We’re committed to learning. On our teams and within our agency, with our clients, and with the world around us. Our new content series, #tapculture, features diverse voices talking about diverse issues and events. And we’re launching with Tay Anderson, secretary and at-large director of the Denver Public Schools Board of Education. We spoke with him during Global Diversity Awareness Month and DPS’ phased return to in-person learning.
1. Tell us about yourself and your position in the community and on the Denver Public Schools Board of Education. You’re one of Colorado’s youngest ever elected officials. Why did you run? What have you learned so far?
I am originally from Kansas, and I moved out to Denver in 2012. I went to DPS for my high school career. During that time I also experienced several life stresses, including living in foster care, and I was homeless at one point. After leadership roles in Young Democrats of America, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I can give back to my community. I ran for school board as a high school senior in the fall of 2017. I didn’t win. But I started working for DPS, and I ran again. Last fall, I was elected with 67,213 votes.
I’ve learned that not everything is as easy as it appears on TV. It’s different governing than running for office. When you’re governing over a specific body, you don’t have all the answers. You have to be able to accept that. Nevertheless, I’ve passed five resolutions since being elected. I’m now looking at a sixth and seventh. One is like a Green New Deal for schools, and the other tackles poverty.
2. There’s a lot more attention on and conversation about diversity lately. Also, there are several month- and week-long celebrations of diversity going on in October (which is why we’re launching this new content series now). How can we, as a community, learn about and celebrate diversity all year?
Celebrating diversity shouldn’t be exclusive to three months a year: LGBTQI+, Black History Month, and Hispanic Heritage Month. We should be celebrating our diversity 365 days a year. We need to make sure we’re doing these things for more than just checking a box. We’ve come a long way but we still have a long way to go. So, it’s important to be asking questions like, “What can we be doing to make our communities feel safer?” Right now, folks are not really protected. We have to make sure that when individuals seek opportunity in this country, when they’re seeking pay equity, they shouldn’t only get awards during months that are meant to celebrate them. It’s time for folks to really understand how privilege and power show up in our lives.
3. Two other common terms: equity and inclusivity. How are you approaching these goals for DPS and Denver?
I’m the author of the inclusion resolution in DPS. We implemented a mandate for all schools to provide an all gender restroom. We authorize our students and teachers to display pride flags, in lockers, throughout our buildings. We fought to make sure that pronouns would be normalized within our communities. We are making sure that LGBTQI+ communities have a safe space in our schools. Equity is at the forefront.
4. We know you had a huge role in the Denver Black Lives Matter protests. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Through DPS, we held a Black Lives Matter event. We drew 10,000 families. We marched from the amphitheater at Civic Center Park to the Martin Luther King Jr. statue in City Park. Every time, for almost a month straight, we opened our DPS board meetings by stating the names. I took great pride in stating Elijah McClain’s name. We will pass the “Know Justice, Know Peace Resolution” to infuse all curriculum with ethnic studies, whether Black, Latinx, Asian, Native American. That’s going to be a new experience for our students. It’s real, bold, progressive change.
Note: Learn more about the student-led initiative for a more inclusive curriculum in this Denverite article.
5. What are some first steps anyone can take to advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion?
Lean on different organizations in your community to support you in your growth. It’s different in every community. Lean on those organizations to figure out how you can become a better ally.
6. Any other thoughts you’d like to share? What do you think brands can be doing?
Businesses can be building inclusivity with bold actions. Businesses can be anti-prejudice and anti-racism, too. Make sure that everyone feels welcome when they come in. A mom and pop shop can do it. So can big businesses.
Thanks for joining us for our first installment of #tapculture! We invite you to learn more about the DPS Board of Education. Also, check back soon for more diverse voices or suggest an upcoming guest or topic.
Yellow tie: Kaitlyn Hickman, Board meeting: Dave Russell, Buffalo Heart Images, Bullhorn: Sam Hotaling
Now in our 50th year of business, Vladimir Jones is Colorado’s original independent, integrated advertising agency, with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. We believe in brilliant brands and love making the world love them as much as we do.