Resources for Learning More about People and Places Featured in Proclaiming Colorado’s Black History: Where to Look Next

Additional Resources for Proclaiming Colorado’s Black History 

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VISIT ONLINE 

African American Historical & Genealogical Society of Colorado Springs

Black American West Museum & Heritage Center, Denver 

Black History Trail, History Colorado, Denver

Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library, Denver

Historic Boulder Walking Tour–The Little Rectangle & Beyond: Exploring Boulder’s Historic Black Community, Boulder

Resources for Learning More about People and Places Featured in Proclaiming Colorado’s Black History: Colorado’s Historic Black Faith Communities

Colorado’s Historic Black Faith Communities

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First African Methodist Episcopal Church, Pueblo

Masjid Taqwa/Northeast Denver Islamic Center, Denver

Payne Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Colorado Springs

Peoples Presbyterian Church, Denver 

Second Baptist Church, Boulder

Shorter Community African Methodist Episcopal Church, Denver

Zion Baptist Church, Denver

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Handy Chapel,” by History Colorado and the Colorado Encyclopedia

Historic church serving Pueblo’s Black community recognized for its social and architectural significance

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The Black Church on Public Broadcasting System

Resources for Learning More about People and Places Featured in Proclaiming Colorado’s Black History: Dearfield and O.T. Jackson

Dearfield

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Dearfield” by History Colorado

Dearfield Colorado” by the National Park Service

Inside Dearfield, a Colorado ghost town that was once a bustling all-black settlement” on NBCBLK

Oliver Toussaint Jackson” by History Colorado and the Colorado Encyclopedia

Oliver Toussaint Jackson” by the National Park Service

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Dearfield Takes Rightful Place in History As Famous Black Agricultural Community” on CBS Colorado

History of Dearfield, Colorado,” by 9News

Resources for Learning More about People and Places Featured in Proclaiming Colorado’s Black History: Early Arrivals

Exploration
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Esteban de Dorantes” by the National Park Service

Fur Trading 

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Beckwourth, James, The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth, Mountaineer, Scout, and Pioneer, and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians, Harper & Brothers, 1856.

James Pierson Beckwourth: Mountain Man, Fur Trader, Explorer” by History Colorado

Jim Beckwourth” by the Encyclopedia Britannica

Slavery

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11 Black Coloradans Stories of Emancipation” by History Colorado.

Colorado: Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site” by the National Park Service

Meet Charlotte, Wm. Bent’s Slave” by the Santa Fe Trail Association

Liberty

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Clara Brown” by History Colorado and the Colorado Encyclopedia

Accomplishments, 1850-1900

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Barney Ford” by History Colorado and the Colorado Encyclopedia

Columbus B. Hill” on Soul Food Scholar website

Julia Greeley” by the Julia Greeley Guild

Resources for Learning More about People and Places Featured in Proclaiming Colorado’s Black History

Exploration
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Esteban de Dorantes” by the National Park Service

Fur Trading 

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Beckwourth, James, The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth, Mountaineer, Scout, and Pioneer, and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians, Harper & Brothers, 1856.

James Pierson Beckwourth: Mountain Man, Fur Trader, Explorer” by History Colorado

Jim Beckwourth” by the Encyclopedia Britannica

Slavery

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11 Black Coloradans Stories of Emancipation” by History Colorado.

Colorado: Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site” by the National Park Service

Meet Charlotte, Wm. Bent’s Slave” by the Santa Fe Trail Association

Accomplishments, 1850-1900

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Barney Ford” by History Colorado and the Colorado Encyclopedia

Clara Brown” by History Colorado and the Colorado Encyclopedia

Columbus B. Hill” on Soul Food Scholar website

Julia Greeley” by the Julia Greeley Guild

Dearfield

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Dearfield” by History Colorado

Dearfield Colorado” by the National Park Service

Inside Dearfield, a Colorado ghost town that was once a bustling all-black settlement” on NBCBLK

Oliver Toussaint Jackson” by History Colorado and the Colorado Encyclopedia

Oliver Toussaint Jackson” by the National Park Service

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WATCH

Dearfield Takes Rightful Place in History As Famous Black Agricultural Community” on CBS Colorado

History of Dearfield, Colorado,” by 9News

Colorado’s Historic Black Faith Communities

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  VISIT ONLINE    

First African Methodist Episcopal Church, Pueblo

Masjid Taqwa/Northeast Denver Islamic Center, Denver

Payne Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Colorado Springs

Peoples Presbyterian Church, Denver 

Second Baptist Church, Boulder

Shorter Community African Methodist Episcopal Church, Denver

Zion Baptist Church, Denver

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Handy Chapel,” by History Colorado and the Colorado Encyclopedia

Historic church serving Pueblo’s Black community recognized for its social and architectural significance

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WATCH

The Black Church on Public Broadcasting System

Accomplishments, 1900-1950

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Azalia Smith Hackley” by History Colorado

Dr. Justina Ford” by History Colorado and the Colorado Encyclopedia

Hattie: The Life of Hattie McDaniel by Carlton Jackson, Madison Books, 1990.

Hattie McDaniel” by Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame

Penfield Tate II

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The full biographical essay written by Penfield Tate III.

Penfield W Tate II, Boulder’s first and only Black mayor was born June 11, 1931, in the rural community of New Philadelphia, Ohio to his parents, Penfield Junior and Vera Jane (Houston) Tate. His parents were both members of large families, so Pen’s early upbringing was in a town surrounded by family. But like for many at that time, in a town that was in ways was racially segregated.

At an early age, Pen. as he came to be known, was an exceptional student and an accomplished athlete. He graduated from high school with college academic scholarship offers and attended Kent State University. While at Kent State, Pen accomplished two significant things. First, he successfully participated in the ROTC program, while also earned earning his undergraduate degree in political science/pre-law. In addition, he became Kent State’s first All-American football player as a tackle (both offense and defense). He was later elected to Kent State’s Hall of Fame and posthumously was selected to his high school’s Hall of Fame as well.

Although drafted by a professional football team, Pen’s commitment to ROTC landed him as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army, where he eventually rose to the rank of Captain, served in the Korean War and travelled the world. While in the Army, Pen completed two years of his law school curriculum at different law schools around the country based on his frequent reassignments.

In 1967 Pen left the Army and moved with his wife Ellen and their three children, Penfield III, Paula and Gail (a fourth, Roslyn, would come in 1970) to Boulder, where he completed his final year of law school, graduating from the CU School of Law in 1968. After earning his law degree and working for Mountain Bell Telephone & Telegraph and Colorado State University, Pen opened a private law practice in Denver, where he specialized in civil rights litigation. There, he fought to protect the rights of people who were victims of discrimination in employment and public accommodations or otherwise suffered deprivations of their rights, like excessive force by police.

