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Fort Collins Multilingual Banners Celebrate Diversity, Encourage Inclusivity

The current version of the banner seen outside of Fort Collins City Hall. The banners will soon be taken down and updated with two more languages. Photo credit: Tony Villalobos May

The City of Fort Collins has taken a strong stance on diversity.

30 large multilingual banners that read “We Are Fort Collins” have been commissioned by the City of Fort Collins recently, celebrating the history of diversity the Fort Collins area has had throughout the years.

The large banners have 15 languages written on them, reading “We Are Fort Collins” in English. “I Am Fort Collins” is written in the 14 other languages that were chosen based on prominence used in the area based on census and city data and recommendations from a cultural competency trainer.

The project was led by a team through the city’s Social Sustainability office, co-speared by Janet Freeman, who is the Equity and Inclusion Coordinator and Annie Bierbower, the Civic Engagement Liaison as part of the Fort Collins Equity team. The idea for the banners came from community requests and was in the works for several months before being hung around the city.

The original idea was for a visual representation of support from the City of Fort Collins and went through several different designs and messages before settling on the current one.

“The idea originally was that they would just say ‘Welcome,’ and decided that wasn’t the right message,” Brittany Depew said, the Administrative Assistant at the office of Social Sustainability. “So making it more inclusive by saying ‘I am’ instead of ‘Welcome’ was a really thoughtful and interesting change.”

The change was brought up by Cultural Competency Trainer, Todd Cornell, who suggested that the message would give a sense of ownership when community members see it written in their personal languages.

Photo by Tony Villalobos May.jpg
The current version of the banner seen outside of Fort Collins City Hall. The banners will soon be taken down and updated with two more languages. Photo credit: Tony Villalobos May

The city held a ‘Lunch and Learn’ with community members to talk about the banners and ideas they had. At one of these luncheons, Cornell and the Equity team received positive feedback from community members and were told that the portrayed message was effective.

“These banners give life to the spirit of diversity in Fort Collins,” Oscar Lorandi said, a Latino student and senior communications major at Colorado State University. “I’m proud of the City of Fort Collins.”

“We were concerned the whole time that we weren’t going to be able to represent all the languages…we just knew there was going to be languages that were going to be missed,” Bierbower said.

Bierbower said that there were some concerns about the lack of Hebrew in the posters, which has a strong cultural presence in Fort Collins Jewish population. Hebrew, along with two other languages, is working to be included in the reprints of the banners.

Depew and Bierbower anticipate the donated reprints to be done quickly, and the majority of the old banners will be repurposed for purchase while some will be gifted to noteworthy project contributors and areas around the city such as fire stations and cultural offices.

Director of Utilities donated space on the poles where banners are hung and manpower to hang them up. The banners are considered “evergreen” by Depew and Bierbower and will be placed up in various areas around Fort Collins as long as they are considered relevant and in good condition.

The banners will be rotated in various locations in even dispersals around town.

Not only did Utilities donate time and space to this project, but Cornell has rendered his translation and competency services free of charge, and a local printer offered to waive the price of the reprinted banners. The project in total cost about $3,700 with initial printing costs included.

Bierbower said that while the city government was not influenced openly by politics, the community members who helped push this project are likely inspired by current national politics.

Depew said that the banners project was one project among several for Equity and Diversity by the Social Sustainability office. “Equity and inclusion are frameworks to accomplish the City’s goals of sustaining an environment where residents and visitors feel welcomed, safe, and valued in our community,” said the City of Fort Collins website.

“I loved being a part of this,” Bierbower said, regarding the banners projects.

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