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WANT LESS SPEEDING AND MORE SAFETY? SHARED STREETS MAKE DENVER SAFER FOR ALL OF US. Denver is growing, which means there are more people and cars on our streets than ever before. Luckily, our new shared streets will help us keep up with these rapid changes by making room for those who are getting places in different ways. All while making the Mile High City safer, smarter and more connected. And now we’re calling on our neighbors to come along for the ride. Join us as we continue to bring even more safety to our streets.

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MESSAGE FROM THE PUBLISHER A Bright Future through Integrity and Understanding Volume 35

Number 1

April 2021

PUBLISHER Rosalind J. Harris GENERAL MANAGER Lawrence A. James EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Alfonzo Porter COPY EDITOR Tanya Ishikawa COLUMNISTS Kim Farmer Barry Overton Dr. Lane Rolling FILM CRITIC Samantha Ofole-Prince CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Theresa Ho Zilingo Nwuke Cesareo Sifuentes Alfonzo Porter T. Holt Russell COLAB Tanya Ishikawa - Story Coordinator Susan Greene - Contributor

This month Denver Urban Spectrum (DUS) enters its 35th year of spreading the news about people of color. Over the last three and a half decades, we are proud that our award-winning publication has continued its commitment to serving the community and promoting understanding, creating a foundation of journalistic integrity. Sadly, the credibility of journalism and information sources today faces unprecedented challenges and lack of trust. In our cover story, Alfonzo Porter explores “How Fake News and Misinformation is Reshaping the Field of Journalism.” A combination of systemic racism and disinformation is leading to hate crimes such as two horrific mass murders in March. While we don’t know, as of the writing of this column, why the gunman killed 10 people in Boulder, the killing of eight people in Atlanta, most of whom were Asian women, was surely motivated by racism and hateful misinformation about Chinese and COVID-19. Speaking of hate-related violence, Thomas Holt Russell shares 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 takes a look at the striking silence around the killing of a white man by police in small-town Colorado. Two other stories shine a positive light on the immigrant experience. We meet Chinese immigrant Wendy Shu whose experience of becoming an American citizen during the time of COVID-19 is certainly different than her predecessors. And, we learn about West African immigrant Naquetta Ricks, who is now serving in the Colorado House of Representatives. Meanwhile, the story about Hassan Latif’s Second Chance Center and his success in helping formerly incarcerated people reenter society is a great example of how DUS highlights the leaders who are striving to improve our communities. So many of these stories may start with tragic circumstances, but many of them demonstrate our ability to overcome. Let’s come together to rid our world of hate and misinformation. Though it is challenging, a better future is within our reach. Rosalind J. Harris Publisher

ART DIRECTOR Bee Harris GRAPHIC DESIGNER Jody Gilbert - Kolor Graphix PHOTOGRAPHERS Lens of Ansar Bernard Grant 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 www.denverurbanspectrum.com.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR family and tradition are long gone. What people see are ideal images of what television and moving pictures would have us believe are our best aspirations. They take us away from an authentic view of ourselves and others. Little wonder why people are susceptible to fake news. Also, little wonder that people want to limit their social group to folks of like mind (even if it is a group of smallminded folks). Frankly, none of what is happening with fake news or social media dissonance is new. It is way that human beings have acted and reacted for centuries. Tribalism, nationalism, nativism, racism, hatred, fear, depression, and isolation are not new. They’ve been around forever. How we deal with it as individuals, families, peer groups, and likeminded social media “friends” is all we can do. Perhaps the flaws that we find in human groups around the world will be our ultimate undoing. Perhaps, the conspiratorial thinking, fear and hatred will

Disconnection: Symptoms and Causes of Fake News and Misinformation Editor: Modern times have let a lot of folks feel like they can live in a bubble. If someone has a decent income, a place to live, enough groceries, and a few luxuries, there is a tendency to feel complacent and insulated. Maybe that is a default that people feel comfortable in around the world. But it leads to a number of bad things, such as complacency, small-mindedness, greed, judgmental thinking and anything else that leads mostly to exclusivity and reduces inclusivity. Modern times have also, unfortunately, led us to greater income and wealth inequality, and isolation. Gang activity, petty criminality, depression, anger, and fear are all related to the isolation that people feel as a result of the limitations that we have either set for ourselves and that have been set for us by our life circumstances. For most folks the virtues of church,

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kill us off. Also, perhaps we can find it in ourselves to start finding ways to be truly inclusive. Perhaps, we can encourage others to find ways to look beyond themselves, by selfimprovement and charity. Anger and fear beget their own kind. Echo chambers only echo. Isolation and exclusivity only limits our own growth and the growth of others. For that reason, we can’t rest on criticism of others, even if their acts are egregious. If we have to be critical, let us also be introspective to find how we can be the best we can for ourselves and others. There is a bit too much bitter criticism of the opinions of the other echo chambers, as we all enjoy the echo coming back to us in our own. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Turn the other cheek. Practice charity. These are tried and true ways to live our lives. Let’s double down on it! Mike Sawaya Denver


How Fake News and Misinformation is Reshaping the Field of Journalism By Alfonzo Porter

T

he field of journalism is in a state of rapid, constant transformation. The masses now consume news and information through various digital platforms making it possible to communicate globally within mere seconds. This has given rise to the proliferation of misinformation, disinformation and propaganda masquerading as reliable news content. Largely driven by cable news, the internet, social media platforms, talk radio and the ubiquitous citizen journalist, news organizations and systems have become polarized. This contentious atmosphere has led to a steep decline in public confidence in the journalism profession. As evidenced by the attack on the U.S. Capitol this past January, this so-called fake news comes with life-threatening consequences and represents a dangerous challenge to democratic systems. Disinformation and propaganda are closely related, spreading news that is deliberately false and designed to harm a person, group, organization or nation. Misinformation, on the other hand, is information spread to simply mislead but is not specifically created to cause harm. Journalism is the only profession expressly mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. The right to a free and independent press is guaranteed by the 1st Amendment. A democracy cannot thrive without it. Therefore, the wholesale assault on legiti-

Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, all media outlets should be required to implement more robust quality control measures. “All platforms need to set up viral ‘circuit breakers’ so they can immediately assess whether rapidly shared material is harmful to election integrity or public health,” Ambinder said. “That should be the threshold for action, because anything more than that risks generating the attention-grabbing metadebate about censorship and expression and anything less could be damaging to democratic institutions.”

mate journalism poses a clear and present danger to a democratic nation. The constant ping of our cell phones conveying “breaking news,” brings instant information from sources that may or may not be factual. According to a 2017 Pew Center study, 93% of all Americans receive news through online modalities. As digital natives, young Americans do not recall a time when electronic devices were not an essential part of everyday life. Consequently, they are the most at-risk of unwittingly consuming misleading and false information. A recent Gallup Poll asked Americans how much confidence they had in mass media over the past 20 years? The poll found a dramatic drop from 1997 to 2017, indicating that public trust in news accuracy has declined from 56% in 1997 to 32% in 2017. More recently, false claims of rigged elections and myths about COVID-19 safety measures, such as social distancing, masks and hand washing, continue even as the nation entered a third wave of infections exceeding 200,000 per day. The issue becomes more convoluted as suggestions for curbing “fake news” call for actions such as censorship of social media posts are clearly counter to the American idea of free speech. According to media watchers like Marc Ambinder, a senior fellow at the Center on Communication Leadership and Policy at the University of

So, where do consumers turn in order to find news they can trust? Most experts point consumers to what are called legacy media sources. These are considered the old guard of media outlets. They are trusted because their reputations are based on getting the story right. The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald and your daily newspaper rely on seasoned correspondents. Traditional television and radio sources such as the NBC Nightly News, ABC Evening News and NPR are also considered legacy outlets. Additionally, your local community newspaper is also a reliable source for keeping you abreast of what is happening in your neighborhood that may affect you directly. Unfortunately, many consumers are not distinguishing news from news analysis. The

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constant 24/7/365 news loop on CNN, Fox and MSNBC, for instance, is not news by and large. What they present is news items discussed by panels of pundits who assess and evaluate what is being presented in the news. Much like what we find online, opinions do not qualify as news. This is not to suggest that all online information is not trustworthy. The amount of misinformation online is still estimated to be very low. However, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have been used to spread questionable information. It may be a bit too soon to determine whether the efforts by Facebook, Google and Twitter to monitor false information have been effective. Either way, fake news and information posing as legitimate journalism is not expected to simply disappear anytime soon. But even as Americans recognize that false information causes confusion about events and issues, it has not stopped us from spreading it. The Pew Research Center in December 2016 found that 23% of U.S. adults actively shared fake news with online contacts and friends, whether they realized it or not. The concept of fake news is not a new phenomenon. Since as far back as most experts can recall, information has been used to influence public opinion. More recently referred to as “yellow journalism,” it was designed to purposefully misinform the public using sensational content and eye-popping


headlines. However, since information online has not heretofore been closely managed, it has been easier to circulate exaggerated claims. Today’s technology lures readers with “click bait,” which is useful in keeping eyes on the page for longer periods allowing for more opportunity to potentially spread mistruths.

But why are we so susceptible to this misinformation? Many scholars suggest that people tend to believe and search out information they believe. The added elements of social media and a global network of “friends” tend to cause people to let their guard down where co-workers, family members and others share a wide variety of pictures, rumors, humorous clips and gossip. Most people are less skeptical of information they receive from someone they know. The latest research appears to indicate that repeated exposure to fake information causes people to believe the false statements. For example, in a study conducted by Lisa Fazio, a psychology professor at Vanderbilt University, she found that people are often willing to believe misinformation that is repeated over and over again even when they are knowledgeable about the subject being discussed. Additionally, a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology showed that readers who were presented with a false headline were more likely to believe it was authentic when they saw it again. Further, even if the headline came with a disclaimer indicating that the facts may be questionable, study subjects still believed it if they had already been exposed to the lie. If people believe that the news is true, they are more than likely to share it. As a result, research is now turning to investigating how to design methods to prevent its instant dissemination.

