Ietef Vita awoke with a mission on Memorial Day.

The eco-conscious rapper and vegan chef, who has appeared on the “Rachael Ray Show” and was a guest of Michelle Obama at the White House in 2015 for his food-justice activism, planned to film a video with fellow Denver rapper ILL Se7en in the North Park Hill neighborhood.

“The idea is that I’m pulling up in a car and he’s selling me some seeds and sprouts,” the 36-year-old Vita said over video chat from his Denver home this week. “We were intentionally working on the idea of implicit bias and how easily people could profile us.”

After shooting the video, Ietef returned home, busted out the tiller, and worked on his backyard garden for the next three hours, tending to organic peas, black beans, collard greens and kale. He and ILL Se7en had been mulling over the concept of digging on Memorial Day — both the planting, and the fact that in the past, African-Americans had to dig holes to give Buffalo Soldiers (black Civil War soldiers of the West) a proper burial.

“We went into the studio that night after posting the video and I found this beautiful sample of African drumming that we turned into a beat,” Vita said. “I didn’t know that at the same time we were making the song, a black man was being killed by police in Minneapolis.”

Denver artists already reeling from the coronavirus shutdown are facing a new challenge since Memorial Day. On top of losing their usual venues and income, musicians, dancers, playwrights, filmmakers and more have witnessed an explosion of activism and police violence against protesters across the country, including in Denver.

RELATED: Denver police chief vows to investigate use of tear gas, projectiles on peaceful protesters

The choice before them: Do they embrace current events in their art, and risk seeming like they’re using the protests as props for personal gain, or do they sit back and listen? If they’re black or a person of color, do they have an obligation to respond? And if they’re white, is it their place to say anything at all?

While nonprofit organizations release statements supporting Black Lives Matter, and people raise funds to bail out arrested protesters, black artists are leading the calls for action.

“You can’t separate my artistry from my humanity,” said Such, a Denver R&B singer who released the Billboard-charting album “Wide Nose Full Lips” last year and premiered one of its videos on BET. “As a singer, I see it as a sacred duty to be able to take emotions you’re feeling and put songs and lyrics to it. I see no difference between that and speaking out against injustice.”

Such, the daughter of a pastor who grew up singing in church, is a former registered nurse and mother of a 9-year-old boy. She said her heart broke when she had to start having hard conversations with him a couple of years ago about what it means to be a black male in America.

“I don’t want him to live in a world where he has to micro-manage every thought and facial expression, because all it takes is one look and people will automatically think he’s a thug,” she said. “There’s no middle ground for black boys, who (are seen as) going from kids to adults, with nothing in between. These conversations are stripping away his innocence and I hate to see that, but I have no choice because it’s life or death.”

While Such hasn’t written any new songs about police brutality, she has attended the protests and made calls for justice on social media while sharing links, resources and ideas for action. Until things change, that’s her job, she said.

“You don’t have to be at the front lines, but this is how you show up,” she said. “You use all of your platforms to speak out. Before coronavirus hit, I was touring like crazy, and I don’t know when I’m going to have a live audience again. But now is not the time to hide.”

In the past, Such has rented out movie theaters to screen “Black Panther” to students and members of the community. Those events led to a collaboration with actress Kristen Adele that they call Artists of Color meet-ups.

This week, Denver promoter and publicist Ru Johnson launched the Denver Creative Industries Alliance, which will “provide recommendations and demand action around reform and police brutality,” according to a Facebook post. The list of ideas and demands, which will be presented to the Denver City Council, has nearly two dozen supporters from the arts and culture world, Johnson said.

White artists in the city this week also began sharing stories of their white privilege, from Pussy Bros. member Christie Buchele initially leaving black people off of promotional posters to stand-ups escaping shootings due to the color of their skin.

“After checking my ID, the cop says, ‘You’re lucky you’re white or else you would have got shot,’ ” comic Zac Maas wrote on Facebook, after relating a story about cops pointing guns at him in his own home. “They both laughed real hard.”

As many allies are learning, speaking up to support black protesters and activists is just the starting point, said Bobby LeFebre, Colorado’s first poet laureate of color.

“I come from a different community that has similar issues, but right now we are focusing on what is happening in the black community,” he said. “Protesting and art are not ways to get to the change we’re looking for. These are all tools used to crumble the house whose foundation is built on all these ugly things we are now seeing more clearly than we have in the past.”

LeFebre considers the past week as a defining moment for Denver artists, and he has been inspired watching Denver poets and lyricists such as LadySpeech Sankofa and Bianca Mikahn take to the Capitol Building’s steps to address protesters. However, after years of community activism, he has decided to stay off the streets.

Instagram Photo

“I’m not beyond acting in a way that maybe I wouldn’t be able to come back from if I saw something (unjust) happening,” he said, “so I’m choosing to engage in different ways.”

Also hanging back physically is 1-natVson-1, (pronounced “native son”) a Denver hip-hop artist and activist who for years has worked with the NAACP and black fraternal organizations. He also formerly ran the Turn Up Tuesdays event at Herman’s Hideaway.

“Last week there was a rush of anxiety, but I’m feeling pretty calm this week,” he said. “I’m self-disciplined and I know where my work is.”

For 1-natVson-1, that work is not about writing protest songs or attending the protests, but discussing language and policy around racism with people in African countries and throughout the African diaspora. On the day of our interview, he reported having just gotten the cellphone number for Nelson Mandela’s grandson.

“I felt it would be inauthentic for me to be out there snapping pics and taking video footage that I could use for content,” he said. “I’m concentrating more on the healing now. Right now, what we need is more love, more peace and more understanding.”

While he doesn’t condemn the nightly protests, he wants to see real, direct action around policy and reform, such as making police officers sign oaths that condemn racism — and then strictly holding them to it.

“We need to start putting pressure on the police department and the DA’s office and anybody involved with the criminal system,” he said, “not throwing fireworks at cops.”

RELATED: Far-reaching bill would require Colorado police to wear body cams, ban chokeholds

For artists like Vita, being on-site at protests can help de-escalate tense situations. He was on the front lines Saturday protecting middle-schoolers who attended and trying to start yoga sessions with police officers. But he has also been the target of social-media censorship over the last week and isn’t in the mood to back down.

Instagram Photo

“When I posted a video of myself listening to the (new) song on Instagram, it got flagged and taken down for no reason,” he said. He suspects a rush to “censor certain hashtags,” and has now stopped using them. (No new posts have been taken down since then.)

Vita’s friends in the hip-hop group Dead Prez and his Denver-based protege Xiuhtezcatl Martinez have also seen their Instagram posts taken down, he said. But he’s floored by support for what he’s doing from mainstream rappers such as Denver’s Trev Rich and Public Enemy co-founder Chuck D — both of whom have reposted his work and expressed interest in collaborating with him, according to private texts shared with The Denver Post.

As motivated as R&B singer Such is to continue the fight for justice, she is tired and grieving for her loss of normalcy. She sees the protests and coronavirus as being tied together — particularly since the unprecedented downtime many Americans have experienced since March has led to similarly unique opportunities for reflection.

“We’ve known about police brutality for ages, and there was never this much outrage outside the black community when Philando Castile was killed by police,” she said, referring to the 2016 shooting of a 32-year-old black man in Minnesota. “And that was all over Facebook! So I’m encouraged in some ways by what’s happening. The coronavirus has put everybody at home and given them time to literally look in the mirror and think about this system of oppression.

“Before that, for as long as we can remember, society was all go-go-go. But how can you enact change if you don’t even have time to think? There’s beauty and opportunity in this moment we have right now.”

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter, In The Know, to get entertainment news sent straight to your inbox.