In 1971, as a first-time candidate, he ran for Boulder City Council and received the most votes. In 1974, his colleagues on the Council elected him as mayor of the city, where he served from 1974 to 1976. During that time, Pen sponsored many significant initiatives, including the beginning of Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall.

But perhaps what he was most known for was his legacy as a civil rights warrior and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. Responding to concerns from the LGBTQ+ community about discrimination in renting practices in Boulder, Pen sponsored an amendment to Boulder’s human rights ordinance that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. The City Council passed the amendment but due to a backlash from conservative elements in Boulder, Pen and fellow Councilman Tim Fuller were targeted for a recall effort. Although Tim Fuller was recalled, Pen survived the recall, but it ended his political career as he failed to be reelected in 1976.

Never one to take easy way out and always choosing to stand by his convictions, many in Boulder have often referred to Pen as “Boulder’s humanitarian mayor.” He clearly was that and so much more.

Kelley “Dolphus” Stroud

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Untold Stories: Kelley “Dolphus” Stroud, ’31” by Colorado College

Accomplishments, 1951-present

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Charles Burrell” by History Colorado and the Colorado Encyclopedia

Pam Grier biographical timeline” on PBS.com

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Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble

Colorado State Representative Leslie Herod

Robert F. Smith

Wanda L. James

U.S. Representative Joe Neguse

Additional Resources for Proclaiming Colorado’s Black History 

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VISIT ONLINE 

African American Historical & Genealogical Society of Colorado Springs

Black American West Museum & Heritage Center, Denver 

Black History Trail, History Colorado, Denver

Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library, Denver

Historic Boulder Walking Tour–The Little Rectangle & Beyond: Exploring Boulder’s Historic Black Community, Boulder

The history of Boulder’s Second Baptist Church

The teen choir of Second Baptist Church sings at the 19th and Canyon location.

For 116 years (as of 2024), the congregation at Second Baptist has built and sustained the Black community in Boulder. This historical document has been developed and coauthored by Aisha Geaither Simmons and Minister Glenda Strong Robinson. It will be placed in the archives as a legacy to future generations. Numerous oral histories with the founding families and congregants over the years went into its development, as well as referencing documents that had been preserved by the church. It is written from the perspective of congregants of Second Baptist Church.

Above photo: The teen choir practices at the 19th and Canyon location of Second Baptist Church. Photo courtesy Eileen Lingham-Walker.

1908-1940 FOUNDATIONS OF FAITH
“… I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on a rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built…”
Luke 6:47-48

The history of Second Baptist Church (SBC) demonstrates time and time again that its cornerstones are those of biblical faith, persistent prayer, willing submission, and an abiding strength that comes from knowing its worth in God’s eyes. Those building blocks supported the Second Baptist founders, lifting them up as pioneers for a hundred year journey of struggle and victory, breathing life and godly purpose first into Boulder, Colorado’s small black community and then, blessedly, into any soul that sought the one true Savior.

On January 7, 1908, Frank Lingham, Lulu Lingham, Daisy Horne (Lulu’s sister and Robert’s wife), Robert Horne, Thomas Rucker, Lula Gibson, William H. Willis, Virginia Goodwin, and Mary J. Reeves became charter members of Second Baptist Church of Boulder, Colorado. Every week, a handful of colored men and women honored God, worshipping wherever possible. Unused storefronts and vacant shops were filled with prayer and God’s presence until He graciously provided a permanent home in a former carpentry shop at the corner of 24th and Pearl Streets. What better place to build the faith of God’s children, the smell of wood and hard work reminding members that God’s own Son was a carpenter? What better privilege than to utilize that place to follow Christ’s example!

The early portion of the 20th century saw SBC band together with the Baptist churches of Denver, receiving part time pastoral and musical ministry support. Sister churches, like Macedonia and Zion Baptist, regularly sent a preacher to teach the word, building relationships that would last for decades. Finally, in the latter part of 1908, Rev. Brannon answered the call to become SBC’s first shepherd, serving well until 1911.

The next quarter century was consumed with reaching out to the black community in Christ’s love and with the task of maintaining and renovating the carpentry shop, as well. SBC grew through the decades, served by six diligent men called to lead: Rev. Wallace (2 years), Rev. Jackson (2 years), Rev. Tolliver (17 years), Rev. Bragg (2 years), and Rev. Houston. (5 years) By 1940, Rev. Houston, seeing the need for expansion, helped the church attain its first property at 19th and Canyon (formerly Water) Streets and a small parsonage located at 2005 Goss Street. The congregation’s efforts at that time set the stage for the next period of Christian faith building, physical growth, and financial blessing.

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The Second Baptist Church congregation stands in front of the building at 19th and Canyon in 1946. Image captured from a poster in the Lingham-Walker collection.

1941- 1958 SUBMISSION AND HONOR
“…the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.”
Hebrews 3: 3b-4

The SBC family, blessed and encouraged by their new place of worship, embarked on new ways of caring for each other and those they sought to reach for Christ. Following Rev. Houston’s lead, Rev W. H. Hill, Sr. took the pastoral helm from 1940-1945. Pastor Hill heartened his congregation to grow in fellowship, taking charge in various necessary church business areas. It was at this time missions committees flourished as a valuable resource for church fundraising, outreach, and fellowship functions. The “Busy Bees”, later renamed the Queen Alice Missionary Society for organizer, Alice Baskett, helped garner funds that kept the church well maintained and fiscally solvent during the early 40’s. This group of diligent women took seriously their ministry and passed down a legacy of service, later becoming known as the SBC Benevolent Fund and Women’s Ministry, which helped feed many of Boulder’s hungry through its well-known Food Bank. During the first half of the 1940’s the membership was inspired by God’s blessings to be a blessing themselves and determinedly cared for the gifts the Lord bestowed upon them.

In 1944, Rev. Hill, Sr. stepped down, allowing Rev. BJ Washington to usher in an unforgettable period of growth. During Rev. Washington’s term, SBC faithfully submitted the works of their hands to God’s sovereign will and were blessed phenomenally. On September 8, 1944 a highly successful building fund was launched for the construction of a new, more accommodating church on the same site at 19th and Canyon. Local papers, along with several Boulder churches, chronicled the fundraisers, the construction of the $5000.00 debt-free project, and the weeklong dedication services held in conjunction with old friends Macedonia and Zion Baptist Churches. Incredibly, the members themselves completed more than half the labor for the project. After long days at work, the men gathered together well into the evenings for an entire year to dig out the basement, pour the foundation, and frame walls. The women of the church joined them, providing meals and moral support. Rev. Washington himself was reported to have become an expert in concrete to help speed along the process. By June 9, 1946, plans to capably sit 140 members in a facility that housed a library, study, kitchen, dining room, choir room, and storage facility were realized. When the dust settled after just two years of struggle, a solid community pillar stood, its doors facing east to see a new day dawn on a band of unified and faithful followers of Christ. Those faithful 30-40 members surely knew what could be accomplished by submitting their efforts to God’s purposes.

