Denver Urban Spectrum - December 2021

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PAUL HAMILTON'S Enlightening Art Collection…4

History-Making Women Mentor Future Candidates...4 Park Hill Golf Course Development Brings Questionable Debates.............6 Black Boss Summit Inspires Business Minds...............................................8 Medical Professors Believe in Vaccines.......................................................10 International Travelers Face Inconsistent Rules......................................…14 Motivator Dr. Billy Alsbrooks Comes to Denver….......................................18

Unexceptional COVID-19 Vaccination Statistics…7 Candid Exhibit about Jazz Legend Billie Holiday…8 Heartfelt Interview with TV Anchors White and Adams…12

Photo by Bernard Grant



Critical Race Theory: Implications for A National Educator’s Dialogue...............10

MESSAGE FROM THE PUBLISHER Moving with Gratitude and Grace Volume 35

Number 9

December 2021

PUBLISHER Rosalind J. Harris GENERAL MANAGER Lawrence A. James EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Alfonzo Porter COPY EDITOR Tanya Ishikawa COLUMNISTS Barry Overton CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Alfonzo Porter Alan Tellis COLAB Tanya Ishikawa - Story Coordinator ART DIRECTOR Bee Harris ADVERTISING & DIGITAL MARKETING Theresa Ho GRAPHIC DESIGNER Jody Gilbert - Kolor Graphix PHOTOGRAPHERS Lens of Ansar Bernard Grant SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER Theresa Ho DISTRIBUTION Ed Lynch Lawrence A. James - Manager

Member The Denver Urban Spectrum is a monthly publication dedicated to spreading the news about people of color. Contents of the Denver Urban Spectrum are copyright 2021 by Bizzy Bee Enterprise. No portion may be reproduced without written permission of the publisher. The Denver Urban Spectrum circulates 25,000 copies throughout Colorado. The Denver Urban Spectrum welcomes all letters, but reserves the right to edit for space, libelous material, grammar, and length. All letters must include name, address, and phone number. We will withhold author’s name on request. Unsolicited articles are accepted without guarantee of publication or payment. Write to the Denver Urban Spectrum at P.O. Box 31001, Aurora, CO 80041. For advertising, subscriptions, or other information, call 303-292-6446 or fax 303292-6543 or visit the Web site at

This year is ending much like last year, and in some ways more distressing. People are still dying from COVID-19, and still, many are resisting to get vaccinated. Unfortunately, science says with the cold season, the disease will once again be on the rise – and Colorado is no exception. To help encourage our readers about the price of not getting vaccinated, we created a very impactful video with touching messages from some of Denver’s local entertainers. We invite you to visit our YouTube channel to view and share it. In addition to the pandemic, the division in the country has not lessened but actually worsened. The wedge has plunged deeper as seen from high-profile court trials to the national discussion on critical race theory and everything in between. Even unexplainable and unexpected violence has erupted during public holiday parades and on national basketball courts. It’s no wonder with the current state of the country that minds are confused, spirits are hurting while compassion and kindness is being lost. The holiday season should be a time for peace, joy and sharing. It is the time to count your blessings. Sadly, that is not the case for everyone. Hearts are broken and many people are in pain and lonely. This month to brighten the holiday season, we take a look at Kwanzaa and how it celebrates family, community, pride and culture. We also share how faith and prayer helps frontline healthcare workers. Catch up on what happened over the past 12 months as DUS counts down to 2022. And check out Alfonzo Porter’s article about the national debate on critical race theory. As you gather this holiday season with family and friends, celebrate with gratitude. Appreciate what you have. Move with grace and accept it as grace. Happy holidays! Rosalind “Bee” Harris DUS Publisher

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR millions of dollars. In addition, the Office of Research for Women’s Health within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – one of several research agencies focusing exclusively on women’s health – has a large annual budget. Unfortunately, there is still exactly zero Offices of Men’s Health anywhere in the federal government, zero offices researching men’s health, and a corresponding combined budget of exactly zero dollars. (In 2010, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act authorized the creation of an Office of Indian Men’s Health, but more than a decade later, that office is still unstaffed and unfunded.) Why not? The answer to that is a bit more complicated and more tragic. In just the past few years, we’ve seen the gap between men’s and women’s life expectancy increase (it’s now more than five and a half years shorter than women’s), and a disproportionate number of men dying from COVID and “diseases of despair” – men make up more than two thirds of opiate overdose deaths and three quarters of suicides, according to the CDC. Men die at younger ages and higher rates than women of nine of the

Why We Need an Office of Men’s Health – Now! African American Men live 6.5 years shorter lives than the average male and 7.7 years shorter lives than African American Women.

Op-ed from the Men’s Health Network Men live sicker and die younger than women, leaving wives, daughters, sons, and sisters behind. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) found that more than half the elderly women living in poverty were not in poverty before their husbands died. There is several Offices of Women’s Health in the federal government, but there isn’t a corresponding Office of Men’s Health. Why not? There are five Offices on Women’s Health at the federal level: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). The combined annual budgets of these offices are in the tens of

Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


top 10 causes of deaths in the U.S. Most of those premature deaths are preventable. “It is important that we have a level of coordinated effort and synergy for men’s health initiatives throughout the country,” said Darrell Sabbs, Community and Public Relations Representative for Phoebe Putney Health Systems. “Establishing an Office of Men’s Health would supply that central stream of advocacy and resources.” A federally funded and staffed Office of Men’s Health could save lives, providing community-based programs the expertise they need to reach men and boys, including Black men and boys, with life-saving messages, advice, and resources. Just look at how successful the Offices of Women’s Health have been at increasing awareness of women’s health issues and at encouraging women to get regular health screenings and physical exams (men are half as likely as women to see a health provider for preventive care). “Men tend to neglect their health, and it puts a burden on their families and society as a whole,” said Tom Rogers, M.D. Continued on page 27

January 2021 – Peace: Freedom from Disturbance; Tranquility

As we reflected on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this month, his dream of a peaceful world was at the forefront of our memories of this great man. Social injustices, civil unrest and the pandemic plagued our communities and nation, making his dream more important than ever for our country and the world. Denver Urban Spectrum Editor Alfonzo Porter asked several leaders if King’s hopes for peace will come to fruition. Contributor TaShia Asanti talked to scientist, microbiologist, founder and CEO of Ennaid Therapeutics, Darnisha Harrison, who was hoping her new drug, a developing medicine, would help cure COVID19. DUS partnered with nearly 100 others through the Colorado News Collaborative (COLab) to produce news stories on how Coloradans are coping with COVID-19. Journalist Susan Greene went deep with a psychiatrist as she talked about her patients’ pain, and journalist Tina Griego talked to Elizabeth Torres about her fears after surviving COVID-19 and how she was afraid to go anywhere. February 2021 – History is Created from History

Black History Month is always an interesting and exciting time of the year. And this year was no exception as we learned and reflected on African American accomplishments, and honored the rich history and culture cultivated centuries ago. Our cover story featured Lauren and Jordan Casteel and the footsteps they are walking in as they make

A Year in Review:

Reflections and Revelations The DUS Countdown to 2022

The Links and CAAH Navee Essien. Sadly, we also had to recognize #SayHerName, a social movement that seeks to raise awareness for Black female victims of police brutality and anti-Black violence in the United States. The need for such a movement just shows that no matter how valuable women’s contributions are to society, they will have to continue to fight for their rights.

their mark in society. Editor Alfonzo Porter revealed why some people are reluctant about taking the COVID-19 vaccine, and contributor Thomas Holt Russell shared his family’s experience with contracting the coronavirus. Also this month, we recognized 17 individuals as our 2021 African Americans Who Make A Difference. African Americans have succeeded and have prevailed, in spite of all the trauma, pain and suffering since 1619, and African Americans will continue to overcome and survive. Our history has been created from their history, intertwined with hate and fury.

