Colorado Springs native Chloe Bowman moved to Gunnison in 2012 to attend college, and eventually relocated to Crested Butte and become a preschool teacher. Along the way she fell in love with the tiny mountain town nestled in the Rockies and decided to stay awhile.
The very last thing she expected to do, and certainly not in 2020 in the wake of a global pandemic that upended her world, was to organize a Black Lives Matter protest. And in the very same tiny mountain town she’d grown to love.
“I’ve planned a wedding or two,” she said with a laugh during a recent phone interview. “That was it.”
Ms. Bowman, who is Black, was deeply upset by the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent unrest that engulfed cities large and small across the country. News reports about the anger and sadness and frustration that fueled these large protests weighed heavily on her conscience. Moved to take action and to throw her support to activists taking to the streets, she went to Denver and joined the protests there for two days.
“I was inspired by everything I saw down there,” she said. “I was floored that [the activists] had been teargassed and stuff, and that it got violent towards the end. Because the day prior to me going there, it was so beautiful and peaceful. There were people doing poetry, really just showcasing our culture in a really positive way.”
When Ms. Bowman heard of a protest happening in nearby Gunnison, she was overjoyed.
“I was uplifted by the amount of people who showed up.” The logistics of planning a protest didn’t faze her, although she cheerfully admits that “I haven’t slept much in two weeks.”
Word has spread throughout the Western Slope about her protest tomorrow, which starts at 5:00 pm at Pitsker Park. She originally anticipated perhaps 100 people, but says she wouldn’t be surprised if twice that many do.
“I’ve gotten lots of positivity,” Ms. Bowman said of local response to the event. “Some weren’t sure about some of the stuff, but everybody was on board. ‘Oh, we love your concept, and we should give it a shot.'”
Friends chipped in and contributed services and donations for raffles. A graphic designer friend created a poster and logo, while others have donated children’s books and books about racism. She wants people of color to have a safe space at the event to share their stories about their experiences living in this small mountain community.
She said that local law enforcement officials also reached out to her and offered to help. They’ve been supportive, and have redirected the bus route to make room for the event. But Ms. Bowman said they still asked, “Why bother doing this here?”
“That’s important to notice,” she pointed out. “Because that’s how a lot of people feel. ‘Why does this matter to us’? Even the cops feel that way.”
Still, she loves living in Crested Butte and dreams of living there permanently. She hopes to someday launch a nonprofit to promote and host outdoor recreational trips and activities geared towards the Black community. In the meantime, she plans to partner with local activists in Gunnison to continue the conversations about race and the community and encourage more engagement in these hard issues that affect every town, every village, every city in the country.
“I would like to live here forever. I want to have kids here. The more inclusive this place can be, the happier I can be in choosing to live here forever.”
WHAT: Thrive: A Black Lives Matter Protest Rally
WHEN: Saturday, June 27, 5:00 pm
WHERE: Pitsker Park in Crested Butte
NOTE: The event will feature a brass band, “100 free hot dogs”, some demonstrations, poetry readings, and moments of silence. For more information, click here.