July 22, 2021
INTERVIEW WITH BLACK IN DENVER ARTIST, NARKITA GOLD
Narkita Gold began her Black in Denver series in 2018, featuring 100 portraits of those who identify as Black and who live in the Denver community. Black in Denver reflects Gold's exploration of the uniqueness of Denver's Black community, including a wide spectrum of Black self-expression. Visually connecting her individual subjects through the vibrant and bold portraits and through interviews, she composes a mosaic of experiences and narratives. We asked Narkita to turn the interview to herself and reflect on what it means, to her, to be Black in Denver.
By Jasmine Narkita Wiley (she/her)
One of many things that I noticed when I first moved to Denver in 2015 was the lack of Black faces in the crowd. But the Black faces I did see were different, unique, and in my opinion, powerful. I saw a bunch of Black folks being themselves, being free. And I felt the liberation I was witnessing challenged damaging narratives created by the mass media machine. Because I never fit the stereotypical idea of what it means to be Black, I never quite felt comfortable in my skin. Growing up, I remember feeling the need to change and conform to fit into what my peers, the church, and my family expected of me. I didn’t realize how lost in the sauce I was until I got here, to Denver, and found myself away from the ceaseless chatter.
In the Mile High City, I chose to take advantage of being alone and dive deep into the inner workings of me. Not only my Blackness but my individuality. In my solitude, which I recently learned -- from a dharma teacher -- is a social construct because we are connected to everything, I began to ask myself big existential questions like, “Who am I?” and “What does it mean to be me?”
Simultaneously, I was removing the masks I wore to survive, and a true version of myself began to emerge, just me. I no longer tried to fit in. For the first time in my life, I experienced self-acceptance. For the first time, I felt I was enough. In addition to this transformative experience, I was finding community. A community of open-minded Black folks -- activists, adventurers, artists, conversationalists, creatives, dancers, healers, intellectuals, meditators, organizers, queers, writers, and yogis -- who received me, and for the first time ever I found something greater than myself -- belonging. So, Black in Denver was born from my journey to self, love, and curiosity about Denver's Black community. I’ve outlined my findings here.
Today, I am an artist, a storyteller, and a creative researcher; things I never thought I would be, but they’ve been there all along. I’ve taken some time to reflect on my own experience and will share just a fraction of what makes me, me because ultimately, what I've learned is that many things reside within this beautiful skin of mine.
Who am I?
I’ve investigated this question since 2017, and it changes each time I revisit it. I know myself to be an old soul in a Black body, and that body will one day become the earth. I am nothing, yet I am everything. I am an ever-changing being. I am existential. I am a messenger. I am never the same and I embrace the fluidity that is my existence.
What does it mean to be me?
It means to be a proud Blerd or a Black nerd. It means to have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. It means to enjoy making the correlation between topics that otherwise wouldn't be connected. It means to find solace gazing at the stars. It means to be brought to tears by beautiful prose. It means to be in constant conflict as I find it difficult to choose between dance, art, and writing. It means to be an introvert. It means to be a loner.
What does it mean to be Black in Denver?
It means to be a bohemian, an artist, a culture lover, and a creative thinker all in one. It means to be exposed and okay with it. It means safety, community, love, belonging. It means to breathe, find home within, discover self, love self, and embrace all that I am. It means to be committed to my healing and my community's healing. To be Black in Denver is an opportunity to paint something new.
What do you love most about living in Denver?
The mountains. The sunshine. The way the big sky takes on purple and orange hues at sunset. The space to explore all of me.
How have your experiences in Denver shaped you?
My experiences here have shaped me into a more confident person. After six years in Denver, I feel that no matter where life takes me I can be myself unapologetically, and I am eternally grateful for that.
If you’d like to take a deep dive into the work, read my paper which is an overview of the research approach, what I found, and what I’m exploring next at New York University this fall.
Narkita Gold: Black In Denver, is currently on view through August 22, 2021. See the exhibition before it closes! Reserve your tickets here.