Shannon Galpin is making sure Colorado mountain towns remember Black Lives Matter.
The global women’s rights activist, artist, explorer and author is the lead behind Frisco’s Black Lives Matter mural, a street display comprised of 16 letters and measuring 20-feet tall, spanning an entire downtown block across two lanes. Here, Galpin shares what it means to rise up and create change.
About Shannon Galpin
Family: Daughter, Devon Galpin Clarke, 15
Roots: Born in Minneapolis, raised in North Dakota, moved to Summit County in 2003
Q: What inspired you to initiate the Black Lives Matter mural in Frisco?
A: I have worked in social justice and human rights for over a decade, and much of my work has been supported by the outdoor industry. I have been aware of and been part of the conversations around systemic racism in the outdoor industry and how racism is interwoven in the outdoors themselves, but these are not conversations that our mountain communities are having despite being the communities where people from all over the world come to play.
Living in Summit County as a white person, you are hyper-aware of the quintessential snow globe we live in. People move here to recreate and play, not to have deep conversations about social justice. But, we do not live apart from the rest of the country, and our community is not made up of only white people. We are a diverse community of Hispanic, Latinx, Black, Middle Eastern, Native American and new refugees from African nations living amongst us. I wanted our community to stand in solidarity with the civil rights movement of our generation and to do it in a way that acknowledged the systemic racism in the outdoors.
Q: How can we spark change with the BLM movement?
A: We cannot allow ourselves to become apathetic, tired and distracted. We need to remember that this is a 400-year struggle, and that if we, as white people, are tired, imagine how Black people feel. We need to keep attention on what Black Lives Matter is and not let it get twisted by the media, violence at protests, apathy and boredom. Black Lives Matter is a three-word slogan that represents the civil rights movement that Angela Davis, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and thousands of other Black activists have stood up for and millions of other Black lives have fought for.
Q: In our somewhat of a small mountain bubble, how can we feel the bigger fight for justice?
A: If you want to FEEL what is happening, go to the Barney Ford Museum in Breckenridge to learn the history of an escaped slave who became one of the wealthiest men in Colorado, a civil rights pioneer who is a member of the Colorado Black Hall of Fame and has a stained-glass portrait in the Colorado State Capitol building. His story is fascinating; as an escaped slave, he was aided by the Underground Railroad, but he soon became more well traveled than most people today, traveling around South America’s southernmost tip of Cape Horn and opening a hotel in Nicaragua.
Q: How can we actually make a difference?
A: Vote. Vote down the ballot by researching who is running for every position. We have a diverse group of people running for elected office — know who they are and what they stand for. Being a Democrat doesn’t make you progressive. Who is speaking up in support for immigrant rights, civil rights, refugee rights? Who is talking about diversity, inclusion and representation for policy and actually understands what those words mean when they use them? Speak up with letters to the editor in support of those you believe in. Engage with your school board for more inclusive and representative history, civics and literature all year round, not just during Black History Month. Make sure that those around you, family, friends, colleagues are moving past ‘reading and learning’ and become anti-racist in their daily actions.
Q: Tips to parents raising the next generation of activists?
A: Be honest with your children. It is never too early to talk about these things. The easiest place to start is to look at your toddler’s bookshelf. If you are white, is your bookshelf filled with books with only white kids? Is there diversity in the faces your child sees? Take your kids to places that they will see kids that do not just look like them. Summit County is not all white. Buy your groceries or your meat from the Mexican carniceria and practice your Spanish, or go to Denver and Google Black-owned restaurants and businesses to help support Black economy. Go to protests; go to Five Points festivals; go to CRUSH Walls street art festival to see murals being created by artists from across the country; engage your kids in activities that are not just mountain sports.
Q: What’s next for you on the social justice journey?
A: My daughter Devon and I have an organization, Endangered Activism, which is focused on climate justice. We just installed a street art mural in Silverthorne, and we are working on a documentary short about the power of street art and activism based upon the field research we did together in multiple countries and the street art project that followed with Mexican artist Diana Garcia.
Lead photo by Joe Kusumoto, Frisco BLM mural.
Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2020-21 issue of CO YOGA + Life Magazine.
Lisa Blake is a freelance writer living in Breckenridge, specializing in dining, outdoors, ski resorts and wellness. She is happiest on her mountain bike, yoga mat or in a raft with her husband, son and pug. Her work has been featured in Aspen Modern Luxury, Purist, 5280.com and GoBreck.com. Find her at lisablakecreative.com.