For a second consecutive year in the month of February, Eagle Rock students and staff gathered to celebrate our organization’s Black Lives Matter Day. On Saturday, February 23rd, forty-plus members of our community traveled 70 miles to Downtown Denver to participate in four distinct educational and community-focused activities.
One group of students and staff visited the United Capoeira Association – Colorado chapter in Denver’s Santa Fe Arts District to learn about the history and practice of capoeira— an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics, and music. Developed 500 years ago by African slaves mainly from Angola, capoeira served as a self-defense technique that today incorporates kicking, head-butting, slap-boxing, deception, evasion, and even walking using one’s hands.
A second group of students met with Adri Norris— a Denver artist known for crafting art and stories of women throughout history to inspire, teach and empower. Alongside Norris, Eagle Rock students and staff created Black history zines using materials shown in the photo below:
Norris, who offers art workshops focusing on lesser known figures in Black history — including many she calls, “Black, Queer women”— helped our students learn about important historical events and the men and women involved in them, through the creation of a mini magazine using mixed media. In her own words, from a post she made on Instagram shortly after the session with our students:
“Over the weekend, I got to teach a zine making workshop with some students from Estes Park. The focus was on Black History Month, so each student used their phone to learn something they didn’t know about Black history, then created a zine out of their new information. The workshop was super fun and I was inspired by their choices. From the queen of the Maroons in Jamaica, to the effect of Rihanna’s Fenti makeup line on women of color today, these kids made me think more deeply about what counts as an historical event!”
A third group went to the 4,000 square-foot Youth on Record (YOR) studio in the heart of downtown Denver. YOR works to empower Colorado’s underserved youth to achieve their academic, artistic, and personal best by employing local professional artists as their educators. There, our students created songs about Black lives and brought their music back to the Eagle Rock community.
The fourth group of students and staff provided community service at Food Bridge — a food business incubator that works to bridge the gap between the lack of immigrant-owned food businesses and the demand for authentic international cuisine in Denver. There, our students and staff made sandwiches that were later distributed to some of Denver’s most vulnerable and challenged community members.
Understanding the importance and celebrating the value of Black lives aligns with the first of Eagle Rock’s 10 Commitments — Live in respectful harmony with people of all races, cultures, religions, genders and sexual identities, some of whom will have disabilities or different learning styles.
On a personal note, I was overwhelmed with the love our students shared during our 2nd Annual Black Lives Matter Day. They were open to learning new things, which resulted in growth and a newfound understanding of appropriation and respect. I’m even more hopeful that, someday we won’t have to say Black Lives Matter… because everyone will already know.
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About the Author: Nia Dawson is the Student Services Program Manager at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colo. There, Nia is a member of the organization’s Student Services team and works closely with Eagle Rock’s students and staff to develop sustainable opportunities for partnership throughout Eagle Rock’s ecosystem.