When thinking about Colorado, what comes to mind? Mostly the obvious: the great outdoors, the beautiful mountains, and Denver’s vibrant city life. What may not immediately come to mind, however, is a tapestry of different races, cultures and community. See, the Centennial State is more than a scenic route as you drive through on a road trip. It has heart and culture, with different people and communities contributing to this up-and-coming melting pot. The heart beats through natives and new Denver enthusiasts, lending great contribution to the ever-changing landscape.

Denver is a new bastion of diversity with different communities and cultures coming together and creating cultural attractions for the city. I was born and raised right here in Denver, growing up near Colorado Blvd., where a quick bus ride would take me to City Park and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Growing up in a locale that felt small and big simultaneously pushed me to discover the unfamiliar nuances that were born and revived while I was away for college in the South. My neighborhood in Denver was the Park Hill and Five Points area. Growing up between these strongholds of Black culture in Denver gave me culture, community, connection, and pride.

A stroll through Five Points neighborhood is like stepping into a world where the Harlem Renaissance meets a growing metropolitan. You are met with history with the Blair-Caldwell African-American Research Library and the Black American West Museum, and a taste of inspiration of the South with the Welton street café. Cleo Parker Robinson Dance keeps African-American artistry and rhythm alive through various cultural dance classes and performances. Sweet Jazz lingers in the air in establishments like Randall’s at the New Climax Lounge playing live music every Tuesday and Friday. Both the Five Points Jazz Festival and the Juneteenth Festival, which celebrates the freedom of African-Americans from slavery, keep the spirit of Jazz, community, heritage and love alive. Community education and support is taught inside and outside the Brother Jeff Cultural center, owned by Northeast Denver and multimedia journalist, historian, and community organizer, Brother Jeff. Beverly. Grant’s Mo’Betta Green Marketplace provides homegrown produce and education to low-income communities about healthy eating and cooking with their summer pop-up farmer’s market in Five Points and the Dahlia Health Center.

A few blocks down from “The Harlem of the West” is colorful Downtown – the pulse of the city. Downtown brings together commuters from the light rail, train, and bus, uniting Nuggets, Rockies, Avalanche and Bronco fans to cheer on their teams in bars and restaurants. Elitch Gardens, the Denver Aquarium, and the Children’s Museum circle around each other overlooking the great Rocky Mountains. Art permeates Downtown Denver. The Denver Art Museum, the Clyfford Still Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver exhibit astonishing art from all over the world as well as local artists. Spoken word is a testament of the city, too. Establishments like Slam Nuba, a Pan Africanist poetry organization and stomping ground to many local slam poets, and Mercury Café on California Street both give a poetic voice to the Mile-High City.

The confluence of all this culture can be found precisely at TEDxMileHigh. TEDxMileHigh gathers speakers and exhibitors from many different communities to provide a new insight of Denver. As a Colorado native, I perpetually notice one thing that is constant within these communities: conversation. Having a conversation can be easy – meeting over coffee with friends at a local coffee shop, or getting to know a stranger after sparking a conversation about favorite foods, movies or places. But then there are conversations that are more daunting: social issues like race, gender, and privilege.

Theo E. J. Wilson, an incredible local slam poet, author, Denver native and activist recently delivered his fifth talk at TEDxMileHigh: Point of Departure about the time he infiltrated the Alt-Right within the Internet community. Traditionally, people of the white supremacist group view their community as the superior community. While Wilson observed that their community was full of hate, he also took notice that they are concerned and worried about their community—just like is Wilson worried about his community. The start of a conversation can strengthen, change and help us understand a community foreign to our own, even if the community doesn’t share the same understanding. While Wilson doesn’t share the same thoughts as the white supremacists he encountered while on his mission, he did ignite a conversation outside the walls of the Denver Center for Performing Arts, inspiring people to have an uncomfortable conversation to ignite change in our local community and reaching seven million individuals beyond. Additionally, Wilson curates a weekly conversation called “Shop Talk Live”, an organization that holds dialogue in barbershops and beauty salons throughout Aurora. These talks were created for the African-American community to have conversations with each other about issues that concern the African-American community.

Looking at Denver, it seems different then most big major cities. With the hustle and bustle of New York City, and the leisure and relaxed attitude of cities in California, Denver sets itself apart from the norm and subverts expectations. One of the best attributes of Denver is its myriad of culture, each culture imparting its own signature on the city. TEDxMileHigh embraces that, spreading the big ideas that help make Denver the fun, whimsical, cultured, and informed city it is.

Mile-High born Syrian-American poet Amal Kassir used her voice and the power of slam poetry to speak about her Muslim culture, highlighting the source of negative language that is used toward her because of the culture of islamophobia and racism. The young poet’s family owns the Syrian restaurant, Damascus, in three locations in Colorado—Castle Rock, Littleton and on Colorado Boulevard. Just like building a community starts with a conversation, understanding someone’s culture starts with that exact same task. Kassir’s talk from TEDxMileHighWomen: It’s About Time, helps bridge the gap of cultural insensitivity and lack of awareness through just a simple greeting. “Hello, what is your name?” can reach through the fear of getting to know someone else.

TEDxMileHigh has devoted itself as a vessel to discover, to expose, to identify, and to create dialogue speaking upon these fascinating nuances of our home. When thinking of Denver, many things, places, events, and even people might come to mind. TEDxMileHigh provides a platform where culture, communities, and insight meet and tell the real story about Denver.