Connect with:
Monday / March 20.
HomeStandard Blog Whole Post (Page 2)

Deja Roux Cajun and Soul Food Truck, owned by William “Papa Will” Wallace and his daughter, Jennifer Greenlee, is a passion project for their whole family.  The family moved from Mississippi in 2010 and tried almost every southern or Cajun style restaurant in Denver, and decided they could do it better.  They perfected their version of the po’ boy sandwich, and it tasted like home. They brought the goods to a crawfish boil at Zuni Street Brewing Company for Mardi Gras.  

“It’s more about the tradition and providing the experience that you would have down south,” Greenlee said.  “Bouncing off of one another, propels us to push the envelope until you find something that’s really special.”

Their start was ‘chaotic,’ hitting the ground running with too many menu items just two months before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At the time, we couldn’t get a lot of our stuff,” Wallace said. “And nobody was out, so we’d sell a little bit here and a little bit there, but it was serious.”

Wallace was laid off from his job in the oil business shortly after the pandemic began, but it gave him more time to work on the truck with his daughter and granddaughters, Marley and Norah. Marley became head cashier at the age of 9, keeping  up with rowdy customers and keeping a watchful eye on her tip jar.

During the crawfish boil, Marley could be seen helping set up tables and assisting her grandpa as he chatted with Mike Colvin, a friend and business associate of Deja Roux who helped Wallace get things with the truck rolling. Meanwhile, Norah ran the cash register, every now and then taking a break to admire the massive cooler filled to the brim with crawfish. She said she enjoys the time with her family, and is grateful for the extra cash she can spend on Slime.

“It ain’t the money, you don’t get rich with a food truck,” Wallace said. “But it really means something when someone comes up to you and says ‘this is the best damn seafood I’ve ever had.’”

The food truck has become a local favorite, with regulars coming by for every single one of their menu items. Papa Will swears by his catfish and will challenge anyone brave enough to a blind taste test challenge. Customers love the food.   

“I live a block away, so whenever he’s here, I’m here,” said Stan Young, a regular at both Zuni Street Brewing Company and Deja Roux. “It goes back to the roots and tastes familiar. I love the fried okra, you just can’t get it anywhere else.”

Greenlee has cut back on her food truck hours because of her job as a full time engineer and health issues.  Even so, she loves cooking and can’t help coming up with new ideas for Deja Roux, such as bottling her secret roux recipe or even expanding into more trucks or opening a full restaurant.   While she says that’s not possible right now, Greenlee still joins her family on Deja Roux to spend time with them, as well as spread the food they love to their community.

“I want to carry on what we’ve created and worked for, and hopefully my daughters will want to continue it on, as well, and make our place here in Denver.”

Deja Roux Cajun and Soul Food Truck,

Casa Bonita is one of a kind and so is the Casa Bonita Art Show.  Many were devastated to hear about the 2020 closure of the pink palace with its infamous cliff divers, puppet shows, gorilla that resides inside, and the sopapillas that are a customer favorite.  And they are salivating for the reopening in May thanks to Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of “South Park”, who leapt at the opportunity to save and renovate the 40 year old icon.

But before you start lining up for the experience and the much improved food of Chef Dana Rodriguez, how about a walk down memory lane?  Next Gallery, also located in the Lamar Station Plaza in Lakewood is hosting it’s 6thannual exhibit in honor of Casa Bonita. There were over 100 submissions from oil and acrylic paintings illustrating the past and future of Casa Bonita, to statues saluting the craved sopapillas, to a towering pinata of the pink castle.

“Everybody’s got their little story. The memories are so distinct, things I’d forgotten about were in the art people submitted and it pieces the exhibit to become something we can all share through art and memories.” 

Betsy “Dolla B” Rudolph and her fellow artists at Next Gallery were astonished by the turnout.  The space was filled with a flood of laughs, discussions of “remember when”  and of course the fair share of selfies. 

“It was insane. When we started this six years ago I couldn’t imagine there would ever be over 800 people coming through. It was packed and it was so fun because everyone in this space felt extremely connected for those few hours. I was in shock, like wow, who would have foreseen that this little event would become something so impactful for everyone in the community.”

As folks entered the gallery, eyes were unable to stay focused on one piece. Rudolph best explains the effect of this art, as a piece of happiness. 

“People just need a laugh and a smile sometimes. And it’s so refreshing, not to be inundated. You know, there’s a lot of art where you sit and you have to think ‘wow, what are they saying with this? But this is a sort of innocent fun.” 

Cheryl Kirksey and Michelle Wilson were among the crowd. The Colorado natives searched for their cousin Diane Debris’ contribution to the exhibit. 

“The fact that the community is supporting the arts and culture that Casa Bonita has formed is nice to see. I didn’t know this, the show, was going to happen until Diane had her picture accepted to the exhibit.” 

Kirksey expressed the relief the community felt when Casa Bonita was saved.

“When we drove up here I was just very thankful that the guys got it, I mean it’d be just one more thing we wouldn’t have anymore. They’re not stripping too much of what it was but more refurbishing it. We’re even more proud to see those details in our cousin’s work.” 

