December 11, 2019

Advancing Racial Equity in Denver

Katie McKenna talks about Undesign the Redline as a tool to center race in conversation about power dynamics and equitable growth in Denver.

The Undesign the Redline exhibit proved to be a powerful conversation starter for a diverse group of partners and residents in the Denver area. Can you share your work around the exhibit?

KM: Undesign the Redline brought the lasting impacts of discriminatory housing policy into focus for us in Denver. Enterprise hosted tours of the exhibit, as well as webinars and tailored presentations for groups who wanted to share the learning opportunity. It was also important for us to translate the exhibit into Spanish and have interpreters on hand to make the conversation as inclusive as possible.

Undesign the Redline gave us a tool to center race in conversations about power dynamics, involuntary displacement and equitable growth. Fortunately, our partners were actively engaged and did not shy away from the difficult conversations.

When the exhibit opened last year, we had a few programming ideas, but also wanted to stay open to the organic evolution of ideas and opportunities over time. That led us down some pretty fun paths, including developing the "The Game of Life: Redline Edition" board game and the I am Denver storytelling project, which gave our mayor and others the opportunity to tell their own redlining stories.

You've also been engaged in racial equity trainings with internal and external partners. How did you go about designing those trainings? What were some of the key takeaways?

KM: We can't have these discussions without the inclusion and participation of the people and communities affected by redlining. Our trainings are much more impactful when we balance the facts and data with personal experiences. We also know that we don't get anything done without a strong coalition of housing partners. Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to host a Crossroads Anti-Racism training for the Enterprise team and our partners.  

We've also started engaging in more informal learning as an office. Once a month or so, we try to read an article, listen to a podcast or attend a community event together. We are also getting better at using a racial equity lens to plan our work. Finally, through both leading and participating in a variety of trainings this year, I've learned how important it is to make time for reflection after an event, and I try to encourage others to do the same. 

What inspires you to keep moving this work forward? What have been your most powerful lessons learned?

KM: Recently, I was co-presenting at a housing conference with Mercedes Gonzales, a woman who lives in a formerly redlined neighborhood in Denver. Through an interpreter, she shared that she has always had conversations with family, friends and neighbors about race and inequity, but she never dreamed of having those conversations with a room full of developers.

Mercedes said she knew that life would be different for her grandkids because people of vastly different life experiences are starting to talk about these issues with each other. Mercedes and a group of her neighbors started the first community-led and owned land trust in Colorado. They are certainly an inspiration to me and I'm learning from them and others about why we have to look to our communities to lead with their voices, their ideas and their experiences, and find ways to use our expertise and resources to support them.​

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