The first festival took place in August 1987. It rained the full two days of the festival when a small audience of determinedly fixed believers refused to go home. The next year the festival was moved to July – not to be vulnerable to Colorado’s August monsoons. In 1988, the second annual festival drew an audience of more than  30,000. By 1990, attendance reached 60,000. In 2009, the DBAF changed its name to Colorado Celebration of African American Arts and Culture, dba Colorado Black Arts Festival, an appropriate name in light of the statewide reach. The Colorado Black Arts Festival has attracted patrons and artists from around the world. The festival has received many awards for its outstanding festival presentation including the Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. The Colorado Black Arts Festival will celebrate its 30th annual event on July 8-10, at Denver’s City Park West, the fifth largest event of its kind in the United States. This year’s theme is “Origins” to acknowledge the roots and the origins of African American art and culture that is prized, enjoyed and owned by African-Americans and others. Organizers plan to present a visual feast of color, movement and pageantry. Three dynamic stages will present music that includes jazz, blues, soul, gospel, hip-hop, reggae, and traditional African drum and dance. Noted African-American visual artists will showcase their work. In celebration of a30 year history, fine visual artists look forward to returning to meet up with friends and exchange ideas and build community.

Festival 2016 Highlights

House Music in the Park. Some of Denver’s most soulful House deejays will be throwing-down to the audience’s delight. These brilliant Deejays will use their skills of disk jockeying and introducing old hits to ensure that aficionados of music, from the 1950’s to present day, will get their dance on as they listen to their favorite tune It’s going to be dancing in the park. The Opalanga D. Pugh Children’s Pavilion for Art and Learning is a fun and interactive learning experience for children ages 2 to 13. Join Denver’s major arts, education and cultural institutions who will present special exhibits. This year’s hands-on educational activities will feature beadwork and masks of West Africa. Children will be able to make their own jewelry and masks to take home. There will be a storyteller showcase by local storytellers and community leaders.

Boogaloo Celebration Parade organizers are excited to have Denver’s renowned deejay Al Your Pal emcee the parade this year featuring the Las Vegas High Steppers form Las Vegas, Nevada, Bella Diva Dance, Samba Colorado, and colorful floats designed by CBAF founder, Perry Ayers. This highly anticipated festival event proceeds down 22nd Avenue between Downing and York Streets. It is a festive, colorful, and elaborate showcase of community pride that thrills thousands of parade spectators both young and old alike. This year the parade will end at the main archway of Denver City Park. Crowds flock to claim their spot to witness the pageantry of the parade participants.The crowds are never disappointed as they feel the energy and excitement while watching drill and drum teams, youth groups, civic groups, and colorful themed floats.

Scavenger Hunt will have festival attendees of all ages hunting for answers to “clues” about renowned African American visual and performing artist, as well as questions on little known facts about the African Diaspora. In addition to being an educational experience, this activity encourages exploration of all the festival’s offerings as no stone is left
unturned. Prizes will be awarded.

A Community Mural will be a prominent venue within the Visual Arts Pavilion area. The Community Mural is part of the festival 2016’s art sharing project where the professional and amateur will work together to create an 8’ by 32’ artwork.


This engaging activity will allow the festival-goer to learn art techniques used by professional artist. This activity is anticipated to be one of the biggest audience draws of the festival.

The creative performing art Kuumba Stage features a ReggaeFest on Saturday and rhythm and blues and jazz on Sunday. Many talented local bands and vocalist will also grace the stage to make this a truly dynamic weekend of performing arts including Ron Ivory, the ArtisTree Orch/Band and Coco Brown.

The Louise Duncan Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in the Arts is a community service based award that is presented to African- Americans in the Colorado community for their talent and contributions.
 for the first recipient, the award has become a treasured tradition of CBAF. This year’s honor goes to James “Dr. Daddy O” Walker, founder of KDKO Radio, a mainstay for African-American music listeners for many years. The award ceremony is Sunday July 10, at 5:30 p.m. on the Kuumba stage when the festival will recognize Walker, as well as, 29 years of past recipients.

The Colorado Black Arts Festival’s goal is to unite and enlighten the entire Colorado community through visual presentations, music, dance, special exhibitions and food that showcase the African-American and African Diaspora experience.

Editor’s note: Admission to the Colorado Black Arts Festival is free, but donations are accepted at the gate. For more