Artist Terra Marks conceptualized the idea of Casa Bonita’s resurrection in her piece, “Casa Bonita Revived” that sold immediately on opening night. It’s a vibrant and contemporary piece that pays tribute to Dia De Los Muertos and the theme of celebrating the ambience and spirit of Casa Bonita. 

“A big point of my work is that I like to make people feel happy, so I like my work to be whimsical. I had so many conversations with people who said this is just so vibrant and made them feel happy. I just love this show and am so glad to be a part of it.” 

Whether you are a native to Colorado or a newcomer to the state, the Casa Bonita Art Exhibit is an excellent first look and introduction to the community Casa Bonita has created.  Dorothy Lessem, president of the Lakewood Arts Council urges all to swing by the exhibit to get amped for the reopening. 

“Definitely check out Casa Bonita and when you’re here come over to the 40 West Art Hub and see all the galleries such as this. This is an excellent show, a lot of interesting and fun pieces here.” 

The Casa Bonita exhibit runs at the Next Gallery until March 5th and is open Fridays from 5 to 10 PM and Saturdays and Sundays from 12 PM to 5 PM. Take an absurd walk down memory lane before lining up for the opening of Casa Bonita in May 2023. 

Casa Bonita is one of a kind

Thuthan Van Nubbinth is an 11-year-old special needs cat with a cleft lip, nub tail and two crinkle ears. She was adopted 3 ½ years ago, and shortly after she arrived at her forever home, she began having severe digestive issues. Over the course of a few months, she was in and out of different veterinaries and emergency rooms. After many vet visits Thuthan was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, chronic kidney disease, chronic urinary tract infections and arthritis. Thuthan’s health began to decline. 

“It had gotten to a point where she was really really sick, we were considering quality of life and ready to go out on a limb because she was on her fourth or fifth round of antibiotics” says owner Olivia Lopez. 

Olivia was open to try any methods that could help Thuthan and shortly after found Dr. Lisa Lancaster, veterinary acupuncturist, and faculty member at the Canine Rehabilitation Institute. who did not guarantee a positive outcome but was willing to help bring Thuthan comfort through acupuncture. Thuthan was receiving weekly visits from Dr. Lancaster and after a couple months Thuthan was recovering. Olivia believes the combination of acupuncture, antibiotics, and a change in Thuthan’s food brought her back. 

“She not only got better but she has started to thrive underneath that care and regimen” Through her journey Thuthan has become quite popular not only at her hospital but she has also gained a following through Instagram and has gone viral on TikTok.  

“She’s really got everyone kind of wrapped around her little paws” says Olivia.

Acupuncture has been a part of the ancient practice of traditional Chinese medicine for more than 3,000 years and has become a form of therapy in western medicine. This form of therapy has been embraced by patients who suffer from pain related issues. With further research it has been found that acupuncture can be practiced on any mammal and treat an assortment of ailments. Acupuncture is the practice of using small solid sterile needles and inserting them into specific parts of the body that correspond with anatomy. These specific parts are also known as acupuncture points. By inserting the needles into these acupuncture points they will stimulate the nervous system.  

“The things I treat the most are tendon or ligament injuries. A lot of neurologic patients, animals with neurologic disease respond beautifully to acupuncture, you can also treat various metabolic diseases like allergies, kidney disease, or gastroenteritis. All sorts of things have points that correlate with corresponding parts of the body” said Dr. Anna Leavitt, veterinary acupuncturists at Healing Balance Veterinary Care. 

“Acupuncture can also help the immune system, it can help healing, whatever is wrong, an infection or a wound, acupuncture can assist, said Dr. Lancaster  “If there is an injury or a wound the body is out of balance because it needs to heal back, acupuncture can help with that,” she says.  

While acupuncture can be used to treat pets of all ages it is most commonly used in senior and geriatric pets. Older pets are prone to a variety of health problems and painful conditions that can benefit from acupuncture. Like Riesling a 16-year-old Labradoodle who has developed ataxia and degenerative myelopathy. His owner Christiane was told dogs with this diagnosis may have another year and half or until their hind legs fail them to the point of immobility. After his diagnosis Riesling began weekly acupuncture and chiropractic treatment with Dr. Lancaster. 

“Since his diagnosis he’s lived for another three years, so he’s already double of what is expected for dogs with that diagnosis and I completely attribute that to all the treatments he is getting” says Christiane. 

Acupuncture has helped Riesling with the tightness in his body due to his neurological disorder and has also improved his appetite. While acupuncture has not cured his neurological disorder Christiane believes it has helped slow down the progression of the disease. 

“I would do just about anything for Riesling and yes, I think that acupuncture has been a really great addition to his maintenance, because he is ridiculously old,” said Christiane. 

For many pets it might seem difficult to lay calmly during acupuncture treatment but veterinary acupuncturists like Dr. Leavitt have experience with pets and their different personalities. For some needles have a calming effect. Others need a treat to relax.  

