Meet Featured Leader Jen LaBarbera

Every passionate activist has a compelling story. For Jen LaBarbera, that story began in the third grade with Save the Earth and Air, an environmental organization she founded. Through often challenging work at such a young age – or any age for that matter – Jen promoted and established a momentum of change within her community. Already in a dedicated pursuit of social justice, Jen organized events of letter writing to the president and planting of trees. Inspiring others and building a team of support is deep within Jen’s roots.

It was in high school that Jen was labeled a “feminazi.” Rather than back down, Jen embraced her new label and used it to fuel her journey of securing equal rights for women, LGBT individuals, and racial and economic minorities. In college, Jen successfully blended her work to include both queer and reproductive choice issues. Her work has never been single-issue focused. For Jen, economic justice, anti-violence work, reproductive choice and LGBT rights all fall under the umbrella of social justice.

It is often true that as social justice activists, we reach a tipping point, the top of the hill in which we must decide if our work is a temporary hobby ignited by a single issue or work that will continue for the rest of our lives. Jen reached her tipping point during her senior year of college. “I began to take on more leadership roles,” says Jen. Following a brief departure from advocacy when Jen managed a café, she returned to social justice work in South Dakota, and then Kansas and Missouri, working with Planned Parenthood. Ultimately, Jen’s goal of justice brought her to Denver where she is currently working with NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado.

Jen is a strong supporter of the future direction of One Colorado. “We need a unifying presence, an organization that helps build a cohesive community.” Jen, like many Coloradans, envisions an organization that represents the needs of multiple communities. “Our organizations are working for people who are not in the majority,” says Jen. In that sense, we must work even harder to ensure inclusivity is a top priority. Jen also hopes to see One Colorado “work to bridge the racial divide in the queer community.”

As activists, many of us remember a time when we became bitter about a certain cause. Far too often, we point the blame finger in a single direction. In California, we blamed racial minorities for our loss. For Jen, social justice work is always about moving forward. “We can’t get stuck in losses,” she says with conviction. Whenever Jen starts to burn-out in her work, she reminds herself of personal favorite quote by Martin Luther King, Jr: “The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.”