “Happy Holidays” in late December, you are basically assuming that he or she could only be either Christian or Pagan.

To emphasize my point, I’d like to offer a brief, and by no means exhaustive, list of religions that do not have holidays during the month of December: Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam (though Ramadan occasionally falls during December depending on the lunar calendar), Baha’ism, Jainism, Shintoism, Native American religions, atheism[3], Zoroastrianism, etc. All of these faith traditions are present in the United States, and all of them are essentially excluded by the greeting, “Happy Holidays.”

To be fair, I will probably inappropriately wish many people “Happy Holidays” for the entirety of the month of December, seeing as it tends to be rude to not return the greeting in our society. But I do believe that it is important to acknowledge that the wishing of “Happy Holidays” is just as Christian-centric as “Merry Christmas,” albeit a bit more discreetly.

So if you really want to be inclusive, try wishing your Muslim friends “Eid Mubarak” on Eid al-Adha (In 2014, this will be October 4-5). Or maybe wish someone Jewish “L’shanah Tova” on Rosh Hashanah (September 24-26, 2014).  If you have Buddhist friends, you can wish them a Happy Vesak Day (May 13th in 2014). I could go on with this list and I acknowledge that in not doing so, I’m excluding a whole host of religious traditions (but I don’t want to bore you, so I welcome you do some googling yourself to wish your friends well on their most important holidays or visit the BBC’s interfaith calendar).

My point is, it is important to understand that while the “Holiday Season” can be incredibly stressful for families celebrating Christmas, it can be incredible alienating for families who don’t. So let this serve as a reminder to be respectful of everyone you come across in the month of December, and maybe just wish them a good day, with a smile, like we all should on every day of the year.

[1] November 26th is thus “Thanksgivikkah,” if you will.

[2] I do not mean to offend by devoting little time to Kwanzaa in this piece, as it is a legitimate celebration of African heritage in African-American culture, but since it is not associated with any particular religion, it is not a “holiday” in the traditional religious sense of the word.

[3] While some atheists celebrate Christmas as a cultural tradition in the U.S., many do not. I am also not making any claims on whether or not atheists see themselves as part of a faith tradition by placing them in this list, seeing as some do and some do not, I am simply pointing out that atheism traditionally does not include a celebration of the birth of Christ as a spiritually significant celebration.

A Note from Our Friends at Inside/Out

Dear friends of Inside/Out,

Immediately following the fire that engulfed our Inside/Out home earlier this year, so many of you stepped forward to help. We were inspired and humbled to see our community standing in solidarity with our incredible youth, and I can’t begin to thank you enough for your generosity of time, talent, and treasure.

Because of you, Inside/Out Youth Services:

  • Raised more than $90,000 at our recent Ally Up! Breakfast event, ensuring our fiscal health and ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances;
  • Has a temporary home at the Tim Gill Center for Public Media, allowing the 512 young people we serve annually to be themselves in a safe environment;
  • Continues to offer youth programs three times a week with the help of more than 27 dedicated volunteers;
  • Has secured a safe space for drop-ins once a week Friday between 11am – 5pm at 322 N. Tejon Street, Suite 225 to enable us to provide services to youth in crisis; and
  • Will continue to convene the Pikes Peak Safe @ School Coalition 3rd Tuesday of the month at 3480 Centennial Blvd. and present trainings to local educators on how to protect LGBTQ students in their classrooms and beyond.

But of course, Inside/Out still has many needs, and I write today to invite you to help us move forward into a brighter future for the young people we serve. Five specific needs we have are:

Thank you again for all you’ve made possible for our incredible and resilient Inside/Out youth. Your generosity gives me – and the young people we serve – confidence that tomorrow will be brighter than we can imagine.

Amy, Board Chair at Inside/Out

Everybody Welcome Week: August 117th-17th

Everybody Welcome: A Celebration of Culture and Diversity is a City of Colorado Springs sponsored week long celebration of the richness of our community. The week begins with a festival, a FREE Family event showcasing the diversity of talented local performers, artisans, cultural craftsmen through distinct activities and exhibits, educating the community wherein difference is looked upon as an asset, and where curiosity and a desire to engage are the first response to difference. Educational programs throughout the week include Bridging Military to Community, Latino and Asian Community Luncheons and an Immigration Symposium. The week concludes with the Cotton Club, a celebration of our community history and a salute to Fannie Mae Duncan.

11th: World at the Peak Festival, America the Beautiful Park 10am-4pm
12th: Community Dialogue, East Library 6-8pm
12th: Human Library, East Library
13th: Bridging Military to Community, Gates Common Room, Palmer Hall (Colorado College) 3-5pm
14th: Latino Community Luncheon, Hotel Elegante 11:30am-1pm
15th: Asian Pacific Community Luncheon, Antlers Hilton 11:30am-1pm
16th: Immigration Symposium, Colorado Springs Utilities Leon Young Center 12-4pm
17th: Cotton Club, Stargazer’s Theater and Event Center 8pm-Midnight

everybody welcome logo

For more information on all of these events, click here. For a copy of the flier, click here.