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//A vigil for victims of COVID-19 was held on the steps of the Colorado Capitol Building on Dec. 24. Black Hammer, the group that held it, also provided food, cold weather clothing and KN95 masks to those in need at the event. Photos by Esteban Fernandez | Este.Fdez20B@gmail.com

On Christmas Eve, some families missed a laugh, a presence, a person. For people of color, that loss will be particularly acute. That evening, as the City and County building lit up in festive colors, a candlelight vigil took place in front of the Capitol to ensure those taken by COVID-19 were not forgotten.

“People have been through a horrific pandemic for almost a year,” said Gazi Kodzo, founder and leader of Black Hammer, the grassroots organization responsible for the event. “We haven’t had time to come together and even ponder what we have gone through, what we have lost, and what we’re afraid of what we will be losing soon.”

The vigil held on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol saw speakers deliver monologues on their experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic. A moment of silence was held for those who had lost their lives to the virus as people deposited electric candles on an altar set up for the victims of the disease. 

The group brought food, cold weather clothing and KN95 masks. People who came were temperature checked before being allowed to join. 

Robert Gauss, a civil rights lawyer, was impressed that KN95 masks were available to hand out to attendees. Shortages of that type of mask have been common during the pandemic. 

“We put men on the moon 50 years ago, but we can’t have these masks? Why aren’t these masks available?” 

He said there was also something politically powerful about the fact that the masks were available at a community event and provided by a grassroots group. 

So far, over 4,600 people have died from COVID-19 in Colorado. Below is a selection of photos from the vigil.

//Chief Erendira from Black Hammer checks temperatures before allowing people to join the vigil at the Colorado State Capitol on Dec. 24. Masks were mandatory, and KN95 masks were provided to those who didn’t have one. At least 21 new coronavirus deaths and 2,615 new cases were reported in Colorado on Dec. 25, according to The New York Times

The state is now quickly working to administer Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to those in Phase 1, which includes high and moderate-risk healthcare workers. According to CBS Denver, the state has administered 63,170 vaccinations as of Dec. 25.

//Dzide, a Black Hammer member, hands out jackets and other cold weather gear to people in need at the candlelight vigil held at the Colorado State Capitol on Dec. 24. The pandemic has had a devasting effect on the houseless population in Colorado. Shelters have had to adhere to strict COVID safety guidelines, which limit the number of people they are able to serve during a time where the houseless population is rapidly growing due to economic strain. Between 150,000 and 230,000 households in the state could be at risk of eviction by Dec. 31, according to a report issued in October by Colorado’s Special Eviction Prevention Task Force. 

//Attendees hold a moment of silence for those lost to COVID-19. Although some experts are concerned about a post-Christmas spike in cases, Colorado was able to avoid a surge after Thanksgiving. Some other states weren’t so lucky. According to Colorado Public Radio, the United States hit a new record with more than 200,000 new cases and 3,000 deaths a day. New cases and hospitalizations rose by 20%, and deaths skyrocketed by 39%, according to Healthline.

//An attendee, who earlier spoke to the crowd about his brother, commemorates his passing during the moment of silence at the vigil for COVID-19 victims on Dec. 24. In Colorado, those 70 years or older are more likely to die from COVID-19 but the disease has struck people of all ages. This fall, in particular, saw significant spikes in COVID-19 deaths among people ages 20-39 and 40-49, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

//Gazi Kodzo, right, leads the audience in a moment of solidarity at the vigil for COVID-19 victims on Dec. 24. A major theme that emerged during the vigil was the ways that the system had failed working-class people. Little has been done by the federal government to stymie the economic strain working-class people have experienced since the beginning of the pandemic, and local governments can only do so much while they are feeling the same pressure.

The pandemic has also exposed racial disparities, with data showing that COVID-19 has infected and killed people of color at a far higher rate than white Americans. This is largely due to underlying health and social inequities that put many racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick, having more severe symptoms, and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Colorado’s demographics have largely followed each race’s representation of the state population, meaning there is not a higher risk for people of color. 

For details about the national demographics of cases, hospitalizations and deaths visit the CDC website