Lorraine Granado was a community organizer and activist who fought tirelessly to improve the lives of residents in Elyria-Swansea and Globeville.
Lorraine Granado was born April 16, 1948, to Joseph and Tillie Granado. Her father worked many years as a meat-cutter for National Food Stores. For much of her childhood, Lorraine’s family lived in the Curtis Park and Five Points neighborhoods, but they moved to Elyria-Swansea by the time she enrolled in Mount Carmel High School. The North Denver neighborhood and nearby Globeville community would not only come to define her life, but also remain her lifelong home.
Inspired in part by the Chicano movements of the 1960s and 70s, which took on issues such as systemic racism in schools and working conditions for farm workers, she took an active role in her community. She married young and raised three sons on her own. As her children grew, she engaged more in advocacy for her community and for local children like hers. In 1987, she helped to found the Cross-Community Coalition, an organization that combined the efforts of Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighbors who found more strength standing together.
Lorraine organized people to stop the environmental degradation taking place in the largely Hispanic communities north of I-70. The Coalition formed a group, “Neighbors for a Toxic-Free Community” and Lorraine served as chair. In 1991, they worked to stop a planned incinerator that would have burned medical waste and spewed pollution into the community. The organization succeeded and the incinerator project never broke ground.
These same communities had a smelter that processed metals from mountain mines. It had operated for over 100 years, releasing huge amounts of toxic metals like lead and cadmium into the air, soil, and water. Parts of the community were so contaminated that people could not eat food from their own gardens. Lorraine fought for the ASARCO smelter to be held liable for widespread soil contamination in the area. Residents eventually won a $24 million settlement and the corporation spent another $38 million cleaning up contaminated soil in Globeville. In 1998, she and others took on Conoco’s Suncor refinery for releasing large amounts of sulfur into the local air.
For decades, Lorraine fought the existence of and attempts to expand the path of Interstate 70; the highway physically separated Globeville and Elyria-Swansea from the rest of the city and increased noise and pollution in a minority-majority community. She worked with others to get that portion of I-70 diverted through the National Western Complex grounds, rather than the neighborhood. When desegregation busing ended, Black and Latino students had greater obstacles attending outside schools since there were few educational opportunities inside the neighborhood. She raised the issue of her community lacking local schools where children could be educated and demanded more opportunities for them.
An outspoken voice against the environmental policies of the George W. Bush Administration, Lorraine criticized cuts to the Superfund clean-up program that directly impacted many parts of North Denver. In 2002, she advocated for more access to the ballot by Spanish-speaking voters. Eventually, bilingual ballots and interpretation services were provided by election officials. While many of the community's challenges remain, she did live to see the EPA, working with the state government, perform soil mitigation and lead removal in the two neighborhoods. She also inspired neighbors and community organizers by showing that regular people can turn their shared concerns into meaningful action.
In 1997, she received a Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award for helping to create the Community Justice Project and in 2000, the Self-Sufficiency Award from the Latin American Research and Service Agency for her service across multiple organizations including, but not limited to, the Colorado Women’s Lobby, People of Color Consortium Against AIDS, and the Alliance for Basic Human Needs. In 2003, she was given the Cinco de Mayo Award for service to families in need through the Cross-Community Coalition's Family Resource Center. The park at 3200 E 52nd Ave was named in her honor in 2020.
"It’s always because there are other people of good faith and good will," she says. "I hope — I hope, I hope, I hope — that when I look back, I can say I contributed some by healing, teaching, creating awareness." Lorraine Granado in High Country News June 13, 2005
For decades, she lived in a small home in Swansea, around the corner from her mother. She died December 8, 2019.
systemic racism - when the policies of an organization or government are designed to benefit one racial or ethnic group over another
advocacy - giving support to an idea, person, or cause
liable - to be held responsible by the law
desegregation busing - an attempt to have more diversity in public schools by busing in groups of children from various communities
Superfund - a government program set up to clean up dangerous waste sites
Why do you think Lorraine decided to work on important causes while she was busy raising a family?
What do you think was the most important cause she worked on?
Are there things in your community you would like to see change? How would you go about making that change?