While Boulder has consistently won awards for placing among the happiest and safest cities in the United States, these sentiments are not often shared by people of color who reside in Boulder County.
Longmont resident Katrina Miller, who is a woman of color, has experienced a notable amount of racism since she moved to Boulder County 22 years ago, she said. A few years ago, these experiences inspired Miller, who is an independent film director, to create a documentary to shed light on issues of racism within the Boulder community.
“The documentary is about Boulder’s self perception as a progressive, liberal town, and how that perception is compared with the actual lived experiences of African Americans in Boulder,” Miller said. “We’re shattering the myth that Boulder is ‘the happiest city in America’ in this film in order to bring awareness about how Boulder has a lot of problems and how, once we acknowledge these problems, we can start to tackle them as a community.”
In Miller’s documentary, titled “This is (Not) Who We Are,” overarching issues of racism are illustrated by African American members of the Boulder community, who talk about their lived experiences being racially profiled by local police, being bullied in schools and facing microaggressions from their peers at work, Miller described.
Last month, “This is (Not) Who We Are” premiered for the first time at the Boulder International Film Festival, or BIFF. The screening of the documentary was followed by a conversation held in Boulder High School’s cafeteria, where Miller sat on a panel to discuss the documentary’s findings with members of the community.
“There’s enough evidence in the documentary for people to say, ‘this is happening and racism in Boulder is not dead,’” Miller said. “And not talking about it doesn’t make it go away. We should all talk about it and work it out so we can all have the community we want.”
According to Boulder County YWCA’s CEO Debbie Pope, who watched “This is (Not) Who We Are” at BIFF, the documentary was “right on” in terms of what YWCA hears all the time about what people of color are experiencing locally, she said.
“The documentary is also done in such a thoughtful way that makes it so that every single person in our community could resonate with the issues it addresses,” Pope added.
This month, Boulder County’s YWCA and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, will host a community event intended to raise awareness about the issue of racism in Boulder.
The anti-awareness event, which Boulder County YWCA puts on annually in April to kick off the organization’s Stand Against Racism Week, almost always features a screening of a film that touches on issues of racism, according to Pope. Because of this tradition, and the impact of “This is (Not) Who We Are,” Pope decided to bring Miller on board for YWCA’s upcoming anti-racism event.
YWCA and NAACP’s event, which will take place at the Boulder Jewish Community Center on April 28, will begin at 6:15 p.m. with a community screening of “This is (Not) Who We Are,” followed by a panel discussion with Miller and others from the film.
According to Pope, the goal of the event is to get community members to understand “the systems, structures and history here in Boulder County that contribute to the problems of racism,” she said.
Once people understand the roots of the issue and why it’s still going on, Pope hopes it will become more clear on a community level, “what we need to do to change it,” she said. Pope imagines the panel component of the event is where people will learn anti-racism tools they can take with them moving forward, she said.
The panel discussion will be moderated by Pope and Christiane Meyer, the outreach coordinator for “This is (Not) Who We Are,” and feature NAACP Boulder County’s Education Committee Chair Alicia Graves, YWCA Boulder County’s Community Engagement and Equity Director Shiquita Yarbrough, who is also a member of Longmont City Council.
A young African American woman who appears in the documentary will also be on the panel to share her experiences with the community more in depth, Pope said.
The speakers for this panel were chosen because they can either speak on the issue through a lens of their lives experiences or from the perspective of having done this kind of anti-racism work in the Boulder community, according to Pope.
For Miller, “I know that this event will have a big reach to the people in the community who actually get up and are willing to do something about the issue of racism in Boulder,” she said.
“The more that these kinds of discussions occur, the more people will have an understanding (about the issue), which will create a more welcoming space in the Boulder community,” Miller said.