If Denver’s Black culture has a heart, it is beating loud and strong in Five Points.
Located at the intersection of 26th Avenue, 27th Street, Washington Street and Welton Street — four roads that create five vertices — is what was once known as “the Harlem of the West” for hosting jazz greats such as Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington. Now, the community still reflects some of the best Black culture in the region. Take a self-guided walking tour to explore the history of the community and then visit these locations and events:
BLACK AMERICAN WEST MUSEUM & HERITAGE CENTER
3091 California St., Denver
Excluded from old Westerns and history books, Black Americans accounted for one third of all cowboys. What seems a novel idea was commonplace when Colorado was being settled. These Black pioneers helped tame the Wild West and established themselves as miners, soldiers, homesteaders, ranchers, blacksmiths, teachers, lawmen and considerably more. In 1971, Paul W. Stewart founded the Black American West Museum & Heritage Center in the former home of Dr. Justina Ford, Colorado’s first African American female doctor. His goal was to educate our community on the substantial impact of these Black American settlers on the state.
BLAIR-CALDWELL AFRICAN AMERICAN RESEARCH LIBRARY
2401 Welton St., Denver
These days, libraries are designed to be community centers and the Blair-Caldwell Library does not disappoint. Named after Omar Blair, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen and Elvin R. Caldwell, a local politician, this library branch does much more than check out books. It offers a collection of exhibits and reference materials that trace Black history in the West. It also places particular importance in being of service to its neighborhood by hosting vaccination clinics, computer training and tech support, storytelling for kids, activities for teens, knitting circles, meditation sessions, and immigrant resources.
CLEO PARKER ROBINSON DANCE
119 Park Avenue West, Denver
Founded in 1970 by Cleo Parker Robinson and Schyleen Qualls Brown, this dance company has been entertaining audiences and educating students for more than 50 years. Located in the historic Shorter A.M.E. Church, the company recently was honored to receive a $4 million Community Revitalization grant from the State of Colorado. The grant is an investment in the company’s expansion plan, which include a new 25,000 square foot, four-level building to house a theater, healing arts center, movement studios, and classrooms to better serve Denver’s diverse and thriving arts community. The company will present Cleo Parker Robinson Dance in Concert running May 12-14. Tickets go on sale March 31.
COLORADO BLACK ARTS FESTIVAL
Denver City Park • Colorado Blvd. and York St.
The 37th Colorado Black Arts Festival takes place July 7-9, 2023 in historic Denver City Park West. Free to attend, this annual gathering features performances, visual artists, a marketplace, art garden and food! Plus, the event offers hands-on art activities for children, a senior’s pavilion to reconnect with friends, and a scavenger hunt for all ages to discover African American artists.
FIVE POINTS JAZZ FESTIVAL
Welton Street in Five Points
The Five Points Jazz Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary on June 3, 2023. Presented by Denver Arts & Venues, this free event celebrates the history and musical influence of Denver’s Five Points neighborhood. This family-friendly event typically takes place along Welton Street and features more than 50 bands plus food trucks, local vendors and activities.
FIVE POINTS PLAZA
2736 Welton St., Denver
In 2021, the Welton Street Project unveiled its Five Points Outdoor Mural Gallery. Curated by Black Love Mural Festival Founder Robert Gray, the gallery features a series of eight murals by Moe Gram, Vincent Gordon, and “Just” Giovannie Dixon among others. Designed to bring color and vitality to the Five Points Plaza, visitors will appreciate the art while enjoying food and beverage options including Rosenberg’s Deli, Famous Original J’s Pizza, Spangalang Brewery and The Welton St. Café.
Founded by Norman Harris, the Juneteenth Music Festival is held to celebrate the abolition of slavery in the US. Featuring music, food and dance, the free event regularly welcomes more than 50,000 people. While dates have not been officially announced, the festival is likely to take place June 17 and 18 along Welton Street.
1330 27th St., Denver
A stone’s throw away from Five Points, is Nocturne. Located in RiNo, Nocturne is about the best jazz club in the area following the closure of El Chapultepec. Housed in a warehouse space with “acoustically magic” wood ceilings, this supper club offers live jazz each evening Wednesday through Sunday. In addition to occasional national acts, most performers participate in the club’s Artist in Residency program, which allows the musicians to be grounded in the genre while also exploring their own style.
2350 Arapahoe St., Denver
Performance poetry may not have existed during Five Points’ jazz heyday, but it’s an international art now. Slam Nuba is an award-winning performance poetry group that features nationally recognized poets. Not only does the group offer workshops, is also presents a monthly show in Five Points at the Redline Contemporary Art Center. Held on the last Friday of every month, you can visit in person or join online. Follow @SlamNuba on Facebook for regular performance updates.