“One of my tricks is taking containers of baby food and putting them in the freezer turning them into doggy popsicles, the owner will hold the baby food and that will very often keep food motivated animals, which are most of them in place,” says Dr. Leavitt.  

Acupuncture between dogs and cats is very similar but Dr. Holly Foster of Acupuncture for Animals believes cats tend to be more challenging than dogs during the process and can take longer to acclimate to acupuncture. She says she takes thing slower when introducing acupuncture to a cat to gain their trust and to accomplish as much as possible during each session, since cats don’t sit still for a long period of time. 

“With cats I always think, these are the ten needles I want to get in, what are the most important ones because when cats are done, they are done!” says Dr. Foster. It is common for Dr. Foster to insert about three needles during the first sessions, she wants her cat patients to feel comfortable and safe during their acupuncture treatment. 

Veterinarians like Dr. Lancaster and Dr. Leavitt offer mobile services, where they go to the pet’s home to do treatment. This can bring many pets’ comfort and can also be accommodating for senior pets who have low mobility.

“I love treating animals in their own home, they are generally so much more relaxed and comfortable, and I can see the environment that they are living in which is really helpful when you’re talking about dogs that might need modifications to make life a little easier for them” said Dr. Leavitt.

When considering acupuncture for your pet it is important to recognize that acupuncture cannot replace your pet’s medication and works as an additive to your pet’s medication regime. 

“It’s not in place of regular medicine, so when I say acupuncture can help healing if there’s an infection, you are still going to take antibiotics and acupuncture might help the body return to balance sooner” says Dr. Lancaster. 

Thuthan Van Nubbinth is an 11-year-old special

February is Black History Month and for Black Travel Box founder Orion Brown, celebrating and recognizing Black women’s personal care needs no matter where they are, whether halfway across the world or at their gym, is essential.

In 2017, after a trip to Japan where she ran out of hair products and spent the rest of the trip trying to find suitable products for her needs to no avail, Brown put together a business plan so Black travelers can have personal care products catered to their specific needs, in a way that won’t get them in trouble with TSA and interfere with the fun of a vacation.  The box includes everything from body butters to balms.

“I was like this is crazy. There should be stuff that I can use. I am a human being that makes up a decent amount of the global populace and I should be able to walk into any store and find things that acknowledge that I exist, that acknowledge my textured hair and my melanated skin. And so that was really sort of the impetus of, why isn’t there a brand made for people of color who travel? And I started to do research from there,” says Brown.

According to JP Morgan, Black women are the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs despite facing disproportionate financial headwinds. Brown herself can attest to the biases that persist in the investment market, as she herself had to fight for respect to create her business.  At the time Brown didn’t know that only .34% of all investment goes to Black women. In 2019 she began talking with potential funders, doing pitching competitions, being on pitch podcasts, taking steps to get her idea out there.

“It was probably the most abysmal experience possible. I was getting the response of Black people need different products? Black people travel? But do they really want to spend at that price point? Well, why is it just for Black people? Don’t you think that’s racist? Well, I don’t understand why this isn’t for me? Well, I think it’s a really small idea. And so it was a very interesting time and I learned a lot about the biases that are built into investment,” says Brown.

She also learned about gendering within investments. In talking with other entrepreneurs, especially women and women of color she found that men often received questions while doing their pitches, all around, how big can it get? How awesome can it be?

“Women got questions around how they were going to not fuck it up. And what were they going to do when it failed? And how would they handle it when somebody came in and clobbered them?” says Brown. It really took a toll on me emotionally as a new entrepreneur,” says Brown.

Black travel is a $109.4 billion market and Black women spend nine times more on beauty and personal care than any other ethnicity. After facing deep discrimination in the investment world, but Brown still had trouble convincing investors there was a market for her products. Like many other Black women entrepreneurs she decided to take on the financing job herself. 

“And so I said, you know what, screw it, 2020 we’re going to do this ourselves. We’re going to bootstrap it. We’re going to launch in April. It’s going to be awesome. And then everybody got a cold and that was kind of a different story. So now we’re regrouping a couple years later, down the line,” says Brown.

Black hair carries deep emotional and historical significance. Cornrows, locs, twists, afros and bantu knots have historic ties to Black culture, pride and history. Yet, most Black adults and children experience hair discrimination in their schools or at their jobs. As of February 2023, 20 states have enacted the CROWN Act into law, legislation that prohibits discrimination of this type. More than half of all states have filed or pre-filed legislation for consideration and about 1 in 10 states have yet to formally examine the CROWN Act. 

“Up until recently it was perfectly legal for me to show up at work, my boss to go, I don’t like how you have your hair done, you’re fired. Period. If you Google unprofessional hairstyles, now you’ll get a whole bunch of articles about this issue, but years back, unprofessional hairstyles were people with stuff shaved in their heads and like 15 different colors and Black women just wearing their hair,” says Brown. 

Brown says beauty products marketed to Black women often contain the most toxic ingredients used by the cosmetics industry. Exposure is of particular concern of Black women because they purchase and use more beauty products per capita than any other demographic and they face many health disparities, including the highest breast cancer mortality rate of any racial or ethnic group in the United States.  Brown emphasizes the need for clean products. Delivering safe products to her clients is of the utmost importance as her own mother and aunt have both battled with fibroids and cancer. 

