The University of Denver is committed to living our values of diversity and inclusion. Our community and institutional success is dependent on how well we engage and embrace the rich diversity of our faculty, staff, administrators, students and alumni.
Advancing a key strategic initiative outlined in the 2020-2021 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Action Plan, the Heritage Months Initiative will contribute to the creation of a campus climate and culture that strives for excellence in inclusion in all aspects of the University of Denver’s operations. Join us in this celebration!
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Latinx Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15 in the United States as a way of recognizing the contributions of those who have ancestral ties to South and Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. These days are significant to the Latinx community as they honor anniversaries of independence from European colonial rule for many of these nations.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community have long endured persecution and harm as they have sought equal rights and basic access to health care, employment and marriage. In October of 1994, Rodney Wilson, a high-school educator from Missouri—in collaboration with community leaders and fellow educators—began the practice of celebrating LGBTQ+ History month. The “+” in the “LGBTQ+” moniker indicates a continuing evolution of our understanding of gender and sexuality. It represents the gender identities or sexual orientations not yet systemically recognized or affirmed. LGBTQ+ History Month purposely coincides with National Coming Out Day on the 11th of October and celebrates the liberation of living as openly LGBTQ+.
This month, we recognize people who experience disabilities, a minoritized identity that may not be immediately visible. It is in the service of recognizing their needs and advocating for their rights that, 30 years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law as an important foundational step. While Disability Employment Awareness Month is necessary to highlight those who contribute to these collective successes, we must acknowledge that the struggle to correct disabling infrastructure and community norms extend to more than just the work environment. Disability rights advocates urge a more nuanced and comprehensive approach to advance the rights of this community by recognizing various awareness months, and working to eliminate barriers to working, thinking and learning.
In 1990, the U.S. Congress designated November as Native American Heritage Month. This time period has particular resonance for us at the University of Denver due to our historic relationship with Native and Indigenous peoples on the land that DU calls home. As documented and described in the findings of the John Evans Report and other sources, figures prominent in the founding of DU bear culpability for the violence and injustice perpetrated against Native peoples—specifically at Sand Creek. This tragic, historical legacy is something we struggle with to this very day. We do this with the acknowledgment that the land where the University of Denver now sits is the ancestral homeland of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, and that there is much work still to be accomplished. This work will take the active participation of each of us, the entire DU community.
We celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday in honor of the person he was and for showing America a pathway to make peace with our painful history. In Dr. King, the Black resistance movement found a champion with the revolutionary vision, the political savvy and the oratory ability to spark our imagination and capture the nation’s conscience. Though he was not the first to advocate for racial equality, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Dr. King and many of his allies incorporated within America’s governance framework the enduring ideal that all people are equal and thus deserve to be treated as such.
Black History Month is a dedicated time to recognize the contributions of Black peoples to the world. It was in 1915, almost half a century after the abolition of slavery, that historians Carter G. Woodson and Jesse Moorland celebrated what was then termed “Negro History Week.” In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month, asking for the public to “seize an opportunity to honor the often-neglected achievements” of Black people. This month is also a time to reflect on the historical and contemporary injustices perpetrated against an entire race and imagine a world that should be different. Black and African American communities continue to struggle in the grips of unjust criminal justice and education systems that continue to diminish the lives and opportunities of their people. These are systems that require re-imagining and re-building and we all share in that work.
In March, we celebrate Women’s History Month in recognition of women’s service and contributions to the continued progress of humankind. In 1987, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month in perpetuity. DU encourages our community to continue the conversation about the role of women in historical and contemporary life as we build a more equitable and just society.
In April we celebrate Autism Acceptance Month. According to the Autism Society of America, the prevalence of Autism in children has risen from 1 in 125 in 2010 to nearly 1 in 59 over the past decade. Autism advocates hope that, as awareness and acceptance of Autism increases within the larger population, the stigma of diagnosis and the social barriers that hinder people from living full and meaningful lives will dissipate.
For centuries, members of the Arab community have come to America’s shores, sharing with this country their gifts, talents and unique perspectives. As we welcome others from around the globe, we also welcome migrants from the 22 Arab nations who arrive to seek opportunities, flee persecution or simply look to build a better life. As a community and as an institution, we have a supporting role to play in helping them to realize their dreams and aspirations here in America.
In May, we celebrate Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month. May was selected to commemorate these communities to recognize two historical contributions. On May 7, 1843, the first Japanese people immigrated to the United States and May 10, 1869 marks the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad, the majority of which was crafted by Chinese immigrants. In honoring the contributions of Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi Americans, we also acknowledge the lived experiences of members of these communities, both in the past and today. This includes deeply meaningful accomplishments, vibrant cultural contributions and, unfortunately, challenges in the face of hate, violence and racism.
On April 20, 2006, President George W. Bush proclaimed that May would be Jewish American Heritage Month. The month of May was chosen due to the highly successful celebration of the 350th Anniversary of American Jewish History in May 2004. As we uplift Jewish communities for Jewish American Heritage Month, we must also note the world’s historical and, unfortunately, continued antisemitism. Yet, despite centuries of marginalization, Jewish Americans have persevered. We acknowledge the Jewish community’s challenges while at the same time celebrating the Jewish community’s successes.
Pride Month was first celebrated in the 1970s during what is considered the inception of the modern ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, two-spirit, and more’ (LGBTQIA2+) movement. Inspired by the passionate and transformative June 1969 Stonewall Riots, Pride Month has grown and evolved significantly over the past 50 years. Intersecting identities have become a fundamental part of the modern LGBTQ+ movement, ensuring other social justice issues and salient identities are not left behind.
During the month of June, the University of Denver celebrates Pride Month and the amazing contributions of LGBTQ+ people to our community and society. During this time of celebration, we also acknowledge the history of discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ+ community and the activists that continue to demand equity for all individuals regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The University of Denver’s diverse community is one of the many aspects that help our institution flourish and create positive impact all over the world. As we come to the end of May, we want to recognize and celebrate Jewish American Heritage month—uplifting the past and present contributions of Jewish Americans.
In celebration of Arab American Heritage Month, Kikhia spoke with the DU Newsroom about her community work, her experience as an Arab American and her inspirations. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
In our continuing effort to recognize and celebrate the remarkable diversity that makes the University of Denver community the thriving research and learning community that it is, this April we celebrate Autism Acceptance Month.