April 2021 – A Bright Future through Integrity and Understanding

This month, the awardingwinning Denver Urban Spectrum entered its 35th year of spreading the news about people of color. Unfortunately, journalism and information sources faced unprecedented challenges and lack of trust. In our cover story, Porter explored “How Fake News and Misinformation is Reshaping the Field of Journalism.” Thomas Holt Russell shared the story of Luther Boddy who became a folk hero in Harlem almost 100 years ago. Many men were beaten by police, but few retaliated in the way that Boddy did. While police brutality against whites happens much less than against Blacks, “Three Bullets to the Back” by Susan Greene and Priscilla Waggoner took a look at the striking silence around the killing of a white man by police in small-town Colorado. Finally, the newspaper edition

March 2021 – Women’s History Month #SayHerName This month, we celebrated Women’s History Month with our cover stories featuring Madam Kamala Harris and her challenging work as the first African American female vice president of the United States. We also honored and recognized the following women for their legacies by featuring them in the pages of this very special issue: Rachel B. Noel, Phoebe A. Haddon, Kimbra Murray, Millete Birhanemaskel, Jessica Newton,

Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


featured West African immigrant and Colorado State Representative Naquetta Ricks, and the success of Hassan Latif’s Second Chance Center in helping formerly incarcerated people reenter society. May 2021 – Exhale: Breathe out

Many African American women still find it difficult to exhale, simply because they can’t breathe from the pain and suffering that is inflicted on their children, parents, spouses and friends. In honor of Mother’s Day, Angelia D. McGowan shared the journey of “Mama” Zona Moore – a mother, grandmother, great grandmother and a great-great grandmother who passed away at 95. We also paid tribute to businessman Herman Malone, a stalwart in the business community. Contributor Theresa Ho looked at the challenges that the Asian communities are facing as anti-Asian harassment increases. Meanwhile, Porter reflected on the murder of George Floyd from the date of the crime through the verdict of Derek Chauvin nearly a year later. On April 20, the world heard: Count 1 – Guilty! Count two – Guilty! Count three – Guilty! And it was over. And we all exhaled, again. June 2021 – The Sweet Harmony of Slavery and Music In addition to the Juneteenth holiday, we also recognized Black Music Month, which was initiated by President Jimmy Carter on June 7, 1979. Theresa Ho talked with Juneteenth Music Festival Executive Director Norman Harris on how the panacea of music would soothe the souls of

Denver after a year of absence due to the pandemic. Contributor Zilingo Nwuke talked with longtime DJ Al “Your Pal” Taylor about his longevity in the music industry and how he will be participating during the festival. As we celebrated Juneteenth and Black music, we were reminded that for more than 400 years, African Americans have faced challenges and endured unfathomable circumstances and realized, not much has changed. But through it all, music has always been there to tell the stories of life. It is said that music provides comfort and eases pain. But most of all, music soothes the soul. July 2021 – Summer Celebrations and Opportunities

This month’s cover story featured Papa Dia. Porter shared Dia’s journey from Senegal to the U.S., why he established the African Leadership Group, and his future plans of returning home. Zilingo Nwuke met and talked with Alvertis Simmons about celebrating his fifteenth year of providing youth with summertime fun and life goals at his basketball camp. Dr. Terri Richardson talked about vaccine facts and falsehoods, and Theresa Ho talked to herbalists who recommend boosting immunity and getting vaccines to stop the spread of the virus. Malcolm Quattlebaum shared advice and a COVID forecast from infectious disease specialist Dr. Lane Rolling.

August 2021 – Doctors of Color Discuss COVID-19 and Vaccines

Malcolm Quattlebaum shared a recap of the MLB AllStar Weekend and Theresa Ho discussed job insecurity during the pandemic and how difficult work situations continue, even after vaccinations.

This month, DUS focused on fostering a better understanding on the pros and cons of vaccination with a town hall-style event with medical experts, Dr. Lane Rolling, Dr. Terri Richardson and Dr. Johnny E. Johnson. We also looked at the deep roots of Black philanthropy and the 10th anniversary of Black Philanthropy Month.

Saturday Night Lights

September 2021 – Journey… an Act of Travelling from One Place to Another We are all on journeys, often not knowing what the outcome will be. This month, we shared the outcome produced by Denver icon, Cleo Parker Robinson, and her 51 years with her dance company. Angelia McGowan shared the history of how, when and who helped make it happen. Denver Public Continued on page 6

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Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


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DUS Countdown to 2022 Continued from page 5 Schools was on a journey in search of a new superintendent. Porter shared thoughts and plans by the new superintendent, Alex Marrero. Theresa Ho talked to parents, teachers and administrators about COVID-19 protocols as youth prepared to go back to school. Lisa Marie Martinez checked in with residential care centers to find out how they are combatting COVID-19 with protective measures. Thomas Holt Russell and Joshua Glen shared facts about vaccines and opinions of people who aren’t convinced, even after a community conversation with doctors. One realization that was shared is that the journey of this virus will continue for years to come, so we must all continue to protect ourselves and our loved ones.


October 2021 – The Power of Women and Politics

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Angelia McGowan wrote about former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner as a special guest speaker at the Emerge Colorado open house. Turner and a power panel of local political experts engaged the Denver community with a weekend of events that focused on mentoring future candidates for elected office. Porter looked at the pros and cons of the Park Hill Golf Course development while Joshua Glen reported on “Resilience,” the Fifth Annual Black Boss Summit. And with continuing coverage on COVID,

Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


Theresa Ho talked with medical professors who say vaccines prove effective, while Malcolm Quattlebaum looked at public health policies and COVIDrelated travel restrictions. Meanwhile, Daryn Fouther talked with Dr. Billy Alsbrooks on how faith inspired his journey. November 2021 – Time Brings All Things to Pass…

Daniele Dickerson shed a light on Denver’s hidden treasure, Dr. Paul Hamilton who has dedicated his time and life to educating his community on the African diaspora and his collection of art artifacts from all parts of the Motherland. DUS continued coverage on COVID-19 as Theresa Ho looked at updated statistics and Thomas Holt Russell sent a reluctant message to everyone about antivaxxers – just save yourself. He also took us on an intimate journey into the life of Billie Holiday. Plus, Colorado TV anchors Mekialaya White and Justin Adams shared what it’s like being in the rapidly changing TV business. December 2021 - Moving with Gratitude and Grace

As we close out the year, our updated 2017 cover story by Allan Tellis takes a look at the history of Kwanzaa, its founder Dr. Maulana Karenga, and how organizers in Denver plan to celebrate this month. Porter talks about the important topic of “critical race theory” and the implications of national dialogue about it. And lastly, we look back at what has occurred in Denver and across the country with a recap of the year – which has been a lot. See you in 2022!.


Celebrates African American

Heritage, Pride and Culture By Allan Tellis Editor’s note: This article has been revised and reprinted from the Denver Urban Spectrum December 2017 issue.


wanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the United States and other nations of the West African diaspora in the Americas. The celebration honors African heritage in African American culture, and is observed from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a feast and gift giving. Even though Kwanzaa has become a powerful tool for African American pride and celebration, its roots can only be traced back to the late 1960s. The celebration began as the vision of Dr. Maulana Ndabezith Karenga, an influential figure during the Black Liberation struggle and Black Power movements that dominated the late ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. Karenga is an African American activist, author and creator of the pan-African and African American holiday known as Kwanzaa. As a welleducated man with several doctorates and a professor of Africana studies at California

regarding how they have done so well in a city with Denver’s demographics. “(The late) Opalanga Pugh brought it publically so people could come from all over the state and celebrate with a lot of other likeminded people. It’s amazing we’ve been working on for it well over 20 years now.”.

State University, he realized no holiday celebrated the African American culture, motivating him to create Kwanzaa. Karenga’s purpose in creating the holiday, stated in his goals for the holiday in 1966, were, “To give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday, and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.” As the Kwanzaa celebration began to take hold throughout the nation in the 1980s, Denver took an exceptionally strong liking to the holiday, and has boasted for more than two decades, one of the most wellexecuted Kwanzaa celebrations in the country with community leaders such as Brother Jeff, Thedora Jackson and Isetta Crawford Rawls at the helm.