Two years later, God honored SBC by allowing the pieces to fall into place for a much celebrated mortgage burning. On May 23, 1948, Deacon Howard Akers presided over the services, praising God with the flock, thanking Him for honoring the submission of their time and money with financial freedom and a completely debt-free church. B.J. Washington stepped down later that year, having served industriously and with excellence, leaving the congregation undoubtedly blessed.

Over the ensuing decade, the worshippers enjoyed the momentum provided by God’s faithful provision. Rev. Leon Garcia (1948-1949) helped introduce Wednesday night prayer services, which were said to help grow the faith of the black community greatly. Rev. L.R. Agent (1949-1951) blessed the body with an emphasis on personal responsibility and accountability, further encouraging service and teamwork. The church celebrated 42 years together during Rev. Agent’s tenure adopting the motto “Stand Up for Jesus” and accepting the call to be “A Church Captured by the Missionary Call.”

Rev. Reece helped round out the 1950’s, ushering SBC to the eve of the 1960s, an era that held new challenges for the black community at large and more so for those blacks called to carry Christ’s cross whatever the cost, whatever their race.

Reverend Walter H. Hill preaching, 8 May 1966.
Reverend Walter H. Hill preaching at Second Baptist Church on May 1966. Photo: Carnegie Library for Local History, Museum of Boulder collection, BHS 209-3-13.

1959- 1968 GOD’S GRACE AND HOLDING ON
“But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.”
Hebrews 3:6

On July 2, 1959, Rev, Robert Nesby, Jr., a CU graduate with a degree in Philosophy, left his assistantship at Macedonia Baptist Church in Denver to fulfill God’s call to pastor SBC. God used him greatly to bring the followers along side him with modern church practices. Rev. Nesby’s administrative talents and scholastic gifts were of great benefit as he helped SBC institute its first official budget, financial plan, and successful operations as a parish system. Modern administrative procedures were also adopted at this time, office equipment was purchased, and weekly and monthly bulletins and reports were published and made available to parishioners. Beyond his impact on the business aspects of the church, members were blessed often by duets performed by he and his wife during services. When Rev. Nesby left Second Baptist in 1961 to accept a fellowship in Rochester, New York, he had been marvelously employed by God to secure a more organized and dynamic future.

Rev. Walter H. Hill, Jr. took his place in SBC pastoral history in November 1961. Over the course of his eleven-year term, his immense faith and personal desire to see the church body draw closer to Christ during changing times galvanized a heart for outreach and improved race relations. Against the tense backdrop of the nation’s political and cultural scenes, Rev. Hill led by example, using the Boulder community’s focus on its “black church” to stand for Christ and against any form of human degradation. Rev. Hill overcame adversity personally, losing his left hand in a work-related accident, working a job full-time in Denver in addition to pastoring the church, and serving tirelessly in the tiny black community that was suddenly facing blatant discriminatory practices within Boulder society. He led the church with grace and purpose. His efforts to lead a godly life were well regarded. He was recognized as a founder of the Boulder Human Relations Commission and an organizer of “church swaps” with area white churches, even hosting Human Rights Week at SBC. The church, under his leadership, went out of its way to reach beyond the black community to those in need or who felt disenfranchised, infused with the power of God’s love.

During the 1960s, membership was steady, and many exterior and interior improvements were made. Memorials like the Rose garden honoring the Lingham family were established; appliances, service ware, and stained glass windows were purchased, and upgrades to the parsonage were made as well. Those years also birthed an exciting obedience to God’s commands for a church dedicated to tithing as a means of supporting the church, consistent attention to spiritual growth in the form of regular revivals, and organized musical praise. To the delight of the congregation, on January 23, 1961, Sister Elmira Davis organized and directed SBC’s first senior choir, blessing the fellowship with hymns and musical accompaniment provided by Sister Cleora Reeves and Haywood Hobbs. Furthermore, the Queen Alice Mission was instrumental in preparing the church for better use. The women held dinners and bazaars, raising funds to purchase furniture and décor items, working together to dress the new pulpit and the SBC sanctuary. They were also able to purchase new stoves and youth furniture for other areas of the church. As the 1960s drew to a close, the growing church bade farewell to Rev. WH Hill, Jr. upon his death in 1971, forever grateful for the spiritual bricks he laid to further strengthen SBC’s foundation.

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Still image captured from a television special on Songwriter’s Choice in Christian Music in 1987. Pastor Vann invites the audience to visit Second Baptist Church before the choir sings. Video courtesy of Min. Glenda Strong Robinson.

1972- 1988 THE INCREASE
“The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
Psalm 85: 10-12

On April 23, 1972 Rev. Hansford F. Vann began his tenure as pastor, a term exceeding 35 years. As an energetic and humble servant of the Lord, his desire to offer the service and will of the church to God’s ends were evidenced by SBC’s growth and spreading renown throughout the 1970s and 80s. God used Rev. Vann’s giftings of encouragement and a dynamic personality to engage church members and draw visitors of all colors and backgrounds. Reverend Vann invited Boulder’s collegiate and occupational transfers to services and church activities. Known as a “church of transition,” the church welcomed families transferred to Longmont, Denver, Broomfield and more, becoming an extended family to the faces that changed every semester and season.

The veteran members of the congregation kept the musical, missionary, and youth ministries moving forward, adding educational components namely, Sunday school and Vacation Bible School, a motivated Food Bank outreach, and a church bus to further serve the community. Grace Lingham was SBC secretary for over 50 years. Pastor Vann and the church were often recognized in the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper for their service and activism within the Boulder Community.

Music was also fundamental to SBC’s ability to reach the greater population and share God’s glory and the gospel. The SBC Community Choir never failed to command attention as it had grown exponentially with an influx of members desiring to praise God musically. The efforts of musicians Sam Bryant, May Snowden and Alma Jones were of great benefit to director John Coker, even eventually leading to the recording of an album entitled, “The Lord Is Speaking.” Brother Coker directed the choir amid accolades and statewide recognition until 1979, then handing over the reigns to Sister Alma Jones.

