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Five Points residents, business owners discuss gentrification, growth & 2021 Juneteenth celebration

Business owners: this Juneteenth more meaningful
Five Points Outdoor Mural Gallery.jpg
Posted at 4:49 PM, Jun 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 01:24:39-04

DENVER — If our biggest strength lies in our differences, Denver’s Five Points neighborhood might just be the standard bearer for strength.

“It’s beautiful down here,” said Tauhikla Pugh. “It’s cultured.”

“I see it as a place for everyone,” said Derek Williams. “It’s a great community. One of the best in the United States.”

Take the relationship between Michelle Sawyer and Fathima Dickerson, for example.

“Fathima is awesome,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer is Italian and launching a new bakery called Scratch on Welton Street, while Dickerson and her family have now owned the Welton Street Café in Five Points for more than three decades.

“We need each other,” Dickerson said. “If nothing else – during a pandemic, when you’re like, everything is closed - you notice how much your neighbors make the neighborhood.”

The two women couldn’t be more different, and yet, they’ve recently forged a friendship thanks to a shared passion for feeding their community.

“Woman to woman for her to embrace me, bring me in, her information is invaluable,” Sawyer said.

“I don’t look at things as competition,” Dickerson said. “We’re here for each other.”

That just might be the legacy of the Five Points, the first and only entire neighborhood in Denver designated as an Historic District.

“It’s the uniqueness of Black culture,” said musician Jimmy 2 Shots. “It’s one of the first places where Blacks thrived in business and, I guess, achieved a different level of lifestyle.”

Jimmy 2 Shots owns Executive Audio in Five Points.

“I’m quite proud of my neighborhood and the things we’re establishing here. We’ve got six different businesses under that one studio.”

And he, for one, embraces all the changes here and just two blocks from Welton Street in the RiNo Arts District.

“Salute to the people bringing RiNo down here,” he said. “I know there is a lot of criticism about gentrification, but it’s commerce. Commerce is always good.”

Dickerson embraces the change, as well.

“The only thing that’s permanent about life to me is change,” she said.

Most here realize gentrification is inevitable, just as it is in other culturally diverse neighborhoods in the Mile High City. Five Points is perhaps one of the most desirable places to live in the City of Denver — within walking distance of Coors Field, downtown and so many of the city’s most authentic restaurants and shops.

And while long-time residents may embrace new businesses like Sawyer’s bakery, and Sawyer’s husband’s sandwich shop in the alley behind the bakery, Dickerson, 2 Shots and others are determined to keep Five Points true to its character.

“People move to these neighborhoods because they want to experience the culture and vibrancy of what the city has to offer, but then by moving in here, they push the culture out,” said Akeila Aye.

“It is absolutely an issue because it takes away that originality of the neighborhood,” Pugh said.

Which is why there’s so much effort to preserve what made this neighborhood great to begin with.

“My voice, my presence,” Dickerson said. “What we represent. I’m exclusively Black - 365, you know. Our voices, our identities matter.”

And many see this Juneteenth as one of their biggest opportunities.

“I think Juneteenth is the jump off for welcome back post-COVID,” Dickerson said. “Come and celebrate with us.”

A chance to engage our entire city in the rich multicultural flavor that makes Five Points the standard bearer for strength through diversity.

“You know what it’s like to be Black and not have to worry about being Black?” Dickerson said. “This is Five Points. This is Juneteenth. This is Welton Street Café.”

Editor's Note: Denver7 360 stories explore multiple sides of the topics that matter most to Coloradans, bringing in different perspectives so you can make up your own mind about the issues. To comment on this or other 360 stories, email us at 360@TheDenverChannel.com. See more 360 stories here.