“If you look at the Black community, Black women have fibroids all over the place. You can’t meet a Black woman that doesn’t either have them or knows somebody who has them. We have a history of being sold very low quality crap, with extra chemicals and other things being put into it, just because they could and nobody was looking. Now we’re in a world where clean beauty is a thing. Clean beauty has been pushing forward. However, it still has left the ethnic aisle behind.”

Brown believes it is really important that a light continues to be shown on beauty double standards, and that all sectors of the human populace feel seen and cared for when they walk into the personal care aisle. Black Travel Box’s core founding principle is that travel is an amazingly rich form of self-care. 

“It’s particularly very important to the Black community. We have this amazing democratization of the world, where from my perspective, if I look back on my parents’ generation or the generation just before, they were really only seeing the world if they were in the military. And then my parents’ generation, it was all about the Caribbean, it was a hop, skip and a jump away and for the longest time, they didn’t need a passport to go. And now we’re at a place where ASAP Rocky is in a hot spring in Iceland or another person of color is in someplace in Japan and you’re just like, I wouldn’t put that face with that location. Because we just hadn’t seen it before,” says Brown. 

Brown has proven all those potential investors wrong, even against all odds, most significantly weathering a global pandemic. In June 2021, the brand got the recognition from the Queen Bey herself. Beyonce, featured Black Travel Box on her curated Black-owned beauty brands to purchase list, Black Parade. The impact of the exposure was immediate.

“This was after a year of not knowing if I could keep the business open because we were in the middle of COVID. No one could travel anywhere. I was pivoting and going live and doing all kinds of stuff to keep the awareness of the business up. So I was really proud that they would not only see us and like us, but consider us,” says Brown.

“There’s a beauty standard in our world that a small sliver of the population actually meets. Meanwhile, there should just be something for everyone who has hair and skin, period and in all the ways that it shows up,” says Brown.

February is Black History Month and for

At the Denver Mayoral Debate at Regis University on February 9 many audience members had the same thing on their mind… Affordable housing. 

Denverites are looking to be able to buy and own property, something that is hard to do even with a well paying job.

(Sharron Pettiford, part of Ean Tomas Tafoya’s team, Community activist)

SOT: “I had a good labor job with good labor wages and I couldn’t buy a house… thats a problem”

Colorado currently has the 7th worst housing shortage in the country. The state needs 127,000 units to break even for the amount of homes for everyone in the state to have somewhere to live. The city of Denver accounts for over 69,000 of these units.  

SOT: If state law applies would you support any rent control efforts, stand up yes. Thank you. Stand up no. Thank you.  

Regardless of these struggles voters are hopeful.

(Amelia Federico, Audience Member) 

SOT:“I’ve lived in Denver my whole life and I’m really excited about our next future mayor and what that means for the future of denver.”

The city of Denver will mail out ballots on march 13th and election day is April 4th. Voters are looking for change in Denver’s housing crisis. Mimi Herrick, Bucket List Community Cafe. 

At the Denver Mayoral Debate at Regis

Denver’s mayoral race began in earnest on February 9 at Regis University, where 16 out of 17 candidates speed debated in front of their constituents.  Candidate Al Gardner couldn’t make it because his daughter gave him a grandchild earlier in the day.    

The debate was hosted by CBS Colorado, and lasted a little over two hours. Because of the number of candidates, each one only had 30 seconds to respond to the questions. Each candidate was given three rebuttal cards that they could flash in order to respond to the current speaker’s remarks, and most were used in the first half of the debate. Audience members found the debate informative, but also criticized its rapid tempo due to the amount of candidates.

“I think it was hard for them to answer the way they wanted to answer, it was just too fast, ” said Sue Felton, a volunteer for Dr. Lisa Calderon’s campaign “But I enjoyed the exposure to other candidates, so I’m glad I was here.”

The debate focused on three issues at the core of constituents’ concerns: homelessness, affordable housing, and sustainability. Homelessness and affordable housing dominated most of the debate, with standouts from the left including Calderon, State Rep. Leslie Herod, and Ean Thomas Tafoya, who all condemned Denver’s camping ban and sweeps on encampments. 

“I feel that people who support the camping ban have never gone out and served the unhoused directly, and the other is a failure of creativity,” said Tafoya. “I’m hoping we can center on public health and humanity, and we can offer solutions people need.”

Tattered Cover CEO Kwame Spearman and Andy Rougeot are in support of Denver’s current policies for people experiencing homelessness and want to double down by increasing police funding.

“As Mayor, I will add more police officers to our streets and increase their funding so they are properly trained,” said Rougeot. “I will fight for our future by keeping our streets safe.”

Rougeot is a registered republican, and while many support his and Spearman’s approach, it was Terrance Roberts who spoke most poignant about his past experience with organized crime, choosing to focus on the more systematic issue causing the increase in crime.

“I am the only ex-gang member running for such a high municipal position,” said Roberts. “We need more dedicated youth spaces, and get the youth involved in the arts for positive affectation.”