Rev. Vann pastored the church, edifying its body through the 70s and 80s. His sermons were punctuated with his real-life Denver childhood and Navy experiences, growing the faith of the body and engaging anyone who listened. The church was blessed with the capability to offer tape recordings of each service, expanding the church’s ministry to the homes and cars of anyone, anywhere willing to listen. Through the years, even Colorado University football and basketball coaches valued Rev. Vann’s services as chaplain. Soon, like the SBC congregations of the first half of the century, the 1980s congregation saw itself outgrowing a building that had served them well for over 40 years.

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The choir poses in front of Second Baptist Church on Baseline in 1992. Photo courtesy of Madelyn Woodley and Second Baptist Church.

1989- 2008 STAND: A HOUSE ON THE ROCK
“Therefore my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Psalm 85:10-12

As the 1990’s commenced, the senior membership continued to explode. Veteran parishioners, fluctuating transfers, enthusiastic youth, and a multitude of visitors every week, meant a tight fit for 180 members in the 1946 building that only ever sat 140. Parking on site became impossible and the small plot of land left nowhere to expand. After years of folding chairs in the aisles, and a crowd of members listening to the service via loudspeaker from the basement, prayers were being offered up for a new church dwelling. For almost a year, SBC church services were held in the multipurpose rooms and auditoriums of Boulder High, Baseline Jr. High and Casey Junior High Schools to ease the discomfort and accommodate the need. Parishioners diligently tithed and pledged all they could to aid the building fund campaign, even holding a large garage sale in July of 1991 to help raise funds. Blessedly, in August of 1991, by miraculous means, the Lord saw fit to provide a new site for the SBC church home.

At Casey Junior High, on “Miracle Sunday”, as it is now known, SBC members witnessed a supernatural offering of Christian love across cultural and racial lines, as University of Colorado Head Football Coach Bill McCartney and Vineyard Church Pastor James Ryle donated a check for $20,000 dollars as the down payment toward the purchase of a new church site. Though unknown to them, it was exactly the amount needed the following Monday to move forward with the purchase. In September of 1991, SBC, moved into a new era and a new building, purchasing the former site of Boulder Valley Christian Church for approximately $800K dollars. By God’s grace, the church once again celebrated a debt free future by burning the church mortgage at a Praise Service held on September 8, 2002.

The period from 1991 until the present was one of indescribable spiritual growth and phenomenal dedication by those that loved Second Baptist, its pastor, and its people. Pastor Vann and his wife, Elle, worked tirelessly to meet the needs of those they served. Community involvement continued to flourish, and the pews were filled with an active body willing to support a myriad of SBC ministries.

The music ministry continued to distinguish itself during the 90s, drawing visitors to worship weekly. The acclaimed Community Choir Annual Winter Concerts were an exciting celebration of the Savior’s birth, helping to wondrously expand the church’s mission field. With the guidance of musicians like Chuck Abernethy and Cheryl Tolbert, the choir had opportunities to sing with the Longmont Chorale, Dr. Horace Boyer and the Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, Madame Andrews at Chautauqua Park in Boulder, and to musically support Second Baptist’s annual Black History program, reaching hundreds for Christ. Mentored by the Community Choir, the Shekinah Glory Youth Choir also grew in faith and recognition as Ms. Tolbert, drummer Chuck Snowden, Jr., and director May Snowden, accompanied an enthusiastic and unashamed group of young people in the praise and worship of the Lord. Shekinah Glory’s Annual Good Friday Concerts and involvement with the gospel choirs of Denver churches and the University of Colorado continually blessed the community. The Angels Without Wings Children’s Choir under the direction of Willia Miller developed as well, delighting worshipers and bringing even younger children together for Christ. Moreover, Angels Without Wings has groomed a wealth of talent for the older choirs for years. As the music ministry transitioned into the new millennium, Rev. Ernest Hargett emerged on the scene offering his musical gifting to the SBC family. As Minister of Music Rev. Hargett brought harmony to the music ministry on every level.

The church youth were a true beneficiary of the time. Rev. Vann’s popularity on the college campus, Second Baptist’s attention to young families, and activities geared toward Christian youth development and involvement were instrumental ways youngsters were brought to Christ during those years. Solid leadership and monetary support allowed for Youth advances, workshops, “rap” sessions, topical home groups, and a scholarship fund for the purposes of training faithful young people. Many members stepped up to guide the youth in a variety of forums, working hard to combat trying cultural times and opposing religious views. The 1990s gave rise to praise dance and step teams, dramatic presentations and plays, guest speakers and choirs, and youth trips to local entertainment; forging strong bonds among the youth, youth leadership, and grateful parents.

Parents and other adults were not to be left out of God’s provision for spiritual refreshment and teaching. Men’s and Women’s Advances were and still are well received and eagerly anticipated every year. Members willingly gather together at beautiful sites throughout Colorado to learn more of God’s word, pray with each other, and return to SBC with a renewed desire to do His will. The fellowship, strengthened by those experiences, continued to see needs and fill them. Committees of men and women helped develop annual Women’s and Men’s Day celebrations, Vacation Bible School programs, and monthly Men’s Breakfasts, all the while reaching outside SBC doors, encouraging a history of pulpit swaps with First Presbyterian and other churches, inviting speakers from around the country, and supporting Pastor Vann’s role as a community leader.

Settled into the new millennium, Second Baptist Church labored determinedly to bring Christ to increasingly freethinking and liberal Front Range communities. The vibrant and forward-moving members of this “church of transition,” came and went as striving ambassadors to a world dealing with the war on terrorism and the impact of religion on everyday life. Still pressing toward the mark, Second Baptist, Rev. Vann, and believers sought to fulfill God’s will daily by simply continuing to welcome people in and send people out with the promise of Christ’s love.

The year 2008 presented struggles and challenges for Second Baptist, as did the year 1908 for its faithful few. Yet, blessedly, the fellowship had the benefit of a varied and victorious past to act as encouragement toward new victories in Christ. As we lowered the curtain on the 1st centennial and embarked upon the next 100 years, we were fully persuaded that God was able to keep all that had been committed to him against that glorious day. Hallelujah, Our God Reigns!

2009- 2015 TRUST & OBEY: OUR WORK BEGINS ANEW
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is indeed plentiful, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭9‬:‭37‬-‭38‬

Nearly a decade into the new millennium, Second Baptist looked to the hills from whence came our help, knowing that our help came only from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. That knowledge sustained us in a changing world. Society was shifting away from biblical truths and Christian values. The role of the church was increasingly challenged internally, socially, and politically.