The Seven Essential Principles of Kwanzaa are: Umoja (unity) —To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race. Kujichagulia (selfdetermination)—To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves. Ujima (collective work and responsibility)—To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together. Ujamaa (cooperative economics)—To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and

Kwanzaa Committee President Thedora Jackson, a committee member since its inception, attributes their success to their perseverance and dedication. “We’ve been working at it for a long time,” Jackson said

Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


other businesses and to profit from them together. Nia (purpose)—To make our collective vocation the building and development of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness. Kuumba (creativity)—To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. Imani (faith)—To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle. The principles are named in Swahili, a language composed of several East-African languages to promote cohesion in the area. The names were chosen to further emphasize the feeling of a grand community of Black people across the planet, who will continue to thrive with the implementation of the principles. This December, the public is invited to participate and support this historic occasion to celebrate the 55th year of Kwanzaa, and 20-plus years of the holiday’s celebration in the Mile High City. . Editor’s note: To participate, volunteer, or get information on the schedule of events and location, call Executive Director Kwanzaa Committee of Denver Thedora Jackson at 303-371-4793 or email

Kwanzaa Symbols Kwanzaa has a number of key symbols that are used as artifacts to teach, remind and inspire us in the application of Kwanzaa principles. The basic symbols used to celebrate Kwanzaa are: Mazao (mah-zah’-o), the Crops that represent African harvest and acknowledgement of productive labor; Mkeka (m-kay’-kah), the Kwanzaa Mat that represents a foundation of our tradition and history; Kinara (kee-nah’-rah), the Candle Holder that represents continental Africans as the people’s roots; Muhindi (moo-heen’-dee), the Corn that represents the children and thefuture; Mishumaa Saba (mee-shoo-mah’ah sah’-bah), the group of Seven Candles that represents the Kwanzaa seven principles (Nguzo Saba); Kikombe cha Umoja (kee-kom’bay chah oo-mo’-jah), the Unity Cup that represents the principle of unity as the basis of all Kwanzaa principles; Zawadi (zah-wah’-dee), the Gifts that represent the commitments made and kept; Bendera (bayn-day’-rah), the Flag that is a supplemental symbol to represent the people (black color), the struggle (red color) and the future and hope (green color); and Nguzo Saba (en-goo’-zo sah’bah), the Poster that is the printed display of The Seven Principles and is a supplemental symbol.

2021 Kwanzaa Schedule of Events – “The Best is Yet to Come” Saturday, Dec. 18: Noon – Instillation of the Kinara at Blair Caldwell’s African American Research Library, 2401 Welton Street. Installed and hauled by John Hayden and the Friends of Curtis Park. Volunteers are needed. Sunday, Dec. 26: 6 p.m. – Kwanzaa Parade from Blair Caldwell African American Research Library, 2401 Welton Ave., Cleo Parker Robinson Theatre, 119 Park Ave. West, performed by the Platinum Divas and coached by Ms. Chinique. Sunday, Dec. 26: 6:30 p.m. – First Night Celebration at Cleo Parker Robinson Theatre will include the induction of four new Circle of wisdom Candidates. The event will be hosted by Brother Jeff Fard and the Kwanzaa Committee of Denver. Local entertainment will be provided by Kwanzaa 101. Friday, Dec. 31: 5 p.m. – The Big Dance this year is a masquerade ball. Wear a mask. Face mask and beads will be available at the entrance for a donation of $5. Platinum Divas will perform. There will be line dancing and a prize for best outfit. Gumbo and rice will be served for dinner.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


Critical Race Theory in America’s Classrooms How Listening More Closely to Educators May Reveal Options By Alfonzo Porter


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t is not unusual for social issues to find their way into America’s classrooms. In fact, classrooms are where many of the nation’s most challenging social change has begun. Over the years, teachers have been charged with helping to address a complex set of problems that have arisen in the communities they serve. Teen pregnancy, gang violence, drug addiction, cyberbullying, race, culture, sexual orientation, family trauma and so many other issues have been left to those standing in front of our classrooms to address. No matter what the societal crisis, without fail, the question invariably becomes, “so what are schools doing to solve the problem?” Time and again, educators have been called to provide curriculum, lessons and the resources required to broach some of the most difficult topics confronting our society. Whether fair or not, teachers have shouldered the responsibility of seeking solutions to many of the challenges posed to our contemporary American cultural landscape. Therefore, issues involving race and racism are nothing new for the nations’ educators. What is new, however, is the politically manufactured crisis concerning the teaching of critical race theory. Many parents and community leaders suddenly have the impression that teachers are incapable of performing their jobs and the lessons that they provide each and every day

Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


with great skill and distinction. The flurry of legislation across some 22 states, banning the teaching of concepts yet to be defined, seems to imply that schools and educators are clueless as to how to perform their essential functions without politicians telling them how, leaving many in the profession not only insulted but deeply offended. “Critical race theory, as it exists, is not designed to be introduced in our K-12 classrooms,” says Denver Public Schools teacher LaQuane Smith. “It appears to be nothing but a smoke screen to seize a talking point by conservative politicians as they continue their all-out assault on voting rights. Distract and deflect. CRT has nothing to do with the conversation other than to frighten white parents with the suggestion that there is an attempt to frame all whites as racists.” Smith, like many of the nation’s 3.5 million public school teachers, has found himself squarely in the cross hairs of a debate that, he says, lacks both merit and validity. “There is a great deal of cognitive dissonance that seems to arise from the interference of disassociated political characters that have little knowledge of the issues at hand,” he insists. “Students understand when they are being taught one thing and experiencing something totally different in real life.” For Smith, a veteran secondary educator of more than 20 years, the hypocrisy must stop. “Policymakers appear to be more interested in creating a wedge between racial groups for their own political gains. Schools and teachers are not Guinea pigs or pawns to be used in this type of partisan game,” he says. According to a July 2021 survey by EdWeek Research Center, most of America’s educators were unfamiliar with the term and approximately 5% had actually taught, or even discussed the subject in class. Nevertheless, legislation was targeted at “prohibiting the teach-

ing of students what are being termed ‘divisive concepts.’” These so-called divisive concepts have been defined in a number of ways, in various pieces of legislation. They include an inventory of vague, ambiguous phrases and buzzwords such as, “any individual should feel or be made to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological or emotional distress on account of that individual’s race or sex.” Educators have called the bills deeply troubling as they “risk infringing on the right of faculty to teach and of students to learn.” The clear goal of these efforts is to suppress teaching and learning about the role of racism in the history of the United States. Purportedly, any examination of racism in this country’s classrooms might cause some students discomfort because it is an uncomfortable and complicated subject. But the ideal of informed citizenship necessitates an educated public. Darryl Sanders, a principal with the Columbus City Schools, suggests that current efforts to deliver a culturally responsive curriculum be reviewed and enhanced. “Our schools are already diverse, and students have become accustomed to working with one another across the racial and ethnic spectrum,” Sanders says “This is 2021. Students live in a multiracial world and have for quite some time now. It would serve us better to continue with the current efforts underway and reject the political noise that only serves to undermine what we are hoping to accomplish.” Sanders says that CRT, as currently presented, would not be a good fit for the K-12 classroom but could be customized to fold into current curricular options if necessary. “It could be done but the political climate that has insinuated itself into the field of education lately may make it an impossibility. Much

like the COVID-19 pandemic, my advice is to listen to the professionals,” Sanders says. “Our team is more than capable of designing curriculum, establishing learning outcomes, creating and aligning professional development to provide staff training. That is not the question. Our biggest problem stems from outside the profession and the confusing misinformation campaigns about CRT.” Legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, who has been credited with coining the term CRT, defines it as, “a practice of interrogating the role of race and racism in society that emerged in the legal academy and spread to other fields of scholarship.” It presupposes that the social construction of race and the systems and institutions that support it has propagated a caste system to consign minorities as those who exist at the bottom rungs of the social strata. The concept recognizes that race exists at an intersection with other identities such as gender and sexuality. It is designed to concede that a legacy of enslavement discrimination, segregation, and the imposition of second-class citizenship on people of color exists and continues to permeate the social fabric of America. For Robert Murphy, a retired high school principal from Ohio, change cannot come fast enough. However, he is not optimistic. “We need to remove the political influences. I don’t look at the state legislatures as the primary problem. I think the teacher’s unions have become a major detraction from helping us provide what is best for children,” Murphy says. “For instance, at a recent convention of the National Teacher’s Association, its outgoing president told the crowd of tens of thousands of educators that the union did not exist to focus on children but to concentrate on its teacher core. They have driven such a Continued on page 12

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Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


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Critical Race Theory Continued from page 11 wedge between teaching and learning that it is not surprising that we are experiencing such misinformation across the profession.” Essentially, according to Murphy, the idea of placing restriction on historically accurate events will not serve students, schools or this nation well in the long term. In line with the opposition of teachers to the banning of teaching the truths of America’s past, The American Association of University Professors, The American Historical Association, the Association of American Colleges and Universities released a joint statement that states: “We, the undersigned associations and organizations, state our firm opposition to a spate of legislative proposals being introduced across the country that target academic lessons, presentations and discussions of racism and related issues in American history in schools, colleges and universities. These legislative efforts seek to substitute political mandates for the considered judgment of professional educators, hindering students’ ability to learn and engage in critical thinking across differences and disagreements. These regulations constitute an inappropriate attempt to transfer responsibility for the evaluation of a curriculum and subject matter from educators to elected officials. The purpose of education is to serve the common good by promoting open inquiry and advancing human knowledge. Politicians in a democratic society should not manipulate public school curricula to advance partisan or ideological aims. In higher education, under principles of academic freedom that have been widely endorsed, professors are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject. Educators, not politicians, should make decisions about teaching and learning.” Nearly 100 associations signed on to encourage legislators to work more closely with educators in addressing the issues of teaching and developing curriculum sur-

Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


rounding race and racism in America. A 2020 Trump Executive Order directed federal agencies from providing programs on diversity and inclusion, calling the training “antiAmerican.” That appeared to be the point at which the assault began on anything related to diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. The order was revoked on the first day of the Biden Administration. Most educators tend to agree that the lack of curricular options to address race and racism in concrete ways serves to harm all students, not just students of color. As Janel George writes in her article titled “A Lesson on Critical Race Theory” on the American Bar Association website, the current manifestations of racial inequality in education include: 1. the predominance of curriculum that excludes the history and lived experiences of Americans of color and imposes a dominant white narrative of history; 2. deficit-oriented instruction that characterizes students of color as in need of remediation; 3. narrow assessments, the results of which are used to confirm narratives about the ineducability of children of color; 4. school discipline policies that disproportionately impact students of color and compromise their educational outcomes (such as dress code policies prohibiting natural Black hairstyles); 5. school funding inequities, including the persistent underfunding of property-poor districts, many of which are composed primarily of children of color; and 6. the persistence of racially segregated education. “Our students are fully aware of the world they live in. They see and recognize that all people are not being treated equally and want to address it. In fact, I think they are desperate to talk about it. In the end, I think the more we try to keep these topics out of the classroom, the more students demand that they be included,” Smith concludes. “Teacher, not politicians, must play a central role in making it happen.”.

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Black McDonald’s Owners Committed to Community The Asfaw Family BJ, Toni and Serena Rodgers

Many people do not know that McDonald’s franchisees are small business owners who live and work in the metro Denver community, send their children to local schools and support their neighbors in big ways. Two of those owner/operator families in the Denver area are the Asfaw and Rodgers families. The Asfaw family – Geta, Janice and their sons Elias and Abraham – own several McDonald’s locations in Denver, including the restau-

rant just north of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on Colorado Boulevard. The Rodgers family – BJ, Toni and their daughter Serena – own the three McDonald’s restaurants at Denver International Airport. The Asfaws have been longstanding community supporters through their Asfaw Family Foundation International (AFFI). Their annual events, now in their 16th year, include the Arches of Hope” Bicycle Give-A-Way, honoring students with free bikes; and the Aim High College Scholarship

Program. The AFFI has presented their annual Thanksgiving Dinner for seniors for 30 years. The foundation was created to serve as a vehicle to give back to the communities that the Asfaws have served for the past 30 years. The bicycle giveaway benefits elementary and middle school youth and the scholarship program was established to increase the number of African American males on college campuses. More than 3,700 bicycles have been donated to date, more than 110 college scholarships have been funded, and more than 14,000 free Thanksgiving meals have been served to seniors. The Rodgers family owned McDonald’s restaurants in Michigan and then relocated to Denver in 2015. They have done much to help travelers at Denver International Airport, especially during the pandemic with very stringent safety protocol. In several instances, the Rodgers decided to keep their McDonald’s restaurants open to

provide fresh, hot food at a value to travelers during big storms with cancelled flights. During this holiday season, airport travelers can look for their McDonald’s crew handing out free donuts to bring cheer to busy travelers. In addition, the Rodgers’ support a variety of nonprofit organizations in the Denver area including Especially Me Inc. with $6,000 in scholarships, Delta Eta Boule` Foundation, Denver Links Incorporated, Jack & Jill, Porter Billups Academy, Western Fantasy, Center for African American Health, The Links Incorporated, Rose Andom Center, Daddy Bruce Randolph Legacy Foundation, Epworth Foundation, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, and United Airways Fantasy Flights for Cancer. The Asfaw and Rodgers families – along with all of the approximately 40 local owner/operators in the area – have also provided 25 years of

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Links sponsor for the Arches of Hope Bicycle Give-A-Way

support to the Colorado Gospel Music Academy & Hall of Fame’s Annual Awards and Gospel Music Festival, which celebrate nationally-recognized and local gospel artists. The event occurs in Denver every February with the help of McDonald’s local owners who provide scholarships and funding to ensure this event continues during Black History month. “Today our people and planet are facing choices that will impact our life and legacy for decades. I love the high value that McDonald’s owners place on customers and communities,” says Dr. Syl MorganSmith, founder and director of Colorado Gospel Music Academy & Hall of Fame’s Annual Awards and Gospel Music Festival. “Their commitment is expressed in their growing investment in education, jobs and community service. It has been a joy to work with McDonald’s for the past 25 years. I applaud the Black owners and they always show up to share their time, talent and treasure.” The local owner/operator group also supports its favorite charity, Ronald McDonald House Charities with locations in Denver, Aurora and Colorado Springs. In 2021, the group initiated the Penny for a Pound of Fries campaign to raise funds for the nonprofit that has a mission of creating, finding and supporting pro-

grams directly improving the health and well-being of children and their families. The local restaurants donate one penny to the houses for every pound of fries purchased by customers. Through the third quarter of 2021, more than $222,000 was raised. People are encouraged to visit a McDonald’s and purchase fries before the year’s end to ensure strong fundraising results for 2021, and continue to visit and purchase fries in 2022, as the campaign continues. “Because of COVID-19, our local Ronald McDonald Houses have been through a difficult period. We are so proud to support our favorite local charity through Penny for a Pound!” said McDonald’s owner Eli Asfaw. “People already love our world-famous iconic fries, but they seem to taste a little better when you know your purchase is benefiting families in our community.” “Local McDonald’s owner/operators support local Ronald McDonald Houses in so many ways, from being on the organization’s board of directors to volunteering in the houses to donations like Penny for a Pound program,” said McDonald’s owner Serena Rodgers. “The houses run primarily on donations and volunteerism, so we welcome all opportunities to help provide a ‘home away from home’ for the residents who are going through some of the hardest

times in their lives.” Local McDonald’s restaurants also support the nonprofit through the Round Up for RMHC program, where customers can round up their bills to the nearest dollar and donate the difference. The owner/operators have also supported the Colorado Parent Teacher Association for more than 15 years, and have a partnership with the Colorado Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. This month, the owner/operators are launching is launching a program called One Class at a Time to fund teachers who need it most in their classrooms. Every two weeks a monetary award will be given to deserving teachers in local communities, many of whom use their own money for classroom supplies, field trips and other school programs. The Asfaw and Rodgers families are excited about McDonald’s future and all the brand has done for their crews

Dr. Syl Morgan Smith and Geta Asfaw

and consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic. From giving away thousands of free meals to first responders to educators, McDonald’s local owner/operators are dedicated supporters of the communities where they do business..

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Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


Cannabis CEO and Social Justice Advocate Wanda James Announces Her Run for CU Regent in CD1 W

anda James, a pioneer in the cannabis industry and a highly regarded leader in politics and in the Black community, announced her candidacy for the vacant Congressional District 1 Regent seat at her alma mater, the University of Colorado. “It’s time to restore balance to the CU Regents, not only in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion but also in the board’s priorities,” said James, 57. “I am running to take back the power for students, staff and faculty, who for too long have taken a backseat to political deliberations and decisions. I intend to be a force for CU and deliver on the promises of higher education.” As the university’s governing board, the Regents oversee the University’s budget; hire the president and other top officials; and set tuition and priorities. Currently, the board has nine voting members, one elected from each of the state’s seven congressional districts and two others elected by voters statewide. This makeup will change with the new 8th Congressional District. Regents serve staggered sixyear terms. James’ candidacy launches with a number of prominent early endorsements, including from US Congressman Joe Neguse, the first African American to represent Colorado and former CU Regent. “I have known Wanda James for nearly twenty years — she has always been a strong supporter of the University of Colorado, and a champion for CU students, staff and faculty, including during her years of service on the CU

“I will deliver on the promise of higher education,” James says, earning widespread political, business and community early support.

