Did you know that one-third of western cowboys were Black? It’s hard to believe that Denver has a rich Black history dating back to the 1800s when the makeup of the city is predominantly white. As we continue to amplify diverse voices as a movement and not a trend, we want to highlight some of the Black-owned businesses keeping that history alive and making their ancestors proud. Ahead, find some magical beings worthy of your support during Black History Month and forevermore.
Live Distinct Realty
Since the age of 12, Delroy Gill dreamed of being in the Real Estate industry. He knew he was destined to change the game. That’s exactly why he created Live Distinct Realty eight years ago with a mission to create a new normal in the Denver Luxury real estate market. “One that is inclusive, gives back to the community, and understands that real estate has CHANGED! So should your representation,” Gill says. As a Black man and business owner, Gill aspires to be an open book to his community because he loves being Black: “Everyone should understand that melanin is a superpower!”
“Living in Denver with little representation for Black artists pushed me to do something about it,” Samantha Joseph says. The model birthed a high-fashion platform for models and other artists in the Denver area in hopes of garnering inclusion. “I can imagine that many other Black models have dealt with the same struggle, so I wanted to create a safe space for myself, other Black models and artists in Denver.” The pandemic gave her time to create her business with intention and she is excited to show the city what NWA has to offer.
Other Magazines We Love: Cherry Creek Fashion, Cultured Magazine
Let Me Show You Different
Koya Nyangi is an independent fashion PR and International Sales Representative for African fashion brands and designers. Working as an intermediary between retailers and buyers in the U.S. and African designers, she facilitates positive and rewarding wholesale business relationships. The Kenya native began her career in fashion as a stylist but always knew her purpose was bigger than her. “Just being a woman in business is amazing, but being a Black African woman doing business in America makes it more special and meaningful,” Nyangi says.
Black in Denver
Nashville native, Narkita Gold, composed Black in Denver to raise awareness about the power of being one’s self and the connectedness in the Black community. It was in an existential crisis that Gold started her journey of visual ethnography “supporting and demonstrating the notion that blackness, and identity in general, is not a monolith.” This artist hopes to change the narrative, raise awareness about the power of being one’s self, and inspire the practice of self-inquiry through her series highlighting the lives of Black Denverites.
“Being a Black artist in Denver carries a unique responsibility, especially since we are a minority of a minority. It means to be offered opportunities that I wouldn’t have in other cities. I know how fortunate I am. I am existing in a very exclusive world that people spend their whole lives hoping to be a part of, and I just kind of found myself here. It’s a lot to process. I am grateful.”
Afro Triangle Designs
Through beautiful art, Afro Triangle Designs aims to uplift and educate the community by connecting people to the humanity of an issue. Adrienne Norris started creating very young and watched her mom start several businesses, so you can say entrepreneurship is in her blood. 2020 presented an opportunity for her to engage in self-work that translated into her business and opened up many opportunities for growth. Norris says, “I hope to join others in extending this healing and growth to my community, and I hope that it has ripple effects in the nation and in the world.”
The Unpopular Black
The Unpopular Black encourages Black adventure beyond the stereotypes and narrative of what we “don’t do.” Courtney Lanctot’s vision for The Unpopular Black is to connect the Black community to adventure by providing representation, information, and access through the National Black Adventure Directory she is constructing. ”2020 really helped me to truly see the need for and the value of The Unpopular Black," Lanctot says, "As Black people historically haven’t had direct access, information, and representation into these spaces due to fear of safety and segregation not that long ago. COVID has shown our community that there is so much to discover in our ‘backyards.'"
Curls on The Block
Curls On The Block (COTB), a local non-profit organization, serves as an enrichment program for girls of all curls and colors to embrace, explore and empower their natural selves while working to increase engagement, investment, and commitment to careers in science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM). Thanks to COTB’s founder Analise Harris’s experiences as a special education teacher, she witnessed many disciplinary situations where cultural relevancy and understanding could have prevented unnecessary actions. Harris says, “To be a Black business owner in Colorado, with a statewide Black demographic of less than 5% requires tenacity, innovation, collaboration, and long-term sustainability.”
African espresso bar and social justice cafe teaches people about where coffee comes from (Ethiopia) while also providing a space for activists and social justice candidates who run for office. Their vision is to help people feel welcome and loved and heard over a cup of coffee. Owner Millete Birhanemaskel, is a strong believer that if you follow your passion, the money will come.
This month and every month, make sure you capitalize the B in Black. It signifies the strong values and history in the Black community. It signifies the culture that is behind the color. It signifies centuries of courage and resilience.
Stay Outside The Lines
Illustrations by Whitney Wells, a 5 Points Denver, born and raised artist. Dabbling in analog painting, pen + ink, and tattoo apprentice, this local artist can be seen all across the city. Wells loves to create - his style is free flowing, autonomous and based on his mood, most recently influenced by the emotions brought about by the Denver riots. His work is inspired by graffiti, typography, fine art painting, tattoos, comics, and lifestyle and community. When he doesn't have a pen in his hand, you can find him riding his Harley Sportster or skateboard through Denver.
For commissions or to just say hi...