Community Voices: Author Teresa R. Funke

“Reclaiming My Heritage”

By Teresa R. Funke

When I was growing up in Boise, Idaho, our state had the largest population of ethnic Basques living outside of Spain. I grew up surrounded by the Basque culture, and people often asked if I were Basque.

It was a logical question. With my dark hair and eyes and my light skin, I was more likely to be Basque than I was to be my true ethnicity, Mexican. But I also wonder now if there wasn’t a touch of racism in that question. Most of the Mexicans and Mexican-Americans who lived in or around Boise were migrant workers (at least that’s what most Boiseans thought), while the Basque families were working quite visibly in professions like education and the law. Because my Mexican mother was a teacher, and I definitely passed as white, maybe it seemed more likely I would be Basque, though I never thought this then.

I was always quick to set people straight. “Actually, I’m half-Mexican,” I’d say with great pride. My grandmother who helped raise me immigrated from Mexico in the 1920s with her brother and sister. They started successful grocery stores in San Antonio and sent for the rest of the family. My grandfather was Mexican-American, born in Texas. He moved the family to Idaho when my mother was three. For the first time in her life, my grandmother experienced real prejudice, and she immediately instructed her children to integrate and to stop speaking Spanish. Hence, the language was lost to my mother and me.

Growing up, I didn’t know many other Mexican-American families. We lived in a working-class white neighborhood and nearly all of my friends and classmates were white. Yet I sought out the Mexican culture wherever I could find it. How I wanted to embrace that side of me and feel connected!

When my husband and I moved to Fort Collins in 1992, we experienced very little culture shock. Fort Collins was a lot like Boise, including a lack of diversity. After a few months here, I asked a new friend, “Why doesn’t anyone here ask me if I’m Basque?” To which she replied, “What’s a Basque?” I was shocked.

White people still asked about my ethnic identity (Mexican people more often recognized me as one of their own), but the question was framed more as, “So what are you?” I’ve never taken offense at that question. Being half-Mexican, a quarter Irish and a quarter German and Dutch, I know I have a unique look, and I’ve always been happy to talk about my heritage. But without my extended family around, I felt even more disconnected from the Mexican culture.

And then slowly I started to get involved with events at the local libraries, the Museo de Las Tres Colonias and the Northside Aztlan Community Center, and was able to start to connect with Mexican and Mexican-American people. I started getting invited to speak or write about my experiences as a Latina author, which filled me with pride. I was even able to arrange book donations of my World War II stories to organizations that work with Hispanic families. It feels good to be able to reclaim a little of my ties to my family’s heritage.

Fort Collins has grown a lot since we moved here 27 years ago, and I’m glad to see a more diverse population starting to arrive. I’m also glad to see the open displays of welcome in our city for refugees, immigrants and visitors from other countries. Those welcomes remind me that my grandmother came to this country for the same reason most immigrants do. She wanted a better life for herself and her children. And thanks to her bravery and sacrifice, we have that.

Teresa R. Funke is the author of Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life. She has also written seven award-winning novels set in World War II, a popular blog and numerous articles, essays and short stories. She is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant and community catalyst. Please visit www.teresafunke.com or www.burstsofbrilliance.com.

Editor’s note: According to 2018 Census figures, Fort Collins’ population is 89% white, 1.6% Black or African American, 0.8% American Indian or Alaska Native, 3.1% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, 3.6% Two or More Races and 11.8% Hispanic or Latino. Poudre School District and Colorado State University freshman populations show higher percentages of diversity.

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Mention the Diverse Fort Collins Book Group at Old Firehouse Books for 20% off the paperback of The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea, and join us on Oct. 27 at Wolverine Farm Letterpress & Publick House for a discussion one week before the author visits for Fort Collins Reads!

Diverse Fort Collins Update: Week of Sept. 17, 2019

Hello, friends!