Alumni Board,” Neguse said. “She has never been timid about lending her voice to uplift and inspire those around her. I know her bold leadership will be a strong asset to the Board, which is why I’m proud to support her campaign. Along with Congressman Joe Neguse, four former CU Regents have also endorsed her campaign: Regent Linda Shoemaker, Regent Irene Griego, Regent Steve Ludwig and Regent Cindy Carlisle. After graduating from the University of Colorado in 1986, James was commissioned an officer in the United States Navy and served for four years in Naval Integrated Underwater Surveillance. A leading advocate for the cannabis industry, she is the cofounder and CEO of Simply Pure and President of Cannabis Global Initiative. In 2009, she and her husband, Scott Durrah, became the first legally licensed African Americans to own a dispensary, a cultivation and edible company in the U.S.. A leading advocate for business equity and social justice, James’s public service has included roles in Jared Polis for Congress and his gubernatorial transition team, as well as on the national finance committees for former President Obama

and Vice President Kamala Harris. In announcing her campaign, James zeroed in on the need to strengthen the Regents’ accountability to advance the five “Areas of Focus” meant to guide the board’s decision making – diversity, affordability, service to the state, student and faculty achievement, free speech and diversity of views. “The ‘Areas of Focus’ to which the Regents aspire have been my lifelong focus,” she said. “My military, political and business experience, combined with a passion for my alma mater and social justice, will provide a valuable perspective for the students and faculty of all four campuses of the University of Colorado. I look forward to advancing the promise of higher education and the promise of service to the stakeholders of CU.” In addition to the endorsement from Congressman Neguse, her decision to run for the Regents’ seat won immediate support from an array of civic leaders and CU alumni and faculty. Dr. Angie Paccione, Ph.D. Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Education / Former Colorado Representative: “Wanda James gets it. She gets Colorado and is

Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


committed to making the CU system live up to its promise to all students - to make sure they have the services necessary for them to succeed, from day one right through to graduation. She will be an excellent Regent.” Wellington Webb, the first African-American mayor of Denver: “I have known Wanda James for over 15 years. While we have sometimes worked on opposite national political campaigns, she always has proven to be a powerful spokesperson for the Black community. She has stood up for those unfairly incarcerated in America’s losing drug war and has worked tirelessly to make the cannabis industry a viable part of Denver’s business community. She is respected by young people and has used her voice and business to show our community the power of what is possible when you remain focused on enacting change.” U.S. Navy CDR (retired) Gregory D. Young, PhD., a professor in the Department of Political Science at CU Boulder: “When Wanda was a young midshipman at the University of Colorado and one of my students of military science, she has always shown leadership amongst her peers. Being one of only five women and the only African American student enrolled in the Naval ROTC Battalion, her tenacity and ability to navigate the difficulties of military training at a time when women were not allowed to serve in combat, demonstrates her fearlessness to enact change on every level. Over the years, I have witnessed her outstanding work with President Barack Obama,

Governor Jared Polis and becoming a force in changing the views of cannabis legalization. I fully support her continued leadership; she will be a great addition to the CU Board of Regents.” James Mejia, former member Denver Public Schools Board of Education: “Wanda has been a popular guest lecturer in a number of my DU classes. Her presentations always spark dynamic conversations amongst the undergraduate and graduate students. She has the ability to ignite emotions and challenge the status quo. But more importantly, she challenges old thought processes and forces the audience to rethink their ideas and positions. Having strong representation of people of color on the CU Board of Regents is vital for continued diversity of thought, race and gender in our university systems.” Gia Moron, CEO of GVM Communications, Inc., and President of Women Grow said “Wanda is a true force in the cannabis industry. Over the last decade, she has spoken up and stood tall in defining herself as a political and business maverick who has fought for women and BIPOC communities for equality in multiple business sectors. Wanda continues to be fearless when addressing the need to end the war on drugs and creating an equitable industry. She is not only a recognizable name nationally but known internationally as a recipient of awards and the extensive media coverage highlighting her leadership in the cannabis industry. While still remaining so humble, Wanda has appeared alongside Madam Vice President Kamala Harris, Former President Barack Obama, Kim Goodwin, Rashid Jones, and Tracee Ellis Ross as women Trailblazers, and this is just to name a few. I am certain her service on the Board of Regents will be transformative for the university. She is a nec-

essary voice that must be included at the table.” Other key endorsements speak to her depth of lifelong commitment to right the wrongs of mass incarceration; lack of access to capital for Black and brown entrepreneurism; the issues of fair pay for women in business, and her passion for education and lifelong learning. A former member of the University of Colorado Alumni

Board of Directors, James is a gubernatorial appointee to the Colorado Tourism Board of Directors; a graduate of the Inaugural Class of the Los Angeles African American Women’s Public Policy Institute at the University of Southern California; and a former President of the National Women’s Political Caucus. She was appointed to the Los Angeles Small and Local Business Commission and sat

Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


on the Board of Directors for the Starlight Children’s Foundation, and the Board of Directors of the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce.. Editor’s note: For more information about the campaign and a full list of e n d o r s e m e n t s , visit For more information about Wanda James’s history and business visit or

Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum Welcomes “Karamazaam”

Marguerita Taylor returns as “Granny” in the 30th anniversary season of Granny Dances To A Holiday Drum presented at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre. Photo by Stan Obert

30th Season Welcomes an “Island of Peace and Love” By Patricia B. Smith and Mary Hart


o just what is Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum”? This seasonal performance, with dance, spoken word and original music, is an annual tradition for families throughout metro Denver. It authentically welcomes and honors the season of light with a myriad of winter celebrations by many cultures during winter months. Now in its 51st anniversary season, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (CPRD) is an SCFD cultural anchor in Denver. The pillars of the organization include not only national and international performances and an Academy of Dance, but also Arts-In-Education outreach, and facility rentals of a 240-seat theatre and studios in the histo-

Cleo Parker Robinson performs as the angel "Shakti" in Granny Dances To A Holiday Drum, the Denver holiday celebration of global cultures. Photo by Stan Obert

ric landmark building which was the former home of the Shorter AME congregation. A new fifth pillar of community health and wellness partnerships provides movement out-

reach, and facilitates health outreach to the arts community. The CPRD mission and vision of #OneSpiritManyVoices uses dance as a universal language in performances and global cultural studies. The theatre and studios provide opportunities for performance development and are a presentation resource for more than 20 smaller organizations. CPRD founder and Artistic Director Cleo Parker Robinson shaped “Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum,” around the character of “Granny,” a dancer and global traveler, sharing cultural experiences with grandchildren NaKia and TiSean during their holiday visit to the Island of Karamazaam. “Granny” is portrayed by educator Marguerita Taylor, who has been in the role for 14 years. “Granny” is guided through her stories and memories by the three Angels of the Rainbow: Shakti (Cleo Parker Robinson), Cantadora (Chloe Grant Abel), Griot the Storyteller (Cedric D. Hall), and her grandchildren Nakia (Samiyah Lynniece), and TiSean (John e. Roberts). The extensive cast includes the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, Cleo II, and members of both the CPRD Youth and Junior Youth Ensembles. Granny’s stories, songs, and dances celebrate the African Harvest, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Hanukkah, LaPosada/Felice Navidad, the Native American Winter Solstice, the Hindu Diwali, and Chinese New Year,

Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


culminating in an exuberant depiction of the colorful Caribbean Junkanoo. Parker Robinson received four honorary PhDs as an educator, choreographer and dance visionary. Her deep respect of global culture was nurtured by her mentor, cultural icon and ambassador, Katherine Dunham. Her initial discovery, more than 30 years ago, of the book Dancing Granny by Elizabeth Winthrop inspired Cleo to create a holiday production honoring seasonal global traditions. During the past 30 years, she has continued to research new cultures and consulted with experts throughout the U.S. to assure authenticity. There are eight live public performances in 2021. Group ticket sales are available for businesses, churches, family, and friends. CPRD’s Arts-InEducation programming offers virtual “Granny Samplers” to metro-area schools with a study guide for global cultural education. “We need each other, not just during the holidays, but all year round,” Parker Robinson explains. “Granny reminds us that we are more unified than not. What kinds of tools can we keep alive in staying in the spirit of Harambe, of UNITY?” she emphasizes. . Editor’s note: For more information and to purchase tickets visit For group sales, email and for Granny Sampler performances, email Shel Holguin at

How Technology is Making Real Estate Sales Easier for Buyers and Sellers By Barry Overton

Technology in real estate continues to advance, and consumers are becoming savvier which is causing adjustments in the way business is done. If you look back 15 years, all real estate deals included a real estate agent or a real estate attorney to complete a transaction. Back then an agent had to be involved with providing houses that buyers were able to view, via email. To determine what a seller’s house would sell for took an in person meeting with a real estate agent.