Throughout the country, news literacy programs are becoming an increasingly popular way of helping Americans improve their ability to assess authentic online content. Naturally, these programs are relatively new so data on their efficacy is not readily available. Efforts to fact check all information has proved to be too time consuming to be effective. In fact, some researchers fear it may actually backfire.

In a 2010 study titled “When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political Misperceptions,” it was found that people often hold on to incorrect information when presented with factual information. For instance, the study reported that when conservative members of Congress were offered correct information regarding the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, they Continued on page 6

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Continued from page 5 became even more convinced that the weapons did in fact exist. Evidence of this human tendency is also observed when medical and scientific proof suggest that the COVID-19 vaccine is effective in fight the coronavirus, but the general public still refuses to believe the evidence because of what they had previously heard through other news sources. Ipsos Public Affairs, a market research company, conducted a survey that revealed that fake news headlines convinced American adults of their veracity approximately 75% of the time, and were remembered by a large section of the electorate as credible though they were false. The consequences of this truth can, and have had, exacting repercussions. False information about climate change, child abuse, public health, and political corruption, for example, has proven disastrous. Given that the role of journalism is to ostensibly check the power and follow the money, the profession’s mission looks to be in grave jeopardy. Fake news can encourage inflammatory and discriminatory notions that enter public discourse and be cast as facts. Once the information has taken root, it can be used to create scapegoats, solidify the us-versus-them dynamic, justify violence, and normalize discrimination and open biases.

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A recent social media assessment claimed that the 20 most widespread fake stories generated more than 8.7 million shares, comments and reactions compared to 7.4 million generated by legitimate news stories. The assessment concluded that when false news goes from haphazard and sporadic to organized, coordinated and systematic, it can quickly turn into disinformation campaigns. This level of disinformation has the potential to interrupt the governance of entire nations. The job of journalists to convey fact-based information has been made more difficult as the industry as a whole has been framed as the enemy of the people by the former president of the United States. Many now view it as acceptable to harass, threaten, arrest and even physically attack reporters. The social media assessment also found that the media’s image has plummeted to a 13-year low. Most journalists might agree that the answer cannot be found in overly restrictive regulations on internet platforms in an open society. The precedent set by such actions only encourages censorship. Addressing the issue of fake news and misinformation falls to every citizen to combat the scourge of these phenomena. Openly supporting investigative reporting and working to improve digital and information literacy among the general population may well be the place to start. .


As the first African immigrant elected to the Colorado State Legislature, newly swornin Representative Naquetta Ricks is no stranger to breaking the glass ceiling. Looking back at her life, Ricks said that she has had the opportunity to live what once seemed like an impossible American dream. She was born in Liberia, West Africa and moved to the United States in 1980, after a bloody military coup when Ricks was in ninth grade. Soldiers came to her house looking for her mother’s fiancée, who was a minister of the government. Ricks said that she and her sister watched their mother be held at gunpoint for two hours while soldiers looked for their mother’s fiancée. And when the soldiers found him, they dragged him to the driveway and threw him in the back of a truck. Ricks, her sister, and her mother grabbed some clothes and left that same day because they knew the soldiers would come back. “Within a few days of that incident, the soldiers rounded up all 13 ministers of the government, lined them up on the beach in the capital city, and shot them by firing squad,” Ricks said. “My mother had a nervous breakdown, and by June 1980, she asked for a medical leave, and we came to the U.S. seeking asylum and refuge.” Ricks and her family settled in Aurora, Colo. She knew the value of education and worked hard to earn her bachelor of science degree in accounting from Metropolitan State University of Denver. She also received her master’s in business administration from the University of Colorado-Denver. Afterwards, she started a successful mortgage brokerage, cofounded the African Chamber of Commerce of Colorado, and founded the African Economic

Representative Ricks Inspired to Serve as a Voice for Immigrants New legislator introduces bills, serves on two committees, hosted COVID-19 vaccine clinics, and started an annual youth poetry contest Submitted by Theresa Ho, Chief of Staff, The Office of Representative Naquetta Ricks, Colo. House District 40

Development [sic] countries Center. made me She never angry,” Ricks intended on said. “We being in polreally need itics. Then she people that was have an approached by accent, people Emerge, a that have a national politilived experical organization ence, people Representative Naquetta Ricks and mother, aimed at that look like Marian Eudora Ash Garrett recruiting, me or have training and providing a powsimilar experiences representerful network for Emerge ing us.” women with staff, alumnae, The start of her political boards and volunteers on the career was rocky and frustratground all year. Since 2002, ing. In 2014, she ran for the Emerge has offered an in-depth University of Colorado Board of training program that provides Regents. Though she received aspiring female leaders with over 100,000 votes, she lost the tools and training to run for election. She then ran for office. Ricks said that hearing Aurora City Council in 2017 President Trump’s xenophobic and came in third. But, every statements on television made failure pushed her to learn from her even more determined to her experiences and work even become a politician who could harder. Despite losing, she push back against his antishared numerous conversations immigration rhetoric. with the community and “Hearing Trump say that learned what their hopes and Mexican immigrants were crim- dreams were for their families inals and gang members and to achieve better lives. Those that Africans come from s-hole conversations also pushed her Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2021

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to go out every election season – whether she was running or not – to encourage people to take part in democracy. The experience also made her realize that there are many communities whose voices were not being heard in the state capitol. “Communities need to have a voice, and representation happens when legislators look like the people they are representing,” Ricks said. “We need to make sure that more people have a seat at the table.” Now, Ricks is the Colorado State Representative for House District 40. She’s a member of the House Public and Behavioral Health and Human Services Committee as well as the Business Affairs and Labor Committee. She wasted no time in sponsoring numerous bills that are now up for consideration in the coming months. She also hosted several COVID-19 vaccine pop-up clinics to help vaccinate her constituents who are essential workers or 65 years old and older and started an annual youth poetry contest to help uplift rising young voices in Aurora. She credited having strong female role models for her success and resiliency. She looks up to women like Ambassador Arikana Chihombori-Quao, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Maya Angelou, and Shirley Chissom. But Ricks’ biggest inspiration is her mother. “My mother was my first role model,” Ricks said. “She was a force to be reckoned with: compassionate, industrious, fearless, and resourceful.” Ricks hopes that her story will help inspire more young women to be leaders in their communities. She also has some advice: “Never give up, and always have faith. Also, be comfortable with being the only one that looks like you for a while. Keep learning, keep evolving, and look at the glass half full instead of half empty.”.


How Hassan Latif and His Second Chance Center Helps to Ease Post-Prison Life Transition By Cesareo Sifuentes Second Chance Center PATH - Providence At The Heights, 50 unit apartment complex

Staff member Kim Kendrick serves lunch

continue the Second Chance Center’s growth as well as the personal growth of clients. Reintegrating into society is a daunting challenge. When your debt to society is paid in full, how do you get back to daily life? That is a question that follows every prison sentence, but the answer is typically found in isolation and after enduring great difficulty. With the Second Chance Center, Latif is working on changing that. He experienced the exact experience shared by all of his clients exactly 15 years before the opening of the Second Chance Center’s new location. On January 4, 2006, Latif was released from prison. He had completed reentry programs while incarcerated as well as upon his release, even working for one for a few years. Each had their own method of helping the formerly incarcerated ease their way into life after prison. Through these experiences he built the foundation of a program of his own that has formed into his life’s work. “I saw some things that I thought could be done differently and get some better outcomes. So, in 2012, I just stopped being scared and started Second Chance Center,” Latif says. “I really wanted to try to develop an approach that would serve folks that didn’t have the experience that I did in a formalized setting, and that we could help them work on the same kind of thing.”

Photo by Matthew Slaveris

On January 4, 2021, the Second Chance Center reopened to the public after moving into its new headquarters on 224 Potomac Street in Aurora with over 13,600 square feet of space.

Founder Hassan Latif explained that due to COVID19 concerns, they were forced to postpone any opening ceremonies and got straight to work acclimating to the new location. “We owe the community a couple celebrations; we owe them a couple parties,” says Latif. The Second Chance Center is focused on a community-driven approach with its goal of assisting the formerly incarcerated to integrate back into society.

“When we first started, we wanted to be right in the redlight district. We wanted to be right there where people can get to us easily and right in the community like that. But over time we also found that for some of our clients it was a challenge in them being triggered just by being up and down Colfax and being reminded of previous lives spent up and down that strip.” Latif says. Their new location was selected with the purpose of assisting their clients to avoid encountering the echoes of the lives they used to live. “So, when we were looking for another place we wanted to get off of the ‘fax. We wanted something big enough to handle our current needs and leave room for some growth and then COVID happened and made everything more urgent,” he says. With a commercial kitchen, an expansive food pantry, a fitness center, multiple computer labs, a prayer room, and enough office space to facilitate the work of 31 full-time employees, the new headquarters provides the room to

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Providing Understanding, Trust and a Sense of Belonging On February 11, 2012, he created the program that would become the center. From its humble beginnings when the center’s headquarters were Latif’s car, the center expanded to find a home in one building and now in its second location in only nine years. He took what worked from previous programs and utilized what he found helpful through his own personal development. This first-hand knowledge may be one of the most critical aspects that makes maintaining the low 9% recidivism rate held by Second Chance Center programs over the past seven years possible.

