In the fall, Indie 102.3 host Alicia “Bruce” Trujillo and Celesté Martinez, owner of the coaching and consulting company Celestial Alegria, launched season one of Colorful Colorado Collaborations as a way to highlight Colorado BIPOC musicians and businesses.
Trujillo and Martinez met in 2019 when Martinez was performing with her band, TuLips, at the annual Westwood Chile Fest on Morrison Road. They were fans of each other’s work and soon became good friends. In June 2020, they talked about hosting a festival-like show to give props to local musicians and small businesses.
“Celesté reached out to me after I posted a virtual festival over the summer where mostly independent artists across the country played a virtual set that would raise funds for local businesses who were taking a hit from COVID closures,” Trujillo explains. “As Celesté stepped out as an entrepreneur quite literally at the beginning of the pandemic, she was inspired to do something that could give her coaching, facilitation and development business a boost.
“It started in the same vein as the festival I had shared,” Trujillo continues. “Let’s get some local musicians together to boost some businesses or entrepreneurs in Denver. The idea to work with Black, Indigenous and people of color specifically was understood from the very beginning. Let’s bring together an artist or band with a local entrepreneur and local business to create a livestream event that would reach new audiences and expose each collaborator to the others’ audiences as well.”
Season one launched in September and ran through October with various collaborations. Latin pop artist Lolita and Big Samir of the Reminders performed their bilingual pop song “Toda Mi Gente (Remix),” about gun violence and police brutality. After hearing the song, Martinez reached out to Lady Justice Brewing, at 9735 East Colfax Avenue in Aurora, to create a beer that tasted like joy in a glass. Lady Justice made a Celestial Alegria Hazy IPA that dropped on September 3.
In another episode, Aurora Poet Laureate Assétou Xango partnered with Whittier Cafe owner Millete Birhanemaskel; they hosted a poetry reading called Poems From the Void and celebrated the release with the new drink Dark Goddess Mint Mocha.
Afrobeat and Chicano hip-hop orchestra Pink Hawks released a song called “Elote" that narrates the struggle of the working class and “the battle for legality of one’s humanity on stolen land,” according to the Colorado Colorful Collaborations website. The song’s proceeds went to Casa de Paz, a Denver organization that reunites families separated by immigrant detention. Dos Luces Brewery also created a unique brew called Undocu Hustle Pineapple Tepache to mark the occasion.
The season wrapped up with Bianca Mikahn, an MC, poet, digital composer, cultural activist and educator, who hosted a fundraiser with Rosehouse Botanicals and the BIPOC leadership organization Transformative Leadership for Change.
“It all fell into place," Trujillo says. "It felt like it was what we were supposed to be doing. It seemed like all we had to do was ask for certain things — a photographer, professional AV, whatever — and they would find us. We could make it exactly what we wanted. We were shown that Colorful Colorado Collaborations was a value to the community.”
Martinez wants the show to remind people that Colorado has diverse BIPOC communities.
“We are musicians, small-business owners and entrepreneurs,” she says. “When we come together, we are stronger. Celebrating one another and collaborating together is crucial for our collective wellness.”
For season two, Nina de Freitas will release a new single called “Fractures,” and Alchemy Ritual Goods will put out a new fragrance inspired by the singer's voice called Sultry.
De Freitas has written songs since she was young.
“Songwriting is how I process my emotions and how I am able to better understand what is going on inside myself and the world,” she says. “I can have a hard time astutely articulating what I’m feeling at times, so putting those feelings into song form takes away a lot [of] that anxiety.”
She was humbled and honored to work with Alchemy Ritual Goods.
“Everyone at Alchemy is so sweet and welcoming, and their shop is sweet,” she says. “I trusted them to come up with something amazing. It’s pretty damn cool to have a fragrance inspired by you, and I feel like a pop star.”
As Trujillo and Martinez find more musicians and businesses to showcase, they have broadened their staff. They recently added Nicole Moore, owner of Compassionate Counseling of Denver and a licensed clinical social worker, as the operations director. They’re also adding Demetria Harvey as marketing director in April.
“Celesté and I really realized how big of an undertaking Colorful Colorado Collaborations was,” Trujillo says. “In season one, we did everything. We started to feel some stress as time went on because it was the two of us and we had decided to fit four collaborations into two months.”
Luckily, Nicole came to the rescue and was doing promotions for season one by choice.
“I have been gassing them from behind the scenes from the beginning,” Moore says. “Encouraging them to really keep going and trusting the process in the vision, and at some point, I was like, ‘Yo, this seems like a lot of work. If you need hands, I'm here.’ They're sisters from other misters, so it felt natural and organic.”
Martinez describes Nicole as a person whom everyone can gravitate toward.
“Anyone can connect with Nicole,” she says. “She’s not afraid to just get out there and amplify what we are up to. Nicole also knows how to really bring resources together and make money moves. This combination of talents and natural skill set is exactly what Alicia and I needed to make Colorful Colorado Collaborations a sustainable organization. I am so grateful to work together with Nicole.”
As the project expands, Trujillo wants others to know and support BIPOC businesses now and long after the pandemic.
“What I really want to see is the musicians we work with to reach new ears,” she says. “To get played more on the airwaves and gain more streams and have people support their art by purchasing their music and merch. I want these businesses that we get to work with to get more feet in the doors, more cash flow [and] more community support. That’s why we’re doing this.
“We can say the pandemic was the catalyst to get this project started,” she adds. “But the underlying issues of white ownership and gatekeeping are at the heart of the matter. Colorful Colorado Collaborations isn’t going to just go away when the pandemic becomes manageable. We’re here to celebrate BIPOC voices, joy, business and art, in person and online.”
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