Black Advocates Speak on the Never-Ending Fight for Equality

Voices of Denver is an ongoing series, go here to read part I and part II and III
There is a virus spreading faster than COVID-19. It’s been around us all our lives, hard to notice at points if it doesn’t harm us directly. It’s been declared a public health crisis in our state. It’s been ignored, minimized, oversimplified and outright denied. Racism exists, happens every day and grows in size when advocates challenge the status quo. The movement will only keep pushing forward if we keep on talking about it.
With this in mind, we’ve brought back our world of Denver voices. For this segment, we are focusing on three empowering stories of people who have kept fighting for change regardless of the darkness it can often leave like tar in our chests. Through organizations, poetry and podcasts, these three individuals have propelled their messages forward and been advocates for minority voices. Our hope is to reignite that passion for innovation through their words and remind our Denver community that we are all still here fighting against this virus with the urgency it deserves.

Kerrie Joy

Photo Courtesy of Kerrie Joy on Facebook

For a moment,

For, at least, this moment,

I want us to rest in the wells that our people dug with trembling hands and filled with countless tears. Whether these hands tremble from fear, anger or crippling sorrow. Whether these tears pour from sadness, hopelessness, or rage.

For a moment

For, at least, THIS very moment

I want us to rest.

Because knocking at the door of each of our hearts, that unrelenting beat within our chests is our warrior spirit. And when we open that door, we must give an answer that is not tired, nor is it broken but it is ready: arrows drawn, swords sharpened, bodies tuned, minds vigilant. Warriors. People of the sun. Marching forward, defending our children, honoring our ancestors, blessing the harvest nourished from generations of innocent blood and unemancipated sweat. A harvest that we now declare as free from strange lands where we were buried forgetting that we are seeds. It is time to grow. To choke out the weeds of death and exploitation and dismantle the master’s house while singing redemption songs. Remembering that WE are the writers of every holy book. This pen is a sword, unsheathed and thirsty: drinking from the wells that my people have cried. Awakened, a quill that can not die. A will, quilted together by stories of silenced leaders that said “no” to the savagery of white supremacy and the uncivilized tactics of colonialism.

Those that did not take the crumbs that fell from the master’s table, denouncing the false narrative that there is not enough for all of us to eat. Those that declared no one a master, because you can’t trust anyone that needs slaves to be free.

So relinquish them of their power and reclaim your own. Remembering we are the saviors of every holy book, the anointed ones, with skin like bronze and hair like wool. Greater works shall WE do.

So let us steady our trembling hands and embrace the creators that we are destined to be. A just world is on the horizon but only if we build it there and only if we build it where liberation is not up for conversation and self-determination is a right that we will no longer beg for.

We will bury those that we’ve lost along the way, remembering that they are seeds. Let us watch their purpose grow in us and continue to fulfill their wildest dreams.

Yes, we have work to do and a future to unapologetically defend. But, for a moment.

For at least, this very moment, my people, I want you, to rest.

I am determined to move into our collective future creating a better reality along the way. I recognize, fully, how that must begin with me. I can’t change anything around me until have changed. Otherwise, I will perpetuate what is familiar and can too easily become what I hate. So, there have been times throughout these recent months, where I found myself in an isolation that I forged out of a revolutionary love for me. It was a love that I knew was there, but, damn, it was hard to find.

The embarrassing reality is, I didn’t always know that it was worth finding and I didn’t always know that I was worth fighting for. I thought my blackness was a curse. I thought my queerness was a curse. I thought death was my only recourse. I thought that hell was my only destiny. I believed all of the lies taught to me; I perpetuated those lies. I believed that anything brought upon me, I always brought upon myself. I projected that belief, judging beautiful people along the way. I forgot what was holy. But then I met myself, truly. I met people that didn’t want me to change. I met safety. I met home. I met rest. Denver was that for me. This community gave that to me…so every day, I find myself determined to move into our collective future, creating a better reality every step of the way. I will not stand by as the people I love are abused by negligence and greed. I only learned to fight because I grew to love. Denver did that to me, this community did that to me…and, for that, I am forever grateful.

Charmaine Billingsley

Photo Courtesy of Charlie Billingsley on Facebook

Today I.
Today I cried for you.
I cried because they don’t see your life as value.
But I do.
I cried because I can literally hear your cries and see them as they tried to silence you.
I cried because I have a beautiful Black son.
And that son has a beautiful Black father. And because I have three Black brothers And a Black father.
And they could at anytime be a Trayvon Martin, an Ahmaud Arbery, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and so many others.
And I worry because I can’t protect them, and they can’t protect themselves (from police brutality and racism, the biggest pandemic we’re still facing)
I cried because anytime I see a person pulled over or hear someone in my city shot by a police officer I worry if it is one of my people and say a prayer that it isn’t.
I cried because it pains me to have to watch the videos and see them posted over and over and over again like it’s some kind of comedy and not an actual real-life horror film for us and for your families. Even the movies they make about our struggles are horror films for us.
This is why we march, why we protest, why we cry, why we are angry. WE CAN’T BREATHE. We cannot breathe in our every day lives, in our workplaces, in public, when we are driving because we can’t just be exactly who we are.
 Our souls are exhausted. We are overwhelmed and we are tired. I hope you all have the courage to be a part of the change. At least speak out, sign something, say something.
Our collective Black Creatives Weekend and The Museum for Black girls are protesting through Art. We are painting murals downtown, creating community service projects, and raising funds for Black Artists to amplify and elevate their voices. You can donate to the fund here.
Black people you matter, you are loved, you are valued, you deserve every breath you take just like everyone else. We are one and I am standing with you.

Montyy Taj

Photo courtesy of Montyy Taj

This could be taboo and ruffle a lot of feathers, but I am grateful for this time of COVID-19. We needed a visual pandemic that would hit home for everyone in order to address the preexisting pandemics this country and the world faces — racism, homophobia, transphobia and classism. During this time of COVID the nation had no choice but to face the disconnected and underlining struggles that large groups of marginalized people face every day; from racial divide to economic and social class as well. I’ve watched areas in various cities (including Denver) with a high concentration of Black, Latinos and Indigenous people go without testing centers, public transportation, and reliable food/grocery delivery services. I’ve watched the medical aid and health care crumbling, exposing our weaknesses and cracked system.

The need to be seen as an ally at any cost is almost cringing when you can’t feel the true intent and we often ask ourselves: “Do you really care or is this just another hashtag moment to get your viewers and follow count up?”

Lives are still being treated carelessly, movements overshadowed by “insta fame,” and our Black voices still falling on tone-deaf ears. COVID-19 of 2020 will never be forgotten, I just hope this time they get it right in the history books. Remember that this is not just a moment in time, but a marathon and an uphill battle that requires all hands on deck.

“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” —Desmond Tutu