Both Denver Councilmember Kelly Brough and Leslie Herod took some credit in Denver’s STAR program, which sends mental health specialists and EMTs to certain public disturbances instead of police, and believe in expanding the program further. However, Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca of District 9 disputed Brough and Herod’s claim, citing the fact that, while they did help with the STAR program, it was first and foremost a community led initiative that was brought to everyone’s attention by Former Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen.

Former State Sen. Mike Johnston agreed with STAR’s efficacy, and pitched a unique idea from his fellow candidates.  

“You can’t move people off a street if you have no place for them to go,” Johnston said. “We have to provide permanent supportive housing for them to move to. We do that by opening micro-communities, 40-60 tiny homes where people have built-in mental health services, addiction treatment, and workforce training to get back in the field.”

Jim Walsh, a grassroots candidate and teacher whose campaign team consists of his students, is focusing his campaign on the rights of Denver workers.

“Which side are you on?” asked Walsh in his closing remarks. “Why have we never had a mayor on the side of workers in this city? I hope to be that mayor, and support union density and worker centers. Denver workers first.”

Trinidad Rodriguez, the son of Former Denver Councilmember Rosemary Rodriguez, differentiated himself from other Democratic candidates with his more conservative beliefs, such as increasing the police budget. Rosemary Rodriguez was shocked but happy when her son announced his candidacy, and became Trinidad’s campaign chair.

“I don’t know if I inspired him, but I definitely modeled it,” said Rosemary Rodriguez after the debate. “I thought he did well, but it’s hard to encapsulate a policy in just 30 seconds.”

While each candidate brought their unique perspectives and disagreed respectfully on many issues, each one could agree with Rosemary that the debate’s format left them with little time to properly espouse their ideas and policies. Ballots will be mailed to voters on March 13, with the last day to vote is on April 4. Check if you’re registered to vote at

Denver’s mayoral race began in earnest on

Over the last months we’ve seen refugees flooding into Denver on their way to a better life. In this month’s podcast, to celebrate Black History Month, we speak to activist and publisher, Vera Idam. In 2010 she came with her family to Denver from Nigeria seeking a better education for her three children. What her family experienced was culture shock, a system that makes it challenging to assimilate, and difficulties that dampen the spirits of immigrants and force them to slow down in their efforts to settle. Vera started a publication called Afrik Digest to help fellow Africans navigate the complexities of moving to Colorado. She talks to Bucket List Community Cafe about what it’s like to lack benefits, insurance and the challenges her children faced in school. She also speaks candidly about race in America and shares things she had to learn the hard way. Years after arriving she loves her new home and is working to make it a more welcoming and empathetic place so new arrivals can get the help they need and start their own journey to contribute to the community.

Over the last months we've seen refugees

Returning to the Mile High City where it was born, The Museum for Black Girls is reopening along the 16thStreet Mall in Denver. Occupying a now-closed Victoria’s Secret building, the museum is working to debut by the end of February in honor of Black History Month.

The museum, which first opened in 2019 in a little shopette in Denver, has gone on to create locations in Houston and Washington D.C. Since closing its locations in Denver in 2021, the goal has always been to bring it back to the place that first welcomed it.

“It was women who thought about it, women who created it and women who built it” says co-founder Von Ross.

A conversation between mother and daughter led to a conversation between aunt and niece, then many conversations between Black women artists and creatives until it eventually became a reality. The Museum of Black Girls, created by Denverites’ Charlie Billingsley and her aunt Von Ross, embraces the idea of strength in community and representation. Paying homage to the essence of Black women and their experience. 

“What started off as initially Charlie’s dream, became my dream, became our family’s dream, became our community’s dream. A place where young Black girls can come and be encouraged and inspired” says Ross.

When Charlie Billingsley’s young daughter walked into the kitchen one afternoon after school seeking solace from her mother after being made fun of for the way her hair looked, felt, the shape of her lips and the color of her skin at her predominantly white elementary school, Charlie, in between consoling her daughter, couldn’t help but feel the need to do something bigger. 

“Charlie came to me after this interaction and she said ‘I wonder how many other little Black girls feel that way and need that same kind of encouragement’, and so it kind of started from there” says Ross. “Charlie, who’s a photographer, has always done work that is a tribute to Black women. And this particular year, 2019, she said that she wanted to do something different, and she had a friend who had owned a clothing boutique who was thinking about shutting it down. Charlie called me and she said, what do you think about us taking over the space, and then doing a museum? And I said, sounds like a great idea. Let’s do it. And so what was supposed to be just for one night turned into something much larger. That night after opening day, I told my niece, ‘this is bigger than us, it’s bigger than you. It’s what the community needs” says Ross.

Over 300 people showed up that first night. Some drove from as far away as Kansas, to experience the interactive art installations, immersive rooms, and curated moments created by Black women. In the tiny 700 square foot neighborhood shopette they encapsulated the essence of Black girl magic. Ross realized the potential for greatness. The Museum quickly became a permanent, traveling exhibition.

