By Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media (see photo gallery below)
“It is critical that we preserve all the civil rights legislation and movements over the past 50+ years. We need to collectively strategize and prohibit any efforts from destroying any civil rights protections that are in place,” said Veronica Barela at this year’s Civil Rights Awards “Beyond Borders” event held at the Denver Center for Performing Arts, Seawell Grand Ballroom on October 19th
Barela, who serves as President and CEO of NEWSED a community development organization based in West Denver said “The civil rights movement is more than a historical event worthy of reflection it is an ever present reminder of the strength and influences that our collective humanity creates in times of uncertainty and injustices in which we live,”
Speaking to a capacity audience Barela referring to Present Trump as #45, said “He has opened up race hatred we have not seen in decades. He has triggered massive demonstrations that have erupted in cities across the nation since his election to resist his inappropriate presidential racist and hating behavior. #45 has signed an executive order that could destroy the health care for millions, ICE is everywhere, Puerto Rico has been devastated and he throws paper towels at a staged event. He has proposed an end to DACA.” Barela noted that former President Barrack Obama has called the proposal wrong, self-defeating and cruel saying “We should not threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own and pose no threat and are not taking away anything from the rest of us.”
Locally, Barela praised a Denver city ordinance that limits how city works with federal immigration officials and bans city officials from asking arrested individuals their immigration status. She said because of the ordinance the city will also ignore U.S. immigration & custom enforcement detainer requests and bans ICE from conducting in person jail interviews without a warrant.
Near the end of her speech Veroncia Barela announced to the crowd her retirement from NEWSED at the end of this year drawing a collective gasp the surprised audience. Barela has led the organization since 1977 (40 years) she is recognized for her skills in housing development, community-based economic development, community organizing, special events, promoting arts and culture, and civil rights work.
Barela has provided numerous affordable housing opportunities for local residents through creating programs that buy, rehabilitate, construct, sell and/or rent single and multi-family housing developments. In addition, her efforts have led to the creation of hundreds of new businesses and thousands of jobs in the Santa Fe Drive business corridor in Denver’s West Side. She has led NEWSED’s production of the Cinco de Mayo Festival, El Grito, Civil Rights Awards and many others. Her vision for NEWSED has always been to improve the quality of life of residents of Denver through a comprehensive approach to community building.
Recipients of this year’s Civil Rights Awards “Beyond Borders” are: (text taken form awards program)
HANS MEYER “When you are convinced your cause is just, you fight for it.” -Rigoberta Menchu
Because everyone deserves a better future. Because we all live, struggle and create and every contribution is precious. Because if we do not stand up for what is right, no one will. Thank you for your commitment to excellence, your proven leadership and advocacy. Your work has been essential to the well being and safety of countless people.
QUSAIR MOHAMEDBHAI Agile and astute, sharp and shrewd: you have been called a Colorado Super Lawyer dedicated to eliminating discrimination. You are a formidable foe of anyone who threatens the civil rights and liberties of Colorado’s most disenfranchised communities.
Your determination to make the world a better place for the next generation resounds in everything you do. Thank you for being a leader who enforces high standards, demands accountability and generates social reform. Your integrity and commitment to social justice is unrivaled.
THE FIRST UNITARIAN SOCIETY OF DENVER “Love isn’t about what we did yesterday; it’s about what we do today and tomorrow and the day after” – Grace Lee Boggs
Love is expansive and it is spacious. It is resilient and it is determined. It is hopeful and it is strong. Our determination to effect social change is rooted in love. Together, we learn to question, to accept, to include. Together we become the change we want to see in the world: together we act upon it.
RAMONA E. MARTINEZ Five generations of Colorado pride and determination ripple through your exemplary civic engagement and public service. You demonstrate what one person, genuinely committed to advancing the rights of all people can accomplish. Dolores Huerta said, “Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.” The words of Dolores Huerta resonate in your work. We are grateful for your service.
ADAPT The legendary impact of ADAPT is rooted in the willingness of its members to risk and sacrifice to raise awareness, change policy and practices and increase access for people with disabilities. Martin Luther King Jr. said “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.” ADAPT demonstrates what is possible when courage and commitment win the day.
Photos by Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media