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Activists Among Us: [A Few of] The People Making BOCO the Best it Can Be

Activists Among Us: [A Few of] The People Making BOCO the Best it Can Be


It’s all fun and games ’till they put up a toxic well in your backyard, or the new American Gestapo kidnaps a neighbor. These activists are fighting for the BOCO we all want and deserve.

Malala Yousafzai once said, “I raise up my voice not to that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.” In this we find the spirit of activism. We may think we are fighting for ourselves, and we are, but our struggles also fight for our loved ones, our neighbors, communities, strangers, and, yes, the world. These activists are making BOCO a better place, in hopes that we can create the world we want to live in, a world we want to pass down to the future. For that work, we’re immensely grateful and humbled, and we stand in awe of the commitment they’ve made to making the world better.


Darren O’Connor

Name, age, occupation:
Darren O’Connor, 50 years old, currently unemployed: just-graduated law student. Formerly an electrical engineer for over 20 years.

What part of Boulder County do you live in?
North Boulder, where I have lived for the past 25 years.

What kind of activism do you do, and why do you do it?
I have mainly been involved in groups taking on the rights of people experiencing homelessness and racial justice. I began 7 1/2 years ago organizing against banks who were fraudulently taking people’s homes during the Great Recession and the foreclosure crisis.

Helping people stay in their homes after the big banks crashed the global economy seemed imperative to me, given that many people lost their jobs as a direct result of the greed of bankers and those who gambled on mortgage backed securities. I quickly learned that as bad as the foreclosure crisis was, it was typically three times worse for Black and Brown homeowners. Our government representatives in Colorado were failing to address the needs and abuse of their constituents, and I worked with volunteers to challenge fraudulent foreclosures by writing guest opinions, lobbying legislators, but most importantly, through direct action to help individuals. We helped several people stay in their homes when they were just weeks away from having their homes sold at auction by protesting at their banks or by contacting their lenders on their behalf.

Homelessness became a priority for me after I learned just how badly our law enforcement treats people. Eventually I decided to go to law school to be able to bring effective challenges to such mistreatment, and, three years later, I graduated. I’m looking forward to becoming a licensed attorney to further the cause on this issue, as well as issues of racial justice. I am currently the Chair of the Criminal Justice Committee for the NAACP Boulder County Branch.

Why is this work important? How can people get involved (organizational contact info appreciated)?
People experiencing homelessness have almost no resources to defend themselves against abuse. They are continually, in my experience, subjected to the police and security guards treating them abusively and with disregard for basic dignity.

I have learned a great deal about how poorly people experiencing homelessness are treated at shelters and it is so important for those that do not have exposure to this to learn that folks are treated perhaps one step above that of criminals.

These stories, and stories of police mistreatment, are common. The first and foremost step people can take is to get to know our neighbors experiencing homelessness.

People can get involved, initially, by simply meeting the gaze of people they see who are likely homeless on the streets and saying hello and even engaging in a conversation. Though I encourage to give money or other assistance directly to people, even the kindness of your time is valuable.

In addition, you can join me at the NAACP Boulder County Branch. We hold meetings the first Monday of the month. I also work with the Boulder DSA, which has regular meetings, and folks can learn more on the Safe Access For Everyone (SAFE) Facebook page.


Anne Lee Foster

Name, age, occupation:
Anne Lee Foster, 32, Communications Director for Colorado Rising.

What part of Boulder County do you live in?
I live in South Boulder and have been here about a year and a half.

What kind of activism do you do, and why do you do it?
My organization works to protect communities from the dangers of fossil fuel extraction in Colorado, including the effects of the climate crisis. I moved to Colorado about three years ago looking to shake things up from my former life working in a university art museum. When I arrived, I learned of the 55,000 active oil and gas wells in Colorado that are negatively impacting our health, quality of life and are a major contributor to the F air quality rating the American Lung Association has given the Front Range. This was not the Colorado I had dreamed of, so I decided to do something about it. The more I learned about the injustices that favor the oil and gas industry, the more galvanized I became.

Why is this work important?
The oil and gas industry has had free reign in the state of Colorado to operate as they please for the last several decades. This imbalance of power has allowed the industry to prey on communities, packing them full of heavy industrial activity, just 500 ft. from homes in many cases, causing negative health impacts and destroying our precious natural environment. In addition to this gross injustice that has been hugely detrimental, we are now facing the greatest challenge our species has ever encountered in the climate crisis. Our best and brightest scientists inform us that we have a mere decade to right this ship and save our delicate biosphere for future human life. I can’t imagine not doing everything in my power to heed that call and rise to this monumental occasion to save our species and everything that we hold dear.

How can people get involved?
Sign up to receive emails and action alerts at corising.org/get-email.


Kathy Partridge

Name, age, occupation:
Kathy Partridge, age 63, fiber artist, volunteer KGNU talk show host, and retired grant-maker.

