For Such a Time as This

By Councilman Albus Brooks

Photo by Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

I wonder if the heroes and sheroes of old ever gazed up into the sky and lamented out loud, “Has it ever been this bad?”

The iconic figures that made our nation great — from Tubman and Teddy, to King and Kennedy — I wonder if they ever lost hope, or ever felt that the chasmic divides in America’s social landscape were too great to bridge.

We can certainly gaze introspectively at our present and objectively at our past and declare, “At least it’s better today than it was back then.” But why does it feel like the continual march of progress has brought us to a point where the system is still broken, and still in desperate need of transformation?

My mother and I recently had the privilege of touring the National Museum of African American History and Culture in our nation’s capital. It was a deeply emotional experience. Surrounded by boldly curated displays of struggle and hope, I was reminded that the vibrant resiliency of our nation was built from dissent and difference. I began to think about my harshest critics (Denver Homeless Out Loud and Ditch the Ditch), and my responsibility as an elected leader to find value in their critique. It is important that their voices are not dismissed, and that their input heard and understood.

I welcome differing views and dissent, and I am calling for us to enter into an era of cooperation where we move from outright opposition to collaborative proposition.

Denver’s economic growth rate outpaces the national average, but brings with it the bitter reality of growing economic disparity. The act of division tells a harsh lie, projecting the fallacy that solutions are zero-sum and that you have to be either for or against something. This is a false choice and is unhealthy for our city. Denver’s future will not be marked by a series of either/or moments.

I ran for office in 2011 with the tagline, “Connecting Diverse Communities.” I would often say that, diversity loses its meaning if we are disconnected.” Cities fall when their sectors and communities operate in isolation. Together, we must build a city where economic booms are shared and busts are rare, thereby decreasing income inequality and displacement. To do so, we must build upon a shared set of values and realize that in the midst of our great diversity we have more in common than anything that divides us.

This won’t always be easy. Unlikely partnerships will need to be formed. Unions and the private sector must move beyond unyielding resistance and collaborate with one another wherever possible. Business leaders must sit down with social activists to better understand all perspectives in the marketplace and hear why black lives matter. Conservatives to sit down with undocumented neighbors to understand their story.

The legacy of the Trump era is a nation divided; socio-economic fault lines have shifted, producing a great rift that threatens to permanently divide us from our neighbors.

It’s impossible to understand someone’s perspective if you don’t know their story, and you can’t know their story if you can’t truly see them. That is division’s greatest evil; it allows us to distance ourselves from one another, isolating our minds and hearts into homogenous enclaves where we resist collaboration and see bitter opposition as the only tool of change.

I will be the first to admit that I have previously drawn lines in the sand when faced with personal attacks and cutting criticisms, but I will not do so any longer. The time has come for a new era of collaboration in Denver, where bold action is preceded by listening to dissenting views and seeking collaboration with those of a different opinion. Where together we build the city that embodies all of our values. For it is our diversity that gives us our strength.

This is our calling, for such a time as this.

Albus Brooks is the President of Denver City Council, representing District 9 (northeast Denver). He wants to hear from you!

@AlbusBrooksD9 or use the hashtag #InclusiveDenver to join the conversation