February is Black History Month. Visit Denver has these ideas for celebrating.
It would be the last hike of the season, Jessica Newton posted on her social media platforms. With mild weather forecast and Colorado’s breathtaking fall foliage as a backdrop, she was excited — convinced an excursion at Beaver Ranch Park would be the quintessential way to close out months of warm-weather hikes with her “sister friends.”
Still, when that Sunday morning arrived in 2018, Newton was shocked when her usual crew of about 15 had mushroomed to include about 70 Black women. There’s a first time for everything, she thought, as they broke into smaller groups and headed toward the nature trail. What a sight they were, she recalls, as the women — in sneakers and hiking boots, a virtual sea of colorful head wraps, flowy braids and dreadlocks, poufy twists and long, flowy locks — trekked peacefully across the craggy terrain in the crisp mountain air.
It. Was. Perfect. Exactly what Newton had envisioned when in 2017 she founded Black Girls Hike to connect with other Black women who share her affinity for outdoor activities. She also wanted to recruit others who had yet to experience the serenity of spending time with friends in nature, which she fell for as a child attending an affluent, predominately white private school.
But their peaceful exploration of nature and casual chatter — about everything from food and family to hair care and child care — was abruptly interrupted, she says, by the ugly face of racism.
“We had the sheriff called on us, park rangers called on us,” recalls Newton, now 37, who owns a construction industry project development firm in Denver.
–By Chandra Thomas Whitfield; photo: Kevin Mohatt for KHN