Yet, as Second Baptist and the communities we served were tested by the seemingly ever-present influences of mass media, the internet, and technological advancement, our place in Boulder remained clear. We were still needed to lead and guide, still called upon for comfort by those who felt lost and broken. Thus, our leadership and parishioners faced the future fully committed to Christ, heeding His call to love our neighbors, and following the directive to teach His Word.

Closing the initial decade of the 21st century under the continued guidance of Rev. Hansford Vann, the church pressed forward, continuing to worship faithfully. From 2009 to 2011, the church honored its history and legacy well, hosting and supporting celebrations throughout the year. In the early months of those years, Second Baptist recognized its ties to the Civil Rights Movement and its position as Boulder’s first African-American church. Our Martin Luther King Jr Day and Black History Month celebrations uplifted many as the church’s gifted choir, artists, and orators drew community interest and media attention from all over Boulder County.

The fall and winter seasons were no less joyous and filled with fellowship during those years as well. Members still honor Second Baptist’s dedicated ushers on Ushers Day in September and glorify the birth of our Lord in song each December at the Annual Winter Choir Concert as they did then. To this day, Sunday services are often followed by a meal in the Fellowship Hall. Friday mornings, gentlemen from throughout Boulder County gather for Men’s Fellowship Breakfast. On Wednesdays too, it is a joy to know that a group of believers can always be found gathering for Bible study and prayer meetings in the sanctuary.

As 2011 dawned, the congregation gathered again for its Church Anniversary Banquet celebrating 103 years of faith and perseverance. Still, the four-year period from 2011 to 2015 would prove to be one of fresh challenges and transition. Second Baptist would see its first significant shift in leadership in nearly four decades.

On June 11, now officially known as Pastor Hansford Vann Day in Boulder, Second Baptist Church hosted its 2011 Retirement/Installation Celebration Weekend at the Boulder Elks Lodge and Events Center. There, Rev. Hansford F. Vann concluded his long service as lead pastor, becoming Pastor Emeritus. On June 12, 2011, Elder Bruce Merriweather was installed as the 15th pastor of Second Baptist Church. Members from far and wide came to bear witness, share stories, and pray in this new season.

As monumental as this transition was, it was not the only pastoral change of note. History was made in 2012, under Rev, Merriweather’s headship, as Minister Eileen Lingham Walker became the first woman minister elected to associate minister by the Second Baptist Church congregation. In the following year, she accomplished much, preaching from the pulpit and teaching Sunday School. Additionally, she continued her more than 40-year commitment to help coordinate the SBC Women’s Ministry. Minister Walker also worked tirelessly in the greater community. She founded the Hearts To Help Ministry, faithfully serving with a team of members and volunteers to feed the Longmont homeless population. Also, a Navy veteran herself, Minister Walker was an advocate for housing and military veteran care. She supported the homeless and needy in Denver as well.

Navigating new leadership was, at times, challenging for the SBC family during the next two years. As members were tasked with moving forward in faith and focus, all accepted God’s direction, adjusting to Pastor Merriweather’s resignation in 2014. Though rotating, temporary supply pastors shepherded them, the joy of the Lord was not diminished despite the discomfort of change. In 2014, the church body instituted a monthly gathering of members, aptly named “SBC Meet and Greet” to support fellowship, keeping believers connected and praying mightily for their beloved community.

In 2015, those efforts were richly rewarded as God answered Second Baptist’s prayers for stability and strong leadership in the person of Reverend James Ray. Embraced first as SBC Boulder’s official supply pastor, he would soon become much more.

2015-2019 REACH & TEACH: MISSION-MINDED MINISTRY
For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
Deuteronomy 15:11

Just as God’s favor shone on Second Baptist Boulder 107 years prior, James Ray’s installation as official Pastor of our beloved church on June 26, 2016, was indeed the ray of hope we’d prayed for. He, and his wife Pamela, blessed the body with gifts of Biblical candor and gentle power that guide us to this day. Reverend Ray’s leadership reflects his earthly roles as a military officer, seminary scholar, husband, and father, encouraging us daily to remain obedient to God’s word and will. A native Mississippian, he embodies the Spirit-filled worship and Bible-based seeking, teaching, and living that drives a thriving church.

So anchored once again, in church governance and authority, we moved ahead together. In faith and fortitude, we proclaimed the gospel unapologetically, intent on loving our neighbors well and in fresh ways. In 2017, this renewed intention to share the gospel locally included a key addition to the church leadership and birthed two important SBC initiatives under Pastor Ray’s headship.

First, Minister Sylvester Bobo and Minister Glenda Strong Robinson were installed as SBC Associate Ministers. Minister Bobo had served faithfully as Sunday School Superintendent and a Trustee for many years. Minister Robinson was appointed Director of Family Care and New Member Orientation. A long-time member and historian, she stepped in with a wealth of church and civil rights knowledge, leading a ministry focused on welcoming new members and providing spiritual care and counseling for those in need.

Second, the Evangelist Outreach Ministry and the SBC Annual Planning Conference became church staples, shaping our service going forward. The Evangelist Outreach Ministry, or EOM, has become a foundational part of SBC service in the second decade of the twenty-first century. The EOM team is a group of dedicated and passionate volunteers who bring the gospel directly to people living in the community. The following efforts are still ongoing:

4 Corners: On the Streets for Christ is a team of volunteers who meets routinely in public areas, such as street corners, bus stops, grocery stores, etc., providing RTD transfers, prayer, and edifying conversations that share the gospel with willing individuals.

Heart Beat for the Homeless (H4H) meets the needs of the Boulder County homeless population. Weekly, the team coordinates with like-minded groups to connect with people in Boulder Central Park to feed people literally and spiritually.

In September 2018, the ministry initiated plans for an annual event, originally named Socktober, now known as the H4H Festival of Fellowship. The event continues to successfully welcome our homeless guests, the SBC congregation, and Boulder community service providers to the church. Together, we fully engage the love of the Lord and the mutual desire to love our neighbor.

Also in 2018, the annual Feed the Community Thanksgiving was initiated. Our ministry event provides a unique opportunity to clothe, feed, and serve homeless guests in two locations (Boulder Central Park and SBC Boulder). All the while, the ministry team, church volunteers, and our visitors learn more about the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus.

Evangelism Training: We are encouraged to receive specific training online and/or in person. This is a commitment made by all volunteers, understanding that we should be comfortable and confident presenting the gospel.

Alongside these efforts, Second Baptist Church, Boulder continued to build upon its well-known history of musical excellence through its ministry of gospel music. For many years, people have come from near and far to join in worship and praise to Almighty God.

