Devin • Professional
Devin, a proud Denver native, is from the Park Hill neighborhood. Growing up, Devin was a lot like me; someone who desperately wanted to be accepted by the Black diaspora. Devin has always loved being who he is, but routinely felt that his blackness was brought into question because he didn’t quite fit the bill. He recalled being labeled an “Oreo” while listening to Run DMC, and shared that eventually the absurdity of it all negatively impacted his identity.
Over time and learning his history he has come to realize that how others viewed him didn’t matter. Today, especially with everything at stake, Devin is less willing to entertain whataboutisms and people playing devil’s advocate. During our conversation he shared, “Unless you’re trying to learn, I no longer have the patience in my life to entertain those discussions.”
Devin works in tech and is in charge of building a social responsibility team within his office. He volunteers to combat human trafficking, and is always looking for ways to give back because he realizes how fortunate he is to have the opportunities he’s been afforded in Denver.
Devin is a gamer, fitness enthusiast, and practices bass in his free time. During our conversation, we talked about gentrification in the Mile High City. He shared that from businesses closing to the ever-changing makeup of the city, he’s come to realize that everything is temporary. When I asked Devin to describe Denver in one word, he replied, “changing.” Here’s what it means to be Devin in Denver.
What was it like growing up in Denver?
Growing up in Denver was interesting. I never had a situation where I didn’t want to be Black, but I routinely felt that my blackness was brought into question by everyone. In middle school, I was called an “Oreo” by both my white peers and Black peers in grade school. Not long ago, I asked one of my friends that I’ve known since elementary school — this is someone who told me I “acted white” — to define what it means to be Black, and that question made him rethink what that looks like which is nice.
When your own community tells you you don’t belong and it’s pretty clear that you physically look different than the people they say you belong with, you grow up wondering what makes you different. I’m not trying to not be Black. There’s this dichotomy of people telling you what you can and can’t be. That makes me think about agency and racism, and the idea that you’re not allowed to be who you are because it doesn’t match someone else’s definition. I don’t want to rob them of their opinion, so I try my best to understand where they are coming from.
Who are you?
Deep down, I’m just someone who wants a life with meaning. Someone who wants to do right by others, and someone who struggles when he feels he’s lost sight of that. If I can crack a joke or two to make someone laugh along the way, all the better. I was a kid who grew up watching a ton of superheroes, so a lot of my morals grew from the heroes I watched like Superman and Spider-Man. You know, the goody-two-shoes of comics. In some ways, I’m still that kid. Sure, I know the world’s a complicated place, and sometimes there’s more gray than black or white. But I don’t want to lose sight of that kid, because my values are some of the most important things to me.
What does it mean to be you?
Being me means fighting for what I believe in while being open to learning new information and changing my perspective. It means challenging people on their opinions if I think their stance causes others harm. Being me means acknowledging that I have opportunities and privileges that many don’t have, whether it’s my job or that people close to me have helped facilitate a space where I not only grow, but thrive. The responsibility that comes with that also means trying to make myself available for people; from checking in on people I know and care about or doing acts of service.
What does it mean to you to be Black in Denver?
Here, I am thriving. Learning. Through my family, friends, and the people I meet, Denver has both granted me a place to question who I am while also challenging me on what I believe I’ve learned both about myself and others. It means finding solace in this being while never fully growing content with who I am in the moment.
What do you love most about living in Denver?
There’s always something going on here. As a fitness enthusiast, I also don’t need to look terribly far for people and places to scratch that itch.
How have your experiences in Denver shaped you?
With the friends and family I’ve had here, I’ve been fortunate to have opportunities to grow into the person I am today! Recently I’ve also felt a larger outreach of support that I cannot appreciate enough. It recharges me spiritually and makes me quick to repay that kindness as acts of service.
Tell me about the power of being yourself.
It’s powerful. It’s freeing. I am going to double down on who I am because I am not doing anyone a favor by being less of myself. It’s unfortunate that we spend so much time trying to find out who we are to be who we are. Why wouldn’t I flaunt that once I’m there?