DENVER — Throughout the month of February, we are celebrating the contributions African-Americans make in Colorado with the series Black History highlights. This week, we are focusing on the Historic Eight at the Colorado State Capitol.
It’s not unusual to see what looks and sounds like a group of old friends inside one of Denver’s breakfast spots. If you listen closely and really get a good look, clues will tell you this isn’t a group of old friends. When the group leaves breakfast, they’ll step into the State Capitol. At that point, it’s not a group of old friends, but state legislators and senators.
The group includes the following eight lawmakers:
- Rep. Leslie Herod from District 8
- State Rep. Janet Buckner from District 40
- State Rep. Jovan Melton from District 41
- State Rep. Tony Exum Sr. from District 17
- State Rep. Dominique Jackson from District 42
- State Rep. James Coleman from District 7
- Sen. Angela Williams is from District 33
- Sen. Rhonda Fields from District 29
These are the politicians also known as the Historic Eight: Colorado’s Black Democratic Legislative Caucus and the most African-Americans the Capitol has seen at one time.
“Back in 2008, we would not have had one African-American,” said Sen. Williams.
“It’s incredible,” said Rep. Melton.
“The purpose of the black caucus is to ensure that our voices as a black community are represented at the Capitol,” said Rep. Herod.
The Historic Eight take their roles seriously and say they try to focus on the issues that affect people of color, but also want people to know they represent everyone.
“It is really important — I think to all of us — that we represent not just our community, but all communities throughout the state of Colorado,” Coleman said.
Getting to the Capitol is not the hardest part, they say; it’s being effective once you’re voted in.
“I think one of the things that we struggle with is truly being unapologetically black and having to explain and share with folks that we care about all folks,” Coleman said. “We represent a diversity of people in our communities: Democrats, Republicans, Independents, unaffiliated black, white, Latino.”
Only two seats away from occupying ten percent of the legislature, the group says their efforts are better together.
“We’re like a family,” Buckner said.