Hassan talking with staff

Recidivism is when a convicted criminal reoffends and returns to prison, so a low recidivism rate shows that a program is successful. With the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council reporting the recidivism rate in Colorado as 50%, the Second Chance Center’s success in cutting that statistic down to less than a fifth with its program participants is notable. What immediately stands out when speaking to Latif is the sense of generosity and attentiveness that the founder displays regarding his endeavors to help others reacclimate into society. This generosity and attentiveness runs through the entirety of the Second Chance Center, from founder to employee and clients. Chris Cox first encountered the Second Chance Center on


September 1, 2019, after serving 20 years in prison. He credits the attentiveness he found at Second Chance Center as one of the primary reasons he was able to stay out of the viscous cycle of repeated offenses that so many formerly incarcerated endure. “Parole was hitting me with so much stuff left and right, that after like two weeks, I was ready to go back to prison,” Cox says. “I walk in (Second Chance Center) one day and one of the care managers, she just, I don’t know I guess it was all over my face or whatever, because she looked right at me and goes, ‘You’re ready to go back to prison, aren’t you?’ and I said, ‘Yeah I am.’ So, they kinda encouraged me to be around every day after that.” After taking notice of the toll the inner turmoil Cox was battling, the staff also encouraged Cox to lean on his strengths when facing the adversity of reintegration into society. “I was always a pretty mechanical person so while I was there and waiting for help on something, or there to get lunch or breakfast, I’d see something that was needing a little bit of attention around there like a leaky faucet or something, and I’d go over and mess with it. Pretty soon they ended up offering me a job in maintenance,” Cox explains. “Being around people that understand, people that can relate, and people that you feel you can trust,” are what Cox attributes as the biggest draw that the Second Chance Center has to offer, which separates it from other similar programs. Latif ensures that this sense of understanding and belonging is by design. “We have a simple formula at Second Chance Center, and that’s thoughts plus feelings equals behavior,” Latif says, “and our belief is that, unless people really get to come to grips with understanding how they think and how they got to

Second Chance Center - PATH Community Room Photo by Matthew Slaveris

think like that and examine their feelings (…) the likelihood that any behavior change is gonna be sustainable is really, really minimal at best.” Half of the staff consists of formerly incarcerated people, a few are former participants in the programs that Second Chance Center had to offer, and five are former interns from local universities that wanted to continue their careers at the center. They also have employees who have never been within correctional facilities themselves but come with the experience of being a loved one to someone who was formerly incarcerated or dealt with substance abuse issues or mental illness, and have intimate knowledge of the issues that lead to incarceration and the struggles that come along with it. The breakdown of the employee demographics shows their dedication and passion for helping and being there for those who need it, with a focus on coming from a place of acceptance and understanding over all else. And it all stems from the leadership exhibited by founder Hassan Latif. “One of the biggest differences about how we go about it is that whole provider-recipient power dynamic is something that we reject. Instead, we choose to partner with our folks, you know. And for many of them that’s very important because most of our folks have felt apart-from, as opposed to a-

part-of, most of their lives,” Latif says. The center continues to expand and evolve. They are increasing their presence with investments into the Aurora community. “Successful transition is a matter of community health, and that’s not just a slogan for us, we really believe that. That if our folks are successful in coming back to community, community as a whole is going to be healthier and safer,” says Latif..

When the Second Chance Center opened the doors to its new offices earlier this year it was the culmination of a long-term dream for its founder, Hassan Latif. The Center, designed to aid those who were previously incarcerated successfully transition back into the general society, provides the support and skills development needed to navigate a world that may have dramatically changed since their initial incarceration. Like any business or organization, the Second Chance Center has experienced growing pains. It’s new 13,000-square-foot facility sits prominently at the intersection of 2nd Street and Potomac Street. As an operation that works with prior offenders, not everyone has rolled out the welcome mat. Last month, Latif arrived at his offices to discover his windows riddled with bullet holes. While he refuses to speculate about the incident, he is determined to not let it impact the mission of the Second Chance Center. “This could have happened for any number of reasons,” Latif offered. “I won’t even attempt to offers reasons why, but it will have zero effect on our work.” .

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PBR Partners with Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo New Events, Opportunities and Exposure Planned as BPIR Creates “New History”

PBR (Professional Bull Riders) and the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo (BPIR) have announced a partnership in which PBR and BPIR will create new events and opportunities for the largest and longest-running rodeo celebrating Black cowboys. PBR, the world’s leading bull-riding organization, will co-produce and co-market BPIR events that will take place alongside competition in PBR’s top two U.S. tours in select markets. The rodeo events alongside the PBR Unleash The Beast and Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour will be offered for television broadcast. Additionally, working with WCRA (World Champions Rodeo Alliance), PBR will create new special qualification opportunities for Black rodeo athletes at WCRA events including its new Women’s rodeo World Championship (WRWC), which is returning to Las Vegas in November. “We are thrilled to partner with the largest and longestrunning touring African American rodeo celebrating Black cowboys and cowgirls and their contributions to the American west,” said PBR

Commissioner and CEO Sean Gleason. “PBR will help produce and promote these essential rodeos, helping to keep important and underappreciated Black cowboy traditions alive, developing the next generation of champion cowboys, and bringing the sport of rodeo to a new generation of fans.”

“The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo is extremely excited about our partnership with the PBR as we continue to connect our communities with rodeo, to tell the stories of Black cowboys and cowgirls and to showcase the skills and contributions of these athletes being made today,” said Valeria Howard-

Cunningham, President of BPIR. “This alliance allows us to elevate BPIR and to offer more Americans the opportunity to experience a BPIR rodeo in person and through television. I am excited about our future as we continue to educate audiences by telling our own story, entertaining audiences and touching the lives in our community through the BPIR rodeo.” The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo began in 1984, named for famous rodeo “bulldogger” Bill Pickett (1870-1932), who was the first African American inducted into the National Rodeo Hall of Fame and is credited with helping to bridge the racial divide at the end of the Civil War in 1865. BPIR thought it important to pay homage to Bill Pickett and make his name more prevalent by naming their rodeo after Bill Pickett. Pickett was the second of 13 children born to Thomas Jefferson Pickett, a former slave. He left school in the 5th grade in Texas to become a ranch hand and invented the technique of bulldogging, the skill of springing from his horse, grabbing cattle by the horns and wrestling them to the ground. Pickett would become known for his tricks and stunts at local country fairs, and with his four brothers, he formed The Pickett Brothers Bronco Busters and Rough Riders Association. The Pickett name soon became synonymous with successful rodeos.

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In 1905, Pickett joined the 101 Ranch Wild West Show that featured popular cowboys including Buffalo Bill and Will Rogers and would soon tour around the world and star in early motion pictures. “I can’t tell you how happy I’m to hear about this alliance – having served as Grand Marshal of the BPIR for 35 years as well as being a big fan of the PBR,” said EMMY® Award winning actor, director and producer Glynn Turman. “It is with great anticipation that I look forward to seeing this ‘Greatest Show on Dirt’ presented over the airwaves and streamed into people’s homes. I only wish that the man who had the vision, Lu Vason were here to see it. Valeria, God bless you and your amazing team for keeping the dream alive and seeing it to the next level.” “It is fitting that a progressive western sports organization such as the PBR has partnered with a brand that has carried on a rich and otherwise often ignored and forgotten tradition of the most iconic Black cowboy of all-time, Bill Pickett,” said Keith Ryan Cartwright, author of the forthcoming book Black Cowboys of Rodeo: Unsung Heroes from Harlem to Hollywood and the American West. “Standing shoulder to shoulder, the PBR is in a position to help the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo gain the one thing it’s deserved since Lu Vason founded the organization in 1984 – the recognition of a mainstream audience.”


About BPIR (Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo) In 1977, during Wyoming’s Cheyenne Frontier Days, Lu Vason’s interest turned toward rodeo after his curiosity was aroused when he noted the absence of Black cowboys and cowgirls participating that day. Over the next couple of years, Vason, a leader in the entertainment community, did his research and found thousands of Black Cowboys and Cowgirls across the country lacking the opportunity to showcase their talents. Vason was convinced that the time had come to uncover the cultural past of the Black Cowboy. In 1984, he created an allBlack rodeo association named after the legendary Black cowboy, Bill Pickett, who originated the rodeo event called “bulldogging’. After Vason’s passing in 2015, his wife, Valeria HowardCunningham, began working to keep the legacy alive. Howard-Cunningham felt

the rodeo had a rich history, legacy, and a huge importance to the community. She is deeply passionate about BPIR, works hard to create and enhance the organization’s vision and created a detailed strategic direction for BPIR. Key to this vision is the belief that promoting a first-class African American rodeo tour remains critical to Black Cowboys/Cowgirls and their communities. “More than ever, it’s important for all of us to set examples, create visions and provide opportunities for kids and young adults to understand the history as well as the purpose of BPIR, and create new history,” Howard-Cunningham said. Fueled by these principles, the Bill Pickett Invitation Rodeo is entering its 37 year of educating, entertaining and connecting communities across the US as the “Greatest Show on Dirt”.

About PBR (Professional Bull Riders) PBR is the world’s premier bull riding organization. More than 500 bull riders compete in more than 200 events annually across the televised PBR Unleash the Beast Tour (UTB), which features the Top 35 bull riders in the world; the PBR Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour (PWVT); the PBR Touring Pro Division (TPD); and the PBR’s international circuits in Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico. PBR’s digital assets include RidePass, which is home to Western sports. PBR is a subsidiary of IMG, a global leader in sports, fashion, events and media.. Editor’s note: For more information about BPIR, email Margo Wade LaDrew at mladrew@billpickettrodeo.com or call 310-674-6700. For more information about PBR, email Andrew Giangola at Andrew.giangola@img.com or call 646-8712402.

