Suzi Q. • Activist, Educator, Artist
Suzi Q. was born, raised, and currently resides in Denver, Colorado. She loves being a member of the tight-knit community here and credits the people for keeping her in the Mile High City thus far. Over the years, she’s watched the same community be displaced. Which is why she’s passionate about carving out and creating spaces for us, and being intentional about it.
Suzi Q. is a single mom, activist, educator, and award-winning artist who has shared the stage with Nikki Giovanni, the late Gil Scott Heron, and many more. She was also the first Slammaster and co-creator of Denver’s Slam Nuba and leads Writing in Color, a monthly writing workshop for local POC. Currently, Suzi Q. is at work on her next collection while she continues to teach creative writing, and serves as the co-Chair of the Denver Commission on Cultural Affairs.
During our conversation, we talked about Colorado Black, what it means, and how it’s just different and how being Black in Denver, at times, is like being a fish in a desert. When I asked Suzi Q. to describe Denver in one word, she replied, changing. Suzi Q. is an old soul with a purpose, an undeniable force, and a true individual. Keep reading to learn what it means to be her in Denver.
What was it like growing up in Denver?
Wildly different than it is now, but similar. I grew up in Park Hill, and Park Hill is not the same as it once was. The architecture and the buildings are the same, but the people who live there are different. Park Hill has always been Black and White but the lines have shifted. It’s similar to how our grandparents experienced the white flight but in reverse. It’s a strange erasure.
Because of the changes, the Black people here have dispersed. Before the shift, we didn’t have to work so hard to meet and see each other because we all lived in Park Hill, Five Points, or Montebello, so there were spaces where you weren’t othered. It was a small and tight-knit community, but it’s not that anymore. The gathering of ourselves is so important and that’s become harder and harder to find.
In our isolation, there’s an opportunity to cultivate weird Black. In Colorado, there’s a lot of weird Black. It’s common for us to be natural, wear headwraps, be shea butter Black, be vegan. There’s always been an element of weird Black here. But there’s always been traditional Black too. I had a traditional Black upbringing. I grew up seeing all these different ways of being Black.
Because it is so difficult to find spaces to gather in Denver when the Black community comes together, it seems very notable. Can you tell me about that?
We love each other. It’s like water. I often describe being Black in Denver like being a fish in the desert and that’s not sustainable. So being in the company of other Black people is like water.
Who are you?
I am God’s daughter. I am a deeply spiritual person doing my best to honor my path. I am an ancient light-being, hanging out in a body.
What does it mean to be you?
It means to devote my life to who I am. I don’t have to wear a costume or be anybody else. I can show up as my whole self everywhere I go all day every day. I’m grateful to have spaces where being who I am is welcomed, celebrated, and valued. The core of who I am is necessary, it’s what makes me good. I hope everyone in the world gets to express themselves as long as they’re in the right place. Everybody should get to do that.
What does it mean to you to be Black in Denver?
I’ve always been me, here. And I’ve always been curious about what it would mean to be me somewhere else, so I don’t know. But being a part of the Black community in Denver means to be intentional because we have to be intentional. We know how precious we are and how precious each and every one of us is. Being in Black spaces in Denver and feeling ourselves and each other and basking in the glory. It is so precious because it’s real in these streets. The scarcity makes our community so much more sacred and valued.
What do you love most about living in Denver?
Tell me about the power of being one’s self.
Again, I’m an ancient light-being on a specific path and purpose and I can’t carry that out unless I am being myself. For me, authenticity is the most valuable thing I can have. I know I am my most powerful when I am being myself. There’s a certain unfuckwithability with being yourself.