This is the second-part of a two part story about a couple’s experiences with racism and domestic terror in a small rural part of El Paso County, Colorado.
Locals call them “The Blacks,” or “those niggers” who live down the road. Townspeople know when they are by Courtney and Nicole Mallery’s 1,000 acre ranch in El Paso County, Colorado by the the flags flown for two miles: the U.S. Marine Corps, Jesus is King and Black Lives Matter. Nicole, who is a military veteran, mentioned how locals and passersby who are part of the continuous parade of intimidation and attacks “disregard her Marine flag” and religious banners to focus the display of BLM signs on the property.
For the Republic-majority area, anything displaying Black Lives Matter is a serious bone of contention. As seen in Facebook posts the Mallerys’ documented on a local community page where Maurice Fournier commented, “I was amazed how much proper was ‘tagged’ as Black Lives Matter. Didn’t expect that kind of, in your face, crap way out here!”
Facebook posts show people plotting to jam up their roads so no one gets in or out. A comment that had been taken down had suggested that a fire should be set as they were trapped in. Others talk about using pitchforks. This is the same page where the Mallerys were doxed. Their address was posted along with Courtney’s photos.
Immediately, they saw an increase in unwanted visitors, so they joined a state program that withheld their identities. Unfortunately, that is not working.
Since they started the petition to remove Sheriff Emory Ray Gerhart, more whites have been “riding very slowly” on the edge of their property. Some have started a smear campaign calling them criminals, and in particular, Nicole. The implication is that the Mallerys as Black people, do not know their place, so they are marked as troublemakers.
Ironically, it was Courtney and Nicole who provided food to the same poor residents in the rural community during the global pandemic. In particular, rural communities were hit hardest and saw a grave spike in food insecurity. “People were dying disproportionately during COVID who didn’t have [healthy] food,” said Courtney.
Before the pandemic, one in 10 Coloradoans were unsure on a daily basis, if and what they would eat. A stalwart Christian couple, the Mallerys saw a need to feed.
“Many stores sold outdated meat and produce. We wanted to give our community healthy food,” said Courtney. So the Mallerys struck a relationship with five stores in the Denver area to supply them food from their farm.
Yet and still, their generosity grew because they saw many people in the El Paso County region going hungry. “People did not have food to eat, so we donated from our farm,” said Nicole who explained that they began to regularly give pounds of meat from their high-valued stock of beef cattle and chickens.
As time went on, the response by some residents was not what the Mallerys expected. “Some of these same people, people we fed, are the same ones behind these racist attacks. I’ve never experienced racism like this,” she admitted sullenly.
| Read Get Out Part 1. Black Colorado ranchers face domestic terrorism by local whites who they say are trying to steal their land
The most unprotected
Nicole is the more vocal spouse. During the 2020 racial civil unrest, she participated in a number of demonstrations, and worked to move progressive state legislation like the Crown Act, a law that makes it illegal to discriminate in “public education, employment practices, housing, public accommodations, and advertising . . . on the basis of one’s race include hair texture, hair type, or a protective hairstyle commonly or historically associated with race, such as braids, locs, twists, tight coils or curls, cornrows, Bantu knots, Afros, and headwraps.”
Because of her outspokenness, she is considered another type of problem. “I guess an intelligent Black woman in rural America is an anomaly,” chimed Nicole when describing the gender-specific hostility.
The trespassing by whites became so bad that one day while taking a shower, Nicole saw a man hop the fence and walk to the Mallery home. She was alone at the time. Boldly, he proceeded to open the door without a knock or holler then entered. Wet and naked, Nicole pulled out her shotgun and pointed it at him. “There I stood with only my shotgun in my hand,” recalled Nicole. “Still my body doesn’t matter to them.”
Freedom Acres Ranch is supposed to be a template for those aspiring to own land and live off of it. For Nicole, their endeavors are important “to show Black women that they can own land” and prosper. Even for her nieces who already were designing out gardens on the ranch, the future is uncertain.
“I am grappling with my military service and what I’ve experienced here. It’s been a difficult process, ” lamented Nicole.
Nicole’s sentiments are sincere and quite common. Throughout the history of the U.S., and its waves of wars, Black servicemen and women deal with the unsavory reality that their military sacrifice is met with white racism when they return home. After World War I, soldiers returning home were often antagonized by racist whites, even some were killed for wearing a uniform. Their pride was interpreted as being “an uppity Negro” much like the response Nicole is receiving.
