The longest, wickedest street in america by Ayla Sullivan Denver Youth Poet Laureate

You Grandma, Grandpas, Get You Some Food I Just Fixed You Your Favourite Plate Homestead
You Belly Fat of Stars and Pavement and Violets
You Long, Weary, Tired Block of Hiding All this Colonial Pain
Denver,
You survive storms with smiles, floods with laughter, and hold your real children, the ones who know the state you were birthed from should be said like blowing kisses to your mama when you’ve already said enough goodbyes
Colorado
Is your mother, all complicated and blood worn and all, but Denver, you are the city that gives to its people
The home everyone wishes they could have a piece of, so they keep digging deeper

I know your mama well, know all her secret parts, have lived all over her arms but you are my favourite child of hers, my favourite Auntie in this city of the plains

Boulder,
You Little Brother, Little Man Complex
You White Saviour, Safety Pin Wearing So I Can Stare at the Trash Heap But Never Clean the Mess Child
You Factory of Blood Letting for Easy Views and Easy Targets
You Canyon of Forgiveness, As in Can You Forgive Me for My Privilege, Never My Actions
I don’t think you know what safety is, unless it comes in money, unless someone’s daddy can come in to fix you

You never realise how white
Or wealthy
the world can be until you attend the University of Colorado, Boulder
A predominantly white institution known to “take the cake” in terms of white representation
There,
I learned quickly how a white lens views home
Denver
Equal parts danger and excitement
joke and terror
tempting and conquerable
Our pride and joy, the longest commercial street in the nation
Colfax Avenue
is centered in the typical white fear narrative
Colfax is a street that could be so charming if we could just clean up our “prostitution and drug problem”
If we just made it safer for all people to be around
If we just posted more Celebrate the City banners with smiling police officers who are just doing the best that they can
If you would just let us make space here, Colfax

“Making space” and “cleaning up” is the trendier form of colonisation
Gentrifiers love to forget their own history
Oppressors don’t like to keep records of the blood on their hands
They whitewash the pain, rename it something easier to swallow like charity workprogressivism, or Manifest Destiny
It’s no wonder your favourite Colorado street to demean for its behavior was named after a white saviour just like you
Schuyler Colfax, the famous VP of Ulysses S. Grant, so staunchly against slavery
He always made sure his sentiments were in the limelight
Making a show of being the last congressman to sign the 13th amendment into law
Touring across the country as the chair of the Good White People Club
Only ever speaking to Denver’s whitest, as if they were the people he needed to convince
It’s no wonder his name is carried throughout 53 miles, a reminder to the now homeless people of color that “not all white people are like this”

White folks used to parade about Denver like they owned this city, forgot our constitution was written in Mandarin, Spanish, German, and English for a reason
Forgot that natives and immigrants were forced to build their Wild West town for them
Only ever wanted a piece of the town they left once we took it back from them

My first distinct memories of Colfax were never from hysteria
They are recognising the avenue as my way back to my Grandpas’ house
Or holding my grandfather’s hand as we waved to drag queens who wished us a good day, and then it was

I have heard Boulder students terrified and fascinated by Colfax’s history of prostitution
Forget Boulder has a complex when it comes to consent
Bastardise paying for it in Denver, as if consent can only be something for the taking
Silence Boulder’s thousands of sexual assault reports higher than any other district in the state
Overlooks the sex work on Boulder’s Canyon Boulevard
Pretends Colfax is the most dangerous street for its violence instead of the Hill
A block on campus central to Boulder student night life
My first college party there, I found myself in a frat’s self entitiled “rape dungeon”
Met Chi Psi, famous for its roofie parties and forgiven for its murder of Gordie Bailey
Watched as sober black students were stopped and frisked and slammed against police cars
Beside outdoor beer pong and a lynch rope I was reminded was “just a joke”
Where are the initiatives to clean up the Hill?
Is it because you’ve already pushed out the people of colour from ever making a community there?
Is it because you are not afraid of white violence?

The Colfax stigma is a fifty year old rumour perpetuated by CU Frat Boys whose daddies idolised Hugh Hefner
Believed him when he called Colfax the Longest, Wickedest Street in America in the 70s
Like his entire empire isn’t based in sex
Like America ain’t a continental highway of a bloodstained road paved with White intentions

You don’t want to save Colfax, want to save its old reputation to save Boulder’s face
Want Colorado to be a national beacon of a Mile High State
Neglect responsibility of the Colorado Stock Show
Which brings in the highest amounts of human trafficking every year, just alongside this year’s Broncos Superbowl

It is easier to save child sex workers when they aren’t from your hometown, isn’t it Boulder?
Easier to villainise pimps if they don’t look like your father, if they don’t wear clothes your uncle owns
At the end of your Colfax hooker jokes, there are child human trafficking survivors who have no access to cope or heal in Denver
There are still children and teenagers whose trauma we don’t know about, have no way to save
At the end of your Colfax hooker jokes, there are pimps who have been arrested, but will never face prison time
Pimps whose probations are readily available, who can get community corrections instead of a prison sentence

Tell me again how much you love Boulder and hate that hooker city, Denver, Bro
Choke on your privilege since you can’t check it , Chad
When I’ve seen you go into all those Boulder strip clubs, seen you buy into all those roofie parties
Keep making those hooker jokes, Bradley
But remember you not welcome on Colfax
Remember I won’t keep you safe

Sofia Snow