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Centura Health does not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, religion, creed, ancestry, sexual orientation, and marital status in admission, treatment, or participation in its programs, services and activities, or in employment. For further information about this policy contact Centura Health’s Of昀ce of the General Counsel at 1-303-673-8166 (TTY: 711). Copyright © Centura Health, 2021. ATENCIÓN: Si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-719-776-5370 (TTY: 711). CHÚ Ý: Nếu bạn nói Tiếng Việt, có các dịch vụ hỗ trợ ngôn ngữ miễn phí dành cho bạn. Gọi số 1-719-776-5370 (TTY: 711). Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2021

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Medical Society Plans To Secure Future for Young Black Doctors By Zilingo Nwuke

Members of the Mile High Medical Society

The Mile High Medical Society (MHMS) is funding scholarship opportunities for young aspiring medical professionals of color. In an attempt to get more African American students in the medical field, the Mile High Medical Society has teamed up with the University of Colorado to cover most of the financial expenses to students admitted into the University of Colorado Medical School who meet the scholarship requirements. This is just one attempt of many by the Mile High Medical Society to create opportunities for the younger generations of medical professionals according to Dr. Johnny Johnson MD, a licensed physician in obstetrics and gynecology, and president of the Mile High Medical Society. “There have been other programs like this, but not as big,” said Johnson.

The Mile High Medical Society has been around since 1965 and is a chapter of the National Medical Association. It was reestablished in 2015, led by Dr. Johnson MD and a group of Black healthcare professionals committed to helping African Americans. In addition to being a resource in the health arena, specifically to medical issues like COVID-19 that is affecting the African American communities, the organization is involved in social issues such as racism which is a public health crisis. Goal of the organization is to promote health and wellness and eliminate health disparities by raising awareness. The scholarship will be named after Dr. Charles Blackwood, who was the first African American to graduate from the University of Colorado School of Medicine. The society elected to rename the fund the Charles J.

Blackwood, MD, Endowed Memorial Scholarship Fund, specifically to memorialize his legacy. “The scholarships are a tool of recruitment more than anything else. We want to develop a pipeline to help students in the future. The first scholarship was awarded to Marcus Marable in 2017 who is from Arizona,” said Johnson. The scholarship will cover all four years of medical school. Two major requirements for the scholarship are the student has to be admitted into the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the student has to be a person of color. Johnson wants to help these students graduate and perform better by taking away as much stress as possible. “If students don’t have to worry about school expenses, then they could direct their focus towards other things. All their focus could go towards their studies, networking, extracurricular activities or anything that could benefit them in the future,” he said. “We want to get more

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African American students in the medical field. We encourage, recruit, mentor and financially take care of the students.” To reach its goal, MHMS has raised $1,000,000. The Dean of CU School of Medicine has pledged to match the funds, dollar-for-dollar.. Editor’s note: The initial scholarships will be awarded this summer. For more information or to make a donation, email milehighmedicalsociety@gmail.com or visit www.milehighmedicalsociety.org.


STREAM Theatre Tech Program Now Year Round at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance 8- and 12-week sessions for middle and high schoolers; 2-year paid internships

A year of COVID closures proved that technology kept many connected, and moving, as virtual classes taught dance and culture to students at home or anywhere on the globe with an internet connection. Tech teams behind the scenes improved life during lockdown delivering education, culture, film, news, entertainment, and sports. Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (CPRD) not only operates a Dance Academy, but also theatre tech instruction and mentoring in its 50-year history. On April 5 from 3 to 4 p.m. after school, scholars in grades 6 through college graduate level can meet an industry expert during a live interactive virtual meet-and-greet. This STREAM (Science, Technology, Robotics, Engineering, Art, and Media) series introduces pros film and sports who will share their career path and opportunities for students. The virtual session is free of charge with online registration at https://cleoparkerdance.org/ar ts-in-education/. Middle and high school students can also

register online for 8- and 12week STREAM programs, and inquire about a two-year paid internship program. “The legacy of the STREAM program (Science, Technology, Robotics, Engineering, Art, and Media) continues with mentoring a fifth generation of students,” says Malik Robinson, Executive Director of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance and son of the founder and artistic director for whom it is named. The program is 100 percent donor-funded with participation by corporations such as AT&T and Comcast Colorado, and individual donors. Professionals from each organization as well as STREAM/DPS alumni have met scholars in a series of virtual meet-and-greet sessions. “My grandfather, the late Jonathan Parker, managed and mentored theatre tech at the Houston Fine Arts Center (now part of the Denver School of the Arts) at Colorado Women’s College (now University of Denver [DU]); it was a unique all-women’s tech crew. Years later, he launched and managed the Newman Center for the Performing Arts at DU. Lighting, sound, and all the new complexities of production offer viable and technologically interesting career paths to weave in math, technology, and science. Today, Trey Grimes curates a program to equip learners with the transferable skills unlocking access to the vast tech-based world of study from gaming to medicine,” Robinson said.

Grimes is a 30year technology educator formerly with Denver Public Schools. Concurrent to his decades with DPS, he volunteered and worked at CPRD before joining full time as their Director of Theatre & Technology. He developed the STREAM program realizing that most schools do not have the training programs to help students of color realize a career producing theatre, events, and broadcasts. STREAM is also a bridge to important classes students may otherwise avoid.  “As an educator, we grasp opportunities to help students visualize their future and ignite their interest in math, science, and technology using both traditional and alternative introductions. While some young scholars don’t connect their

math and science classes to the real world, theatre creates abundant opportunities. Former students, now industry experts, are ready to pay it forward, and spark kids’ enthusiasm for school and their futures,” explains Grimes who is a 2019 Denver Public Schools CareerConnect Career Launch Internship Program Winner. STREAM was also awarded the March 26 Cool School story feature on 9News KUSA.. Editor’s note: For more information or to view the story, visit cleoparkerdance.org or email Trey Grimes at trey@cleoparkerdance.org.

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New STEAM School Seeks to Bolster Black Student Performance By Alfonzo Porter

To meet workforce

demands, it is estimated that by 2022 the U.S. will need approximately a million professionals in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, also known as (STEM). Producing these qualified professionals has become a priority according to the U. S. Labor Department, particularly targeting African American students who are reportedly the least likely to enter the technology fields. In an assessment of technology and literacy by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), only 18 percent of Black students scored at or above proficient, whereas 56 percent of white students fell into that category. This so-called achievement gap between Black and white students has been a pervasive problem in America’s schools for decades; here in Denver the numbers fair no better. NAEP also reported that in 2017, Denver Public Schools (DPS) Black fourth graders scored 36 points worse than their white counterparts on the reading portion of the exam. That placed DPS 18th out of the 24 school districts being measured. The gap was also five points higher than the national average for big city school districts. This has led many leaders in the African American community to question the school system’s commitment to improving Black student performance. Some community members have even begun to take matters into their own hands by creating a Science, Technology,

Shakira Abney-Wisdom

Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) Academy, largely focused on African American students. Samantha Pryor, an attorney and co-founder of the Robert F. Smith STEAM Academy opening fall 2021, says the school was created because the academic needs of Black students in DPS are not being met. Smith is a billionaire businessman and philanthropist, born and raised in Denver. He gained national attention in 2019, while serving as the commencement speaker at Morehouse College and receiving an honorary doctorate degree. He stunned the crowd when he announced that he would pay off the entire student loan debt for the class of the 396 graduates. While the school in Denver will bear Smith’s name, he is not a benefactor of the academy at this time.

Finding Ways to Elevate Black Student Performance Pryor maintains that the goal of the new academy is to dramatically improve the academic performance of Black students. “What we’ve observed are low expectations and standards when it comes to Black students in DPS,” she says. “Our goal is to ensure that our students receive the high-quality education they deserve.” After visiting several successful models of programs aimed at African American students in Chicago, Pryor became convinced that Black students could significantly elevate their performance given a different approach. “Before we began to design

Gabe Lindsay

our academy, we toured a number of schools in Chicago that have gained a national reputation for their success with African American students,” Pryor says. “We were expecting to come to revelations about instructional strategies, curricular options or management styles. Instead, what we learned was that while all those things are important, the most critical element to Black student success was found in the school’s relationships—with both students and parents.” In a 2014 survey of 21,000 eighth graders, conducted by NAEP, 63% of the students said that family members provided their initial encouragement and inspired their interest in STEM. Only 13% said they were first engaged in STEM by their teachers, and 19% said they investigated STEM fields on their own. This data appears to support the presumption that family members play an important role in fostering an interest in science, technology and engineering literacy. But Pryor insists that Black students’ interest is not nurtured in our school system. “The over-disciplining of our kids, the lack of high standards and deficit perspective among many teachers only serve to compound the problem,” she claims. “Our children are in classes where the teacher cannot identify with them. And while many teachers might mean well when they apply to largely minority schools, they also bring their racial presuppositions and biases about the intellectual capacity of Black students with them.”

