Race Ethnicity & Culture

Little Red Photography

When the Longmont Museum began its Dia de los Muertos celebration 18 years ago, the holiday was not well known -- at least not locally.

"That first year maybe 30 people came," said Ann Macca, the museum's curator of education.

Over the years, the event -- and the holiday -- has grown in popularity thanks, in part, to films like "Book of Life" and "Coco." Now the museum hosts one of the largest Day of the Dead events in the state with festivities occurring throughout the month of October leading up to the Nov. 1 and 2 holiday.

Luke Runyon / KUNC and Harvest Public Media

Blink while driving on Highway 34 east of Greeley, Colorado, and you might miss the former Great Plains town of Dearfield.

Abandoned towns from the early 20th century are far from unique on this stretch of plains. Withered storefronts and collapsed false-front homes are common. Boom and bust economics and harsh weather made it tough for turn of the century settlers to succeed long-term.

Few ghost towns, however, have all the elements that make Dearfield’s story so compelling today: larger than life characters, struggles to live off the land, tales of racial integration at the height of the Jim Crow era.

Ann Marie Awad / KUNC

Editor’s Note: This story contains language some may find offensive.

University of Northern Colorado President Kay Norton has issued a response to reports of harassment on campus. In an email sent Dec. 5 to students, faculty and staff, Norton cited “serious concerns” over reports of racially charged incidents from the student body.

“I am deeply concerned that a number of incidents which were clearly directed at individuals and intended to be aggressive have taken place on our campus in recent weeks,” Norton wrote.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn / KUNC

Two Denver area school districts are in the national spotlight, but not for a good reason. The divide between the districts of Littleton and Sheridan has been held up as an example of one of the most segregating boundaries in the nation. But a report neglects to factor a few Colorado-specific quirks.

Howard Fuller

Professor Howard Fuller is a civil rights activist and advocate for school choice as a means to better serve minority and underprivileged kids. He’s been vocal about the work charter schools still need to do to meet that goal, but says Colorado’s charters are a good example to follow.

Denver Public Schools

While kids are getting ready to head back to class this month, administrators at Denver Public Schools are working on solutions to what some perceive to be a culture of racism in the system. A report commissioned by the district showed black teachers and administrators overwhelmingly felt the district had failed them, and had failed their black students as well. The report also found that low expectations for students of color threw up additional roadblocks to achievement.

Jim Saint Germain moved to the U.S. from Haiti as a kid. But the adjustment wasn't easy. He was often in trouble — so often, in fact, that by the age of 14, he was kicked out of his house by his parents.

That's when Saint Germain's middle-school dean, Carlos Walton, stepped in — even offering Saint Germain a place to stay for a short time. As Saint Germain recalls, Walton's house was clean, filled with pictures of black leaders and something more intangible: love.

Marijuana is legal in Colorado — as long as you're 21 or older. It's still illegal for kids to possess, so juveniles are coming to dominate the marijuana arrests in Colorado. But another startling trend also has developed: Arrest rates have risen dramatically for young blacks and Latinos.

Ricky Montoya isn't surprised that's happening. He's standing outside Courtroom 4F in Denver's City and County Building, where he was just ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for his third marijuana possession offense.

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

American Indian mascots draw controversy. They're most visible as the logos of sports teams… and some in Colorado call some of the symbols racist. Efforts at the state Legislature to try and ban the use or restrict the mascots at schools have failed. That hasn't stopped some schools from working with tribes to find the middle ground.

Strasburg, Colorado, is where the last spike was hammered in the nation's coast-to-coast railroad in 1870. This tiny town about an hour east of Denver is also home to the Indians, Strasburg High School's sports teams.

Ann Marie Awad / KUNC

Sher Mizer fled his native Bhutan in 1990, when he was just 13. Mizer is an ethnic Nepali - known in Bhutan as Lhotshampa - a group whose citizenship was stripped by the government. Now 37 and about to swear an oath of U.S. citizenship in Denver, Colorado, it will mark the first time he’s held citizenship in any country since he was a boy.

“‘One nation, one people,’ that was the slogan used by Bhutan,” Mizer says. “It means that the government wanted to bring the people of Bhutan under one nation, one culture, one script, one language.”