But she and her husband Courtney are standing their ground on the land they have restored. “Much of this property was dilapidated,” says Nicole who details how she and her husband worked for months to remove the trash from the land to make it suitable for ranching.
All the while, one of their issues is that some people continue to use the land as a dump site. They see it as one of the many ways they are being antagonized.
Sweet land of liberty and strange fruit
Nicole is from Indiana. She met Courtney in Houston. She is the fighter, he is the grower. When they began to experience an uptick in domestic terror, she wanted to kick up her activism spirit, but agreed to deal with the issues without alerting many people in hopes “that things would go away and quiet down.” They didn’t, now she says they “must be full throttle.”
While Nicole is a proud veteran, often she contemplates race and racism on the hardest days defending her property. “It sickens me that I sat in a foxhole and fought for people like this.”
Through it all, there was a brief silver lining. In 2021, Courtney met Donaciano Amaya who was married to a local white woman. The couple had a young son. Amaya, who preferred to be called Don, was Black and Mexican, and from Texas. He worked at a convenience store Courtney frequented.
Striking up a friendship with the easygoing store clerk was a refreshing reprieve for Courtney. Amaya often engaged in conversation with the Freedom Acres Ranch owner when he went to the market. During the talks, Courtney asked “if there was someone in the community that does [ranching or farming] … that he could trust.” Over time, Amaya offered Courtney help as a ranch hand in early 2021. The assistance turned into Courtney proposing to Amaya and his wife, full-time jobs and a place to stay on the ranch.
Shortly after Amaya and his family moved to Freedom Acres Ranch, Courtney recalls that the couple often argued. Amaya being the passive partner was subjected to many levels of abuse. His wife called him “nigger” during their disputes and was “aggressive.” Eventually, Courtney fired Amaya’s wife and kicked her off of the property. At the same time, the couple separated and Amaya started working on getting a restraining order.
With her gone, Amaya and his son, Don Jr. settled into a nice rhythm. One weekend after being on the ranch for a few months, Amaya alerted Courtney that he was going into town to handle some affairs and check out his place. His son was going to be watched by his aunt in the meantime. Amaya never returned.
It was unlike Amaya to not call, so the Mallerys phoned him without any success. There was an unusual May storm coming and they wanted to make sure he was okay.
A few days later, the news reported Amaya’s death on May 12, 2022. “He was found dead in his chicken coop, shot in the back of the head with his pants down,” said Courtney. Amaya’s estranged wife vanished and his son remained with his father’s family.
The Mallerys believe that Amaya’s death is related to his situation. “I think they mistook him for me.”
For Nicole, that moment marked a time that they had “to be more vigilant” in keeping safe. “Don’s murder was a clear message,” she said. “It was gruesome, it was heinous the way he was murdered.”
Shaken to the core, the Mallerys are still reminded of Amaya’s death because his belongings are still on their property. “The police haven’t given us any information,” said Nicole.
To date, no arrests have been made in Don Amaya’s case.
The general sentiment is that the Mallery’s do not belong, yet they had the audacity to purchase a large parcel of pristine land. Within the first weeks of them being on their newly acquired land, the Mallery’s experienced white racist malevolence. People still trespassed on the land, carrying guns as the dumped refuse.
While cleaning up his ranch early in their resettlement on Freedom Acres, a female neighbor came to his property. Rudely, she asked Courtney “what was he doing on the land,” “where did he come from,” and wanted to know his identity as he began to clean up.
His favored Pyrenees was with him that day. When he responded that he was the new owner, the woman replied that she was supposed to buy the land and that “they shoot dogs” in the area.
Courtney paused briefly, but simply told her that he had guard dogs for the cattle and other animals he’d bring. That conversation confirmed he had to make sure that the fence was repaired quickly. Shortly after repairing his fence, someone damaged it in the middle of the night. That repair-destroy cycle is still going.
Simultaneously, the people in town began to question the Mallery’s purchasing in the area. Several expressed disgust and also indicated like his female neighbor that they too were interested in purchasing the property where Freedom Acres Ranch now sat.
“Being Black I’m not blind to where I am . . . I definitely knew there would be some challenges out there, I just never thought it would lead to what it would lead to,” reflected Courtney as he and his wife now face an arrest for charges they vehemently deny.
Sheriff Gerhart issued a warrant on December 14, 2022 for stalking, tampering with a utility meter and petty theft. Because the Mallerys are in the identity protection program, they received it on January 12, 2023. In addition to protecting their land, now they are seeking legal counsel.
