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GUEST OPINION: Dear Aurora City Council, we need change

Feb 16, 2022 | Editorials, Featured six | 0 comments

//Protesters standoff against Aurora Police officers at the Aurora Police Headquarters on June 27, 2020. Photo by Esteban Fernandez | efernandez@msmayhem.com

//Headshot provided by Christopher La Fleur.

Christopher La Fleur is the owner and founder of Christopher La Fleur ARTS, Visionary in Chief of The Diversity Arts Foundation, founder of Aurora Pride and Director of Events and Marketing at OUT FRONT Magazine

 

Aurora—you may not know me, but I know you. My attachment to you is special. I grew up in Aurora. I attended Aurora schools and grew up in Aurora parks. I know that Aurora is strong, resilient and at the forefront of so many developments in our beautiful state. That said, I can no longer look away from what is happening in our community.

In 2022, I planned on bringing a new public art festival and educational experience to the community of Aurora. This project, ARTSEE:Aurora, would have employed as many as 1,500 artists, creators, educators and temporary event staff. It would have enriched the community and touched businesses near and far.

Today, I want you to know that I have decided to end my commitment to the City. This decision has been under consideration for several months and was not made lightly. In light of how APD and Doug Wilkinson have conducted themselves in the last year, as well as at our most recent Aurora Pride, I have decided to pull the plug on my planned public festival ARTSEE:Aurora.

For those who have yet to attend this event, Aurora Pride was a groundbreaking event, the first such Pride celebration in the City of Aurora. In all of Aurora’s long history, no such event was ever undertaken. My team and I made this real.

In 2021, ARTSEE:Aurora was approved for $10,000 in City of Aurora funding allocations. The validation and acknowledgment this achievement brought me were monumental. 

That same year, those of us at Aurora Pride voted to allow police the ability to recruit and be present at the Aurora Pride event. Our ask was simple—in the wake of the Elijah McClain murder, we requested a reduced police presence with nonessential officers out of uniform and without lethal weapons. This did not happen.

These days, I am troubled by how little action APD has taken towards reform in the community. I am further troubled by comments made last year by Doug Wilkinson, one of two police union presidents in Aurora.

To “match” the diversity of the community, Wilkinson wrote, “We could make sure to hire 10% illegal aliens, 50% weed smokers, 10% crackheads and a few child molesters and murderers to round it out. You know, so we can make the department look like the ‘community.’”

I believe that matching the diversity and beauty of our community means hiring and training every government staffer on the basics of equity and diversity. I believe we need every department in every government unified by commitments to advance the needs of the electorate. I believe people of every orientation, gender identity and sexuality should be at the helm of our public institutions—positions meant to reflect and protect the People.

I am first and foremost an advocate for equity and equality. My career is built on my fundamental belief in these values.

Doug Wilkinson exemplifies my decision to pause ARTSEE:Aurora. What I have seen, or not seen, from the City of Aurora is something I cannot unsee. Inaction at all levels of government in Aurora and beyond has contributed to the levels of extreme political division we are living through now.

Our communities, and our nation, are fundamentally fractured.

Leading with my heart for the betterment of our communities requires canceling the planned 2022 ARTSEE:Aurora art festival. I cannot, in good conscience, accept funding from the citizens of Aurora when there is so much work to be done in order to provide equal treatment to all members of our community.

Additionally, I no longer support having an Aurora Pride in 2022. In the queer and BIPOC communities, the hurt runs too deep. The news coverage is too real. The fear for some is tangible. I have come to believe the changes we need in Aurora will only result from pressures in the free market.

To this end, I call on every business leader and major corporation in Aurora to speak up. Tell your government you need more. You need employees who are protected in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We need justice for black, brown and queer people.

We require our representatives to serve us.

We need strong, compelling leadership in these uncertain times. We need a commitment to equity at all levels of government and in every government bureau. We need reassurances that our basic rights will be upheld and protected. We need to know that when we wake up, it’s not to headlines of another citizen murdered by the very people we elect and employ to protect and serve.

I believe today is the day to stand up and advocate for the rights of the people. If the machinations of the free market mean more, then we employ those too. These changes are overdue and long in the making.

Please, hear the rationale. Protect and preserve equality for all.

 

 

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