Mary MacCarthyMay 25, 20172min548

Graduation — it’s an event as American as apple pie.

And graduate Abdulsalam Hindawi looked just as American as the thousands of other students decked out in caps and gowns at the University of Colorado Boulder this month.

But his back-story is far from typical.

Hindawi is an asylum-seeker from Syria, who — despite the challenges of having fled his war-torn homeland — managed to achieve what fewer than 1 in 10 Americans have achieved: he earned a master’s degree.

The focus of Hindawi’s research might not surprise you:  Refugee Studies.

“I feel like I’m looking at my own past, but with an academic lens,” he said in his speech to his fellow graduates.

Hindawi fled Syria when the war broke out six years ago, spending time in Turkey before applying to and getting accepted to the graduate program at CU.

His mother still lives in Aleppo – the city that’s become synonymous with the civil war that’s estimated to have killed close to half a million people.

Degree in hand, but tough road ahead

Hindawi expresses gratitude towards his academic advisor, Dr. Jennifer Fluri

Hindawi had a smile on his face throughout graduation day, but his arduous journey is not over. He has his advanced degree in hand, but the documents he really needs — citizenship papers — have not yet been granted.

His speech, however, didn’t focus on his plight as a Syrian asylum-seeker under an administration that’s not friendly towards Syrians or towards refugees.

Instead, Hindawi took to the podium to celebrate the value of a liberal arts education, saying the study of  topics like geography can help to bridge the political gaps that divide human beings: “We learned that knowledge isn’t only about books, it’s the knowledge of ourselves and each other as individuals, without discrimination.”


Mary MacCarthyMay 24, 20174min896

One of the main resources for homeless youth in Denver is shut down, for now anyway.

The Urban Peak drop-in Center at 21st and Stout closed its doors on April 28th, citing security concerns.

An incident in late April in which youth from the center and other people gathered nearby interfered in an arrest “escalated to a very dangerous level,” according to Urban Peak Interim CEO Malinda Anderson.

Urban Peak is now working closely with city officials to re-open the drop-in center as soon as possible. A round-table discussion to address options is scheduled with city officials, Denver Police, Councilwoman Deborah Ortega, Councilman Albus Brooks, and others on May 31.

Urban Peak’s other services — which include an overnight shelter and street outreach — are still up and running. And the drop-in center has been able to let some youth into the building by appointment to access much-needed services, which include shower and laundry facilities and healthcare referrals.

Anderson said that, although security was the primary reason for closing the drop-in center, Urban Peak – along with many similar service providers in Denver – is suffering from a lack of resources. “Every provider of services for the homeless in Denver is feeling the strain of there being far more need than capacity, and an increased level of intensity… on the streets,” she told us in an e-mail.

Disappointing development follows big win for Urban Peak

Sign announcing closure at Urban Peak drop-in center in downtown Denver.

The shut-down of the drop-in center follows a high-profile success for advocates of Urban Peak. In March, rookie Democratic state Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver passed House Bill 1055, which creates an income tax check-off to support the charity.

The bill had strong bipartisan support: Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, guided the bill through the Senate (Urban Peak also operates programs in Colorado Springs).

The legislation will put Urban Peak on state income tax returns for up to five years. But the state allows only 20 charities on the form at a time, and Urban Peak has to wait in line for a spot – so any financial windfall from the bill won’t be felt for several years.

Herod said the sudden closure of the drop-in center highlights, more than ever, the need for increased donations to the youth program

“There’s a lot of negativity out there these days, leaving a lot of people unsafe and on the margins – our homeless youth are vulnerable, please give to Urban Peak today,” she said in a phone interview with Colorado Politics.


Mary MacCarthyMay 8, 20177min380

The French community in Denver seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief at noon on Sunday when the results of the second round of their presidential election were announced: Far right leader Marine Le Pen would not be their next president.

National Front leader Marine Le Pen garnered just one-third of the votes, opening the way for political newcomer Emmanuel Macron to take the top office with a comfortable victory.

Dozens of Denver-based expatriates gathered at France’s official cultural center, the Alliance Francaise, to celebrate.

“I’m proud of my country,” said Anne Redureau, a graphic designer who grew up in France but has lived in Denver for many years. “France did the right thing by not electing Marine Le Pen.”

That sentiment was echoed by French teacher Marielle Bruant-Carlson. The Paris native said that she and her family were on the edges of their seats in their east Denver home as they awaited the results.

“I was happy that my dear old France made the right choice,” she said. “After what happened here  — the election of Trump — having another ultra-conservative person in power, in Europe, would have signaled the beginning of a very dark time.”

Bruant-Carlson said a Le Pen victory would have had far-reaching consequences beyond France’s borders.

Le Pen had pledged to pull France out of the European Union, which, after the British chose to do so last summer, would have essentially spelled the end of the political union in any meaningful sense.

“Le Pen’s loss has given me reason to believe the European Union may have a future after all, and also the beautiful ideas associated with it,” she said.

