Collaborative Healing Initiative Within Communities
Healing communities in need by harnessing the power of women
On the national stage, Denver is perceived as a city-on-the-rise, brimming with opportunity for young, ambitious migrants. Six Fortune 500 companies call Denver home. And yet the history of extreme wealth inequality in the state of Colorado makes these opportunities inaccessible to many of its residents. As it had in cities like Harlem, segregation engendered a cultural renaissance among Denver’s Black community in the vibrant Five Points District, which lead to the adoption of the district’s affectionate moniker: The Harlem of the West. Despite this rich social, cultural history, Denver’s Black residents continue to struggle to achieve financial affluence in the context of severe economic inequality.
The founders of CHIC (Collaborative Healing Initiative Within Communities) Denver recognized that the struggle to address long-standing and deeply rooted disparity began with stabilizing the family and amplifying the key roles women of color play in developing healthy and thriving communities. They have set out to build women’s economic, social, and cultural capital so that the promises of the city might become available to all.
“To work with women, we also need to work with families.”
When women of color make their way to CHIC’s doors, they’re often traumatized by their experience with government institutions and personnel, including their children’s schools and the people running them. When their children struggle to master curriculum that is culturally incompetent and facilitated by instructors who have divested from their learning outcomes, women of color carry additional an burden. And as they manage household finances using a combination of low-paying jobs and social services—making the most of what is never enough—they are suspected of exploiting the system.
CHIC’s leadership has bridged the gap of distrust that widens further each time women of color are unfairly scrutinized and ridiculed, or casually disregarded by the very institutions that should be designed to nurture and uplift them. By listening, providing meaningful incentives, and creating space for healing from emotional and psychological trauma, CHIC makes it worthwhile for women of color to show up and to keep coming back. When they leave, they, their families, and communities, are closer to a life of financial security.
“CHIC’s story is one of being called into new spaces.”
CHIC has engineered community responsive and highly adaptive strategies to serve the community of women of color in Denver. The organization’s four programming clusters now include education, workforce development, reentry programs, and family and community engagement.
Impact Youth builds positive identity, mindfulness and self-efficacy to increase school engagement through tailored and community-responsive curriculum. Women at Work provides women access to high-earning, high-demand, and low barrier positions and prepare them for success. Enter to Thrive offers women and young people exiting the prison and juvenile justice systems mentorship and intensive case management. Finally, Community at Work brings families and service providers together to identify and leverage community resources and, most importantly, harness the power of social cohesion. For example, Chic’s construction apprenticeship program connects women of color to new employment opportunities arising from a shortage of labor in Denver’s construction industry.
The Educational Justice for Black Coloradans (EJBC) Initiative calls to action any and all stakeholders in the state of Colorado to put dollars behind their good-natured support for educational equality. EJBC means exactly that. In the effort to achieve sustainable racial and multi-generational economic equity in the state, Chic Denver calls for guaranteed no-cost access to state-funded post-secondary degree and credential programs to ensure that their educational program of choice is entirely cost free and debt free.
“Our duties naturally emerge from such fundamental relations as our families, neighborhood, workplaces, our state or nation. Make it your regular habit to consider your roles—parent, child, neighbor, citizen, leader—and the natural duties that arise from them. Once you know who you are and to whom you are linked, you will know what to do.” (Epictetus)
Chic’s co-founder and Chief Executive Director Sadé Cooper operates from this core philosophy when leading and serving others. Denver’s ecosystem of institutions and service providers is missing this critical link. By offering culturally-relevant, whole-family, female-focused supports and intervening in the systems that persistently fail Black women and families, Chic makes Denver’s communities of color more sustainable, equitable, and resilient.