“Local police enable what is happening here,” emphasized Nicole who said they were never welcomed by community members. While Nicole thinks “you need police to a certain degree,” she never thought that her main nemesis would be local law enforcement.
Although the Mallery’s are far from being scared, they are surely outnumbered. While Colorado has a 12.4 percent Black population, the Mallerys are one of the few Blacks living in their region of El Paso County. While the county is the most populous in the state, the majority of Colorado’s Black residents are concentrated around Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora and Pueblo. Denver is over an hour from the Mallery’s and is a completely different world from the rural community they live in.
The gradual build up of their experiences, along with the sights of nooses, including the social media mentions of pitchforks and fire sticks on a trip to Freedom Acres as “community night,” are historical flashbacks for the Mallerys. They cited that their experiences resemble the 1800s violence experienced by African Americans during the post-Reconstruction era called “The Nadir,” meaning the dark period in the U.S.
After the Civil War, the Lincoln Administration put in a list of executive orders, programs, and legislation to reorganize the United States and rebuild the South. Because the war was mostly fought in the southern states, much of the land was in shambles. With the recent freedom of millions of enslaved peoples, there was also much restructuring to do.
A number of services and institutions were put into place. From schools to land ownership deals, Blacks were given the right to vote and other incentives as new citizens. It also included protection from Union Army members in areas that were still hostile.
For the first time, the U.S. had an African American Congressman and Black men could vote. Because Blacks were the architects, artisans and labor force in the building of America, they quickly constructed self-sustained towns, communities and even cities. From banks to schools to stores and even doctor’s offices, many of these communities thrived until Lincoln was assassinated and the Republican party broke down.
Much of the executive mandates and services passed to restructure the south were dismantled including soldiers removed from patrolling hostile areas. A new order presided which emboldened enraged whites from the South to the North who did not want Blacks to enfranchise because they were beginning to outperform and out-earn them.
This “Nadir Era” documented a record number of lynchings, house burnings, genocide on communities, bombings and even one coup d’etat in Wilmington, North Carolina. In sum, whites destroyed and confiscated what was built by Blacks as the government watched and in many cases, government workers participated.
Fast forward to 2023, the Mallery’s fervorous work to hold their land mirrors what happened 150 years ago. This time, technology plays a large part in the fight. While the Mallerys have been adamant about documenting as much as they can, they also have been limited.
On numerous occasions, Courtney called 911 to report various crimes happening to him, but could not get through. Every time he calls 911, there is dead silence. When a dispatcher did answer, they’d hang up.
Even when Ark Republic attempts to talk to Courtney his signal goes in-and-out and he says that he does not receive all of our correspondences through text message. The Mallery’s believe their phones are tapped and their line somehow is manipulated by local law enforcement.
“I grow food.”
How does someone whose desire is to grow food ends up fighting for land they bought and potentially their freedom and lives? Daily, the Mallerys still grapple with a question they were not prepared to answer in the days of assault.
“All we wanted to do was feed our community and provide fresh food,” said Courtney who mentioned that they donated hundreds of pounds of meat over the last two years in the midst of their dealings with racial terror.
“Agriculture is how America eats. Where will we be without food?” Asked Courtney. “Nowadays people think food is created in a lab somewhere and they seem to have forgotten about farmers; especially Black farmers and the role we played in all of this.”
Many have questioned the Mallerys on their reasons for staying under such antagonistic circumstances. “It is our land. We are not being run off,” asserted Courtney. “I am doing this for Black farmers after me who won’t have to deal with this in the future.”
In between tending the cattle, the Mallerys keep a watch. They have added body cameras to their daily farm clothes to document their movements around the ranch.
This is the second-part of a two part story about a couple’s experiences with racism and domestic terror in a small rural part of El Paso County, Colorado. It is part of Ark Republic’s agricultural beat, “Fighting to Farm,” which talks about the challenges of U.S. Black farmers, and other farmers of color.
To help The Mallery Family. For meat sales that will assist in them purchasing a privacy fence, more surveillance cameras, replace stolen tools and animals: firstname.lastname@example.org. For donations go to their GoFundMe. Contact them on Instagram @blackfarmlandownersmatter
CALL THE FOLLOWING to alert them of the Mallery’s fight
Gov. Jared Polis 303-866-2471
NAACP National: 410-580-5777
NAACP local: 719-301-0726
ACLU National: 212-549-2500
ACLU Local: 303-777-5482
Rep. Negeuse: 970-372-3971
Sen. Cory Booker: 973-639-8700
Sen. Warnock: 770-694-7828
Sen. Hickenlooper: 303-244-1628
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