The Second Baptist Church Community Choir’s Annual Winter Concerts continue to serve as a mainstay that church members and the Boulder Valley Community appreciate and enjoy. This ministry also serves as a major source in winning souls to Christ.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ministry enjoyed many standing-room-only concerts, spearheaded by the musical expertise of Madelyn Strong Woodley, Director of Music Ministries. Her musical experience spans all genres and has been a major influence among many that she has developed and trained. A well-deserved salute belongs to Ms. Woodley for her service of excellence to the music ministry of Second Baptist Church.

The Second Baptist Church Music Ministry, under the capable leadership of Sandra Daniel, Willia Miller, and Richard Glover, Musical Director, still thrives today. Their dedication and faithfulness are exemplary.

As 2019 progressed, our work in the community continued to expand as organizations like the NAACP Boulder County Branch met at SBC Boulder every 1st Monday of the month that year. To further support Reverend Ray and the church body, Minister Sylvester Bobo was voted in as Associate Minister and joined the pulpit staff.

Movie Poster Biff
Film poster of The Silence of Quarantine, a documentary about the impact the COVID-19 quarantines had on the congregation at Second Baptist Church. The documentary debuted at the Boulder International Film Festival in 2021, directed by Katrina Miller/Blackat Video Productions.

2020-2023 DELIVERED & DEVOTED: POST-PANDEMIC PURPOSE
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

Society, as a whole, was turned on its head during the early months of the year 2020. Incredibly, the world was forced to adjust to a global pandemic, shifting its attention to the impact and management of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (COVID-19. Usually spread between people in close contact, the novel virus required SBC Boulder to officially close the church doors and suspend activity on March 15, 2021, in response to suggested health department restrictions. For the first time in history, our church could be viewed online. With faith and cooperation, we kept our congregation connected and worshiped weekly. Thus, our Christian light was never locked down. Our call to be the salt of the earth was never diminished by any amount of social distance.

Despite the season of grief and discomfort, God continued to remind us that joy does come in the morning. And, with time, the hope of a new day dawned. The next year, the prayer of safely reconvening in our church building was answered. Our EOM team resumed meeting in Central Park, meeting and serving record numbers at our H4H Fall Festival and Feed the Community Thanksgiving Meal. Online and in-person, Second Baptist welcomed whatever the Lord allowed, knowing that His purposes were paramount.

We remain blessed to live in a society where we are free to praise the Lord. Our service and activities continue to engage and enlighten as we press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. This journey is reflected well in a 2023-2025 exhibit featured at the Museum of Boulder titled “Proclaiming Colorado’s Black History.” There, our history is shared and celebrated. More importantly, the joy and provision of God’s love shine far beyond our century-old church to inspire every race and creed.

We will continue to proclaim the gospel. Our work is not done. SBC is dynamic, diverse, and visible. We are a Christ-centered church where love is mandatory, Kingdom disciples are made, Jesus is Lord, and God is glorified.

Boulder’s LGBTQ+ History

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In honor of Pride Month, the Museum of Boulder interviewed Glenda Russell, a psychologist and researcher who has been working to understand and write about Boulder’s LGBTQ+ history for many decades. Hear Glenda and others discuss LGBTQ+ history in Colorado on June 16th at 5pm.

You came to Boulder in 1970. What was it like for LGBTQ+ people here at that time?

When I came to Boulder in 1970, the town was in many respects on the edge of making significant changes. It had been a quite conservative town, as evidenced by a history of city councils that consisted largely of middle-aged and older white male businessmen. The changes that were coming were part of broader changes in the United States: the turmoil in the country brought about by a series of assassinations and riots, the Vietnam War; the promise of the activism of disenfranchised groups; the murders at Kent State and Jackson State; 18 year-olds winning the right to vote; the youth rebellion of the late sixties in general and against the war in Southeast Asia in particular. Within a couple of years after I arrived here, the complexion of Boulder’s council changed dramatically: with no precedent whatsoever, council now counted in its membership an African American mayor, several women, its youngest member ever, and a gay man who was not widely open about his sexual orientation but who espoused quite liberal politics. It felt like the dawning of a new day. In some respects, it was. But what many of us had not yet learned, dawns and new days are almost inevitably followed by backlashes.

How did you get into LGBTQ+ rights?

I stepped in rather gingerly at first. I was drawn to some events sponsored by the Gay Liberation Front, a group that formed in 1970 on campus that included community as well as campus folks. I also attended some of GLF’s great barn dances, which were held at Hidden Valley Ranch north of Boulder. These dances drew queer people from all over northern Colorado and Wyoming. They were fun, and they represented the first time in the area that queer people created their own social spaces—not beholden to organized crime and not subject to police harassment. That was a dramatic step, out of the closet certainly but also out of isolation and self-hatred.

For me, things would have gone on casually for probably a long time, but Boulder history intervened. Boulder’s city council passed a Human Rights Ordinance. At the urging of some of the leadership of Boulder’s Gay Liberation Front, council considered including sexual orientation in the non-discrimination ordinance. There was an incredible hue and cry from Boulderites. Hundreds showed up for a council hearing on the ordinance. It was an amazing show: one woman likened Boulder to Sodom and Gomorrah; another warned that the town was about to become known as “Lesbian-Homoville.” A gay man who was the minister of Denver’s Metropolitan Community Church (which then as now ministered largely to the LGBTQ+ communities) softly said, “God loves me, and He knows I am a homosexual.”

I sat through this entire evening taking notes. I instinctively knew that history was being made in front of me. That perspective allowed some distance between me and the vitriol that was being said about my group. I walked out of that hearing knowing I wanted to be a part of this movement.

Did you have an LGBTQ+ person that you looked up to?

I knew very few gay or lesbian people in those days. Such was the power of the closet. But I was reading all sorts of things. Even in high school, I had started reading James Baldwin after seeing him on a public affairs TV show.  I devoured everything by Baldwin I could get my hands on. I still love his writing—the power of his words and stories, of course—but even more what he knew about oppression and internalized oppression. I was struck when I saw the film, “I Am Not Your Negro” a couple of years ago by how well his insights about internalized oppression hold up all these years later.

Last year I was walking on Pearl Street and there were gay pride flags flying everywhere. Has Boulder always been so friendly to the LGBTQ+ community? If it hasn’t, when did it change and why?

