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Next round of Denver Black Reparations Council grants to open in Spring 2023

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Posted at 4:04 PM, Nov 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-04 20:47:59-04

DENVER – The Denver Black Reparations Council (DBRC) has announced applications for its next round of reparations grants will be open in Spring 2023.

DBRC grants can range from $2,500 to $7,500 and a total of $50,000 in grants are awarded each cycle.

“There's actually two parts to this process. One of them involves the Reparations Circle Denver that is housed at the Denver Foundation. That’s where we bring in funding, mostly from white donors who are looking into their history and their situation and wanting to put money into reparations,” Denver Black Reparations Council Treasurer Harold Fields said.

Fields said the funding from Reparations Circle Denver is specifically for Black-led 501©3 nonprofit organizations.

Next round of Denver Black Reparations Council grants to open in Spring 2023

“But we also have a different separate revenue stream that comes directly into the Denver Black Reparations Council that can be used to give directly to individuals and Black-owned businesses,” Fields said.

Fields said the purpose of providing these grants is to help rebuild, reestablish, and develop Black institutions that have been impacted by oppression.

“Part of our mission is to help recover and repair the harm that was done from slavery and its aftermath,” Fields said. “I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, what was known as the Black Wall Street of the United States, and my dad was one of the survivors of that massacre…what was important in the rebuilding of the Greenwood neighborhood was how businesses worked to support each other, and to provide an opportunity for money to be shared and it was going to be used in the community many times before it left the community. In today's world, $1 comes into the hands of members of the community, and doesn't circulate within the community.”

Fields said the Council hopes the fund will help rejuvenate circulation by helping Black business owners remain in historically Black neighborhoods.

Fields said an example of this is the first recipient of a DBRC grant, Risë Jones, the owner of TeaLee’s Tea House in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood.

“TeaLee’s is located in the Five Points neighborhood, which has been gentrified and is changing dramatically. It's important to have Black-owned businesses remain in the neighborhood, so that the character of the neighborhood can be preserved,” Fields said.

“I'm a Denver native and I always say that there was a time when between Five Points, which actually incorporates part of RiNo, all the way to the grounds of the old airport, which was Stapleton, and now the redevelopment is called Central Park. That was an African-American neighborhood. And then it extended later into Montbello,” Jones said. “The gentrification that's happened because of the wealth of others who have the ability to come in and to do the redevelopment, you now have a community that's now scattered all over the city.”

Jones said for that reason, it was important for her to open her tea house in Five Points, the center of Black economic life during redlining, a time when discrimination and laws prohibited Black residents from living in other areas of the city.

“TeaLees is named after my grandmother. Her name, it's Evelyn Jones, but her nickname was T. Lee. And I think the tea house, like my grandmother's home, was a place of like, comfort,” Jones said.

Jones said opening the teahouse in 2018 was the realization of a lifelong dream.

“I was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and I was off work for two years,” Jones said. “It was my husband, who looked at me and asked, ‘Well, what do you really want to do with your life?’ Indirectly, I said a tea house.’’

Jones said with her husband by her side that’s exactly what she did, but challenges would follow.

“My husband passed away in September ‘20. It wasn't COVID-related, it was heart-related. So I had lost my business partner,” Jones said.

Jones said her and her husband ran the tea house together so she had to start thinking about hiring help.

The cost of labor and long periodic COVID-19 closures caused financial hardships. So Jones turned to the DBRC for help.

“The Denver Black Reparations Council, the grant came right on time,” Jones said.

Fields said he hopes this private reparations effort and local success stories like Jones', will eventually inspire the government to act.

“It is true that when it comes to reparations, most people respond to that as being their money, their tax dollars are going to be spent. But reparations is more than just money. It's about a restoring and repairing and recreating, and healing from the harm that was done,” Fields said. “It was government policies that created the discrimination and mass incarceration. So the government has to be responsible for repairing that. When it comes to the economics, we certainly want to repair an economic contract that was broken. But it's important to recognize that a human contract was broken.”

Fields said the Council hopes to create a local culture of repairing harm.