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She’s Running: Denver City Council Candidate Candi CdeBaca Says Building A City Starts With Building Up Its People

In 2017, the Colorado coffeehouse chain ink! came under national scrutiny after a Denver location displayed a sandwich-board that read, “Happily Gentrifying The Neighborhood Since 2014.” Like the rest of her community, Candi CdeBaca, a native of northeast Denver who has been organizing against the displacement of communities of color due to increased gentrification, was enraged and interested in seeing how local politicians would respond. When they failed to appropriately address it, CdeBaca threw her hat in the ring for city council.

“Nothing we are building in this city matters more than building up our people,” reads CdeBaca’s campaign site.

She means it. The first-time candidate, who founded Project VOYCE, a Denver-based, youth-driven leadership and advocacy training hub, and worked at the national education policy organization Excelencia in Education in Washington, DC, has been fighting back against development that leaves marginalized communities out since she returned to her hometown. Last year, she helped win the battle against CDOT’s I-70 expansion, which aimed to rip through a Latinx community to expand a highway.

We spoke with the 33-year-old Chicana about her run for Denver City Council, the sexism she has faced on the campaign trail so far, the issues facing her community today and how she intends on working with them to create a better Denver for all.

FIERCE: Why did you decide to run for Denver City Council?

Candi CdeBaca: I moved into a neighborhood, an immigrant community that’s currently 84 percent Latino, and we had a situation where there were plans to expand a highway through our neighborhood, through one of the last neighborhoods that have a large concentration of Latinos. So I started my activism and engagement in the city through this, through fighting back against city development plans like this, and it snowballed from there. I’ve been working a lot with families and young people and recognized a lack of representation and an abundance of corruption shaping our experiences. This forced me to search for someone else to run. I didn’t find anyone to go against the incumbent I’m running against, who has the most money in the race. Then there was this incident here with Ink! Coffee, which put up a sign that said “’Happily gentrifying since 2014.” It inspired community outrage, and my opponent went on the news a week later talking about gentrification in a way that was ill-informed. I filed my papers to run against him two days later. I don’t think our community has four more years left. If we endure what we have been at the same rate, most of us won’t be here.

FIERCE: I know that among your priorities are tackling housing and wages, traffic and pollution as well as transparency and accountability. Why are these issues currently crucial to your district?

Candi CdeBaca: Denver has grown really fast in the last five years. It has one of the fastest-growing economies in the country right now.  The rate of growth combined with the ill-preparedness to accommodate growth created a city that has concentrated wealth and power, and we already had this in the city, so those issues became more and more important because fewer average, everyday working-class people can hold on here, even working two or three jobs.

FIERCE: On your campaign site, you write: “I strive to create a bold and compassionate Denver led by its people.” How do you intend on doing this on city council?

Candi CdeBaca: So in Denver right now we cater primarily to developers and corporations, so we are having a lot of development but not for the residents of Denver or working-class and poor people. We need someone on the council who is bold enough to stand up to corporate interest and is not allured by the wealth and riches that they are promising these politicians. I’m a first-generation high school graduate. I got two degrees on scholarship. I was the first in my family to leave Denver. This, to me, means I have a different investment in Denver than my opponent has. I want to give back to the community that raised me and stand strong for them.

FIERCE: As a queer, working-class Latina woman, what do you think these identities, and the perspectives and experiences that come with them, can bring to the Denver City Council that’s fresh and needed?

Candi CdeBaca: I believe that when you serve the most marginalized among us, everybody benefits. You create a society that is compassionate and understanding of the plight of the smallest margin of people and, by default, everyone else’s lives improve by that. Those multiple marginalized social identities contribute to my ability to see things through an intersectional lens and approach policy through an intersectional lens. Right now, policy is looked at as able-bodied males, typically white males, but sometimes men of color who have deeply internalized oppression.

FIERCE: Of course, you are much more than your identities. You’re an educator, social worker, policy expert and organizer who founded Project VOYCE for local vulnerable students as well as worked at the national education policy organization Excelencia in Education in Washington, DC for six years, among much more. How do you think these experiences prepared you for this office?

Candi CdeBaca: It’s funny to hear someone else read that off, because running as a woman, as a queer woman of color, the No. 1 thing I hear is, “you’re not qualified. You don’t have enough experience.” But what you just listed was a laundry list of experiences and qualifications that I haven’t seen a candidate come to the table with. My opponent did not have these qualifications or experiences. I have that in policy, organizing and direct service. I think that’s why we have the policies we have now. We don’t have a leader with these experiences, who know how to look at it from different perspectives and using different tools to solve problems. I feel fortunate to have those experiences because they shaped my ability to think about a problem in a  range of different ways. It also helped me understand what kind of connections and alliances need to be made and what kinds are unnecessary.

