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Crested Butte experiences 'awakening' after Black Lives Matter protest and mural project
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Credit: The Crested Butte News

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. -- Earlier this year, in response to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other Black Americans, cities and towns across the country held protests in response to police brutality, racism, and the systemic inequities that are prevalent in so many aspects of American life, from education to healthcare to criminal justice.

Crested Butte, the Gunnison County ski town home to roughly 2,000 people, had a reckoning with this country’s treatment of Black people. Later this month, the town is hosting a panel discussion with activists and community leaders to talk about racism and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Gunnison Valley is predominantly white,” said Emily Artale, a member of the Crested Butte Black Lives Matter Community Coalition. “There are a lot of working families, and then there are a lot of families that live here, maybe as their second home, maybe they decided to relocate here permanently. Again, it’s not a very diverse community.”

Colorado Voices

Crested Butte BLM

5:19
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Community activists say Crested Butte has experienced an "awakening" about racism.

Artale, who is white, said that many of the problems this country is facing--like lack of diversity in the workplace, for example--are due to the actions of white people.

“We’ve perpetuated it, we’ve been complicit in it, whether we’ve been consciously doing that or not,” she said. “And it seems that the only way that this is going to improve is that if we educate ourselves and use our voices to make change and try to listen, and try to facilitate different conversations.”

One of the ways Crested Butte started those different conversations was by using 45 gallons of yellow paint to create a large Black Lives Matter mural on Elk Street that resembled similar projects in Denver, Chicago, Washington D.C. and other major cities across the country.

“Not only did the street start the conversation of ‘This is something we need to do,’ it really showcased who we are when we don’t put those conversations forward,” said Chloe Bowman, who started the Melanin Mountain Project.

Bowman has been in the Gunnison Valley for eight years. She said some lifetime visitors to Crested Butte began condemning the town after the mural was painted, but the actual members of the community “really bonded through this movement and celebrated it.”

“There’s an awakening happening in Crested Butte,” she said.

Artale explained that the conversations that took place after the Black Lives Matter protests and mural painting highlighted the lack of education around racism in America.

“Sometimes when comments are made in response to Black Lives Matter or to other issues of race, they come across as insensitive and offensive, and really I think they show we don’t have a full grasp on what has happened to people in our country,” she said.

People like Bowman and Artale are working to make sure that is no longer the case.

“One of the most important things... is to get the word out and to educate everyone,” Artale said. “This will only be successful if the community buys in as a whole and understands why we’re doing this and why it’s important to be involved.”

Bowman’s goal is to always make sure these difficult conversations are “at the forefront” in order to build equitable, inclusive, and diverse structures in her community. “It’s going to change our whole blueprint.”

Artale and Bowman will be participating in an "Uncomfortable Questions" panel discussion Sunday, November 29 at 6 p.m. The event was organized by the Crested Butte Black Lives Matter Community Coalition and will be open to the public.

"Our goal is to offer a safe and informative space for people to ask questions about racism, Black Lives Matter, the Black Lives Matter mural, and other questions about race," a press release for the event reads.

For an invitation to the event and to submit questions to the panel, email CBconvos@gmail.com. Questions will be anonymous and must be received on or before November 27.

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