What part of Boulder County do you live in (and how long have you lived there)?
I have lived in Longmont for 15 years, and I have been a resident of Boulder County since 1974.

What kind of activism do you do, and why do you do it?
I am a leader in the Together Colorado Boulder County organizing group, and was an organizer of “Building Justice: Harnessing the Power of the Faith Community to Transform Boulder County,”  where over 115 persons from 22 congregations plus ally organizations heard about organizing around state policies, affordable housing, mental health, and immigrant sanctuary.

Since January 2018, I have co-led the Longmont Leads with Love Weekly Vigil. Our goal is to stand up for kindness toward all people and the planet, rally for policies we care about, send a progressive message to our city and nation, and help build Longmont’s progressive community. We have had crowds as large as 1,000, but even when we are just a couple of dozen, we are there.

I am also an avid knitter and “craftivist” who made dozens of hats for the Women’s March, and now knits Welcome Blankets for refugees, as well as hundreds of items of warm wool clothing for children in harm’s way around the world through Wool-Aid. You can find me on Ravelry as Longmont Kathy.

These are my current main foci. I have been an activist in Boulder County since I arrived here as a CU Student in 1974 – protesting Rocky Flats, organizing tenants, co-founding Women in Black, volunteering with Left Hand Books and KGNU, and taking part in a variety of social justice and peace campaigns.

Why is this work important?
Acting for social justice and peace is the dues I pay as a citizen of this planet. I care deeply about children, the environment, and our future. I believe that persons most affected by injustice should have the say in how to address the issue. Our collective efforts, though each may be small, can achieve lasting and important social change. I strive to be an ally for the eradication of racism and white supremacy.

How can people get involved (organizational contact info appreciated)?
People can get involved with Together Colorado by visiting togetherco.org, and the weekly vigil in Longmont by contacting longmontvigil@gmail.com (or just join us at 6th and Main every Sat. 1-2 pm).

People can also contact me at longmontkathy@gmail.com.


Nami Thompson

Name, age, occupation:
Nami Thompson (she/her), 33, Family Leadership Training Initiative Site Coordinator and Boulder County Housing and Human Services 2GO Workgroup.

What part of Boulder County do you live in (and how long have you lived there)?
I’ve lived in Gunbarrel for 2 years and 3 months.

What kind of activism do you do, and why do you do it?
I don’t really do any kind of “activism.” I was brought up by people who taught me that my actions are my meditation, and the purpose of meditation is self-awareness. The best way I know how to observe my personal contradictions is to connect with other people. In my search for resolution of inner conflict, I learned activism can only exist in the interaction between people— it’s more like activism-ing. My interest is in using my own raw materials to build novel, generative, and nourishing community connections.

In order to stave off burnout, I naively believed that working for non-profits would be an efficient use of my energy. All of that work was a lesson in the business of suffering. Non-profits and NGOs have their heads turned toward politicians and business-owners, and they’re invested in perpetuating the conditions which cause systemic oppression.

Community engagement is where I felt the most meaningful impact in the lives of the people around me. My job at Housing and Human Services is to center family voice in public health. I also work for Lifespan Local initiatives and am with the Health Equity Coalition of the Colorado Public Health Association. All of these are community-led initiatives.

I recently helped organize and lead the Rally for Police Oversight in Boulder, and I’m now on the oversight task force. I wish I could say it’s as simple as the police vs. the people or policy vs. lived experience. The truth is every American has, in some way, contributed to the conditions which led to that event. We can’t deny imperial privilege. This is a settler-colonial state which was built on the fulcrum of anti-Blackness and anti-Indigeneity.

Lately, I’m focusing more on organizing the community in such a way that orients it towards joy. Play is an act of revolution. I’ve been intimidated, arrested, and have had my life threatened for the mere act of protesting, but I still sing with the windows open.

How can people get involved?
Lifespan Local, which is operated by the same people who created the Dahlia Campus for Health and Well-Being, is hosting Family Leadership Training Initiative, a 20-week course for learning the tools of community engagement. People who wish to support the provision of language interpretation, childcare, and meals can make a donation via cash, check, or online transfer by contacting me at nami@lifespanlocal.org

Join the Health Equity Coalition of the Colorado Public Health Association by emailing jasonvitello@gmail.com. You don’t need to be a policy or health equity expert. Your experiences are the best thing you can bring to the table

Offer feedback and public support for the Police Oversight Task Force, and be sure to pair it with advocacy for accompanying policy change.

Lastly, show up for each other, and tend to the garden you can reach. You’re going to get tired. You’re going to want breaks for self-care. You’re going to sacrifice things you love. Do only the work that’s within your primary competency in order to make space for others who are doing what they’re most competent at, and everyone will have it a little easier. Treat yourself to some activism.

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