Ulozi, which is Swahili for ‘Black arts’ was founded in the late 1980s as a response to the Denver Black Arts Festival’s (now the Colorado Black Arts Festival) need for an in-house core group of Black visual artists. Over the next two decades Ulozi provided educational workshops for member artists and opportunities for artist to exhibit original artwork in venues that included the festival itself, local hospitals, schools, businesses, galleries and the Denver Art Museum. Many of the Denver area arts and humanities institutions – DAM, the museum of Natural History, etc. – depended upon Ulozi to create programs that would appeal to local people of color. Ulozi established interactive activities within the Festival’s Children’s Pavilion on behalf of these entities. We established our own gallery space, Ulozi House, in the historic Five Points neighborhood just east of downtown Denver.
When the current Denver International Airport was under construction, the city’s Percent for the Art monies enabled the purchase of over seven million dollars in original artwork from artists around the country. We discovered that only two Black visual artists and only one Hispanic artist had been award money grants to place artwork in the airport’s collection. We prevailed upon Wilma Webb, the wife of the city’s first Black mayor and the head of the search committee, to allot $230,000 of the remaining funds to Ulozi and CHAC (Chicano Humanities and Arts Council) for a nationwide search for artists to install two murals that now reside in the airports north terminal. Ulozi's chosen artist was Marcus Akinlana
of New Orleans, LA whose mural Mile High and Rising
portrayed Black Americans panning for gold and homesteading in the state. Though heavily involved with Sankofa Art Collective, I was not one of its founders. Its mission was essentially the same as Ulozi’s – to foster and promote the work of Black visual artists in the Denver area.