Diverse Fort Collins took a couple of field trips to Denver and Boulder last week to check out these great arts & culture offerings:

The 30th Annual Denver Art Museum (DAM) Friendship Powwow & American Indian Cultural Celebration featured dancers, drum groups, artist booths and more.

The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) funded DAM’s first Friendship Powwow in 1990. It’s a seven-county tax district renewed by voters multiple times over more than 30 years. One penny for every $10 in sales and use tax collected goes to the SCFD, which funds nearly 300 organizations across the front range urban corridor, distributing more than $60 million annually.

Denver’s art district was the site of the 10th annual CRUSH WALLS, Colorado’s largest independent graffiti and street art festival that celebrates art, urban beautification, creativity and culture. #CrushWalls @TheCrushWalls

Watch this one-minute CRUSH WALLS video featuring Colorado artist Gregg Deal for an overview.

The Sept. 5 panel discussion “Representation: If Walls Could Talk” at RedLine Contemporary Art Center brought artists from around the country and Ireland to discuss diversity in public art.

Crush Walls artists Casey Kawaguchi, Didi, Maes, UC Sepia, Gregg Deal, Marka27 and Subset participated in
the panel “Representation: If Walls Could Talk.”

Moderator JC Futrell, RedLine’s education director, highlighted the following quote at the start of the discussion:

“The mural arts movement rises in times of turmoil. This was indeed true in the sixties, when it became a form of street protest, particularly in African-American and Chicano neighborhoods. Mural art can save lives and renew hope.” – New England Journal of Public Policy.

A member of Dublin’s artist collective Subset (wearing red bandanna) talked about creating discourse with art.
Artists Sydney G. James and DINKC are pictured on the right.

Here’s a glimpse at the discussion:

  • Kids are inspired seeing artists who look like them. “Representation does matter. Girls come up to me; I give them a sticker and sketch book. It gives them hope and inspiration.” – UC Sepia
  • Maes, a fifth generation Coloradan, said gentrification on Denver’s east side, now known as the river north “RiNo” neighborhood, has forced out childhood friends who can no longer afford to live there.
  • Didi spoke about long-time Miami building owners bucking the gentrification trend by not raising the rent on tenants in Little Havana, where she has a studio. “The people are what make that neighborhood special.”
  • “It’s a very personal thing [art]. It represents yourself, your family, your culture.” – Casey Kawaguchi

On Sept. 7, Crush Walls artists painted murals all day and chatted with passersby during breaks.

Colorado State University graduate Lindee Zimmer, founder and director of the Fort Collins Mural Project, participated in Crush Walls with a painting on the wall of the new Odell Brewing in RiNo. Read the 303Magazine.com article and visit her at www.ZimmerLindee.com.

University of Colorado Boulder Art Museum is exhibiting “Its Honor Is Hereby Pledged” by Gina Adams, which brings together four installations exploring the complicated history and present-day relevance of treaties between the U.S. government and indigenous peoples, and promoting healing of inherited trauma.

Diverse Fort Collins Events

Join Diverse Fort Collins and Wolverine Farm for a book group discussion of The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea on Oct. 27 from 3 to 5 p.m. at Wolverine Farm Letterpress and Publick House, first floor. This event is FREE. Please plan to buy a beverage to thank Wolverine Farm for the gift of this space.

The book discussion is one week before Fort Collins Reads on Nov. 8 when the author will discuss his novel. Purchase tickets at local bookstores and libraries listed here.

Highlights From Our Social Media Posts

  • CSU Diversity Symposium, Oct. 14-18. Keynote speaker and sessions. Free.
  • Susan Skog’s new book Your Voice Matters: Stand Up, Speak Out captures today’s leading young voices on topics such as racism, bullying, LGBTQIA+ rights, immigration, etc. Join her at Old Town Library on Sept. 24 for this discussion. Free.
  • Elizabeth Acevedo is the first Latina and first person of color to win the Carnegie Medal for her young adult novel in verse, The Poet X.
  • HEYDAY pioneers local, size-inclusive fashion.

