Black Women Saved You: An Interview With Local Black Photographers

Story by Jamése Ellis

All the resistance built up by Black women facing American social “norms” we know strengthened her. But did you know she strengthened you too?

This resistance built up in every Black woman was born out of all the countless moments of oppression, moments of biting her tongue and being forced into eating her words, to the point she dares scream the truth until her lungs could scream no longer. She began to sing her song until she could only hold a hum. A hum that simmered to an ethereal vibration and presence that arrests you in absolute silence to partake in the healing tones. Once humbled to partake, you are met with the ability to overcome any one person’s world of violence and riot with cool calm.

Cool calm is the very essence of one of this month’s highlighted artists:


Creator of the portrait and interview series Black In Denver, the one and only Narkita Gold.

Coming from Nashville, Tennessee, Narkita Gold sees Denver through a unique lens. Arriving nearly five years ago, Narkita came to Denver and experienced the unique culture and history enriched with “elements of healing and liberation”, which intertwined with the diversity of narratives that become the Black experience, shapes the basis of the series.

“I want Black people in Denver here to be proud of what they have created, says Gold. I am highlighting what Black people in Denver already know is here. Black In Denver is a visual ode to a community of people, highlighting something already completely and naturally beautiful that I saw here.”

“For me being Black in Denver means to find home within – out of necessity – and to accidentally discover the divine within me. It means to be the truest version of myself – Black and all that I am. It means to be committed to my healing. It means to use my voice and amplify other Black voices. It means to exist in solitude. I enjoy being alone, but I enjoy being in my community too. There’s a balance.”

“There is a lot of healing in Denver and I want us to take advantage of it.”

Narkita is a Black woman, leading a movement, nothing new under the sun.

Sis’ story, muses, and objective exploration on what a Black community in Denver may unravel, evolve, shift, and grow to, is different. It is the kind of essential deep breath our modest sized community of highly melanated people craves. A haven where we may safely reside, exude, and exhale in.

With Black In Denver holding an emphasis on melanated people being unapologetic about the space we hold here in Denver, it only seems divine for it to manifest in the same way.

Holding space in physical form, the Black In Denver exhibit will be held at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities from November 19th to December 27th. Reserve your tickets here.

The Black In Denver exhibit is in collaboration with this month’s other featured artist, Queens native and local artistic gem, Yvens Alex Saintil, who has agreed to give us a preview of what to expect!

Saintils’ collaboration with Black in Denver will be exhibiting photographs from his Unrest in Denver, Justice for Elijah McClain, and #UberInjustice series. Saintil believes that simply existing is not living, and Black people in Denver are thriving. The show aims to highlight the duality that is the Black experience.

The following sneak peek includes select pieces from Saintils series titled Unrest In Denver. Please enjoy!


No, No, No: (over it)

And with a single point of the finger, something was acknowledged, something that everyone else forgot to speak about. There was one who had pointed out all the manipulation, and pointed it out with such potent dismay.

A twist and pout of the finger. An act of opposition from the same hands who discounted you from touching the hot stove with your bare fingertips, or to grab a hand full of candy when a nurturing yet firm voice clearly said ONLY one, or from picking that round shaped something off the floor to stick it into only God knows where.

Jamése: What in this moment influenced you to capture this photo?

Alex: There was an energy about the moment that made me capture that. We are in the mentality that no one knows what the **** is happening. I was there to document the moment, but at the same time I have been a victim of police bias myself. When I noticed this person’s hand went up, that clicked. Then this guy to the right, who is preaching the gospel, and he’s saying Jesus wouldn’t want you to protest. “Well, **** you guy” was my mentality.

This photo represents three things that white society has used to terrorize Black people: false reporting and lack of representation in the media, police brutality, and exploitation of religion. Telling us to believe that fricken God wanted them to whip us when we wouldn’t pick ****ing Cotton. God didn’t want that, you did.

I love how the hand is saying uh uh, and it is a Black woman’s hand!