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Samantha Pryor

Brandon Pryor

Pryor and the academy’s other founders have determined that the best course of action is to pattern their new school after the HBCU (Historically Black College and University) model. A graduate of Clark Atlanta University, she says her experience was transformative and believes that it can have a similar impact at the high school level. “It was the best decision I ever made, and I am confident that our students will respond positively to this model as we work to eradicate the proficiency gap,” she explained. “By creating relationships with our students and community that cultivate culture and pride we will address the deeper needs of our kids.” For the school’s new principal, Shakira Abney-Wisdom, the Robert F. Smith STEAM Academy is designed to engage students where they are academically and aid in their scholastic growth beyond proficiency. “My goal is for us to provide instruction in a space that clearly communicates that achieving at high levels in school, being good at what you do, and liking it is OK,” she says. Multiple societal factors influence how students think about learning, in general. For this reason, among others, Abney-Wisdom believes that success will require the support of the entire community. “We plan to be intentional about knowing our students and their families. We need to know that our students are alright everyday and actively notice when they are not being


themselves. Having a relationship with the family provides better opportunities to lend support for issues they encounter outside of the school day that can impact their academic development,” AbneyWisdom explains. The emerging theme revolves around relationships among student, parent and school. “African Americans are incredibly communal in our ways of being, learning, knowing and doing. We learn through experiences that are formal and informal,” she says. “Schools in this nation are immersed in whiteness and require a stripping process, an erasure process in order for students of color to assimilate before the instructional input can be received and considered valid.” The difference, according to Abney-Wisdom, is that by providing a space where pride in oneself is a common theme and where culture is reinforced, students feel value, safe and supported; this changes the paradigm. It removes the so-called stripping process before learning and knowing is considered authentic.

High Standards and a WellEquipped Environment to Support Achievement Academic rigor will also be a central component of the instructional programs. “We intend to teach at grade level while providing supplemental support where needed,” she says. “While we recognize that testing data is important, we are expressly against teaching to a test. To do so would be a disservice to our students; it is not substantive and is very superficial. There is no indicator on a test that measures potential.” Businessman Gabe Lindsay, one of the school’s founders, says that his involvement in the creation of the academy happened organically. “I was coaching football at

South High School where my dad had been head coach for the past decade. After having helped to build the program there into a consistent statelevel competitor, dad decided that he wanted to give back to kids in our community in the far northeast of the city,” Lindsay says. That was when he says he began to notice a disturbing pattern. The schools in his community did not have the equipment, supplies or resources as many other schools around the district. “As we began to build our team, we began to notice all the inequities materialize and it was shocking,” he says. “In Montbello, there are five schools housed in one building. Co-locating middle school students and high school students, all on separate bell schedules, start and end times is an absolute mess.” This has led Lindsay to lose confidence in the system and view its education of African American students through a different lens. “It quickly became apparent that DPS does not know how to educate Black kids,” he says. “The academic achievement gap in Denver is among the worst in the nation.” The school is slated to open this coming fall with 125 freshmen as their inaugural class. It will be housed in the Montbello Tech Center. “Initially, we will be a district-run innovation school and ultimately become an innovation zone,” Lindsay says. “This will eventually give us more control and an opportunity for greater self-governance.” Yet, another one of the school’s founders, Brandon Pryor, put the need for the academy more bluntly. “When you attempt to feed something foreign to people, they will likely throw it up,” he says. “The information that we continue to feed the school district about how to educate our

Black kids seems to be foreign to DPS who, metaphorically, regurgitates any advice concerning African American students.” Pryor, a community activist, says he agrees with his colleagues that relationships are the key. “What we learned touring the schools in Chicago was that not only do we have to establish relationships with the students we must also know our parents—they are the backbone,” he says. “Ideally, we want to provide wrap-around services where members of the community are welcomed— that the school becomes more of a community hub.” According to Pryor, the school is designed to build critical thinking skills needed to navigate and succeed in a global environment. “We will ensure high standards by instilling pride through an intentional focus on blackness and a celebration of

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our culture,” he says. “It will be grounded in the tenets of HBCUs.” According to Principal Abney-Wisdom, the school is already attracting interest from educators around the nation. “Although we have not begun our formal recruitment process, we are fielding calls from teachers letting us know that they are interested in being a part of what we are building here in Denver,” she says. .


Spring into Fitness! By Kim Farmer

S pring is here and

most people are ready to shed any weight they may have gained through the winter. To get your body into shape, it is important to start spring fitness with a realistic approach. The first thing to remember is to find a healthy balance between your physical activity level and your food choices that work with your specific lifestyle. Your physical activity must include doing something you love so that you will be consistent and continue to do it for the long term. And when it comes to your food intake, remember to eat everything in moderation and choose a sensible diet that has enough substance that you will feel satisfied. Diets that are very low in calories (less than 1200 calories per day) are very hard to sustain for more than a few days.

Here are a few tips to spring into fitness: Don’t become obsessed with the scale. It can be discouraging to see the scale go up a little or not move at all after you feel like you have made a lot of sacrifices. However, your weight will likely fluctuate over short periods of time due to water weight, muscle gain, or salty foods. Instead, weigh yourself once every week or so – this way the scale will not control your emotions. Be realistic. Losing weight is not an overnight venture and hence you have to set realistic expectations. In most cases, the immediate weight loss is only due to water – the real weight loss usually starts to occur after 14 days of consistent exercise and proper nutrition. Stay consistent. The road to successful spring fitness must include consistency. You will not lose weight if you just work

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out once a week and then take a break for a week. You will need to be consistent in your exercise regimen which means working out at least 4-5 days a week and at a minimum 20 minutes each day if possible. It is okay to miss a day or two once in a while and you should not feel guilty about it. If you need to break your daily exercise sessions up into shorter sessions in order to fit them in, go for it. Choose the right type and amount of exercise. You may think that you can only be successful if you lift weights, include intense aerobic activity or use the latest exercise machines. There is no evidence that one type of exercise is better than another unless you are an athlete with performance goals which may require specific types of training. If you are just starting out, walking is as good an exercise as any but you should try to walk at least 30 minutes most days of the week. This can amount to a loss of a few hundred calories every day, which could add up to a couple of thousand calories in one week. At the end of the month, you could lose 2 pounds and by the time spring is over, you could lose 8-10 pounds. The advantages of walking are it is free, it allows you to enjoy nature, feel better, and the exercise is free of complications. Eat right. No matter what type of exercise you choose, you still need to make good food choices. There is no specific eating plan that works better than another, since we are all different - however, if you simply use a common sense approach, you can eat everything in moderation. A general rule of thumb is this: For males, the total calorie count should not be more than about 2500 a day and for females the calorie count should not be much more than 2000 calories and of course less if you would like to lose weight. Eat a diet that is rich in fruits,

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veggies, nuts, whole grains, lean protein, and try to limit the intake of red meat and saturated foods, caffeine, soda and alcohol Of course, the best beverage is water- it can quench your thirst, does not stain your teeth and has no calories. Join the club! If you are the type of person who is not able to exercise alone at home, then join an exercise club or gym. Many gyms are open with safety guidelines in place and there are many gyms all over the country and they offer a range of exercises, machines, weight lifting equipment, sauna, racquet ball games, and you will always find someone that shares your goals. Rest. Do not over train as this only leads to fatigue and a dislike for the exercise. Focus on the quality of exercise as well as the quantity. You should give the body enough time to rest and recover. Remember, warmup before starting an exercise and cool down and stretch for 5-10 minutes after. This will help prevent injuries. Find a friend. The majority of people who accomplish their goals do so when they undertake exercise with the company of others. Mutual friends can help motivate and support each other when you get bored with a certain exercise or become unmotivated. We can all improve on our level of fitness and spring is a great time to start something new. Start a new walking program, grab a friend or join a gym to help you stay motivated. And of course there is always an option to get help from a professional trainer if you just can’t seem to get started or keep going. Have a healthy week! . Editor’s note: Kim Farmer of Mile High Fitness & Wellness offers inhome personal training and corporate wellness solutions. For more information, visit www.milehighfitness.com or email inquiries@milehighfitness.com.


stances, Shu said she is happy to be here. “I’ve lived in the U.S. my entire life, and the past year my family and I just felt like maybe it’s time to get our citizenship,” the 23-yearold said. “So yeah, I’m really excited for this to finally be happening.” Shu and her parents moved from China to the United States when she was 4 years old. Now she’s 23 and geared up to take her Oath of Allegiance: She wore a dusty rose blazer, a tan turtleneck, Continued on page 30

COVID Changed Everything, Including How Colorado Immigrants Become American By May Ortega, CPR News

W

endy Shu waited a long time for this day. She took her seat in a large, but mostly empty room with 11 other people at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services field office in Metro Denver. Everyone wore masks and sat eight feet apart, ready to take the Oath of Allegiance to become United States citizens. At the front of the room, a man stood in a suit, also wearing a mask. “You’ll look around the room, there’s a lot of empty space,” said Andy Lambrecht, the director of the USCIS Denver branch. “Normally our ceremonies would be packed full of family and friends here to celebrate,” Lambrecht said to the group of soon-to-be-citizens. “And that’s one of the things that makes me most sad about this whole thing, is that we’re not able to have those full celebrations.” All government operations have slowed down since the COVID-19 pandemic started: taxes, getting your Social Security benefits, even the mail. And the process of becoming a U.S. citizen hasn’t been spared. Pre-COVID, naturalization ceremonies would happen in Colorado libraries, museums and even at Rocky Mountain National Park. As many as 60 people were sworn in together at a time, and the whole ceremony could take close to an hour. Now it’s all done in a USCIS Field Office room in Centennial, a dozen at a time in about 10 minutes. It might not be ideal, but it does what it’s supposed to do. Regardless of the circum-

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Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware) How new home builders have lowered their standards and its effect on customer service Op-ed by Barry Overton Over the past 10 plus years, Denver real estate has been one of the biggest booming markets in the entire country. While there have been ebbs and flows during that period, it has been a consistent market moving in an upward trajectory. With the emergence of COVID-19, many thought we would see a crash in the market, but it has been just the opposite. It has been a double-edged sword. A thriving real estate market helps to keep the economy strong, but with unemployment and layoffs, it has become exceedingly harder for home buyers to find affordable housing. Two contributing factors that have caused us to stay in this hot real estate market is low interest rates combined with low inventory. This has resulted in many buyers bidding for the same home. This subsequently results in new buyers paying more than the asking price, and in many situations, paying more than the appraised value for their new home. This has then shifted the direction for buyers to start purchasing new construction homes. The benefit of purchasing a new construction home is the price is locked in, once you purchase it, you don’t have to get into a bidding war, and property typically will go up in value from the time that you sign the contract, to purchase until you close on the property. This has put builders around the metro area at a great advantage that many builders are abusing.

