BY SHALEEN DESTEFANO

We’ve all been watching the news in horror as families are separated in detention centers across the US. With heavy hearts and only four days of planning, the Denver Art Community came together on Friday, June 29th and raised over $13,000 for the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN). This impromptu fundraiser was spearheaded by local artist and mother, Kaitlyn Tucek together with artist and mother Risa Friedman, two women who couldn’t sit by and NOT do anything.

RMIAN works to ensure justice for adults in immigration detention and immigrant children who have suffered from abuse, neglect, or violence. They promote knowledge of legal rights, provide effective representation to ensure due process, work to improve detention conditions, and promote a more humane immigration system, including alternatives to detention.

Kaitlyn Tucek offers a glimpse of how this whirlwind idea came to fruition. “Myself and a number of other creative women here in Denver gather occasionally to provide support in a group we call CULT (Creative United Ladies Tea).  I hadn’t slept much last Thursday evening, as the news of children being split from their parents was hard to swallow. I’m a mother of two little ones under five. I can’t imagine the possibility of never seeing them again. I woke Friday and messaged my CULT ladies and they were immediately on board. By Monday mid-day we were added (graciously) to the Giving Voices event at the McNichols building, a night for advocacy. My husband, Matt, came up with our name (Artists for Immigrant Families) and within three days we mobilized the event. RMIAN was thrilled to be a part of this, they are an organization that works very hard. They collected all payments directly and we organized every other detail between myself and five women.”

“We gathered 252 items from local artists. Word spread quickly and soon we had some of the biggest names in the Denver art scene involved. It was remarkable, but the truth is, everyone felt like there was finally something they could do to help. To see it all come together, was incredibly up-lifting. Even if we can’t be the one who helps a family reunite, at least we can provide support for those who do.”

CoHost Risa Friedman said “From start to finish, I was blown away by how the Denver art community cares and acts.”

This mission of RMIAN is simple; they believe that justice for immigrants means justice for all. They respect the needs and celebrate the contributions of the individuals and communities that they serve. Overall, they value respect for all human beings, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or legal status.

This event was a shining example of the power of community. Kenny Hood, Program Coordinator for RMIAN was full of appreciation. “We’re so happy with how the event came together, and exposed RMIAN to so many new and amazing people. Making these connections in the community is a bright light in an otherwise dark time.”

Natalie Esquivel of Alden Finch offered these closing thoughts.

“This was not about democrats or republicans. It was not about name calling or righteousness. This was one woman, who asked another woman for help, who put a call out to their community. It was people who came together and showed up in love, to do what they could to take care of each other, and those they’d never met.

At the end of the event, I came home to sleep in my comfortable bed, in my home, knowing where my children were and thinking of the staff of RMIAN, their work, and how earnestly they appreciated this donation. I fell asleep thinking about the families I so deeply hope are reunited.”

If you too would like to support the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network, visit www.rmian.org/donate.

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