Well, let’s go back to the history I mentioned earlier—the history that included Boulder’s Human Rights Ordinance and that public hearing I mentioned. That was in 1974. The city really did get polarized over what we called gay rights then. In fact, the official city record says that it was the most divisive time in the city in recent memory. Many citizens pushed for city council to allow a referendum on whether the Human Rights Ordinance should include sexual orientation. Council was sitting on a live firecracker, and they were willing to throw it out into the open for everyone to vote on.  And vote we did. The good people of Boulder voted against gay rights by a landslide Not only that, anti-LGBTQ+ forces in town initiated a recall against two members of council—Mayor Penfield Tate and Tim Fuller. Mayor Tate barely survived the recall and, in fact, lost his later re-election bid and, with it, his political career. Tim Fuller was recalled and left Boulder not long afterward. So Boulder certainly wasn’t a terribly friendly place in any official sense in 1974, which is not to say there weren’t some wonderful allies in this town then.

In 1987, several young lesbians noted that Boulder had been left behind. We still didn’t have an ordinance that prohibited discrimination against queer people. Kat Morgan, Sue Larson, and several other women approached city council with the idea of having them add sexual orientation to the Human Rights Ordinance. Council members recalled all too well the polarization that had been a part of the 1974 effort and declined to raise the issue. Not to be deterred, these same women went the petition route and forced the issue to go on the ballot. The second time worked: Boulderites accepted the inclusion of sexual orientation in the Human Rights Ordinance. They did so by fewer than 300 votes. So, I guess you could say Boulder was getting friendlier by then.

To your question: When did it change, and why? It changed gradually, as attitudes tend to do. In many ways, it changed as the entire country changed. And it is still changing. And, if I may say, it still has a lot of changing to do.

Rainbow flags are lovely. And they really do convey a welcoming sentiment to LGBTQ+ people. That is real. And that is on the one hand.

On the other hand, rainbow flags are cosmetic. Flags and “Hate-free zone” signs, and other such things are quite nice, and they say little to nothing about whether people have really examined the heterosexism and transnegativity that virtually all of us grew up with and that continue to be part not only of our heritage but of the air we breathe. These symbols do not guarantee that a person who displays such signals really understands what oppression does to LGBTQ+ people or how their own actions—right here, right now—might negatively affect LGBTQ+ people and unwittingly reinstate the power differentials between them and queer people. This is not at all unique to LGBTQ+ people in Boulder. I think many groups of people who are marginalized have this feeling in Boulder (and certainly elsewhere). It takes enormous courage and humility and work to really see how we participate in the power dynamics when we are sitting in the powerful seat relative to a particular form of oppression.

Things have changed, and things are changing. And there is more change to be thought and acted into being.

Which people or actions have had the biggest effect on Boulder’s attitudes towards the LGTBQ+ community?

It is quite difficult to pinpoint the many variables that contribute to changes in attitudes and behaviors. Social sciences offer some clues about what tend to be important factors to look for. But every situation is different, of course. And there is at least some amount of happenstance—we might call it luck—in social change.

Decades of research have left us with the very strong impression that contact between groups is very important to changes in attitudes at least at the individual level, and changes at the individual level can move social groups toward bigger changes at broader levels. The importance of contact to produce change has probably been especially important in the case of LGBTQ+ people where sexual orientation and gender identity are not always or even usually obvious to other people. As long as queer and trans people were deeply in the closet, any benefit from social contact was pretty much out of the question. I can work with Fred on a daily basis, but if I never know he is gay, my contact with him doesn’t do much to change my attitudes about gay people. Even if I suspect he is gay but we never mention it, that silence tends to reinforce the negative understandings about being gay that float around the world.  It’s the opposite of Mr. Rogers’ famous observation: “If it’s mentionable, it’s manageable.” If it’s not mentionable, then there must be something about it that makes it unspeakable.

When it comes to considering social change around queer issues, I think my primary nominees for situations that have had a significant impact on attitude change on this issue in Boulder are those things that allowed for more contact between queer and trans people and the rest of Boulder. That is especially true if the contact promoted the humanization of queer and trans people in some way—that in contrast to, for example, a hate crime against a queer or trans person that gets a lot of publicity but is allowed to stand with no public outcry or action that can begin to create a new norm. 

That by way of prelude, I conclude I have to start my list of change agents with the courageous members who started and joined up with Boulder’s Gay Liberation Front back in the early 1970s. They really were a courageous lot. To be openly gay or lesbian in that climate required overcoming a good deal of fear, carving a way out of little other than the example that had been provided by liberation groups that had been organizing before us, and the willingness to tackle their own internalized oppression, which of course got better the farther they ventured out of the closet.

In the same era, I would nominate Mayor Penfield Tate whom I mentioned earlier. Mayor Tate represented the consummate ally, a straight man who, despite holding a generally politically moderate position, was willing to take a very early stand for gay rights, in the process subjecting himself to widespread harassment and sacrificing a promising political career. Along with Pen, I would nominate Tim Fuller who also fought valiantly for gay rights at the same time, albeit from the closet, which ironically takes a lot of courage. Tim also sacrificed his political career to the issue. Together, they never backed down; they held the standard for doing the right thing despite widespread disapproval. And their actions created a real conundrum for Boulder. The city’s refusal to provide anti-discrimination protections for gay and lesbian people provided an unflattering mirror in which Boulder, with its emerging liberal aspirations, would have to view itself.

 Not long after that election, a young lesbian named Linda Kowach drew together a group of women to start what became known as the Boulder Community Women’s Center. Situated in an explicitly feminist position, the Women’s Center attracted mostly lesbians along with a handful of straight women who were willing to look at their heterosexism. That center and, later, a more radically creative group that came up with the consensus name, the Socialist-Feminist/Feminist-Socialist Collective, made important inroads into creating links between queer liberation and the women’s movement.

In the mid-eighties with the advent of HIV/AIDS, the country at large and Boulder in particular had the opportunity to be introduced to many, many men who were forced out of the closet by their illnesses and eventual deaths. America could no longer look away from its sons and brothers and friends. I think that pandemic—yes, that was a pandemic—insisted that people think about the LGBTQ+ community. Some of this long-overdue acknowledgement of gay men by straight people was based on sympathy or empathy, but some was based on observations of the incredible humanity with which the LGBTQ+ community rose to take care of one another.

In this litany of change agents, I will mention the young women whom I mentioned before—those who in 1987 gave Boulder the opportunity to change the unflattering image in the mirror and finally include sexual orientation—gender identity came later—in the city’s human rights ordinance.

During this same general era, the CU campus again became an important site of queer activism. Early on it was led, curiously enough, by a small handful of faculty, several staff members, including, notably, a couple of counselors at the counseling center, who brought in speakers, held conferences, and created all sorts of opportunities to make queer issues and people more visible in the community at large.

Colorado’s notorious Amendment 2—passed by referendum in 1992—represents a major moment for queer rights. A painful loss at the ballot box inspired countless LGBTQ+ people to activism and influenced countless heterosexual people to want to disassociate themselves from the negative rhetoric and actions of the proponents of Amendment 2. Through a judicial fight led by Boulder attorney Jean Dubofsky, another remarkable ally, Amendment 2 ushered in a sea change at the U. S. Supreme Court—not just for Colorado but for the entire country. On the surface, the substance of the decision was significant: Colorado could not effectively legalize discrimination against LGB people. More subtly, but arguably more importantly, the decision was the first opinion from the highest court in the land that spoke of LGB people as persons deserving of dignity and fairness. And, as we know, lower courts tend to echo the Supreme Court not only in substance but in tone. 

We could probably add the two marriage decisions—the Windsor decision and the Obergefell decision—as two other events that had a huge impact on queer rights in Boulder, as everywhere else. But I would also add the decision by Hillary Hall to start issuing marriage licenses in Boulder County as a significant decision in its own right. Hall, with the support of the county attorney and other county administrators, saw an opening and started giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Beyond that, she was willing to go to court to keep doing so. That represented a big model of what being an ally could mean. 

The closer we get to events, the more difficult it is to evaluate their impact and importance. I would add two specific events: The PFLAG Mountain West Regional Conference in September of 2008 brought in Mara Keisling as a keynote speaker. Not only was she fabulous, she injected a new level of understanding about trans issues into the community. And let us not forget the arrival of Mardi Moore as the new executive director of (then) Out Boulder. Mardi’s time at (now) Out Boulder County has raised the stakes in many ways—outreach to all parts of Boulder County, much greater work on transgender and gender-creative people and issues, greater emphasis on queer and trans people of color, and real success at getting OBC better integrated with other social justice groups and activities in these parts.

The LGBTQ+ movement has become a lot more visible, which groups in that community still are less visible?

LGBTQ+ people come from every part of the broad make-up of the country. Consequently, in many respects, the LGBTQ+ community in this country has always been something of a microcosm of larger U. S. society. We share many of the same problems with equitable treatment within our own ranks. This community has plenty of work to do with regard to race, sex, class background, disabilities, religious diversity, age, and the like.

In addition, I think it is clear that, within the LGBTQ+ community, we still have real trouble with the equitable visibility of bisexuals and trans and other gender-creative folks. Beyond visibility, all of these groups suffer from elevated social and health disparities over and above the already inequitable situations experienced by gay men and lesbians. 

There is a hint of better news: There is some evidence that, as a group, LGBTQ+ people make somewhat greater efforts to reduce racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, religious bias, and other forms of marginalization than does the population in general. 

How can non-LGBTQ+ people be the best allies they can be while still honoring that they have never had that experience?

I have been conducting research on heterosexual allies for several decades now. There is no straightforward answer to your question. Allies come to their positions from many perspectives and through many motives. When I have sat with research colleagues of all sexual orientations and gender identities analyzing data about allies, we almost always get to a specific kind of question: If you were in trouble as an queer or trans person, would you trust this person to help you out in a way that does not require you to be a victim, passive, too beholden—in short, in a way that does not reinstate the power imbalance between heterosexual and queer people?

I think a couple of things really contribute to that in allies. First, they have been willing to look at their own levels of heterosexism and transnegativity on an ongoing basis. They do not claim they are free from bias, but rather are committed to the work of reducing overt and subtle bias in themselves. Second, they figure out the often complex roots of their desire to be allies, and they are especially careful to examine the motives that have more to do with what’s in it for them than with justice and morality and other important principles. Third, allies become familiar with their privilege as heterosexuals. That is challenging work, as all of us tend to assume that we have no more privilege than anyone else.  In fact, every heterosexual/cisgender person enjoys lots of privilege along the dimensions of gender identity and sexual orientation.

Fourth, allies should be willing and even impatient, in the words of Suzanne Pharr, to “spend their privilege well.”  Fifth, allies do not make being an ally the center of the struggle for the rights of LGBTQ people. Allies are allies. They are important to the movement—that’s one of the reasons that I have been studying them for decades—but they are not the center of the movement, nor should they be. To draw a rather obvious parallel, I have been doing work as an anti-racist white person for longer than I have been doing research on allies. But I would be extremely concerned if I saw myself in any way as at the center of the anti-racism movement or as a person who should make decisions about that movement. As one really stellar ally in my research said to me years ago, “LGBTQ people figure out what they need and where they want to go. I use whatever skills I have to make that happen.” Finally, and I absolutely mean this, allies should have fun doing ally work.

Do you think increased visibility is going to make the next generation more accepting?

This is a more difficult question than I wish it were. If social change happened in a linear fashion, I would say absolutely. Recent decades have witnessed a generally favorable trajectory for LGBTQI people. Generally. However, in the past several years, we have seen a very troubling roll-back of any number of rights at federal, state, and municipal levels.  And especially since the last presidential election, we have also seen the enactment of laws, executive orders, and legal decisions that have effectively placed more restrictions on the rights of queer people and especially on trans people. In particular, we have seen increasing permission for laws to be written and interpreted in such a way as to allow discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community by people who say they want to be exempted from obeying various laws because of their “deeply held religious beliefs.” Moreover, we have seen huge legal setbacks for trans and gender-creative people. It really looks like the current administration has targeted these folks as the most vulnerable members among queer communities and are using them as the toehold for a campaign to take back the rights of the entire community.

As a student of history, I can only conclude that progress is not linear. Asian Americans, for example, always knew they were marginalized in some important ways, but very few people expected the recent surge in harassment and hate crimes against Asian American people in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Those who might have predicted this development were probably familiar with the history of similar scapegoating that has occurred in prior pandemics. Progress is never guaranteed. It must be guarded and fought for. That is the duty of all of us.

Where would you like the LGBTQ+ movement to be in 5 years?

First, I want to see the LGBTQ+ movement survive within a renewed and thriving democracy. I would also like the queer and trans community to work fiercely and enthusiastically on further reducing the biases we inevitably have brought to our rich community. In a similar way, though at a very different level, I would like to see queer people commit to working openly against the internalized oppression that infects all marginalized people, in the process throwing off the shackles of self-hatred and self-doubt and discarding scripts that suggest we are inevitably victims.   I would also love to see a renaissance among allies—a change in which allies deepen their commitment to and understanding of working with LGBTQ+ people while LGBTQ+ people are making the decisions and leading the way. Oh, and I want a new Supreme Court.

Is that too much to ask?