EDCI Spotlight: Adapting to a Global Pandemic Amid Racial Justice Outcries

June 22, 2020

Since 1996, The Denver Foundation has launched many initiatives to increase diversity, inclusiveness, and racial equity in the local nonprofit sector. For example, the Foundation has engaged in intentional practices of listening and working with community members to self-identify their assets and opportunities through the Strengthening Neighborhoods program. We have partnered with nonprofits, funders, and community members to develop research, programs, and best practices around inclusiveness and equity (The SHIFT; The Landscape Report). And since 2012, we’ve developed and expanded a program that focuses on leaders of color, developing their organizational and leadership skills through peer-to-peer learning and sharing through the Executive Directors of Color Institute (EDCI).

This two-year capacity-building program has been a space for growth and development for over 60 alumni members since its first cohort eight years ago. Alongside LaDawn Sullivan, the Foundation’s Director of Leadership & Equity, dynamic program facilitators Art Rimando and Vienna Presley, seasoned EDCI program alumni offer participants a three-pillar experience. Each member is offered a platform for leadership development, capacity-building for their organizations, and strategies to strengthen their collective work in the Metro Denver nonprofit sector. 

During a global pandemic, EDCI programming started two months later than planned and has been moved into virtual reality. Yet the value of peer-to-peer learning and a space for human connection and a forum for sharing lived experience and knowledge with one another can’t be diminished amid a global pandemic and nationwide outcry for racial justice. “I’m very happy that EDCI has decided to continue, because ‘The Marathon’ continues [as famously stated by the late rapper Nipsey Hussle]. We still need to be supportive of one another and my mindset is that I need to make the most out of it,” says Dontae Latson, President, and CEO of Rocky Mountain Communities and Year 1 EDCI participant. 

“I think it’s critical for leaders of color to have a safe space where we have the opportunity to vent frustrations, to celebrate victories, and to deeply engage in conversations, that quite frankly, others will not understand.”

In his 17 years working at the executive leadership level in both the public and private sectors, “this is the first executive program I’ve gone through that is exclusively for people of color. I think it’s critical for leaders of color to have a safe space where we have the opportunity to vent frustrations, to celebrate victories, and to deeply engage in conversations, that quite frankly, others will not understand.” Latson admits the situation for his first year of the EDCI is not ideal, but the value of the connections he’s made thus far, albeit virtually, is very real.

The current cohort of the EDCI, Class(es) of 2020 and 2021 includes nearly 40 executive directors and nonprofit leaders from Metro Denver. You can find a full list of the current cohort and a list of EDCI alumni here.

EDCI Year 1 Participants

Kenneth Barela, Avazan Latino

Candice Bataille, Glowmundo

Angela Cesna, Latinas Safehouse

Kisha Burton, A True Change

Sade Cooper, Collaborative Healing Initiative with Communities

David Dadone, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art

Violeta Garcia, Denver Urban Gardens

Dara Goldsby, Caring and Sharing

Maria Gonzales, Adelante Community Development

Dontae Latson, Rocky Mountain Communities

Diana Pineda, VUELA for Health

Yvette Plummer Burkhalter, Thrive Center

Vanessa Roberts, Project Voyce

Tanaka Shipp, Collaborative Healing Initiative with Communities

Tomeka Speller, Gateway Domestic Violence Services

Dane Washington, Kids Above Everything Else

Herman White, Park Hill Pirates

Rosa Marie Vergil Velasquez, Una Mano, Una Esparanza

EDCI Year 2 (Returning) Participants

Hasira Soul Ashemu, Our Voices Our Schools (OVOS)

Andrea Barela, NEWSED

Yoli Casas, VIVE Wellness

Shalelia Dillard, SCD Enrichment Program

Phillip Douglas, Make A Chess Move

Xochitl Gaytan, Our Voices Our Schools

Yoal Ghebremeskel, Street Fraternity

Olga Gonzalez, Cultivando

Pam Jiner, Montbello Walks

Cassandra Johnson, OVOS/Black Child Development Institute

Stephanie Knight, Senior Hub

Larry Martinez, Denver Inner City Parish

Claudia Moran-Pichardo, Museo de las Americas

Charlene Porter, Hattie McDaniel Museum

D. L. Pos Ryant, Apprentice of Peace Youth Organization

Juliet Sebold, African Leadership Group

Nosh Tarachand, America’s House of Commons

Johnnie Williams, GRASP (Gang Rescue and Support Project)

Noreen VL Wilson, Operation Hope