TRENDS Diary: Filmmaker Explores Quarantine’s Impact on Boulder’s Elderly African American Community

Filmmaker Katrina Miller, left, and Elmira Davis, the subject of Miller’s upcoming project on Boulder’s African American community.

TRENDS Diary, a project of the Community Foundation of Boulder County, is a place for Boulder County residents of all ages to share personal experiences that relate to a pressing community need. The focus, for now, is on our shared need to connect and solve problems, despite the increased isolation we’re all experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Listen To The Audio Diary:

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Dear TRENDS Diary,

There’s not a lot of history recorded about African Americans in Boulder. For the most part, we feel unseen and on the outskirts of the community.

I want to put a spotlight on what’s going on in Boulder’s black community. I received a grant from the Creative Neighborhoods: COVID Work Project to help me kickstart this historical account.

A significant portion of Boulder’s African American community is elderly — people who are 70+ and have lived here long enough to remember when coffee houses on the Hill were “whites only.” Their age not only makes them high risk for physical health complications, the isolation of quarantine can also have devastating effects on mental health.

Most of the elderly black population in Boulder don’t have family nearby and are not necessarily technically savvy enough to make those connections online. There aren’t opportunities to strengthen and exercise the brain, which can lead to memory loss. These factors terrify me because there is now a real possibility that these historical stories that reside within this elderly generation will fade away.

My film follows 91-year-old Elmira Davis. She founded the first Gospel Choir in Boulder at Second Baptist Church. For 110 years, Second Baptist has been a source of inspiration and strength for blacks in Boulder that have planted roots. But because of COVID, the church has been closed since March, leaving Elmira and many other elderly congregants without a sense of purpose.

This is devastating for our community. Personally, I really need our elders to be OK, because they hold the stories that make Boulder’s history complete.

– Katrina Miller, owner, Blackat Video Productions, as told to Shay Castle