I have always been a big proponent for buyers purchasing new construction homes. The idea of being able to create and put your own style to your home is a great feeling, but I take a buyer beware mindset into the home buying process with my clients. With these vastly changing developments in the market, home builders seem to be looking out more for themselves than their customers. Here are a few examples of situations that are not taking the customer or client satisfaction role as a home builder. Over the past six months, I’ve experienced increased pricing by home builders. In some instances, multiple times within the same month. I’ve personally had experiences where the price has increased on houses, even without a house being sold during some of those price increases. Now, while the cost of lumber and other materials and delivery has been affected by COVID-19, I don’t believe those increases are going up $20,000 to $30,000 in about a 60 to 90 day period, but yet and still, I am seeing price increases that are going up that much. One particular builder that I’ve worked with on three separate occasions over the last year and a half has provided the worst customer service that I’ve ever experienced in my 20 years of real estate. This particular builder has worked with three of my customers. All three have gone through their walkthrough orientation, which is one week before closing. All three were incomplete houses. Most builders do a walkthrough orientation with completed house that is ready to move into that day, aside from some minor blemishes. But on these three separate occasions, we went into houses that still needed to be painted and still needed to have cabinet work done. One was so bad that it didn’t have any toilets, sinks or kitchen appliances installed in the house.

This is not how a house should be presented to a new homeowner. But this was simply a rush by the builder wanting to be able to close on the house before the end of the year, so that the house is no longer on their books. Another example that has been a longstanding practice with builders is to incentivize using their “preferred” lender, which in most cases they actually own that mortgage company. So, in essence, the builder gets paid twice from the sale of the house, and from the mortgage which they eventually sell to a bigger bank. Now, in most cases, this is not a practice that has affected my buyers, but it does raise ethical concerns. I’ve also seen builders punish a buyer for not using their preferred lender. In some instances, if you did not use their preferred lender, the buyers’ earnest money ends up being twice the amount than normal. It’s these types of practices that make it extremely important for a buyer to have a good understanding who are some of the better builders to work with. As a buyer, this is the biggest investment that you will make in your life. And the builder should treat the transaction with the customer care it deserves. It is always recommended that you go into the home purchasing process with a new construction purchase, with a realtor that is working for you. For questions or information, feel free to reach out to me or any real estate professional to ensure your best interest is being protected. . Editor’s note: Barry Overton is a licensed Real Estate Agent 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 barrysellsdenver@ msn.com.

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Making transmissions well since 1983.


A Forgotten Chapter, A Persistent Problem By Thomas Holt Russell

A

lmost 100 years ago, African American Luther Boddy received notoriety for killing two white detectives in Harlem. Over 40,000 police were deployed in a massive three-state manhunt. A look behind the headlines reveals that Boddy faced the same problems that African Americans still face today.

Since Boddy was known as a frequent criminal, they thought it would be useful to bring him in for questioning. The detectives apprehended Boddy while he was reporting to his parole officer. The detectives did not put him in handcuffs and did not search him thoroughly. Approximately 50 feet from the police station, Boddy leaped backward, drew his gun, and shot both detectives. He ran away and lost

“I cannot understand why some men, immediately on donning a police uniform, become instruments of horror and cruel methods.”

himself in a crowd of “negroes”. Miller was shot in the head and died on his way to the hospital. They tried to save Buckley with a transfusion, but it was not successful. From his death bed in Harlem Hospital, detective Buckley stated to his fellow cops that gathered around his bed, “Get Boddy, he’s a cop fighter.” Immediately, 11,000 police officers combed the Harlem tenement houses known to police to have criminal hideouts and cellars with secret passageways. Buildings were built flush next to each other for entire blocks sometimes, providing rooftop getaways. The officers searched building by

Morris Koeing, Luther Boddy’s lawyer, 1922

Luther Boddy, an ex-convict who was known to police in Harlem, for several run-ins with the law, killed two white New York City Detectives, William H. Miller, and Francis J.M. Buckley. The detectives were bringing Boddy in for questioning relating to the shooting of a Black policeman weeks earlier. The Black policeman was shot at four times and hit twice, in the abdomen and shoulder.

building and block by block. The Black Harlem community was in an uproar because the police “were not always gentle with negroes that answered slyly or stupidly.” But Boddy was no longer in New York. In just a couple of days, 40,000 policemen were part of a massive manhunt that spanned three states.

dition papers for Boddy to go back to New York. He was tried and convicted sentenced to die in the electric chair at Sing Sing. When the guilty verdict was read, “a faint smile overspread Boddy’s features.” Boddy was executed on August 31, 1922, two-hundred and thirty-eight days after the killing. His last word to the doctor that was helping to execute him was, “Goodbye, Doc.” Witnesses said he was calm and smiled the whole time.

...

After the killing of the two detectives, things got a little interesting. Boddy took a bus, a crosstown car, and then the subway and ended up in New Jersey, where he went to a friend’s house, a woman, and borrowed her clothes to disguise himself as a woman. He commandeered a taxicab by pulling a gun on the driver. The taxi took him to Pennsylvania. But after the vehicle ran out of gas the driver was able to escape. Boddy hid out with some friends and was captured by Philadelphia police because of his friends’ betrayal. Pennsylvania Governor Sproul quickly signed extra-

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This big story has been lost in the forgotten attic of history. However, there are still lessons to be learned from it. A look into this event is an emotionally exhausting story of how law enforcement had harassed the Black population from seemingly the beginning when Africans first landed in America. And most disturbing, it is a mirror of what is still going on today. During this crime in 1921–22, more than 100 Blacks had been lynched when the Tulsa Race Massacre had taken place. The Ku Klux Klan was at its apex in membership (4 million) and public activities such as festivals, pageants, and social gatherings. And on top of those woes, America suffered a depression where the unemployment rate was 11.7 percent. There were no data collected on unemployment by race until 1954, but history has consistently taught us the Black unemployment is invariably at least twice the rate of white unemployment. The unemployment rate may have been well over 23 percent in the Black communities during Boddy’s time on earth. Crime is a viable but dangerous way to survive during rough times. And when that is the chosen pathway to survive, law enforcement and Black communities become entangled in a never-ending cycle of mistrust, brutal violence, death, and incarceration.


A Betrayal By Friends, A big headline

Luther Boddy, by all accounts, was not a choir boy. He had been arrested several times for burglary and larceny, and other petty crimes, but strangely, he was convicted of only a few of those crimes because of lack of evidence. However, when crimes were committed in Harlem, he was a usual suspect, the go-to man for the police questioning. He was often arrested and taken to the police station. In the police station, his rights were repeatedly violated. He was consistently physically beaten by police officers and detectives. According to Boddy’s testimony, the two detectives that he eventually killed also took part in those beatings.

Detective Francis Buckley — deathbed conviction

The law officers beat him so bad that he sometimes had to take a week to recover from the injuries and remained bedridden. When they picked him up and questioned him about the shooting of a Black cop named Jasper Rhodes, Boddy said he had nothing to with that shooting. Attaching Boddy to the shooting Rhodes was simply an excuse for detectives to pick him up and torture him. Luther Boddy’s mother was described in the newspapers as a Southern “mammy” type. She was illiterate and had to have someone read to her the letter about her son’s arrest. Boddy was the youngest of her four children. She stated that he suffered recurring epileptic fits as a child. He suffered so much from the fits, she noted, that she could not chastise him. She said that he would even froth from the mouth. She found room in her grief to appeal to the family of the slain officers, “My old heart bleeds for the families of the detectives. There will be hard nights for me, and I won’t sleep much. I thank God he wasn’t killed when they caught him. He’s got time to pray for forgiveness and I’ll have time to pray for him.”

Pennsylvania Governor Sproul — wasted no time to extradite Boddy

As for shooting the white detectives, Boddy said he panicked. He knew even if he was not formally charged, he had a beating coming that may kill him. He had suffered enough beatings. The result can best be described as having a panic attack; he snapped. The detectives did not frisk him thoroughly. But Boddy pulled out a gun that was in a holster under his left arm and shot both his tormentor detectives. Miller was shot in the head and died on his way to the hospital. Buckley died the next afternoon in the hospital. Boddy did not think about the consequences at

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that moment. He only knew that he did not want to take another beating. When the trial was beginning, Boddy’s wife, Cora Brown Boddy, requested that she have a say in selecting the jurors. The court ruled that she had to remain a spectator. During the trial, his lawyer stated that his client was not insane. Pleading insanity was an argument that would not have worked because Boddy seemed to be cool, calm, collected, and lucid during the entire trial. He smiled most of the time and blew kisses at his family. According to a newspaper report, “Boddy testified coolly and showed intelligence and avoided unnecessary work in answering questions…” But his lawyer, probably trying to make up for not being able to use an insanity plea because of the client’s intelligent behavior, declared that Boddy’s brain was underdeveloped. And since his mind was underdeveloped, as his lawyer stated, he did not know right from wrong. Even the prosecutor celebrated Boddy’s intelligence for obvious malevolent reasons, “In all of my experience, I have never met a keener intellect,” The prosecutor stated and effectively destroyed any chance of an insanity plea. This gives birth to a philosophical question; a binary choice was his only option. If killing the detectives was the wrong thing to do, then the right thing for him to do was go willingly to the police station and get the shit beat out of him yet again. Even if he physically resisted without shooting the detectives, he would have been killed on the spot or faced another brutal beating. Just like even prominent Blacks in Harlem, he did not have the resources or the social status or clout to do anything about the torture the cops were inflicting on him. Continued on page 22