And if you go back 30 years, real estate listings were still compiled in a catalog printed out weekly. But if you fast forward to our present time of 2021, real estate is already being done in an ever progressive manner. Buyers now have the ability to find their dream homes right from their cell phones, and then send it to their agent to sched-

ule an appointment, or be introduced to an agent that may be selling the online listing. Sellers are also able to find what’s known as iBuyers. These are companies that look for houses that have the potential of going on the market and the iBuyer companies

such as Offerpad, Opendoor or Redfin, make an offer to the seller to purchase their property. You may have heard of this particular type of way of selling with Zillow, who has recently halted all of their iBuyer programs. A big reason that these programs ceased with Zillow is because their significant losses nationwide were selling 66% of their inventory at a lower price than what they paid for them. And in the Minnesota market alone, Zillow was selling 92% of their homes for less than what they paid for.

But there are still iBuyer companies that make fair market value prices to sellers where they can also make a profit. Much like Uber has changed the taxi industry and Netflix has changed the video/movie industry, the real estate industry is being teed up for the same type of change. These types of disruptions in many instances create more convenience and savings for the consumer or seller. One of the best new programs to hit the iBuyer market is Express Offers. This program allows a seller to get not one, but multiple offers on their house before they ever put it on the market. Offerpad, Redfin and Opendoor can only make one offer to a seller. Express Offers takes a different approach of gaining multiple offers for one seller that creates competition even in off-market and gets the seller the fair market price. So Express Offers conveniences are not having to put your house on the market and go through decluttering, preparing it for photos, possibly preparing it for staging, and leaving your house for showings. In some instances, having the inspection and appraisal waived can also be done. And the greatest benefit of the Express Offers program is the buyer is a cash buyer that can close within a matter of a few days versus weeks. Another advantage of using the Express Offers program is it cuts a seller’s commission fees in half or better, which means more money in a seller’s pocket for sellers in the coming years. But the good news is it’s already here. For more information on Express Offers and how to benefit as a seller, feel free to reach out to me, as I am a certified Express Offers agent. . Editor’s note: Barry Overton is a licensed Real Estate with New Era Group at Your Castle Real Estate. He has been an agent since 2001, and started investing in real estate in 1996. For more information email: or call 303-668-5433.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021



he Montbello community has long advocated for its young men and women through programs and initiatives that seek to strengthen and highlight their infinite abilities. This past year, the Youth Safe Zones initiative came together as a collaboration between local organizations in the community. The program was instituted to address the growing need for productive activities for young people in hopes of disrupting violent behaviors and criminal actions. After a successful spring and summer of programming, the Youth Safe Zones wrapped up its last event of the year with a Halloween Carnival on October 30th on the Rachel B. Noel campus. The event, held on Halloween eve, consisted of a night of trunk-or-treat, carnival games, a video game truck, a youth-created Haunted House, and a generous donation from Denver Human Services (DHS). Hundreds of families came decked out in costume and waited in a line that weaved down the sidewalks and into neighboring streets to join in on the fun. The Montbello Organizing Committee was awarded $5,000 to continue organizing and supporting the Youth Safe Zone initiative. Athletics and Beyond and the Colorado Changemakers Collective were also awarded funds from Denver Human services for their dedication to changing the narrative for marginalized youth. “There are numerous organizations, including the three we supported at the Youth Safe Zones Carnival, who go above and beyond to serve the Montbello community,” said DHS Deputy Executive Director of Community Impact and Strategic Planning Patrice

Young Leaders Close out Great Year of Community Engagement

Hawkins. “We are thankful for the opportunity to show our support of these organizations in Montbello and appreciate their powerful community-led work.” Youth Safe Zones not only seeks to provide an environment out of harm’s way, but also give young adults the tools to gain and develop their skills as leaders. Putting young adults into leadership positions that they otherwise would not have access to help them analyze their own strengths to build their confidence and the skills

to become more self-aware of the impact they can make in their neighborhood. “One of our biggest areas of focus for this year was to provide opportunities for young people in our community,” says Kiera Jackson, Deputy Director at Montbello Organizing Committee. “The Youth Safe Zones initiative has been wildly successful in giving young people of all ages a place to go for fun events in their own neighborhoods. We are so grateful for the support of Denver Human Services and

Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


our collaborative partners to give kids a place to express themselves freely and be supported by so many incredible adults and organizations.” Being part of the Youth Safe Zone opens the door to resources the young members may not seek out on their own. Partner organizations like Families Against Violence, Athletics & Beyond, Struggle of Love Foundation, FaithBridge, The Confluence Center, City of Denver - Office of Children Affairs, and the McBride Impact all make sure their resources are shared and known to the young men and women participants and their families. The members of these organizations become mentors and a support system to teens. This network forms a community of young adults who make like-minded decisions and hold a risk-free space that continues to grow through their leadership engagement. “We collaborated to start Youth Safe Zones as a way to combat gun violence in the Montbello area, but these events are safe spaces for youth to come to,” says Kiahjura Womersley, Athletics & Beyond Office Manager. “You don’t have to spend any money, you get to have a fun time, and it’s in your own backyard so you don’t have to worry about commuting. This is a perfect opportunity to know who else is in your community outside of who you see at school.” Donations, like that of Denver Human Services, help Youth Safe Zones continue to reach young people in Montbello and other Far Northeast neighborhoods. This is critical to helping them grow as leaders, while also bringing events to life where the participants can have fun, be safe, and feel supported. . Editor’s note: If you would like to engage with Youth Safe Zone or any of their partners, visit uth-safe-zones/.

New Research Sheds Light on How Denver Public Schools’ Families and Community View Quality and Equity in Education A year-long community research initiative led by the PEACE Collective – a collective of community organizations centered on racial equity and community voice, reveals that Black, Brown and Indigenous students and their families in Denver Public Schools (DPS) care deeply about quality and equity in public education and envision a school district that offers equal access to everything they need to thrive. “A lot of the time schools are stuck in the idea that they need to get us ready for success and for life through academics, and

they need to better prepare us for academics, but they’re also helping find who we are as people and human beings. And so it’s incredibly fundamental for them to address issues such as racial injustice, because if not, then we’re not going to be becoming human beings that are aware of everything going on and are trying to help stop injustices from occurring,” said one research participant. Students and parents were recruited to participate through community organizations including: Colorado Youth Congress, FaithBridge, Project

VOYCE, Transform Education Now (TEN), and Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism (YAASPA). RootED Denver commissioned the research to examine and report the perspectives of students and families throughout DPS on what quality and equity mean to them. YAASPA led the coalition of organizations in executing the study. The research team included Drs. Brenda Allen, Sharon Bailey, Antwan Jefferson, Jesús Rodríguez, Maria Salazar and Tracie Trinidad, MNM with collaborators, Dr. Janiece Mackey and Stacey Adimou. They collaborated to determine how the inquiry would be conducted and finalized the questions to gain the most insight from the community. After the discussions with participants were held, the researchers analyzed all the recordings and worked together to create the Community Views on Quality and Equity in Education report. This project is timely, in light of the district’s efforts to develop a new strategic plan with a new Board of Education, which involves community input and asks community members about characteristics of a DPS graduate, the meaning of educational equity, and

Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


actions the district should take to improve education for students. “Wellness—physical and psychological—and family circumstances all play a role in student outcomes,” said Dr. Brenda J. Allen, one of the researchers who is Professor Emerita and former Chief Diversity Officer for the University of Colorado Denver and Anschutz Medical Campus. “If the school system isn’t intentional and specific about addressing these going forward, there is potential for continued intergenerational challenges and disparities. Every student must get the resources, opportunities and skills that they need not only to survive but to thrive.” The report calls on DPS leaders to “take immediate action so that this generation of students, and subsequent generations, experience a quality, equitable education.” It makes ten recommendations, including ensuring consistency across and within DPS schools for equitable, quality rigorous education, and improving parent/family communication, support, and opportunities for learning and growth.. Editor’s note: For more information, read the full report in English and Spanish, visit

Portraying Nala in The Lion King is Amazing

Kayla Cyphers plays Nala in Disney’s The Lion King, playing in Denver Dec. 2, 2021 Photo by Deen van Meer to Jan. 2. 2022 at the Buell Theatre.

