By Published: March 18, 2024

Boulder Chamber honors Reiland Rabaka with Impact Award at 2024 Celebration of Leadership

Reiland Rabaka believes in the beloved community.

An idea that originated with Harvard University philosopher Josiah Royce and was embraced and expanded by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it guides Rabaka’s vision and work, including the founding of the University of Colorado Boulder Center for African and African American Studies (CAAAS) more than a year ago.

In recognition of that work, the Boulder Chamber presented Rabaka, a CU Boulder professor of ethnic studies, the 2024 Impact Award at its Celebration of Leadership Wednesday evening. The Impact Award “is presented in recognition of an individual or local company that makes significant contributions to their industry, environmental stewardship, and/or social sustainability within the Boulder community,” the Boulder Chamber noted.

The award honors the establishment of the CAAAS and “his role in conceiving and developing this welcoming and vibrant space for Black students, staff, faculty, alumni and allies. The CAAAS also has been a source of pride and optimism throughout the Black community in and around Boulder.”

Reiland Rabaka at Boulder Chamber Celebration of Leadership

Reiland Rabaka (right) accepts the Boulder Chamber Impact Award Wednesday evening while John Tayer (left), Boulder Chamber CEO and president, looks on. (Photo: Casey Cass/CU Boulder)

It also celebrates Rabaka’s vision for building a beloved community in Boulder, “where Latinx folk, Native Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans and European Americans finally come together and work together to rescue and reclaim our humanity and achieve a multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious American democracy,” Rabaka said while accepting the award.

“Let’s make Martin Luther King’s dream a reality by building the beloved community right here, right now in Boulder, Colorado.”

Standing in sincere solidarity

Introducing Rabaka, Ann Cooper, a longtime Boulder community activist, emphasized that Rabaka is “a visionary leader whose impact extends far beyond the boundaries of academia. The CAAAS center at CU a testament to the culmination of numerous aspirations finds their beating heart in the tireless efforts of Dr. Rabaka. It is evident that the CAAAS has become more than just a physical space; it is a sanctuary of belonging, community and culture for Black students, sending waves of pride and optimism throughout the Black community in and around Boulder.”

She added that before CAAAS was established, Boulder “may have felt like a place where few Black individuals, especially young people, could find a sense of comfort and acceptance. Dr. Rabaka’s profound impact lies in creating joyful and welcoming spaces for Black students. CAAAS was necessary in a community where inclusivity is a crucial top of discussion.”

That commitment to inclusivity is central to Rabaka’s vision of a beloved community: “I dream of a world that is committed to acknowledging and honoring the lives, struggles and leadership of the most marginalized among us, including, but not limited to, those who are girls and women, queer and trans, formerly and currently incarcerated, poor and working class, disabled and differently abled, undocumented and immigrant,” he said.

“The beloved community is committed to equal access to education and health care, to food justice, to animal rights and the preservation of plant life and to open and honest conversation about climate change and environmental racism and their devastating impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable among us. There can be no liberation for any of us if we do not center and fight for those who continue to be marginalized and exploited.”

Rabaka called on those attending the Celebration of Leadership—the beloved community members—to stand in sincere solidarity “with all oppressed, exploited, and racially colonized people who are fighting for their liberation” and to be bridges “for those that claim to be our allies and help them evolve into our advocates, and I believe I’m with some advocates in here today.

“Another way and another world is possible, but only if we are willing to work for it, only if we are willing to commit ourselves to making whatever sacrifices are necessary to bring the beloved community into being.”

Click the button below to hear Reiland Rabaka discuss community, art and many other topics on The Ampersand, the College of Arts and Sciences podcast.

Listen to The Ampersand

Top image: Reiland Rabaka accepts the Boulder Chamber Impact Award. (Photo: Casey Cass/CU Boulder)

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