Until next time!

Enter your email in the Follow box at http://www.DiverseFortCollins.com to receive updates.

Diverse Fort Collins Update: Week of Sept. 3, 2019

Mural “Rise” by Gregg Deal at Redline Gallery. Photo by Diverse Fort Collins.

Hello, Diverse Fort Collins friends,

Summer has been busy, as usual!

Here’s a summary of happenings from the past couple of weeks, and highlights from our social media posts.

Starting this month, watch for updates on 1st and 3rd Tuesdays.

Diverse Fort Collins News

Our Welcome post has been published at http://www.DiverseFortCollins and we’ll soon offer this message in Arabic, French, Korean, Mandarin and Spanish, thanks to volunteer translators! If you or friends are interested in helping us translate the Welcome post to other languages, please contact us at DiverseFoco@gmail.com

Regional Highlights

Redline Gallery is a Denver nonprofit that presented the 24 Hours Block Party on Aug. 10, focusing on socially engaged art projects and activities.

Artist Gregg Deal (originally from Park City, UT and now a Colorado resident) painted his mural “Rise” (depicting his 13-year-old daughter Sage) on the side of the gallery building, and took time out to speak with event attendees about his life and identity as an artist and as the son of a white father and a Paiute mother who was adopted by white parents.

Deal, a member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, is a visual artist who gained national attention when The Washington Post covered his performance art “The Last American Indian On Earth.” Listen to his TedxBoulder Talk, “Indigenous In Plain Sight.”

Charlie Miller of DCPA Off Center recaps the year in immersive entertainment at the Denver Immersive Retrospectacle. Photo by Diverse Fort Collins.

The 2019 Denver Immersive Retrospectacle on Aug. 15 at the Denver Center for Performing Arts summarized highlights of the past year and featured several speakers and a keynote on Nordic LARP (live-action role playing).

The highlight (for Diverse Fort Collins, at least) was a presentation by Dan Griner of Otterbox on the importance of inclusion in immersive entertainment.

Tamara Banks (far left), panel and filmmaker Rebekah Henderson (front) at MTOB. Photo by Diverse Fort Collins.

More Than One Box: A Mixed Gathering is an annual event by and for multiethnic families and friends presented by Denver filmmaker Rebekah Henderson’s Tan Tigress Productions.

The Aug. 17 event included two panel discussions moderated by journalist and filmmaker Tamara Banks and screenings of the documentaries “All Mixed Up: Our Changing Racial Identities” about Colorado residents who are of mixed heritage and “A Short Roundup,” a “where are they now?” look at a few of the Asian American boys who auditioned for the role of Short Round in “Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom,” one of whom would grow up to be the co-founder of Choir Choir Choir!

MTOB panel featuring friends from Denver, Los Angeles and New York. Photo by Diverse Fort Collins.

Social Media Highlights

Mark your calendars for the 3rd Annual Greeley Multicultural Festival on Oct. 19.

Diverse Fort Collins is hosting an Oct.27 book group discussion on the 2019 Fort Collins Reads selection THE HOUSE OF BROKEN ANGELS by Luis Alberto Urrea. Mention the DFC book group to receive 20% off the paperback at Old Firehouse Books.

Being nice isn’t enough. Check out this children’s book list for anti-racist activism. Thanks to Old Firehouse Books for sharing!

Follow us at http://www.DiverseFortCollins and on Facebook and Instagram @DiverseFortCollins

Contact Us!

Interested in writing a 600-word guest blog post about what it’s like to live, work or play in our community? Want to volunteer? We’d love to hear from you. Email DiverseFoCo@gmail.com

Hope you’ve had a great summer!

www.DiverseFortCollins.com

Welcome to Diverse Fort Collins

Read the Welcome message in English, Korean, Japanese, and Spanish.

