It is the conversation that so many people across the country keep saying that America needs to have: a conversation on race. But that conversation can be uncomfortable, intimidating and hurtful.

Without a conversation, though, can there truly be progress?

Community organizer Anthony Grimes raised that point while participating in a panel discussion to talk about the African American experience in Denver.

“When we tell you our experience, we’re not pulling a race card, we’re simply trying to highlight something in our lives that we want to change,” Grimes said.

Shining a light on such experiences, though, can be upsetting, according to psychologist Dr. Peggy Mitchell Clarke.

She also participated in the panel discussion as part of the 9NEWS special Courageous Conversations: Being Black in Colorado (airing Saturday, Feb. 4 and Saturday, February 25 at 9:30 p.m. on Channel 20).

The show focuses on the African American experience, while still acknowledging that there are many other groups of people with many other stories that also deserve to be told. But in light of the past year’s racial tension, this is a good place to begin.

“When we speak out, as black people, it’s really holding up a mirror to those people to see themselves and it’s not always a pretty picture,” Dr. Peg said. “And that can be very uncomfortable for some people.”

She encourages the conversation, as does Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. He shared personal experiences and insight as part of the special as well.

“When there’s something ugly, very painful, deep, that may run contrary to the values, hopes and dreams we have, successes come from our willingness to address it,” Hancock said.

He also proposed that economic equality could go a long way in improving conditions for all people.

“If you think about it, a lot of the great pains in this nation, were born out of a social economic imbalance and inequities,” he said. “Those are things that give rise to some of the tensions we’re experiencing today. Not only homelessness and people having trouble finding housing. But they also give rise to frustration and pain. And unless we’re willing to address those challenges of socio-economic inequities and inequality we’re always going to be on edge. And there will always be a problem.”

Hancock’s candid interview can be seen alongside the opinions of everyday people, activists, history experts and even 104-year-old Dr. Marie Greenwood, the first African American tenured teacher in Denver Public Schools. In she special, she shares her stories of progress in hopes of inspiring future generations to treat people of all races fairly.

“You do everything you possibly can to not only help yourself, but to help everyone,” she said.

Courageous Conversations: Being Black in Colorado is a 9NEWS special airing Saturday, Feb. 4 and Saturday, Feb. 25 at 9:30 p.m. on Channel 20.