by Chanel Ward
Each month, The Weekly Issue/El Semanario will introduce a member of “Our Community, Our Partners” program, highlighting their valued efforts in elevating our communities.
The Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) will be celebrating COLOR’s 20th Aniversario at the Denver Nature and Science Museum on September 27th. The invitation-only event will highlight the organization’s last twenty years, new changes and what’s to be expected for the future.
COLOR was founded in April of 1998 by its founding Mothers, Las Madrinas, who, according to the websites mission statement wanted to provide, “a voice for reproductive justice in Colorado and beyond.” COLOR is also, the first Latina-led and Latina serving reproductive justice organizations in the state, remaining the only reproductive justice organization in Colorado, which is still led by women of color today.
Currently, Dusti Gurule heads the organization as its Executive Director. Gurule began her new role in March of this year, however, her efforts are not new in working with COLOR and their mission of reproductive justice and reproductive rights.
“COLOR was launched in 1998 by a group of volunteers, ‘Our Founding Mothers,’ as we call them,” said Gurule.
The Denver Native recalls the first time that she was introduced to COLOR. “They [COLOR] hosted a community event at NEWSED announcing the organization,” said Gurule. “I went with my mom and I was intrigued, because from that moment I felt connected to the mission and to the purpose of the organization.”
The organization was looking to fill their Program Director position. “I applied, and I was hired. I was the first paid staff person in 2003,” said Gurule about working with COLOR.
After about a year and half of working as the Program Director, Gurule found herself working for the Latina Initiative and continued a partnership with COLOR and their former Executive Director, Jacy Montoya, who collaborated on a number of projects together with Gurule and the Latina Initiative.
Some of those partnerships included, Get Out The Vote, and the Latinas Increasing Political Strength (LIPS) program, which launched its first class in 2009.
“I reached out to COLOR again,” said Gurule, “understanding the importance of young people and young woman leadership, so we co-created LIPS.” The LIPS program is a leadership institute serving female youth, ages 16-21 and “designed for Latinas, by Latinas.”
Another deep-rooted political program led by the Latino Initiative and COLOR, is Latina/o Advocacy Day (LAD), which was launched in 2007. The two-day program provides advocacy trainings and briefings on policy issues that most impact Latinos in Colorado.
“Latina/o Advocacy Day had its 10-year anniversary in 2016. We wanted to honor the story and how it came to be; and we did a big thing on [Auraria] Campus with Speaker Crisanta Durán – who wasn’t speaker yet, this was in 2016, so she was still the H.D. Representative – and she led in getting a resolution for Latino Advocacy Day!”
After Gurule’s grassroots fight and pride in her hometown, Chicana roots and history only few know about, led her to Washington D.C. where she was appointed as a Secretary Representative for the United States Department of Labor, serving Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska, under the Obama Administration.
“They called us ‘Sec Reps’ for short,” explained Gurule.
“Sec Reps,” serve as liaisons to state and local government officials and community stakeholders, and are responsible for amplifying key programs and initiatives of the department.
“When the new president was sworn in, my job ended as an appointee for the Obama Administration. The great thing about that position, and there were so many great things, but for one, was to be able to work for the Obama Administration, which was such an amazing opportunity,” said Gurule reflecting on her experience.
“I started working for Secretary [Hilda] Solis, who was the first Secretary of Labor under Obama and it wasn’t that much of a shift, as she wanted to be very intentional about working with community.”
And it was Gurule’s love for community, which led her back to the grassroots work that she was so familiar, but with much more knowledge to bring to the table.
Gurule is a seventh-generation Denver Native who was raised in a prominent Chicano family who were an integral part of the Crusade for Justice and leading figures in the Civil Rights Movement in Denver.
“Being able to grow up with the Crusade and go to the Escuela [Escuela Tlatelolco Centro De Estudios] for the majority of my childhood, I think was really cool. I am really proud, and I like to talk about it as much as I can.”
Gurule noted that many people, “do not fully realize that Denver was one of the epicenters of the Civil Rights Movement, and the Chicano Movement, specifically.”
The pride and knowledge that she learned outside of the standard curriculum led Gurule to a successful career of helping the community become better educated, aware and ready to take action for a better life through policy.
“The fact that COLOR is still not only operating after 20 years, but that we are thriving as a reproductive justice organization, led by women of color is incredible, and more incredible is we’ve been around so long. The fact that we are at the table when it comes to policy decisions regarding reproductive health and rights, but with reproductive justice, we are really doing a lot more to elevate both our partners and legislatures about the intersectionality of reproductive justice,” exclaimed Gurule.
Gurule, who brings a Bachelor’s degree in Chicana/o Studies from Metropolitan State University of Denver, a Master’s degree in Non-Profit work from Regis University, and of course her invaluable life experience, is truly an asset to any organization she becomes involved with.
Gurule discussed the Organization’s impressive agenda for the future.
“This coming year we are going to explore the idea of rebranding, and it’ll still be the same acronym (COLOR) but it will be Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Justice,” explained Gurule.
“We will be increasing our footprint within the policy making world; both legislatively and electorally with the COLOR Action Fund, deepening our relationship with the Denver metro area, and we want to do more community conversations and bringing in more intentional young people around the table.”
In addition to her many roles, Gurule was recently added to the Board of Emerge Colorado, which is a 527 organization that works to train democratic women to run for office, said Gurule. She is also on the Planned Parenthood Action Fund Board, but says it is all worth it because, “representation matters.”
To learn more about COLOR visit their website at, www.colorlatina.org
or call 303-393-0382 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chanel Ward is an Independent Reporter for The Weekly Issue/El Semanario, www.elsemanario.us.
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