Denver’s New Black Lives Matter 5280 Chapter Envisions Safer, Stronger Community

May 29, 2015
Photo: Rev. Dawn Riley Duval(Stephanie Wolf/CPR News)
Rev. Dawn Riley Duval is a co-founder of Black Lives Matter 5280. 

A week ago, Rev. Dawn Riley Duval rallied nearly 50 friends, neighbors, and community leaders at a Boys and Girls Club in Denver's Park Hill neighborhood. Her motivation: to build a violence-free city, where black people are not only protected, but valued and free.

"Because how can we really ask for power and structures and systems to honor us if we don't honor us?" Duval asked the crowd. "And we don't honor each other, huh? So we are starting this thing, we are launching Black Lives Matter 5280."

The phrase Black Lives Matter has become a national rallying cry -- a response to how the police treat black people in Ferguson and Baltimore. 

Now the movement has come to Denver. 

It's all about community

Black Lives Matter 5280 held a community dinner on May 21 to launch the new local chapter of the national movement. At the event, neighbors and friends stood over large blank pieces of paper, tasked with creating collages showing their vision for the neighborhood's future. 

Jasmine Ross, 18, cut out magazine photos with her sister, brother and mother. Each wore shirts that say "Black Lives Matter." For Ross, those three words meant a lot.

"Everyone's lives matter," Ross said. "But the people of color really are mostly the victims. So I think I wear this shirt to represent fighting back and believing what’s right."

At another table, Vince Bowen worked on a vision chart. His group looked for photos representing local grocery stores, vibrant business and supportive fathers. 

"I think one of the really important things about Black Lives Matters is that it’s all about community," Bowen said. "The beauty of it is that each community determines what that should mean, and part of this exercise is deciding what that community wants."

"A love note to black people"

Duval moved from table to table, observing the vision posters take shape. At the end of the evening, she sent the group away with a positive chant. 

"So go ahead and throw your fists in the air," Duval chanted. "It is our duty to fight for our freedom."Photo: Black Lives Matter 5280(Nathan Heffel/CPR News)

Everyone followed the reverend, reciting the same words spoken at the end of every Black Lives Matter meetings nationwide. 

"We must love and support each other, we have nothing to lose but our chains! We fight! We love! We hope! We’re peace! We love!"

Click on the audio above to hear a report on this story and then a conversation between Duval and Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner. 

CPR's Stephanie Wolf contributed to this story.