FIERCE: It’s often said that the biggest and most effective change is done locally. What are you prepared to do or work on locally to combat the policy and rhetoric coming out of the White House?

Candi CdeBaca: Denver is a Home Rule city, which means we don’t have a lot of checks and balances and can regulate a lot of what the state says. It’s very powerful. I think we can create almost a complete buffer to what’s happening at the national level, if we have the political will. But we’d have to separate ourselves or our reliance on federal dollars or be creative on how we use federal dollars. We can do a lot more at the local level to protect our immigrant communities, to really build cities that serve all of us. I want to see us shift the power to the hands of residents. Decision-making right now leaves residents out, and if we give residents decision-making power, which is not connected to voter status, it’s resident status, we can see change.

FIERCE: What has been the most difficult part of this race so far and how do you think you’ve been able to overcome it?

Candi CdeBaca: I think being a woman in the race with three men has probably been the most challenging part. I don’t know if you saw this, but we went viral on my birthday with a video one of my opponents made calling me a communist. I ended up getting thousands of rape and death threats. Other opponents even recurited volunteers from that thread. So the way men have really disregarded the misogyny and rape culture in these spaces and played into it has been damaging for me and women watching this race. I think it’s definitely been tough to adhere to some of those standards of what you should wear, how to act, what colors to use. We went all out with my branding, which is pink. From day one, I was told not to do that because people wouldn’t take me serious. My name is Candi, so they already don’t take me serious. These perceived weaknesses because of femininity are a challenge initially but, at the end, have also been our biggest strength because it’s making our campaign stand out. We are doing things different from what’s been done before and we don’t need to pander to communities in the same way candidates have in the past. We are leading from a place of compassion. In the community, people recognize and see what’s genuine, and that has been an advantage.

FIERCE: You are a fifth-generation native of northeast Denver. You were raised here, went to public school here, worked here. What would it mean to you to represent the city and people who helped make Candi CdeBaca?

Candi CdeBaca: It’s a big responsibility, but I feel like my whole life has prepared me to take on this responsibility. I always felt, even without the title, that I needed to work for and serve my people, my community, the community that raised me. That is the lifestyle I have lived. I always served my community, without the title or paycheck. I did it on top of my other work many times, so to be able to potentially have a platform to make real change, lasting change, for my community is an honor. It’s an honor because I know I’m coming at it with the right intentions and know I’ve been building the community engagement for a really long time. It’s an opportunity to take it to the next level and prove to the community what can be done when you push hard enough and believe in your community and stay engaged.

FIERCE: Election Day is right around the corner, on May 7. Why should the people of Denver vote for you?

Candi CdeBaca: Because I don’t think we have four years left if we don’t pick new leadership. We have an opportunity to elect someone that has been committed to us over and over, and we will get what we deserve. We will elect who we deserve. Denver deserves more. My community deserves more. I put myself as a conduit for us to do more together.

FIERCE: I think you can offer a lot to young Latinas who aspire to run for office. Do you have a message for Latinas with political dreams but perhaps see those as unfeasible?

Candi CdeBaca: It’s our turn. It’s our time. This era of the emerging feminine. It’s been written, and this is the time of reclamation of our communities. We have the ancestral wisdom to heal our communities and planet. Now is our time to do it, especially Latinas, who will be the new American majority. We have to step into a place of transformational leadership and not perpetuate the oppressive ways of our past, lead with our ancestors behind us and push forward our agenda.

Read: She’s Running: Sandra Sepulveda Could Be The First Latina On The Nashville Metro Council

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President Joe Biden’s And Vice President Kamala Harris’ Inauguration Represented America

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President Joe Biden’s And Vice President Kamala Harris’ Inauguration Represented America

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been sworn in as the 46th president and the 49th vice president of the United States of America. The new administration has been sworn in and the inauguration was a beautiful representation of America with people of color and women taking center stage.

Lady Gaga kicked off the 59th inauguration by singing the national anthem.

In 2017, Lady Gaga famously participated in the Women’s March the day after former President Trump’s inauguration. Four years later, the singer proudly took to the Capitol to usher in the beginning of the Biden/Harris administration. Dressed in custom Schiaparelli, Lady Gaga performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” and left people speechless.

Vice President Kamala Devi Harris was sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

This was a special moment. The first Latina to ever serve on the Supreme Court was the one to swear in the first woman, first Black, and first South Asian vice president. It was a historical moment that will forever change the United States.

