Denver hip-hopper and artivist Bubba Peace brings a positive message to everything he does. As a Youth on Record teaching artist, he’s quick to find power through unity, helping young people navigate the violence plaguing the community. He’s a family man with a heart of gold and a deep understanding of how to right the systemic wrongs of the United States, something he's ready and willing to pass on to others.
What drives Bubba Peace to exact change? He tackles that question and talks about what’s next as he answers the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
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Bubba Peace: Freedom is my muse: Freedom as the practice of learning how to love myself. Freedom as seeking independence as a black man in a world full of assumptions on my mannerisms, lifestyle and beliefs. Freedom to see my little black girl grow into a black woman without fear of sharing herstory and ancestral battles. Freedom for Mikel McIntyre’s son Noah, Demetrius Franklin’s innocence, Breonna Taylor’s spirit, Elijah McClain’s legacy, Shauna Broussard’s triumph, and all my brothers, sisters and elders who were wrongfully convicted, killed or silenced. Freedom is my muse.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
Bob Marley, Ella Baker and my paternal grandmother, Thelma Jean Mason. All of these figures established lanes of growth for black people across the diaspora, and so many more people at large felt their impact.
Bob is a music mind who brought people together while telling some extremely difficult truths in a healing way. He unapologetically sang under difficult circumstances. Those are skills that I hope to emulate through my own musical journey.
Ella Baker is a new name for me personally; however; I am curious on how she grew so many leaders through the thinking found in this quote: “I have always thought that what is needed is the development of people who are interested not in being leaders as much as in developing leadership in others.” I actively work to surround myself with people who operate in a similar mind state.
My grandma Thelma Jean was a Black Panther from Oakland who, from what I understand, had her own house with no spouse. It would be a great honor to hear about struggles she overcame and get a greater understanding of who I really am.
What’s the best thing about the local activist community — and the worst?
The worst thing about the local activist community is a mixture of isolated efforts and what a friend of mine calls “celebrity activism.” Hence we can reference and admire Ella Baker for the willingness to grow the leadership of potential leaders.
Our youth, or people in their first three decades, are without a doubt the greatest part of the activist community out here. The reason being, we do not allow fears or doubts to limit potential work that can be done. I feel we are curious, and willing to fall and get back up regardless of barriers.
What are the biggest challenges right now for black community activists?
Though I cannot single-handedly speak about the challenges for all black community activists, I will say that I want to develop my understanding of sustained actions within the black/brown, indigenous and people of color communities (BIPOC). Protests are great when paired with a series of actions, thus my challenge as a black man is learning what already exists, participating as a listener and follower, and then, when appropriate, fusing my music and the music of others with action plans.
Where do we start? What will it take to abolish racism?
Abolishing racism is a product of abolishing internalized biases. First by acknowledging the existence of our biases through a deep construct of strategic conditioning of Eurocentric values and violent practices, and then by processing said realizations with communities that can be trusted with healthy and healing analysis of our unhealthy habits. Once there is a collective understanding of how our biases have impacted the world at large, we may begin the tedious task of deconstructing each system which has benefited white supremacist, hetero-patriarchal livelihood. That work is inclusive of reparations for BIPOC victims of genocide and familial separation via the school-to-prison pipeline, BIPOC educator and administrator development programs, free and forgiven student loans for post-secondary education, BIPOC mental wellness development programs, counselors-not-cops programs, healthy masculinity youth and adult programs, more funding and support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) — the list is ongoing, and yet we can achieve the result by working on ourselves.
What’s your dream project?
My dream project is creating and sustaining an environmentally and spiritually responsible HBCU that promotes the development of higher consciousness for students, staff and faculty, similar to Naropa, with predominantly black everything. We, the black people, have been and always are leaders in scientific movements, architectural designs, food, culture, music, writing — oooohhhh, our writing — technology. You name it, we’ve done it and mastered it. I forgot to mention LeBron, Lamar, Maya, Claressa….
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
Since I was born by the lake in Oakland, California, I do prefer oceans over mountains. I call Denver “Babytown,” because we get a beautiful purple lemon sunset on the mountains, double rainbows in the valleys, and it’s a place to really start your journey, whatever it may be. A lot of people feel they need to start careers in other “major cities,” yet it is clear to me we are on the verge of greatness artistically, socially and politically.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Selfishly, I say myself, and selflessly, there is no one Colorado Creative who stands above others for me. I will acknowledge that I view the works, companionships and/or mentorship of Stephen Brackett, MO SPKX, Aubrey Valencia, Stevie Selby, Master Christophe Clarke, Shawn King, FaT TrAk, Acuña Black, Paul Clifton, Corbin Tobey-Davis, and my Black Queen Mama JAH as blessings.
These individuals have nurtured me as a creative with responsibilities and a desire to be great, which inspires me to stay consistent while seeking ways to grow among other creatives.
What's on your agenda now and in the coming year?
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Right now, I am developing my music brand within my organizing path. It is important that I focus my efforts artistically to give the world a dose of my most authentic self. Definitely plan to give some music to the world, and it is still too early to speak toward anything specific.
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Selfishly me…selflessly, my Black Queen Mama JAH. Jahmila recently completed her Youth on Record fellowship as we experienced parenthood together. I watched her come to bed at 5 a.m. working on her craft a couple nights in a row this week, and I saw that effort in her when I stalked her at Mercury Cafe till 2 a.m. when her shift ended. My lady is an extremely hard worker, gifted wordsmith, entrepreneur, baked goods connoisseur, professional dancer, martial-arts gold medalist, craft captain and black woman who created life on the side. I am in constant awe of Jahmila’s creative gifts and look forward to witnessing the evolution of a Black Goddess.