“Our museum is like a traditional museum and Meow Wolf got married and had a kid,” says Ross. 

Across all the museum locations the main goal is to motivate, encourage, educate, and inspire people in a fun way. “We celebrate the achievements of Black women and the contributions they have made to our country, the inventions that we’ve made, how we’ve contributed in terms of our political views, the arts, music, dance, theater. So we highlight those and then we highlight some things that are staples in the Black community and explain it and educate on it. So we’re hoping that our exhibits educate, motivate, inspire and that they help to bridge gaps.”

Beyond educating people, the museum serves as a love letter to Black women and their experience. Guests, no matter their race, can resonate with the stories behind the exhibits.

“We find out that we are more alike than we are different and we get to celebrate the differences. When you have an understanding of where people are coming from, then it dispels the fears and the myths,” says Ross.

“We have flowers all through the space and Charlie says she wants to give Black girls their flowers. Oftentimes we don’t get celebrated in all walks of life, all that celebration comes at the end, and she says no, I want to give it to people now. So we always have flowers in the space,” says Ross.

Mirrors are a staple as well. The mirrors serve as a reminder to everybody who walks past them that they are strong and courageous and can do anything they put their minds to, something that the space celebrates. In addition, an affirmation wall is also present in the spaces, with the belief that many of the greatest ideas have sprouted simply from just writing them down with a pen and paper. The wall is a place where people can write down their own aspirations and dreams and encourage others’ aspirations along. Now it is referred to as the magic wall as many people have come back to relay that their wishes had come true. Another recurring aspect of the museum is the music.

“We play music in the space and we play it quite loudly. Not to the point is uncomfortable but one of our rules is that we never want dead air. So the music that we play is uplifting, encouraging, fun music. So people come in the door dancing and then they see something that excites them in the corner and they run right over and they’re smiling and they’re reading” says Ross. 

One of the exhibits that will be featured in the new location speaks to many little Black girls’ experiences growing up. The exhibit is designed after Billingsley’s grandmother’s kitchen and even features a replica of her pressing comb. Von says growing up “Grandma’s kitchen” was a place where key memories were made, moments of deep bonding and a place where vital discussions on life were had.

“Most little black girls when they first get their hair done for the first time they’re getting it done in grandma’s kitchen. And I mean really done up, you know, maybe for a special event. They’re not going to a salon or something like that, even though those are huge staples in the African American community.” 

The museum grew through collaboration with local artists.  

“We have days where we start at eight in the morning and we don’t leave the space till two in the morning. And everybody helps each other, we might have two or three different artists working on three different things and they will all help each other if one is struggling. And it just becomes a party, and it’s just fun” says Ross.

Like with the growth of any business space and finances continue to be the biggest roadblocks.

“Everything we do has been funded by Charlie and I with a few donations and contributions from the community. It is a ticketed space and all of the funds go right back into the business to build the exhibits, the upkeep of the exhibits, to pay the staff that you know monitors the space and to pay the artists who contributed to the space. So, it’s totally self funded, and that’s been the biggest roadblock because sometimes the funds aren’t there. You know, we want to do big and great things. And, we’re maxing out personal credit cards to do so. To buy paint and fabric and lighting, and to make sure that it’s an experience where people enjoy themselves” says Ross.

Ross says the Museum for Black Girls is redefining what a museum can be. She says the museum is the first of its kind and she loves how people are embracing it. The Denver Pavilions location is expected to open by the end of February. It also received a six month residency at the museum at University of Colorado Boulder. Work for that will start this summer and will be expected to open up in late January or February of 2024 with the “Museum for Black Girls Presents.” Organizers will be holding panel discussions with CU students on what they would like to see in the space, what’s important to them, and what they would like to experience upon entering.

“A lot of museums concentrate on the past. Whereas in our museum, we concentrate on the present, yes, we honor the past. Absolutely. Where would we be without the strength of our ancestors and what they’ve done for us?” says Ross. “And so we honor the past. We celebrate the present and we look to the future.”

Returning to the Mile High City where

In January, HB20-1343 went into effect in Colorado, a new law requiring farmers to give one square foot of space to all hens to sell their eggs in grocery stores. The new law affected over 90% of the egg production in Colorado. On top of this, Avian flu swept across Colorado last year, killing off over six million egg-laying commercial chicken flocks. As a result, grocery stores across Denver have jacked up the price of eggs as they struggle with a supply chain shortage. The prospect of paying up to $6.00 for a carton of eggs at King Soopers or Safeway has led some Coloradans to consider raising chickens. But what is the true cost of fresh, cage-free eggs laid by hens in your own backyard? 

Broken Shovels Farm Sanctuary in Commerce City, Colorado, advises people not to go out and buy chicks. “We’ve all seen the hundreds of memes, heard the grumbling and watched the news reports about the price of eggs. You may get a wild hair and decide backyard chicken keeping is the thing to do, and rush out to go buy some peeping, adorable baby chicks. I get it, my lady friends… it’s like the ultimate peer pressure these days. But I’m begging you, don’t do it. After 15 years of chicken rescue, please hear me out. Buying chicks is not compatible with loving animals. It’s just not,” they wrote in an Instagram post recently. The caption went on to explain that the cost and level of maintenance required for proper chicken care is extensive, and many people who buy chicks are unaware of what they’re getting themselves into.