Le Pen’s defeat: Like father, like daughter
Marine Le Pen leads the far-right National Front party, which was founded and led for decades by her controversial father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. He, too, almost became president of France — making it to the 2nd round of the election in 2002.

French voters turned out en masse to protest the possibility of a President Le Pen, saying they would not be led by a man who had repeatedly expressed anti-Semitic and xenophobic statements. Incumbent Jacques Chirac was unpopular, but still managed to win four out of five votes, with a massive turnout of close to 80%.

Anne Redureau and other Denver expats admit they are concerned that the non to the far-right was not nearly as resounding this time around as it was 15 years ago.

Voter turnout on Sunday was the lowest-ever in a French presidential election. And even if Marine Le Pen lost, the number of French voters who cast ballots for her was not insignificant (10 million compared to just 5 million who voted for her father).

Focus now turns to Macron, a relative unknown
When Colorado’s French community cast their old-fashioned paper ballots votes at the official voting station (at the French-affiliated International School of Denver), all talk was about Marine Le Pen – and making sure that she didn’t win. But when the results were announced, attention quickly turned to the young politician who managed to come out of left field and beat not only Le Pen but also candidates from France’s ruling parties.

“Maybe such a young man, Macron, can achieve great things?” Bruant-Carlson said. “I can’t wait to see.”

“We voted for progress, and we voted for tolerance within our country,” said Margot Renaud, a Frenchwoman from St. Tropez studying at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. “Emmanuel Macron, now is the time to prove yourself.”

Thirty-nine year-old Emmanuel Macron combines the sexy youthfulness of Canada’s superstar prime minister Justin Trudeau with what many Americans might consider a scandalous personal life. (Macron married his high school teacher, who’s 25 years his senior and has a daughter his age.)

Macron worked in finance before joining the staff of current Socialist President Francois Hollande, who eventually named him finance minister. Last year, Macron announced he was launching his own centrist party and running for president on a vague platform of uniting a divided nation.

The anti-Trump?
In the final weeks of the campaign, Emmanuel Macron was described as the anti-Trump candidate, with President Obama even announcing his support for him in a video message to the French people.

But there is something very Trump-ian about Macron’s rise to the top.

Like President Trump, Macron comes from the high-flying world of business and finance. Like Trump, he essentially ran on his personality and his message – not his allegiance to, or career in, an established party. (Neither man had held any elected office before being elected president.) And like Trump, Macron is a maverick figure whose very victory – for better or worse – immediately shook up his nation’s politics.

Macron and Trump may be on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, but their victories could point to a new trend: a post-party era when it comes to choosing our presidents.

Dems Dept. Whip Pabon.jpg

Mary MacCarthyApril 20, 20172min305
Marijuana activist and lawyer Rob Corry took to the stage at the 4/20 rally in Civic Center and declared that Denver is home to the “biggest 4/20 rally in the world.” That may have been the case at the height of the cannabis legalization movement, but it’s hard to imagine that was true Thursday. Rain […]

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Mary MacCarthyApril 20, 20173min306
If you’re headed to Denver’s Civic Center park this afternoon, be prepared for a Rocky Mountain contact high. Today marks the fourth 4-20 marijuana festival since Colorado launched the world’s first legal retail market for the drug. The Denver celebration generally draws thousands of pot enthusiasts, the highlight of what, for many, is a week-long […]

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Mary MacCarthyApril 19, 20171min288
Gov. John Hickenlooper says he’s confident legislators’ delays in coming up with a state budget won’t push him to call a special session. In an exclusive interview with Colorado Politics, the governor also chimed in with his thoughts on the race to take over his seat when he’s term-limited out of office in 2018, saying he […]

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Mary MacCarthyApril 14, 20175min351
Malebogo Molefhe is a profile in courage. An activist against gender-based violence, she came to Colorado on the heels of a trip to Washington, D.C., to accept an International Woman of Courage award. We met up with the Botswanan in Denver’s Botanic Gardens, where she told us about her decade of work teaching women and girls to […]

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Mary MacCarthyApril 13, 20173min312
Have you ever received a medical bill — even though you hadn’t been to the doctor or a hospital in a year? Or opened a letter from a collection agency regarding a debt you had paid off months earlier? If that’s happened to you, you’re not alone. A new report by the Colorado Public Interest Research […]

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Mary MacCarthyApril 9, 20171min349
Social media and fashion sensation Nura Afia sat down with Colorado Politics to tell us how life has — and hasn’t — changed under the Trump administration. The Colorado native, who graduated from Smoky Hill High School and now lives in Cherry Creek, gained an international reputation last fall when she was named as the first-ever […]

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Mary MacCarthyApril 6, 20175min282
With Donald Trump in the White House and on Twitter, it was easy to overlook some of the other stories in the world — including the civil war in Syria. But this week the news out of Syria was sufficiently tragic to make even the frenetic U.S. news cycle stop and take note. Dozens of Syrians, including children, […]

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