Kayla Cyphers talks about her role as she prepares to bring it to Denver By Theresa Ho

Kayla Cyphers, a Southern California native, has never experienced Colorado snow. As a cast member for Disney’s The Lion King, Cyphers has been traveling around the country and is excited to see what winter in Colorado is like. The Lion King has won more than 70 global theatrical awards. Tony® Award-winning director and designer Julie Taymor, along with designer Michael Curry, hand sculpted and painted every prototype mask that appears in the “Circle of Life’’ opening of the show. Their department of mask makers, sculptures, puppeteers, and artisans spent 17,000 hours building the characters for the original Broadway production. Before playing Nala in musical, Cyphers appeared in Bat Out of Hell, The North

American Tour/New York Engagement, and Aida at John W. Engeman Theater. “I didn’t actually think that I would make singing a career,” Cyphers said. She originally went to school for fashion design but realized halfway through the program that she missed singing and switched majors. At 20 years old, she started taking singing lessons and began attending AMDA College of Performing Arts Los Angeles, where she earned her bachelor of fine arts. “It was school that really taught me about musical theater and about the legends of musical theater and about how amazing and magical it actually is,” she said. Having recently married, she said planning a wedding during a pandemic was certainly stressful, but the actual wedding and reception – both held outside – were lovely. She

added that all guests were given personalized masks, and everyone was able to be vaccinated. According to Cyphers, being able to be a part of The Lion King is a dream come true, and playing Nala has been wonderful. “She as a character is very strong and is very understanding of just who she is,” Cyphers said. “It’s amazing to be able to channel that every night.

Tapping into that reminds me of my own strength, and I’m grateful for Nala in that way.” She emphasized that she and the rest of the cast are overjoyed to have the audience back – especially because they were not able to be at work for a year and a half due to COVID-19 protocols. “The audience is really part of the show. And I really want the audience to come and know that we really want you to be enveloped in the artistry of it all. We want you to laugh at all the jokes, and we want you to feel the heartbreak when we feel the heartbreak,” she said. “We’re leaning on the audience just as the audience is leaning on us. We’re just really happy to be back, and we’re excited to share this show with Denver.”. Editor’s note: Disney’s The Lion King will be playing at The Buell Theatre from Dec. 2, 2021 to Jan. 2, 2022. Tickets are still available at

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Dance Theatre of Harlem Comes To Denver The Robert and Judi Newman Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Denver presents Dance Theatre of Harlem on Friday, Jan. 14 and Saturday, Jan. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the June Swaner Gates Concert Hall. Dance Theatre of Harlem is a leading dance institution of unparalleled global acclaim, encompassing a professional touring company, a leading studio school, and a national and international education and community outreach program. Each component of Dance Theatre of Harlem carries a solid commitment towards enriching the lives of young people and adults around the world through the arts. Founded in 1969 by Arthur Michell and Karel Shook, Dance Theatre of Harlem is considered “one of ballet’s most exciting undertakings” according to The New York Times. Presenting a powerful vision of ballet in the 21st century, the 18-member, multi-ethnic touring company performs a forward-thinking repertoire that includes treasured classics, neo-

classical works by George Balanchine and resident choreographer Robert Garland, as well as innovative contemporary works that use the language of ballet to celebrate African American culture. Through performances, community engagement and arts education, the Company carries forward Dance Theatre of Harlem’s message of empowerment through the arts for all. The work of Dance Theatre of Harlem has been enjoyed by millions in 2021 through such avenues as The Ellen DeGeneres Show and the online streaming series DTH On Demand that was created to help bring Dance Theatre of Harlem’s artistry directly into the homes of fans across the world. Editor’s note: Tickets start at $34 (plus applicable service fees) and are on sale at or by phone at 303-877720. COVID-19 Health and Safety Procedures As of Sept. 17, all patrons ages 12 and older attending a Newman Center performance must present: 1) Proof of full vaccination by showing a phys-

ical copy or photo of a vaccine card or by using the MyColorado app; or 2) For those who are not fully vaccinated, proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the performance. Please note that (a) full vaccination means 14 days after receiving the final dose of an FDA authorized or WHO listed vaccine; and (b) results from antigen tests and home testing kits will not be accepted. In addition, all visitors must wear a face covering at all times while inside the Newman Center, including during the performance, except when an individual is actively eating or drinking. If you or a member of your party is not feeling well and/or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, please stay home.

Denver Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Scholarship Opportunities The Denver Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s scholarship application will Makenna Turner (2020) be available December 1 at Since 1939, Delta has awarded nearly $500,000 Reem Askew (2020) in collegiate scholarships to deserving African American women. Denver Alumnae scholarship awards range from a renewable $6,000 (awarded $1,500 per year over 4 years) to one-time $1,500 Victoria Harwell (2020) scholarships. Scholarships are awarded to

Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


African American women who are seeking to attend a 4-year college or university, a community college or trade school. Editor’s note: For a complete list of scholarship requirements and the downloadable application, visit holarship. Submitted application and all required materials are due by February 15, 2022.

Grand Opening Planned for Unique Corner Store in Five Points Community The public is invited to attend the grand opening day celebration of Melody Market on Saturday, Dec. 11 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Located at 2950 N. Washington St. and 26th Ave., in the heart of one of Denver’s most historic neighborhoods, this free community event will include live music, chef demonstrations of healthy recipes and giveaways. Melody Market will provide residents and those who work in Five Points a convenient and unique shopping experience showcasing imagery that celebrates Black Americans who contributed to African American culture. The store will feature graband-go food and snacks, soft drinks, essential grocery items and personal products, as well as a selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. Local business entrepreneur LaSheita Sayer saw a void that needed to be filled along the Welton Street corridor which was the absence of a convenience store, especially one with wholesome options. She also recognized an opportunity to create new jobs. The market will employ two full-time and four part-time employees. Editor’s note: For more information, call LaSheita Sayer at 720949-2020.


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Charles Walker Emmons: Jan. 22, 1956 • Dec. 4, 2020 Mary Gertrude “Trudy” Cobbins: Sept. 10, 1935 • Dec. 5, 2020 Van Levern “Vance” Johnson: June 2, 1955 • Dec. 8, 2020 Eva “Evie” Mathews: Aug. 17, 1950 • Jan. 21, 2021 Carrie Marie Scott: March 4, 1940 • Jan. 26, 2021 Cicely Tyson: Dec. 18, 1924 • Jan. 28, 2021 Laurence Curtis Washington: April 15, 1955 • Feb. 3, 2021 Donald Bell: June 14, 1951 • Feb. 8, 2021 Bessie May Theus: Nov. 23, 1927 • Feb. 9, 2021 Leta R. Holden: Aug. 11, 1966 • March 15, 2021 Fannye Belle Evans PHD: March 31, 1933 • March 18, 2021 Marguerita Darlene Yancy: May 24, 1946 • March 21, 2021 Charles R. Smith: May 4, 1941 • March 21, 2021 Jeweldine Blair: June 4, 1925 • March 22, 2021 Zona “Mama” Moore: Oct. 10, 1925 • March 27, 2021 Pastor Harold Hicks: Oct. 9, 1944 • March 29, 2021 Gregory Kellum Scott: July 30, 1948 • March 31, 2021 Herman Malone: May 25, 1947 • April 12, 2021 Annie B. Wade: January 4, 1934 • April 12, 2021 Bob Ragland: Dec. 11, 1938 • April 16, 2021 Wayne Allan Carroll: Feb. 28 1961 • June 12, 2021 Julia Ann Gayles: Aug. 31, 1945 • June 26, 2021 Samuel Richard Batey: Feb. 23, 1942 • July 19, 2021 Donald “Don” Earl Box Sr.: Jan. 31, 1949 • Aug. 2, 2021 John Edward Cary: Oct. 27, 1946 • Aug. 15, 2021 General Colin Powell: April 5, 1937 • Oct. 18, 2021 Margaret Jacquenette Weightman: Aug. 18, 1950 • Oct. 20, 2021 Carl T. Kelly: June 5, 1953 • Oct. 20, 2021 Sheldon Lewis Johnson: Dec. 28, 1962 • Oct. 20, 2021 Roland Dominic Martin Sr.: Jan. 26, 1968 • Oct. 22, 2021 Jesse H. “Jazzy” Scott: Nov. 2, 1951 • Nov. 8, 2021 Pastor George Roberts: Oct. 13, 1957 • Nov. 10, 2021 Larry Young Sr.: Aug. 11, 1947 • Nov. 15, 2021 Christina Felicia Devereaux: May 3, 1978 • Nov. 18, 2021