Heidi Beedle of Colorado Springs first started raising chickens eight years ago, and the four chickens she has now were adopted as chicks from the Humane Society. Her hens usually lay one egg each per day during the summer months, but in the winter months, it’s spottier. Years ago, when she had more chickens, she used to sell their eggs, but nowadays, she gives away any of the eggs that her family doesn’t eat. Raising chickens doesn’t come without challenges, according to Beedle.

“There’s a lot of challenges with raising chickens. It’s very labor intensive. When you get chicks, you have to have them under a heat lamp for like six weeks until they get big enough to go outside on their own, so you have to keep them in a little space or tub or something in your house. And, of course, you have to feed them every day just like every other animal,” she said. 

Once the chickens are big enough to go outside on their own, it’s essential to have an enclosed space for them to move around in that’s tall enough to keep predators out, and to keep the chickens in, because some smaller chicken breeds can fly, such as Bantam chickens. Beedle said the most significant predators that threaten backyard chickens in Colorado are hawks, raccoons, stray cats, and Bobcats. 

Another challenge people face when getting chicks for the first time is not being able to identify the sex of the chicken. Most municipalities like Colorado Springs and Denver don’t allow folks to keep roosters in their backyards, so if you end up with a male chick, you are tasked with rehoming it. And sometimes, in the absence of roosters, certain hens will adopt a “rooster-like persona,” according to Beedle. “They’ll become the designated protector; they’ll start crowing, grow spurs, and stop laying eggs. There are all kinds of weird quirks to raising chickens like that,” she explained.

Krista Kafer, of Littleton, Colorado, began raising chickens 11 years ago. She has five hens named Blackie, Blanca, Bernadette, Betty, and Barbara. She doesn’t sell her eggs, either.

“You know, occasionally somebody will offer me five bucks for them, and I’ll take it, but mainly I give them away. Now that there’s a shortage, I think having free-range chickens is important. I want all of my eggs to come from animals that are well-treated. And by giving them to other people, I feel like I’m encouraging them to eat responsibly,” she said.

In terms of temperament, Kafer described her chickens as being in the middle of the road. “They’re not the brightest, but in general, chickens are not dumb. They definitely have a pecking order,” she said with a laugh. “They can be kind of mean to each other.” She said she was surprised to discover they love meat and hunting mice. “They’re a lot more complex than people think they are in terms of their social organization and the fact that they’re capable of foraging and hunting. They’re just kind of neat.” 

Kafer echoed Beedle’s concerns about predators being a concern when it comes to keeping backyard chickens. In her area, she primarily deals with raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and skunks who want to get to her chickens.

“They’ll eat all of your hens if you don’t secure the area. And you know, I don’t blame them; chicken is delicious!”

Kafer said raising chickens doesn’t have to break the bank if you’re smart about it. The trick is feeding them her leftovers. “I spend about $18 a month on a bag of pellets for them and then feed them lots of scraps. They love human food,” she said. She said she probably saves a little money on eggs by raising her own hens, but ultimately does it for ethical reasons and because it’s fun.

Mike Goodman, of Aurora, Colorado, has been raising chickens for about ten years and currently has four. Goodman said that for him, raising chickens is a costly undertaking. He got them from Craigslist for about $15.00 a hen. “You have to take care of the coop and the chicken run, and then there’s regular feeding. I tend to use organic feed, so it’s more expensive. It can definitely get pretty pricey,” he said.

Goodman first got into raising chickens a decade ago while he had a vegetable garden and a couple of beehives. “It was more about just raising my own food and raising what we consumed, and belonging to community-supported agriculture,” he said. Goodman’s favorite part about raising chickens, he said, is watching them enjoy their favorite treat: mealworms. “I bang on the box that the mealworms are in, and the chickens just come running,” he said. “It’s so much fun to watch.” 

Wardle Feed & Pet Supply, Denver’s oldest pet and feed store, sells baby chicks from February to late August for $4.35-$6.35 a chick, depending on the breed. Nathanael Abeyta, one of Wardle’s employees, said there has already been an increase in chicken sales this year at their store since they began selling chicks on February 11th compared to this time last year. Most of their first-time customers buy three to four chicks rather than fully grown chickens, but there is about a 5-7% risk of getting a rooster, and they don’t take returns.

More experienced customers tend to buy six to eight chicks at a time and sometimes purchase their fully grown hens, which are around seven months old. “I would say look into it first before jumping into it. Chickens can be a lot more complex than people expect. You can’t just buy them and throw them in your backyard and expect to save money on eggs, because a lot of people don’t investigate how expensive the feed is, how expensive it is to house them, and everything it takes,” Abeyta advised. “It typically runs people anywhere from $50 to $65 bucks a month to take care of chickens. If you really want to spoil them, some people drop like $150 every month,” he said. This includes the cost of chicken feed, bedding, heat lamps, and water containers, which often break and have to be replaced.

