Thursday, October 7, 2010

Colorado Activists Perform Public Storytelling to End Racial Profiling

“What’s your story?!?” shouted a group of 15 community activists in a busy public bus driving through downtown Denver, Colorado. Fellow bus riders’ attention turned to one activist narrating a true story about racial profiling gone horribly wrong; an older black man was beaten for supposedly not coming to a complete stop while driving. The rest of the actors chimed in with phrases of disbelief and demands for justice while handing out flyers.
This skit was part of a series of public activist theatre actions in Denver on September 30, 2010, planned and performed by representatives from several Colorado community nonprofit organizations as part of the National Week of Action of the Rights Working Group’s Racial Profiling: Face the Truth Campaign. The campaign’s goal is to achieve commitments at all levels of government to ban all forms of racial and religious profiling by law enforcement. Colorado nonprofit organizations Rights for All People and Colorado Progressive Coalition, the two Colorado core partners in the Rights Working Group campaign, recruited other groups to help plan this local action to educate the public through storytelling. Other organizations critical to this event’s success were Coloradans for Immigrants Rights (A project of the American Friends Service Committee) and the Colorado Anti-Violence Program.
Three narrations highlighted the devastating effects of racial profiling, the lack of police accountability, and the collaborations between local law enforcement and federal immigration on local communities. One skit told of a young woman’s pledge to never call the police again after her plea for help as a victim of domestic violence resulted in a notice of possible deportation. Another powerful story portrayed a gay man being illegally searched and verbally abused in a park; when the man went to file a complaint it was ripped up in front of him, leaving him with no choice but to speak out against the lack of enforcement of the systems put in place to protect individuals from profiling.
The 15 activists performed the skits in public locations including the Department of Human Services, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and the 16th Street Mall. Overall the group distributed flyers to and performed skits in front of over 150 people. The flyers asked members of the public to submit their own stories related to profiling and explained current Colorado profiling issues such as the possible implementation of the Secure Communities program and the recent passing of HB1201 which requires that police inform individuals of their right to not consent to a search. Postcards in support of the End Racial Profiling Act also gave Colorado individuals a way to take action at the federal level.
As the Rights Working Group continues to address profiling at the national level, Colorado organizations hope that this action is only one of many to educate the local public about the reality of profiling’s many forms and ask others to step forward, share their own story and speak out for change.
Contact Information:
Liz Hamel, Rights for All People: 303-893-3500,
Art Way, Colorado Progressive Coalition: 303-866-0908,

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