A Forgotten Chapter Continued from page 21 The police had all of the judicial system’s power and the backing of the entire political machine. Beating Black men without cause was part of the job, and no one was going to persecute a White cop for beating a Black man, especially a Black man who is considered a criminal. The fact that the law could use a black body any way they wanted without paying any price has remained entrenched in America. That way of thinking is still alive today. Trayvon Martin, only a 16-year-old, did not have the right to protect himself from the armed White man that stalked and killed him for no reason. That is why his killer was set free. And more recently, the death of George Floyd, who had his life snuffed out rather casually in broad daylight, in front of dozens of witnesses and cameras recording the incident. In his trial, Boddy testified on his own behalf and emphasized that once, seven detectives beat him with a broomstick encased in a rubber hose. He stated he had been picked up several times as a “suspect” but was hardly ever held as a prisoner. Boddy named his tormentors, which included the two detectives he killed. He also claimed that they came to his home once and beat him, but they did not arrest him. He was their personal punching bag. A witness stated that when Boddy was arrested, Miller and Buckley “used vile epithets” and warned Boddy that they were going to beat him when they got to the station. But this meant nothing to the jury. The prosecutor responded, “Many rats who are tried in the criminal courts seek the excuse of mistreatment by policemen.” At the time of Boddy’s execution, The Freeman newspaper wrote that Luther Boddy was “…returning evil for evil. As

the police themselves had taught him to do.” The court made the detectives out to be Saints. This is despite the fact that detective Miller was known as a “framer” in the underworld. He once convicted a man on a larceny charge, but the charge was dropped because of Miller’s perjured testimony. This information was not allowed to be presented in court. And as an indictment on racism and its effect on capital punishment, The Freeman Newspaper wrote this assessment, which could have been written yesterday, instead of almost 100 years ago: “…as long as thousands of men want work and cannot find it; as long as politicians play fast and loose with legislation, and judges gamble with the principles of justice; as long as the police administer brutal punishment before the trial; we shall find it hard to swallow the notion that the extension of capital punishment will help very much to clear this country of crime.” In other words, the fear of death (as punishment) is not as intense as the need to survive in an imbalanced world. After the Great War, Harlem’s Black residents condemned the use of the “Third Degree.” The Third Degree was the practice of police beating Black people while they were arrested or in custody. Though most Blacks did not want to publicly defend Boddy’s actions, they did point out that Black citizens’ treatment could

lead to such an outcome and retaliation is not surprising. The Chicago Defender explained, “The death of the police officers, as unfortunate as it was, had, however, brought forcibly to attention the growing practice of New York Policemen and detectives of unmercifully beating people placed under arrest or taken into the station for questioning.” W.E.B. Du Boise, the great sociologist and civil rights activist, weighed in on the case, “What more pathetic, baffling and heart-rendering case can one conceive?” Du Boise admitted Boddy’s guilt but also pointed out that society was also guilty. He pointed out that society laughed at and ridiculed and hated Boddy. What good can come from that? After Boddy’s execution, a solemn mass was held for detectives Miller and Buckley at the Church of St. Charles Borromeo in Harlem. Miller was married and the father of nine children. Buckley was also married with three children. A few months after the mass, they were honored posthumously with an award for bravery. The detectives were well known in Harlem and hated by the Black citizens for their treatment of the Black population. Perhaps to help keep the peace, Black Harlem residents arranged a benefit theater performance at the New Douglass Theater. They raised more than $3,500 for the families of the slain detectives. The mayor of New York, John Francis Hylan, prayed at their funeral.

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Boddy became a folk hero in Harlem. Many men were beaten by police, but few retaliated in the way that Boddy did. He just did not want to get beat again. More than 30,000 people attended his funeral, and thousands more lined the streets to watch the hearse carrying his body move slowly down Seventh Avenue. It cannot be said that the killing of these two detectives ushered in reform for the better. As a matter of fact, things probably became worse as some cops were out for retaliation in any form that they could. Only 25 days passed from the murder taking place to the jury finding Boddy guilty. It did not help that another cop was killed by an African American named Frank Whaley in the middle of his trial. The past is relevant. Everything that we have been doing so far did not fix this problem between cops and African Americans. Our experience is the empiric knowledge we need to move towards a better tomorrow. The contumacious relationship between police and Black citizens does not have to last an eternity. Indirect problems have to be solved first by addressing poverty, employment, health, and education. That’s where our energy should be. These are the same unsolved issues we had in 1920 and the same we have in 2021. If we don’t address and solve those problems first, we will forever continue in this loop..


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A COLAB SPECIAL

Three Bullets to the Back: The Striking Silence Around a Police Killing in Small-town Colorado By Susan Greene and Priscilla Waggoner

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early a year has passed since the local undersheriff and a rookie deputy gunned down handyman Zach Gifford in this Eastern Plains county where trust in law enforcement is a given. What started as a traffic stop on April 9, 2020 ended with 39year-old Gifford, the unarmed passenger, dying in a nearby field, three bullet holes in his back.  Kiowa County Sheriff Casey Sheridan has said virtually nothing about his murder in the 11 months since. The sheriff did fire the deputy, Quinten Stump – not for shooting Gifford, but for drunkenly shooting up a traffic sign with his duty weapon several months later. In January, after a state investigation, District Attorney Josh Vogel charged Stump with two counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count of assault with a deadly weapon, making Stump one of few officers prosecuted for an on-duty killing in Colorado.  For reasons Vogel has refused to explain, he declined to press charges against Undersheriff Tracy Weisenhorn, who, like Stump, fired at Gifford twice – after the deputy yelled “Let him go!” She handcuffed Gifford with her pink, personally engraved handcuffs as he lay dying.  The sheriff will not say if he has kept Weisenhorn on patrol, let alone on the payroll. “We back the Blue” is a familiar refrain in this conservative, lawand-order county. Even Gifford’s parents, Carla and Larry Gifford speak uncritically of the sheriff. They say they have been praying for him since April. But too much time has passed and too many questions linger.

Zach Gifford was fatally gunned down by two officers from the Kiowa County Sheriff’s Office on April 9, 2020. The community has kept quiet about his shooting. Photo courtesy of Gifford family

“They need to face this thing. We need to see some manner of accountability,” says Larry Gifford, a former member of the Eads School Board and the town of Eads Board of Trustees.

The Colorado News Collaborative partnered with former Kiowa County Independent Editor Priscilla Waggoner to tell the story of what happened that April afternoon and

Among our findings: Sheriff Sheridan appointed Weisenhorn as his undersheriff without fully checking her background, and hired Stump and kept him on duty despite red flags about his conduct. Months after the official investigation was completed, Sheridan has not discussed Gifford’s killing or announced any policy changes as a result, and the county commission says it knows “very little” about it. But it is not officials’ silence that is most striking. The people of Kiowa County have been equally circumspect about Gifford’s murder, even though many say privately they are troubled by it, the DA’s charging decisions, and what they say they perceive as their elected leaders’ indifference. In a time when George Floyd’s and Elijah McClain’s killings triggered uproar in cities statewide and nationally, the silence around Zach Gifford’s death speaks volumes about the complex dynamics of a small community and its reluctance to hold its own accountable.

Home on the Range

Bryan Morrell, 52, of Brandon is the lone known eye witness to the killing of his friend, Zach Gifford by Kiowa County Sheriff’s officers in April 2020. “It didn’t have to happen that way,” he says. (Photo by Marc Piscotty / © 2020) “We just want to know how a traffic stop in such a rural area could end in killing Zach,” adds Carla. “It’s hurtful. These are people we’ve known for forty years, my goodness, and they didn’t even acknowledge our calls.”

in its aftermath. We filed 11 freedom of information requests, combed through dozens of sheriff’s department records, investigation reports and court documents, and spoke with at least 68 people over 11 months.

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Larry and Carla Gifford moved to Kiowa County from Kansas in 1979 – he to teach physical education and coach middle school sports and she to teach special ed, both in Eads, the county seat. Zach was born a year later, the second of three sons who grew up with free run of the then-600-something-person farm town. He was the wiggliest of the brothers, thriving less in classrooms or on sports fields than he did fixing things and working with his hands. He was the kid locals would ask to prune a tree or rescue a kitten, and who’d show up to mend fences or pull weeds for the town’s widows and elderly, slipping away before they noticed or tried paying him.


Red Flags Seven people work for the Kiowa County Sheriff’s Department – two civilians and five officers who patrol this 1,786 square-mile southeastern plains county. Sheriff Casey Sheridan, known here simply as Casey, was elected in 2014 and 2018, both times without a challenger.