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Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


Letters to the Editor Continued from page 3 “Men are much more unhealthy than women overall because they are reluctant to visit the doctor for screenings, and are less educated about their health.” The Office of Women’s Health within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says that it and the other offices have, among other achievements, increased breast cancer screenings and reduced breast cancer deaths, decreased smoking rates for women, decreased teen pregnancy rates, and increased women’s lifespan. An Office of Men’s Health could produce the same type of benefits for men. “An Office of Men’s Health would be in a position to advance and promote the development of health professionals and provide avenues to develop innovative programs specific to improving men’s health outcomes,” said Darryl

Davidson, Director of the Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative, City of Milwaukee. “The office increases the likelihood of developing opportunities to learn about and respond to priority issues.” A federally funded and staffed Office of Men’s Health could also save money. In a peer reviewed article published in the American Journal of Men’s Health, Armin Brott and his colleagues found that the failure to address men’s health in a comprehensive manner costs the government, private employers, and the healthcare system more than $450 billion each year. What would an Office of Men’s Health do? A lot. To start with, it would create and disseminate to state and local health agencies, private employers, and religious and community organizations awareness and educational materials and programs designed to engage boys and

men in the healthcare system and empowering them to be more active participants in their own care. Non-government entities such as Men’s Health Network and Healthy Men, Inc. are trying to fill this role, but they lack the fiscal resources. The Office of Men’s Health would also coordinate the malefocused and father-focused public health efforts within state health agencies (as the Offices of Women’s Health currently does for women). What can you do to help? Contact your Representatives and Senators and encourage them to co-sponsor or at least support legislation to create, staff, and fund an Office of Men’s Health within the Department of Health and Human Services. The results could be dramatic, both in terms of lives lengthened, improved, and saved, as well as money saved and reduced health care costs for all

Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


Americans. Healthier men and boys lead to healthier families and a healthier society. Don’t know who your members of Congress are? You can find them at or call the United States Capitol switchboard at 202-224- 3121 and they will connect you with your Representatives and Senators. Editor’s note: Men’s Health Network (MHN) is an international non-profit organization whose mission is to reach men, boys, and their families where they live, work, play, and pray with health awareness messages and tools, screening programs, educational materials, advocacy opportunities, and patient navigation. For information on MHN’s programs and activities, visit, on Twitter (@MensHlthNetwork), and on Facebook (, or call 202-5436461 ext. 101.

Faith on the Frontlines: Healthcare Workers Battle Burnout Submitted by Jehovah Witness’s Public Information


lover Stewart has spent much of the last 14 months zipping up COVID-19 casualties in body bags. At times, she has felt like one of the many living casualties of the pandemic – frontline medical workers who, at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak, have witnessed a lifetime’s worth of gruesome deaths in the course of a typical week. One night in March 2020, Stewart’s job got very personal: She recognized one of the deceased as the receptionist she and her pregnant daughter recently spoke with at a doctor’s visit. “I prayed for sanity,” said Stewart, who works in a critical care unit in Brooklyn, New York, and credits her faith for helping her to cope. That night, immersed in death and full of anxiety that she and her daughter may have contracted the virus, Stewart received a voicemail. A fellow Jehovah’s Witness was making a special effort to check on congregants working in healthcare and to share an encouraging Bible verse. “God was with me,” she said. In the year that has followed, spiritual focus has helped Stewart and other frontline medical workers in her religious community battle through the mental and emotional toll of the pandemic. “What healthcare workers are experiencing is akin to Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


Lafayette, Colorado, nurse Bianey Nuñez often conducts the initial health examination of new inmates at the Boulder County Jail.

domestic combat,” said Andrew J. Smith, Ph.D., director of the University of Utah Health Occupational Trauma Program at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. “You feel helpless,” said Rhea Iarussi, a home healthcare nurse in Westminster, Colorado. “That’s not why I went into nursing.” Iarussi explained that she became a nurse because she wanted to bring comfort to people and make them feel better. “It was a good fit for who I was,” she said. “And then, all of a sudden I’m put in a situation where I can’t do that. It was hard. This just hit me to my core.” As the pandemic continued, Iarussi experienced “paralyzing fear and anxiety.” She decided to shift her focus. “I had to let go of feeling like somehow there was something I could do to control the situation,” she said. “I had to go and do my job the best of my ability,” and then when she left work, she focused on her family. Iarussi, a wife and mother of two, credits being specific in her requests for help, especially in prayer, as a major force for change. For instance, she put the word out in her congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses that she needed N95 masks. Within a day, she began to get several responses. “All of a sudden, I had friends calling me and I had enough for the whole time,” she said. “When I prayed about my feelings, I also recognized that I needed to work to

Rhea Iarussi is a home healthcare nurse in Westminster, Colorado.

take better care of myself spiritually. I couldn’t rely on what I had always done.” Iarussi made extensive use of the pandemicspecific materials on and asked friends and family to point her back in a spiritual direction if they saw her spiraling with anxiety and depression again. According to a study conducted by Smith’s group, more than half of the doctors, nurses and emergency responders providing COVID-19 care could be at risk for one or more mental health problems—including acute traumatic stress, depression, and anxiety. That’s what happened for Josie Rodas, an emergency department nurse on Long Island, New York. Rodas was working on the COVID floor of her hospital. Sweating profusely under her personal protective equipment and often without time to eat, she rushed to help one patient after another. A few coworkers quit under the strain. At home, she slept alone out of fear of asymptomatically infecting her husband. “I was just so low,” she said. Then her mother, who lives alone, contracted the virus. Desperate to help but needing to stay safe, Rodas constantly monitored a remote camera for the rise and fall of her mother’s chest—a sign that her mom was still breathing. Even though Rodas dropped off meals and called throughout the day, she felt helpless. “I’m

caring for these patients at work, but I can’t even care for my own mother,” she said. “That was heartbreaking.” But, just like for Stewart and Iarussi, Rodas’ congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses mobilized. They sent texts, cards, called, FaceTimed, and Zoomed to help her not to give up. “Talk to God,” one friend told her. “He will help you.” Rodas found respite as she continued to worship with them regularly online, joined ministry groups on Zoom, and intensified her prayers. “If I didn’t have this spiritual association virtually, who knows?” Bianey Nuñez is a 27-yearold registered nurse in Lafayette, Colorado, at the Boulder County Jail. Throughout the pandemic, Nuñez remained positive and focused on each of her patients. “I truly love what I do. To be able to work in such a critical time, with a population that is kind of forgotten, honestly, I just find it rewarding,” said Nuñez, referring to the inmates of the county jail in Boulder, Colorado. Even after two outbreaks of COVID-19 occurred at the jail, Nuñez remained focused on each of her patients. “I get to know the person behind the mugshot.” There were different challenges during the pandemic. “It was nerve- wracking at times,” said Nuñez. Issues surrounding COVID-19 “were talked about every day at work. It was intense.” Nuñez credits her spiritual routine as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for helping her serve on the front line as a nurse. Every day since starting working at the jail, “I always say my prayer and ask for wisdom,” she said. In addition to praying during the 15-minute commute to work each morning, she listens to a 10-minute Bible talk and plays American psychological and psychiatric associations, while not advocating or endorsing any specific

Nuñez finds that taking even a few moments to think about spiritual matters helps her get through her workday.

religion, acknowledge a role for spirituality and religious faith in coping with distress and trauma. Lawrence Onoda, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Mission Hills, California, noted a number of ways spirituality can help, including giving people “a positive hope and meaning toward life, comfort by looking for answers and strength from a higher power, and a collective shared experience of support and community.”

Denver Urban Spectrum — – December 2021


Adrian Barnes, a helicopter flight paramedic based out of Sacramento, California, said filling up the spiritual “tank” has also helped counteract the emotional toll of healthcare work on the front line. During his hour-long commute to and from work, he listens to uplifting religious songs and audio recordings of the scriptures on JW Library, a free app from Jehovah’s Witnesses, available on Android and IOS platforms. (For the same content, simply navigate to on the web.) “This keeps me focused and calm,” Barnes said. In his 24hour shifts, he sees pain, suffering, and hopelessness. “It can be emotionally draining. There comes a point when you have to look to someone greater for help, and that’s God.” Editor’s note: For more information on comfort through the scriptures, visit


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