Thank you for visiting Diverse Fort Collins, a volunteer-driven community project advocating for antiracism and racial equity. We connect people with resources and each other.

Read more about the Diverse Fort Collins Book Group below.

As this website develops, you’ll see lists of community organizations, ethnic businesses (such as restaurants that specialize in the cuisine of other countries) and businesses owned by people of color; a land acknowledgment, a glossary of terms, a list of the wonderful people who are Diverse Fort Collins sponsors, advisers and volunteers (including those who will translate this welcome message into Arabic, French, German, Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish, Russian and other languages).

You’ll also be able to connect with new friends who want to expand their social circles through discussions and other events.

A little about me: I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. My mom is from the Philippines and my dad (who is Mexican-American from Roswell, New Mexico) grew up in East L.A. I moved to Fort Collins in 2002, and though I was often aware that I was the only person of color in the room, it wasn’t until I attended the 2015 Multicultural Community Retreat and joined my workplace’s equity and inclusion team that I began making new friends of diverse backgrounds, identities, abilities and experiences.

My love of Fort Collins and my work in racial equity, diversity and inclusion inspired me to create Diverse Fort Collins.

Our community lands on many top 10 lists for reasons we’ve all heard. On the flip side, many of my friends and colleagues who are people of color and I have had not-so-positive experiences. Some have experienced racism, racial profiling and discrimination. Some have been vocal; others silent. Some have moved away and returned; others will never return.

On a happier note, I’m glad to see many businesses displaying signs such as “All Are Welcome Here” (Thank you, Toolbox Creative!) and “Safe Zone: This space respects all aspect of people, including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender expression, age, religion and ability” (Thank you, Happy Lucky’s Teahouse!)

One opportunity to get involved in Diverse Fort Collins is by joining us for book group discussions.

Read details about the next book group meeting on the Events page.

And mention the Diverse Fort Collins Book Group at Old Firehouse Books to receive a 20 percent discount off the paperback. Book group selections will feature fiction and nonfiction titles.

If you like what Diverse Fort Collins is about, please consider supporting us with your time (volunteer) or money (sponsor). We seek volunteers to help with event coordination, website content development, writing guest Community Voices guest commentaries, strategic planning, technology, sponsorships, etc.

Email DiverseFoCo@gmail.com if you’re interested, or if you have questions or comments. We’d love to hear from you.

And follow us on social media:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/DiverseFortCollins and www.facebook.com/DiverseFoCo
Instagram: @DiverseFortCollins
Twitter: @DiverseFoCo

There’s so much more I could say. I’ll leave it for future posts.

I love Fort Collins, and I love my life and friends here.

I hope you’ll join us. All welcome. Let’s co-create an inclusive community!

Katherine Valdez
Founder and Executive Director, Diverse Fort Collins

Bio

Diverse Fort Collins founder Katherine Valdez is a former newspaper reporter and nonprofit communications director who has lived in the city since 2002.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, she is an award-winning writer whose latest essay was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was published in Rise: An Anthology of Change edited by Northern Colorado Writers, which won the Colorado Book Award for anthology/collection.

Katherine has summitted 65 Colorado thirteeners and fourteeners, and dozens of other peaks around the West.

Our first gathering was a success!

Fort Collins, CO – Thank you to the 10 community members who attended tonight’s informal happy hour chat about Robin DiAngelo’s May 22 “Seeing The Racial Water” workshop at Naropa University in Boulder!

DiAngelo is the author of White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism.

We learned about each other’s backgrounds and shared why we became interested in racial equity and anti-racist work. Those who attended the workshop shared highlights and impressions, leading to thoughtful observations and questions.

We gathered at Maza Kabob, a locally owned and operated restaurant that has offered from-scratch, authentic Afghan cuisine for more than eight years.

Stay tuned for details on upcoming events, including an Oct. 27 book group discussion of the Fort Collins Reads selection, The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea.