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Black Girl Social Club’s Denver chapter provides reprieve from racial exhaustion

//Denver chapter members of The Black Girl Social Club pose for a photo at one of its bi-monthly events, a “Sis-Giving” Thanksgiving feast on Nov. 20, 2021. Photo courtesy of UR Golden.

Over the early months of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Denver chapter of The Black Girl Social Club, or BGSC, emerged by happenstance. The group currently has chapters around the world and was initially founded in 2019 by Carmen Jones in Atlanta. 

One day in early 2020, Founding Denver President Joce Blake logged into Instagram to see herself tagged in one of their posts. She wrote under one of the pictures, “Oh my God, Denver needs one of these.” Soon enough, she was chatting with Jones about starting a Denver chapter.

“I talked about my love for Black women and have always been in spaces where I like to appreciate Black women and make sure that they’re seen and heard,” Blake said. “[Jones] talked about that same affinity as well, and we bonded over that. It just seemed like a perfect fit.”

The Denver chapter began in May 2020, centering the club’s broader goal of creating an experience for Black women by Black women, to feel seen, be heard and not feel judged. Denver Co-President Aspen Wright happened across the BGSC Denver chapter the month before it launched, decided to take a chance and signed up.

In the beginning, there were around seven members, though the co-presidents noted that the Denver chapter currently has more than 70 members. That number is also growing, as the chapter recently opened submissions for new memberships at the end of February. The call for new memberships is now closed, though BGSC plans to hold more in the coming months; memberships are $24.99 a month or $250 annually. 

“Diversity here isn’t as wide-reaching as some other places, so to see it go from seven, eight women to like, 70-80; it’s like we found each other,” Wright said.

Wright was born and raised in Colorado, but she holds firmly that Black folks and Black women do have to forge their own spaces in the state. Though, looking back at the past couple of years and toward the future, she said the Black scene in Denver seems to be growing.

“I think that we’re all like, ‘We are here,’ you know what I mean? Why are we so spread out? How come? Let’s pull it together. So, we have a lot of things that are starting to develop in the city that are for us,” Wright said. “You have to build those spaces.”

Wright made the point that it can be hard for any adult to make friends after a certain age, and Blake noted that she, and many others in the Denver chapter, are transplants. The co-presidents indicated that there is an invaluable need to gather with other Black women, where they can be their authentic selves.

“It’s like a love fest,” Blake said. “Having a space where you can be your full Black self is undervalued, and so the fact that that’s what this is—We don’t have to code-switch or be someone else. It’s just so essential, and now more than ever, because racial exhaustion is real. We can talk about that stuff and just be real, and I love that for us.”

Each chapter plans two events a month. While the Denver chapter initially held more virtual events in 2020, they have since hosted events ranging from quaint outdoor get-togethers to a huge “Sis-Giving” Thanksgiving feast, luxurious dinner parties and more. 

The BGSC Denver chapter expands well beyond those two monthly events, though. It’s created a network with opportunities for members to split off and plan gatherings with one another based on their interests, professions and proximity. Blake said that about 20% of the group lives in Colorado Springs and often plans smaller hangouts and events with one another.

BGSC also creates an immediate network as members visit new places, with chapters around the country and the world. It’s often as simple as the traveling member reaching out to the local chapter, and someone is always willing to recommend welcoming places to stay, things to do, places to eat and opportunities to connect. They also want to ensure they can provide that same safety and network for members of other chapters visiting Denver.

Both Blake and Wright explicitly said that the best part about The Black Girl Social Club is that it isn’t cliquey, and the feedback from members has been almost entirely positive. 

“I can honestly say that the feedback that we get from our girls is that we have fostered and created this environment of safety, of being respectful of one another,” Wright said. “We also create really unique and fun settings.”

Though the growth of the Denver chapter is encouraging, Blake said she believes the city could provide more supportive resources and spaces for Black people to start businesses.

“What I find is that it’s really hard for Black business owners to maintain spaces,” Blake said. “There’s not a ton of support for us. And realizing what it looks like to be a Black business owner because that’s very different for other minorities and, I mean, white people specifically. And I think the cost of living here plays into that too because it’s a lot to live here.”

Wright said that this idea coincides with the potential opportunity the Denver chapter can embrace in the future: using their small but mighty community to continue connecting to the broader Black community.

“I want [the Denver chapter] specifically to continue to dive in and really create more of a space for the Black community,” Wright said. “I want us to put our heels into the city and really, really, really say, hey, ‘How else can we make our mark here?’ whether that’s through volunteerism, or just creating fun gathering spaces, whatever it is—make it BGSC-focused but also for the community.”

Looking ahead, Blake said she could see a conference in the future featuring local Black women in leadership.

Though, she said her ultimate vision for the Denver chapter is simple: “Big picture, just having a strong chapter, where, if you need your sister she’s there for you. Just keeping it authentic, because right now, it’s really genuine and authentic. We really love each other, and I just want to maintain that.”

Keep up with BGSC on Instagram and the official website, and contact denver@bgscchapter.com for inquiries on the Denver chapter.

 

 

 

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