On Cinco de Mayo, 2021, faculty and staff from each of the four institutions co-hosted a virtual Zoom event called, “20th Century Displaced Aurarians: Honoring the Past to Plan for the Future.” The event featured a four-person panel comprised of displaced Aurarians and community activists telling their stories about the history of the Auraria neighborhood and their experience around the displacement that occurred to build this campus in the 60s/70s. After the panel, participants broke out into their choice of two breakout rooms aimed at discussing ways the current Auraria higher education campus can better honor the history of displacement that occurred.
The first breakout discussion centered around utilizing public history projects and transforming public spaces to make the historical Auraria neighborhood more visible on campus. The second breakout discussion centered around improving community engagement in Auraria’s planning processes. (The video above features the panel and breakout room #1. We are working to get notes transcribed and consolidated for breakout room #2, which we were unable to record). While there have been many discussions, working groups and organizations talking about Auraria’s history and displacement over the years, the aim of this panel was to bring to life the complex histories of the campus (particularly for community members that may not have known) and to engage the community in a discussion of how to heal and honor these deep wounds moving forward.
The event ended up having an impressive turnout, topping out at 183 participants! This turnout and the lively chat discussion that ensued demonstrated a strong community desire to continue learning and discussion about this issue. The organizers of the event—while only a handful of random and passionate faculty and staff from across the four institutions—recognize this desire and felt responsible for equipping interested participants with a means to continue these important conversations. The remainder of this webpage is our best attempt at accomplishing that!
There were four notable desires for “next steps” that emerged from the May 5th conversation:
1. Continuation of the Displaced Aurarians Scholarship (continued funding and better advertisement)
2. Better commemoration of Auraria’s history on campus (a community/memorial garden? Better memorials along 9th street park? Public art along the future 5280 Trail that acknowledges prior Arapaho, Cheyenne and Latin-American habitation of this land?)
3. A space (physical and emotional) for Displaced Aurarians to grieve the trauma caused by displacement (and to be heard) and/or a space to reconvene, reminisce and reconnect with fellow Displaced Aurarians
4. Ways to connect with other community members/groups working on this issue and coalesce efforts moving forward
The organizers of this event convened on May 14th to debrief and determine how we can facilitate these action steps and the connection that many participants seemed to crave. As mentioned previously, this event was organized by faculty and staff from different departments across the four institutions who have come to learn and care about the history of displacement that occurred in the neighborhood that is now the Auraria campus. We are not appointed spokespersons for the institutions we represent, nor their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Offices, scholarship offices, etc. As such, we plan to share the video recording, notes and recommended action steps in a letter to the executive leadership at the four institutions. We want this letter to reflect your desires.
If you have any additional ideas or comments to share with the organizers about the event itself or desired next steps and/or if you'd like to get in contact with other event attendees, please head to this google form!
To those that attended, thank you all for showing up and joining the conversation.
For those who are just learning about the history of displacement on the Auraria campus, this Rocky Mountain PBS Documentary is a great recap to get you started. The Auraria campus has a complicated history, and we are working to come together as a One Auraria community to better acknowledge it.