In art, there is something called the hierarchy of scale, If you go back to Egyptian art, the pharaoh is always the biggest person in the composition. Proportion wise the biggest thing in this photo is the Black woman’s hand.

Jamése: Imagine having a one word caption limit to post this photo; what would that one word be?

Alex: “No.”

Jamése: We talked about this already, but explain why.

Alex: It’s out of focus, but it’s a representation of how society looks at us, how we and our no’s get misinterpreted.

Jamése: What is speaking through this photo, personally?

Alex: I’m communicating that I see it, and I’m not buying it anymore. I’m not buying the bull**** because of my privilege. I don’t have to work 40 hours a week to eat, I am not a slave to the system. Obviously no disrespect to people who are in the struggle because I have been in the struggle.

Yes, those same hands reprimanded by reprise, the baby turned child, the child turned adult, the adult turned self-actualizing human, has saved humanity yet again.

Despite 2020 having laid its new complexities unto all of us, I am however most impressed by Black women. Black women have risen to the forefront of saying no to ** all year. From Black women standing up against Breonna Taylor’s horrific murder in her own home, to Stacey Abrams saying no to voter suppression, to Meg Thee Stallion saying no to domestic abuse and gun violence, topped with the cherry that is Kamala Harris, who said no to being another name added to the list of irrelevant 2020 presidential candidates.

The Black woman’s dancing fingers, clasped around 2020’s neck is what it looks like for the Black woman when she chooses self respect, protection, and love.

Somehow we always manage to make this ongoing dance with society’s expectation of us seem so natural, although others often agree to misunderstand our stance as something extra or uncalled for, rather than a basic standard for self respect.

I wonder often why the Black woman’s firmness and solidarity to her value is often misconstrued as anger or volatility. In 2020 is the Black woman allowed to be angry or daresay even outraged?

Her scream turned over to a simmer, enough time to introspect, she is wise. Knowing her body is a temple, she reaches for solace. To be synchronized in both enragement and solitude, is to become a masterpiece. Mastering the management of every piece inside: she is a sip of hot tea, a stroke of paint spelling out life’s deepest convictions, and burning sage. She is art. She is duality. And yes, she is enraged.


Outraged: (look, pay attention)

Jamése: What in this moment influenced you to capture this photo?

Alex: Something that I’ve noticed from photos I’ve captured from the protest was that I couldn’t tell what was happening, but I felt something. This burning of sage. In the middle of this chaos, you have the cops on this side with their weapons, and the crowd on this side. You see the emotions on people’s faces and then you have this woman and this man peacefully walking right between this battleline. My intention was to capture the peacefulness inside the chaos. But when I started editing it, I started reading what was in the background. “If ur not outraged, ur not paying attention”.

Jamése: Oh wow, the duality though!

Alex: If we break this photo down by composition, right in the foreground you have this big distraction, which guides you towards your main subject, which is not the stage, but the wording itself. It’s guiding the viewer’s eyes to exactly what you need it to.

Jamése: Imagine having a one word caption limit to post this photo; what would that one word be?

Alex: I guess it goes back to being able to calm yourself, paying attention to you, I think this photo is saying that, pay attention to yourself. I don’t know, it’s a tough question, what do you think?

Jamése: The word that keeps popping out at me is duality. I almost wanna say calm, because I think of Black moms especially. That’s the vibe I get from her. So calm no one else knows but you, what is going on. But I want you to put it into one word.

Alex: Look. I think the text itself is really asking us to look deeper. Look and listen. Look and learn. Look and acknowledge. Just look.

Jamése: What are you speaking through this photo, personally?

Alex: I’m in it, there is no going back. This is a ****ing combat zone, I could get shot in the face. I got shot by rubber bullets later on that night.

Residing in unsure territory, the Black community marches in a calm cadence, holding any peace left, within us, preparing for the unknown.

As we take note of our true emotions and how they reside in our bodies, and as we look deeper, paying attention to self as it incubates our capacity to allow attention to others, we start to pay attention and understand the value of others’ rage, as well as our own. Only then, are we able to get in touch with ourselves and in touch with our peace, and we are able to maintain our rebellion, embedded in all the little details and slight side eyes. We come with intention.

