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Founders of My Black Colorado on sharing Black stories 

Creating community

click to enlarge COURTESY JINI AND BRANDON BORNES
  • Courtesy Jini and Brandon Bornes

UPDATE: The COS Creatives event has been postponed. Please check back for a new date.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Jini and Brandon Bornes, founders of My Black Colorado, are community-builders at their cores. Brandon, a former development professional with The Navigators, and Jini, who has a background in counseling, have made it their mission to respond to the needs of a diverse community, providing resources to and forming connections among Black-owned businesses, Black creatives and Black educators. When they founded My Black Colorado, a directory and magazine highlighting the Black community, in 2018, it was because they noticed a void and wanted to fill it.

Since then, the husband-wife duo have responded to what business owners and creatives alike have asked for: promotion, partnerships, exposure and opportunities.

The magazine and website highlight Black creatives and Black leaders, and the directory provides information for about 1,200 Black-owned businesses throughout the state. Listing your business with the directory is free.

Jini says: “That’s a huge thing because a lot of times in marketing you have to pay for everything, you know? And a lot of the Black businesses, sometimes they’re under-resourced. So to provide a community opportunity … to share what they do, and not have to pay for it, is important.”

As part of our COS Creatives event series, the Indy will be sitting down with Jini and Brandon on Aug. 6 over Facebook Live, to talk about creativity, community and My Black Colorado. But first, we wanted to give you a window into the work they’ve done.

Indy: So tell me a little about the origins of My Black Colorado?

Brandon: I was in a meeting with a Hispanic gentleman in the community. Because I do multimedia and he did multimedia. Now, I was asking about his business, and he pulled out a Hispanic directory [of businesses] that he put together and I was like, “Hey, do we have a Black directory?” I found one from a few years ago. ... I just wanted to find out more about what’s happening in the Black community and try to keep track of it.

So I just started following up and calling people from the old directory. And then people started calling me back, and enough people called me back that I had a meeting. … There was definitely an interest in a Black listing, Black directory, for Colorado. I guess it was more organic than it was planned out. There was interest, and I was just trying to listen to the people’s interest and what they were asking for.

Since then, you’ve grown into blogging about the arts and conducting interviews with Black businesses. How did it end up evolving that way?

Brandon: It really was just like listening to what people wanted, and trying to respond and trying to be relevant. And trying to keep things moving forward. It wasn’t like, I’m gonna do this, this, this. It was like people are seeming like they want this, they want this, they want this. So I’m just gonna give them what they’re asking for.

Jini: And I think another thing is that Brandon is a creative, so he has a heart for that community. And he’d done some work in that community already, so he knew other creatives. And so it was organic, but also just in his area. … [He] automatically connected with that group and saw the value of sharing it to the general population, you know, giving exposure to creatives.

You kind of touched on it, but why is it important to provide this resource? The directory and the profiles and the blogs?

Brandon: So, what people are saying is what they like about it is they like seeing the faces of different Black people around the community and what they’re doing, because it is inspirational. They like to be able to surf and see what Black businesses they can invest in to help the businesses grow.

Jini: Also, a lot of times people come to Colorado and feel — Black people come — and feel disconnected to the community. I know [when] we came to Colorado, you’re always kind of like, ‘Where’s the Black churches or where’s the Black people?’ So this directory has really allowed new people coming into the Springs to ask those questions and actually have a resource to connect to, you know, the hair salon and the soul food restaurant or Jamaican restaurant, and get connected to the community.

I noticed on Facebook that you’ve been hiring a lot of writers lately. … Why would you say it’s important for Black writers to be interviewing Black business owners and Black creatives?

Brandon: Well, the reason I think it’s helpful is because first of all, it creates a relationship connection point. So a lot of these writers are also like business professionals or educators or entrepreneurs, so writers get opportunities to build a network, networking with people that we want interviewed, who also have businesses or might be in different areas of influence. I think one way, it just helps build the community. Second way, it helps build up having content. … And a third way, we’re also building profiles for the writers, so we’re also promoting the writers. … We’re promoting the writers to help them kind of see that their services are valuable for people who might need something a little bit more professional or something like that. As a way of helping, helping grow business, but also helping connect.

Jini: Yeah, I think it also brings like a growing trust within the community, that we have a lot of different talents and gifts. And so we could learn and grow from each other. And also be able to trust within the community to help each other and support each other.

It sounds like that kind of community- building is a core facet of what you do.

Jini: It’s us working together connecting organizations and businesses, and people and families together. A lot of times there’s a lot of Black businesses and a lot of people doing great things, but you don’t know, necessarily, who they are and what they’re doing. So, it’s really rewarding to highlight and bring exposure to those people, for people in the community and people outside of the community.

You mentioned, Brandon, you’re a creative. Jini, do you consider yourself a creative?

Jini: No. [Laughs.] I’m not a creative, but I am a relational person. My background is counseling and connecting with people. And so I kind of enjoy working in that area, like going out and networking and bringing attention to what we’re doing and just connecting with different organizations and people.

Well, community creation is sort of another aspect of creativity, yeah?

Jini: Yes, yes, ’cause we’re a husband-and-wife team, but we bring different gifts. Like he’s creative in the studio and creating things a lot. And I like to connect with people and customer service, and that sort of thing. So it works. You might see my face a little bit more, but he’s in the lab.

So how are the two of you creatively fulfilled by your work on My Black Colorado?

Brandon: Just knowing that it’s a need, and I’m hearing testimonials of people being inspired or thanking us for providing a resource, or they’ll share a story about them sharing it with their kids. The kids have been able to read stories about Black professionals, skilled professionals, who are creative in the community. Having people that look like you helps you see that you can do things that you might not have thought you could do. So it helps to have representation in different industries to inspire people to grow in those industries. …

Jini: I think for me the fulfilling part is, oh, what Brandon said, and also seeing the partnerships come together. We had a restaurant, a Black-owned restaurant, and then she had reached out to a baker that was in the magazine. So just seeing different people kind of coming together and using each other, just from the magazine. ... Then there’s a family aspect. Like I said, when we first came here, we didn’t really know a lot of Black businesses. So it’s nice to be able to connect now and use the resources for ourselves — whether it’s the church that we go to or food to eat. It’s been fulfilling for us personally as well.

Anything else you wanted to add?

Jini: I feel like our heart [is] for young people and just seeing — like what Brandon was saying, seeing young people growing up and being able to relate and connect with older Black people or people in different industries is super important and valuable in the Black community. Because it’s all about the kids in the next generation. So we really hope to grow in that area as far as our audience. So we’re trying to connect with the schools and bring attention to teachers and principals and districts, to be able to share the magazine in the schools. 

Editor's note: The print edition of this story contained the wrong date and location for the COS Creatives event. We regret the error.

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