Nneka Uvudia Bradford’s involvement with Denver’s LGBTQ community often resulted in the 29-year-old being the only black man in the room.
“It’s inconvenient,” Uvudiya Bradford said. “It doesn’t seem inclusive. Most queer spaces in Denver have a white center.”
Last year during Uwoodia Pride, Bradford heard about a gay cake exclusively for people of color put on by the Denver Black Queer Collective.
Being in a group of homosexual, black people, Uwoodia Bradford realized that she had never been in a space surrounded by people like her, and the security and joy she felt began to heal a wound she didn’t even know she was in pain.
“It seems like such a sacred place because I’ve never just had a big group of black homosexual peers,” Uvudia Bradford said.
Jacob Smith, 25, founded the Denver Black Queer Collective in February 2021 after looking for a black queer community in Denver and failing. Due to the pandemic, the Collective began building community through online events and has since expanded into face-to-face meetings to celebrate, connect, support and learn.
Through word of mouth and a focus on building personal relationships among members, the Collective has grown to about 400 black, queer Colorados who are finding the friendships and building the support systems they’ve always dreamed of.
Smith hopes the Collective will serve as a reminder that even in marginalized communities like Denver’s LGBTQ scene, there is room to diversify and achieve greater success through the diverse people who make up these spaces.
“We can’t have collective power if we don’t have meaningful relationships,” Smith said.
One practice Smith has established to strengthen these relationships is that when someone shows up to an event, they agree to a one-on-one meeting with someone else. Smith pointed to this unique initiative as one of the keys to the Collective’s success.
“It’s one thing to go to Pride events and drink and be merry and I think so many people were a part of it, but when these [racial justice] there were uprisings and pandemics, people were looking for places to heal, process, care for and find a sense of community, so this Collective has provided everything and even more in these times,” Smith said.
Misha Bishop, 25, said they forged a strong relationship thanks to The Collective – people they can call in the middle of the night if needed. bishop found the group on facebook and attended one of their face-to-face meetings this year, gladly ditching the events reserved for people of color that ended up becoming predominantly white spaces.
Instead, Bishop found companionship.
When Bishop’s girlfriend had surgery and Bishop struggled to take care of her, work and cope with his chronic pain, Bishop said the members of the Collective took care of the couple without question.
“I had a lot of different connections and also had conversations that I don’t think I had before,” Bishop said.
Smith’s favorite Denver Black Queer Collective activity is the never-ending “heart-to-heart talks”. These are sober spaces in which the group chooses a monthly topic to discuss, such as fighting gender roles, concord, or how masculinity manifests itself in the black community.
“Sometimes it’s difficult conversations where people don’t agree, or they have different opinions, or people are vulnerable and express emotions that have no other safe space to express them, or they learn something about themselves,” said Uvudiya Bradford.
Uwoodia Bradford’s favorite Collective events are picnics that invite queer people of color, including Natives, Hispanics, and Asians.
“Food is a necessity, but when you enjoy food with loved ones, it uplifts everything,” said Uvudiya Bradford. “Food, drinks, music, dancing. It’s first class. It’s just fun, and we need fun.”
next picnic scheduled for 6:00 pm on June 30th at the Fort Greene Bar, featuring food and a DJ. For more information about this event or upcoming events, visit Denver Black Queer Collective meeting page which lists the organization’s calendar of events.
Uwoodia Bradford appreciates that the Collective celebrates black joy and empowers members of the black community, rather than just focusing on trauma or overcoming adversity.
“We are focused on joy, but you can also come as you are, and sometimes we all go through certain difficulties, and we support that too,” said Uvudiya Bradford.