Justice Sotomayor has made a name for herself in American pop culture because of her blistering dissents. As the first Latina on the Supreme Court, Sotomayor opened possibilities for Latinas. We basically watched one icon swear in another icon and it is everything.

The most exciting moment of the inauguration might have been Jennifer Lopez and her remix of an American classic.

Lopez sang “This Land Is Your Land” but added a special twist. During the song, Lopez stops and says, “Una nacion, bajo de dios, indivisible con libertad y justicia para todos.” Translated, she said, “One nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” That’s right. The Puerto Rican pop superstar used her moment at the nation’s Capitol building to give a shout out to all the Latinos who call the U.S. home.

Of course, the most iconic moment was J.Lo shouting “Let’s get loud.”

We all know that song. We are all singing it now after reading those three words. It was truly one of the most impactful moments of her performance. Only an icon could turn “This Land is Your Land” into a greatest hits medley. We are all better for having witnessed it.

However, it was 22-year-old Amanda Gorman that stole the entire show.

The Youth Poet Laureate was chosen to speak at the inauguration and she youngest inaugural poet of all time. She joins the impressive ranks of Maya Angelou, Richard Blanco, and Elizabeth Alexander. Her poem, written right after the Capitol riot. It was relevant, poignant, and moving.

“We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it,
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
It can never be permanently defeated.”

And, of course, Joseph Robinette Biden became the 46th president of the United States of America.

“Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now. A once-in-a-century virus that silently stalks the country,” President Biden said. “It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II. Millions of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed. A cry for racial justice, some four hundred years in the making moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.

“The cry for survival comes from the planet itself, a cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear. And now a rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.

“To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity, unity.”

Welcome to the White House President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

READ: The TikToker Who Put Fleetwood Mac Back On The Charts Will Perform At The Inauguration’s Virtual Parade

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Christina Haswood Wore Traditional Navajo Clothing Made By Her Bisabuela To Her Swearing-In Ceremony And It Was The Most Powerful Look Of 2021 So Far

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Christina Haswood Wore Traditional Navajo Clothing Made By Her Bisabuela To Her Swearing-In Ceremony And It Was The Most Powerful Look Of 2021 So Far

Newly elected member of the Kansas House of Representatives, Christina Haswood, paid tribute to her heritage on the day of her swearing-in ceremony with the ultimate power look. Dressed in traditional Navajo attire, the 26-year-old made history on Monday when she became the  youngest member of the Kansas legislature, and only its second Native American member. 

Haswood took her oath of office wearing traditional Diné regalia which she made with the help of her mother, and partner.

Wearing moccasins, a velveteen skirt, and a red blouse embellished with silver string made a point to highlight her heritage and identity. Speaking to Vogue in an interview about her clothing, Haswood explained that she “wanted to honor my ancestors and all their sacrifices for me to be here and in this job. I wanted to honor my family, who has taught me how to be a strong, young, Diné woman while growing up in Lawrence, Kansas.” 

In addition to her dress, Haswood wore heirlooms given to her by family members which included a squash blossom necklace, a belt given to her by her uncle, and an additional belt given to her by her shimá sání (grandmother). Her great grandmother also gave her the earrings she wore. In addition, she wore a tsiiyéé (a Navajo-style hair tie) that she made with her shimá sání.

“The significance of these pieces are priceless,” Haswood explained to Vogue. “Many of the pieces I wore that day only come out on special occasions, because of how old they are. I don’t have the funds to be a collector, so many of my pieces have been passed down to my mother, who lets me borrow them.”

Haswood gave a behind-the-scenes look of her swearing-in attire on a TikTok video that has gone viral with more than 500,000 views.

In the video, Haswood readies her hair and does her makeup before eventually getting help from her mother and grandmother to get dressed.

Haswood won the Democratic primary after running unopposed for a seat in the Kansas state legislature that represents District 10.

With degrees in public health from Haskell Indian Nations University and Arizona State University, Haswood also received a master’s degree in public health management from the Kansas University Medical Center.

At the moment, she also serves as a research assistant with the National Council of Urban Indian Health and the Center for American Indian Community Health. There she studies nicotine addiction in tribal youth and researches the impact of COVID-19 on indigenous groups.

“Just two years ago I was in graduate school, and my greatest worries were about getting a job and student loans,” Haswood said in an interview with the Daily Kansan. “Today, the world has changed.”

According to Esquire, four Native candidates ran for office in Kansas. This week, each of them won their primary elections.

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