So, is raising backyard chickens a solution to the high cost of eggs at your local grocery store? According to Abeyta, it really depends.

“If you only have two or three chickens of your own, you’re really going to be saving more money just buying eggs from the store. But if you can manage to have like 15 chickens or so, you’ll probably be saving a little bit of money in the long run. But it all depends on if the egg price is gonna stay where it is or go up. Or if it drops, then people are gonna end up with pets they didn’t really want in the first place, and then they’re stuck trying to give them away or get rid of them. So it’s really important that people do their research and make sure this is actually something they want to invest in,” he said.

In recent weeks, the price of eggs has slowly begun to decline again. While raising backyard birds may not be the solution to saving a few bucks on your favorite breakfast omelet, there are certainly a host of benefits to keeping a coop, like sustainable food production and fresher eggs. But if you’re feeling a little chicken, you might want to start with a vegetable garden this year.

In January, HB20-1343 went into effect in

Denver’s District 9 debate took place on Feb. 7 at the CSU Spur Hydro building, where incumbent Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca and challengers Darrell Watson and Kwon Atlas answered both policy and public questions from their community.  District 9 contains the neighborhoods of Globeville, Elyria Swansea, Five Points, Skyland, and Whittier, and around three dozen community members made an appearance in support of their candidates.

“Our district really shoulders a lot of the resources and responsibility of taking care of the city,” said Atlas during opening remarks. “This race is one of the most important races because of that.”

The debate was mediated by Denver North Star Publisher David Sabados who, along with all candidates, remained composed and professional even during heated moments. Though each candidate has a unique approach, all three were able to agree on the issues of District 9, including homelessness and affordable housing, transportation, and community engagement. 

“Sometimes it feels as though the city isn’t listening to the neighbors, as well as not getting the entire perspective,” said Atlas.

CdeBaca received criticism from her challengers towards her voting record, insinuating a lack of cooperation with other councilmembers. But CdeBaca points out that out of thousands of bills passed during her time in office, she has voted no to only a handful of them. She says a lack of willingness to work with the other councilmembers is disingenuous.

“Watson implies that we should accept whatever is in front of us, no matter what it is, and that you should expect us to accept crumbs on your behalf,” CdeBaca said, to both applause and cheers from the audience. “I think that should be appalling to voters.”

Community engagement is the most important aspect of District 9’s council member, according to several audience members and their questions. While both challengers are critical of CdeBaca’s engagement, community member Brian Brahaugh disagrees and is satisfied with the way the incumbent communicates with her constituents.

“I particularly like the way Candi has kept her constituency informed with newsletters,” said Brahaugh. “I’ve never seen a city councilperson do it that effectively before.”

The candidates of District 9 have all spent most, if not all, of their adult lives living within Denver’s communities, and their personal connections to the city were evident. Watson’s passion could easily be seen in his anecdotes, which he often used to answer questions.

“I had a sister who died on the streets. She went through mental health and substance abuse issues, and our family wasn’t able to save her and get her housed,” Watson said when asked about the issue of homelessness. “It’s important that our policy focuses on the counting and then  the reduction of the homeless population.”

After Watson’s personal story, Atlas was first to offer condolences, but still respectfully offered his own opinion on homelessness, opting to support Denver’s recent controversial camping ban. Homelessness and affordable housing took up almost a third of the entire debate’s time, each candidate refusing to simply ignore the issue and offering unique solutions, such as Atlas’s plan to educate minorities and others struggling with their credit on how to get out of debt.

 However, some community members are critical of both Atlas’s and Watson’s ideas concerning zoning laws, believing that they trust Denver’s developers too much and need a firmer approach.

“For me, when they’re talking about housing and affordability, it sounds like the challengers are speaking the language of developers,” said Alfonso Espino. “They have this idea that developers are going to just willingly decrease their profits. I think it’s pretty crazy that more people don’t call them out on that.”

CdeBaca received backlash when she voted no on one of Denver’s recent bills pertaining to affordable housing, and both Watson and Atlas disagreed with the vote. However, CdeBaca said that some bills are not what they seem, such as the Expanding Affordable Housing proposal. The policy aims to add more new income-restricted housing units, but CdeBaca believes many additions did not have the people’s best interests in mind, such as forgoing parking requirements and unfair linkage fees.

“Some bills get named in a particular way to influence people on the outside,” said CdeBaca. “That bill basically codified the status quo, which hasn’t gotten us what we’ve needed so far.”  

Though obviously dissatisfied with CdeBaca’s methods, Watson and Atlas remained respectful, even condemning harsh and vitriolic mailers that were sent out anonymously, insulting the incumbent. Because of the decorum, the debate was informative and showed each candidates ‘true colors,’ according to audience member and community activist Joanna Rosa-Saenz

“Tonight, I think we could see policy over politics,” said Rosa-Saenz. “What I saw this evening was better than Netflix. A lot of our community missed out, but it also made me realize what candidate we need to go for to see change.” She’s voting for Candi CdeBaca.

Denver’s District 9 debate took place on