Denver Direct: Welcoming Colorado

Friday, April 9, 2010

Welcoming Colorado

By Dave Felice, with material from Chandra Russo

The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) is using bus advertising to publicize its “Welcoming Colorado” campaign. The new statewide public education and media campaign is aimed at developing “open and respectful dialogue between immigrants and their communities,” according to Chandra Russo of CIRC. “Through innovative activities, we hope people can share experiences and correct misinformation,” says Russo.

In the metro-Denver area, RTD buses are carrying the image of Mohamed, a Union Taxi driver. Union Taxi, an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America Local 7777, is a driver-owned and operated company founded primarily by African immigrants, with assistance from CWA.

Russo says Mohamed was selected for the advertisement “because he exemplifies the struggles and successes so many immigrants and refugees face when coming to the U.S. and Colorado. As we are trying to make Colorado a more welcoming state for newcomers, we thought that Mohamed’s story should be shared.”

According to Russo, “Mohamed came to the U.S. from Somalia as a refugee in 2000. The transition was somewhat eased by having a relative who lived in the Denver area, but being a refugee was hard at the beginning.”

Mohamed explains that it was challenging to find a place to live and to get the correct work permits. Still, there was relief to be had in the Somali community. “By our nature, Somalis, we help each other as a community. People are very collective in helping each other,” explains Mohamed. He ultimately found a place to live and a company that would hire him.

Mohamed explains that at Union Taxi, “Most of the drivers are immigrants who came to this country looking for a better life for themselves and their families.” The majority are from east African countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Sudan. “Of course, we have brothers from other countries, like Armenia.” Union Taxi also has U.S. born drivers, and Mohamed reiterates, “We are all brothers in the company.”

Mohamed says that his passengers make him feel especially welcome in Colorado. “They always ask where I’m from. By the end of the ride, they say ‘Welcome to your new home’.”

Russo says the “Welcoming Colorado” campaign launch includes community discussions, film screenings, and public receptions, including a meeting in Boulder with Congressman Jared Polis. “The events mark the first time Welcoming Colorado has placed advertisements, which will appear on buses, benches and newspapers in eight Colorado cities: Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs, Aspen, Vail, Boulder, Longmont, Denver, and Aurora,” she adds.

People can read more about Mohamed and others portrayed in Welcoming Colorado’s advertisements at More information is available directly from Russo, [email protected].