Get yourself right because, “A wo(man) who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”


Listen: (to our stories)

Do you know where you stand in your healing? What have you fallen for? What do you choose as your foundation? What morphs your figure and defines your lines?

Jamése: What in this moment influenced you to capture this photo?

Alex: I’m a big Malcolm X student. When I saw this guy and read his shirt I thought about something I told myself when I joined the military at twenty years old. I told myself I would rather die for something than die for nothing. At the time, that something for me was this country; my adoptive country. I think about my place in this universe and my place in this struggle. This photo represents me telling my story.

The way the composition is, this guy is on his pedestal. If you believe in God, it’s like God saying, “You sit right here and tell me your story, tell these people your story”. Pretty much, I am in this guy’s shoes and I am telling the people my story through my art.

If more Black people told their stories we would all understand our strength, it would help us make more sense of the world, and also help us see the lies we’ve been told for generations.

Jamése: Imagine captioning this photo in one word; what would that one word be?

Alex: Listen. I want my audience to listen.

Jamése: What are you speaking through this photo, personally?

Alex: Listen to what’s happening right now. I’m conflicted when I say this because racism and oppression, it’s been here right in front of white peoples faces, in front of Black peoples faces. I’m not the only person who has been racially profiled since the sixth grade all the way up to my thirties.


Alex, circa sixth grade.

People need to listen right now. People need to listen to themselves too. In order to listen to yourself you have to be able to be quiet, be still. Covid is preventing our people from being still because a lot of us are on the front lines. We can’t be still, so for now, just listen.

What would the Black community look like if, as a collective, we had the luxury to take up space in places where we can reflect, define and acknowledge our stance? Something greater than just survival? What would the Black community look like if we normalized telling our stories? If we normalized healing through one another’s experience, our shared experience, and telling of our own?

Until the day we are established access to the luxuries we have worked generations for, at least for now we have one another and our stories.


Community: (we are all connected)

Jamése: What in this moment influenced you to capture this photo?

Alex: In this photo I felt like I was confused. There were so many different protests going on, I was like what am I doing here. I didn’t know my place. This photo helped me figure out why I was there. I was there for black people, I was there for me, and everyone who looks like me.

Usually in photography you don’t want to leave your subject in the middle unless you have other things around it to give it structure to prop it up because it’s gonna get lost in the composition. In this photo the center composition is the BLM sign and everything else is pretty much protecting it. This photo reminded me, this is why you’re here, this is bigger than you.

Jamése: Imagine captioning this photo in one word; what would that one word be?

Alex: Community. I don’t mean the black community. Just community. If you want to ask me what the Black community looks like to me, that may take me a couple years.

Jamése: What are you speaking through this photo, personally?

Alex: This photo itself, what it speaks to me is anxiety because so many people together, so many people not knowing what is going on, but we have one agenda, and that is to protest against the system.

I want people to know that even though we are chaotic, even though we’re in this pivotal period in our history and no one knows what’s gonna happen next, we are still in there.

Black women have sparked yet another movement, but the size of this shift will take the whole community. The collective for humanity. A paradigm of people that believe because you were put on this Earth that you matter regardless of your gender, occupation, weight, sexual orientation, or class, and should not be subject to exclusion or prejudice because of the color of your damn skin!

So if you are an “other”, some tips from the Black artist whose role is precisely the same as the role of the lover: “If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.” – James Baldwin

We are done with the persistent manipulation. Look deeper and past your privileged tears, for we are enraged. Listen to our stories, for they will kill your ignorance. Become a part of the collective for humanity, for you are included in this journey. You are tied to our community, and community is synonymous to our humanity. We are not all the same, nor do we acquire the same beliefs, or even reside on the same planes, but we all take part in this community. In our collective we are not unaffected by one another’s injustices, but by one another’s experiences.




For tickets to the Black In Denver Exhibit at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities:

Reserve your tickets here

Keep up with these amazing black artists doing the work on Instagram:




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