The following is Brave’s official position statement concerning the name of our Northeast Denver community. Also see this CBS news piece highlighting our position.
The Brave Coalition is a Northeast Denver-based non-profit formed by women in the community following a hate graffiti incident at Isabella Bird Community School in 2016. Our mission is to build more inclusive communities where all people can live their fullest lives regardless of identity or circumstance.
According to History Colorado, former mayor Benjamin Stapleton was a high-ranking KKK member who used his position to promote Klan interests during his time in office (1923-31 and 1935-47). Contrary to popular reports, there is no documentation of him recanting his membership or white supremacist views. Nevertheless, when the time came to turn the airport named to honor Stapleton into a neighborhood, the Stapleton name was carried over.
The Brave Coalition supports changing the name of this community as an important step to making our neighborhood a welcoming, diverse, and safe place for all. Here’s why:
History matters and impacts the present. We believe that this issue should be viewed in its context: our city’s history of systemic racism, antisemitism, and homophobia designed to exclude certain people from the most “desirable” neighborhoods. From outright bans, to discriminatory loan programs, to more subtle messages, let’s end the cycle of unwelcome. This is as important now as ever, as incidents of hate are still prevalent in Denver.
Symbols matter and impact hearts and minds. A name change is not equity or inclusiveness, and it should not be a substitute for those goals. But symbols do help to build the environment in which we decide who will be valued, heard, and honored. The environment in which we decide who “we” are. We love our community, and we agree with many community members that the name should reflect our positive vision for the future.
People matter. We believe those who say that they are harmed by the Stapleton name, and that the community should come together and take the steps necessary to end that harm. As the proverb goes, while the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the next best time is right now. Moreover, the claimed financial sacrifice is not at all clear and shouldn’t deter people from choosing to re-name our community. While property owners are being asked to vote to pay for a name change, the truth is no one has outlined what the public costs would be, how those costs would be allocated, and why they would have to be incurred all at once.
Recognizing that not everyone will agree with our position, we believe all can agree that property owners should be aware of the process and vote on the issue. Developers like Forest City have a powerful role in our neighborhood community association (MCA) voting, as they also pay into the MCA. However, they have commercial incentives to oppose a name change and they are not long-term community members. We shouldn’t stand on the side while decisions are made about where we live.