Locator map by Alison Cooper, the Colorado News Collaborative Those gestures embodied what locals cherish about Kiowa County, where residents share a deep commitment to helping each other survive on this stretch of southeastern Colorado near the Kansas border. That commitment to one another is what made the first inhabitants collectively move the town of Eads – literally, move every single house and business three different times – to make sure that once the Missouri-Pacific finally laid down tracks, they would be right alongside them. Sixty years later, it’s what led people in town to build a swimming pool so they could teach every child to swim after a young girl drowned in a nearby lake in 1953 and a beloved postmaster lost his life trying to save her. It’s what last year prompted a group of growers to rush out with their tractors and shovels to put out a wildland fire that was threatening the herds. Severe drought has made ranching and farming too risky for some longtime families. Over the course of Zach Gifford’s life, the county’s population dropped by a quarter to just under 1,500. People died. People moved on. Gifford stayed. He stood out by remaining single, with no kids. He also stood out for his long hair and pierced tongue and ears. He favored white sleeveless undershirts paired with a fedora, a look that gave him more than a passing resemblance to the once-popular musician Kid Rock. He worked the odd jobs of a handyman – carpentry, tree-trimming, landscaping – at rates clients say were below the quality of his work. “He was always excited to just … do projects. Whatever it was. He was one of those guys

who never had a full-time job, but he was always working … and more times than not it was to help out other people,” says musician and friend, Jamie Crockett. “He would drop everything and help you in a minute,” adds neighbor Shoni McKnight, whose fall on a loose step one night prompted Gifford to build her a new staircase by the next evening. Gifford had his demons, as family and friends refer to the drinking problem and methamphetamine habit that led to years of heartache as well as several traffic offenses, two misdemeanor theft convictions in 2001 and 2005, and a felony conviction for drug possession in 2003. “I know he struggled. We saw him struggle with his addictions,” says Laura Negley, a rancher who hired him to occasionally work her land. Gifford had lost his driver’s license for a traffic offense years ago, and when eligible to reinstate it opted not to because driving would give him all-too-easy access to buying meth. So he would walk or bike where he needed to go, or sometimes make his leisurely way in this county of wide expanses on a lawnmower, waving to drivers whizzing past on the roads. “Zach had a relationship with everyone,” says his friend Joanna Beck. Gifford’s family says he felt grounded, even needed in Kiowa County – so much so that he stayed after his brothers moved away and parents followed in 2018 to live near their grandkids in Colorado Springs. He told them he felt safe here, far from the temptations of busier places, and away from the prospect of trouble.

Zach Gifford Photo courtesy of Gifford family

Sheridan hired Deputy Quinten Stump in April 2019, though the rookie deputy’s record raised red flags. A one-time youth rodeo star who wrote on a job application that he wanted to follow his grandfather’s footsteps as a cop, Stump had held two previous deputy jobs. He landed the first, in Norwood, Colorado, straight out of the academy in 2018. He lasted three months. “Let’s just say he had made some mistakes and it didn’t seem to get any better. He wasn’t a good fit. He didn’t take direction very well,” says town administrator Patti Grafmyer. A mug shot of former Kiowa County Sheriffs Deputy Quinten Stump upon his January 12, 2021 booking in Prowers County Jail on three felony charges for his involvement in Zach Gifford’s killing. (Photo courtesy of Prowers County Sheriffs Office) The Kit Carson County Sheriff’s Department hired Stump a month later. He lasted only four months there. The department declined to say why his time there was so short.

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Stump and Sheridan have not returned several phone calls seeking comment. Earning $33,571 a year, Stump spent much of his time in Kiowa County monitoring traffic along the busy U.S. Route 287. Months into the job, he was writing dozens of tickets a day, according to data obtained through a freedom of information request. During one eight-hour shift in December 2019, Stump issued 48 tickets.

A mug shot of former Kiowa County Sheriffs Deputy Quinten Stump upon his January 12, 2021 booking in Prowers County Jail on three felony charges for his involvement in Zach Gifford’s killing. (Photo courtesy of Prowers County Sheriffs Office) “He patrolled the shit out of the roads,” says Tyler Pevler, a former deputy who worked with Stump and, by comparison, says he issued 87 traffic tickets in a year. “I just never trusted the guy, but he wrote a lot of tickets and made the sheriff’s office look good.” As in most cities and towns, traffic ticket revenue helps fund local government. Stump’s aggressive policing went beyond prolific ticketing. In December 2019, court records show he ticketed Christian Forney of Greeley for speeding and driving with a suspended license. Forney says Stump handcuffed him, placed him in the back of his patrol car, and returned to Forney’s car to speak with his fiancée. Forney banged his head against the back of the front seat, cursing out of frustration with himself. Stump, he says, ran back, grabbed him from the squad car, threw him into a ditch, wrestled him down and kneed him until other officers arrived. Continued on page 26


Continued from page 25 “I never did anything to him. I never pushed him. I never put my hand on him. It was excessive, to say the least,” says Forney, adding that Stump drove up to 119 miles an hour on the way to the jail. Forney’s lawyer, Mark Davis, told the DA’s office about Stump’s behavior after the Gifford shooting. The prosecutor eventually dropped the charges.   General contractor Josh Brown says Stump stopped him because his pickup resembled one driven by a poacher for whom deputies were searching. “First thing, he walks up, grabs his gun and orders me out of the vehicle,” he says. “He was a little aggressive. Actually a lot. … That’s not how it’s done around here.” Pevler says Stump was part of the reason he quit the sheriff’s office in January 2020. He had complained about his colleague’s crudeness, including “overtures toward women when he would pull them over, talk to or text them, see them.” He says he saw Stump use armed force several times, but ended the interview when asked if that use seemed excessive: “I don’t really feel comfortable saying anything about that now because I may want another job in law enforcement.”

Undersheriff Tracy Weisenhorn as pictured on the Kiowa County Sheriff’s Office website. (Photo by Kiowa County Sheriff’s Office) Undersheriff Tracy Weisenhorn, 46, comes from a family of cops, including a brother who was an officer with the Prowers County Sheriff’s Department. She had worked several law enforcement jobs – the longest was 12 years as

a deputy and investigator in Prowers and the most recent was six months as a detective with the Leadville Police Department. Sheridan, records show, hired Weisenhorn in late January 2020, the same day she authorized him and his staff to conduct a mandatory background check and a week before the department notarized that authorization. She was on the job, then, before Sheridan could have fully vetted her.  

“Y’all killed my friend” Brandon is a small cluster of buildings some refer to as a ghost town in eastern Kiowa County near the Kansas border. The former railroad stop lost its post office in 1963, and all that remains are a handful of homes, two grain elevators on both sides of State Highway 96 and the railroad tracks that run parallel to it. Brandon sits a few miles southeast of where soldiers with the Colorado U.S. Volunteer Cavalry killed at least 230 Arapahoe and Cheyenne people in the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre, and about 20 miles east of Eads. On the day Weisenhorn and Stump shot Zach Gifford, he was in Brandon at the home of his friend, Bryan Morrell, helping out with some home repairs. The officers’ accounts of what happened that day are laid out in a 57-page Colorado Bureau of Investigation affidavit for Stump’s arrest warrant obtained under the state law that requires criminal justice records be accessible to the public. That affidavit also includes an interview with Morrell – who is the lone eyewitness – as well as reports from walk-throughs of the scene, forensic analyses and detailed, written summaries of both officers’ body camera footage, which has not been made public. Weisenhorn told investigators she was on a call in Brandon when she decided to drive by a house she had been surveilling. She said tipsters, whose names she said she could not remember, had reported possible “drug activity” at the home.When she arrived, she told investigators,

The intersection of CO Highway 96 and Main Street in Brandon, Co. where Bryan Morrell and Zach Gifford were pulled over by Kiowa County Sheriff’s officers in April 2020. Kiowa County Undersheriff Tracy Weisenhorn and Deputy Sheriff Quinten Stump fatally gunned Gifford, the passenger, down as he tried running from them. (Photo by Marc Piscotty / © 2020) she saw Morrell and Gifford get into Stump tackled Gifford, both a truck. Morrell was driving. men tumbling to the ground. She followed, pulling Morrell The next 48 seconds brought a over when he failed to use his turn flurry of grabbing and wrestling – signal.  both officers trying to cuff Gifford It was 2:46 p.m. Stump, out on as he tried to break free, the patrol nearby, arrived shortly after- officers yelling commands, each ward.  tasering him at least once, Stump Weisenhorn told investigators also applying an electric charge she thought the pair was acting directly to Gifford’s upper neck suspiciously once she pulled them and shoulder, Gifford screaming.  over, moving about in the front “Stop moving, give me your seat as if “they were hiding somehands, stop,” Weisenhorn’s body thing.” She said she asked Morrell camera, at that point knocked to and Gifford if they had been using the ground, captures her saying.  drugs because she could see someWeisenhorn, cursing, told thing in their eyes. “Especially Gifford she was going to shoot yours,” she said to Gifford. She him. The affidavit says body camera told investigators that he was fidgfootage shows Gifford reaching ety and appeared “very high.” into his pocket.  Both men agreed to be “Let him go, let him go,” Stump searched, with Weisenhorn patting told Weisenhorn, according to down Morrell and Stump patting body camera footage referenced in down Gifford. Stump told investithe affidavit. “No, he’s grabbing for gators he did not confiscate a box- something,” Weisenhorn replied. cutter and pliers “with a knife-like “I’m going to shoot you. Stop,” feel” that Gifford was carrying Weisenhorn said again as Stump because he “did not see those backed away from Gifford, who items as a threat.” He said he then was on his knees and reaching felt and spotted “a small plastic bag towards his waistband. On her with something in it” in the coin knees behind Gifford, she had her pocket of Gifford’s jeans. gun at his back. Stump drew his “Zach, do not move,” Stump gun. ordered.  Gifford stood and started to The body camera footage run, with Weisenhorn trying unsucdescribed in the affidavit depicts a cessfully to stop him. Gifford broke scene that immediately escalated away from her. As she stood, the as Gifford tried to pull away. Stump camera on the ground captured had not told Weisenhorn that he Weisenhorn yelling “stop,” firing found a baggie, not a gun, and her gun and moving out of the Weisenhorn later told investigators frame. Stump, out of view, can be heard yelling, “Zach!” followed by a she feared Gifford might have a second gunshot, and, two seconds weapon. That kind of fear, if found later, a third.  to be legitimate, generally protects Eighteen seconds later, officers from being prosecuted for Weisenhorn – off camera – yelled, wounding or killing people.

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“Stop” before a fourth and final shot is heard. Stump, she said, had fired it. Gifford fell to the ground about 24 yards from where the final bullet was fired. Stump radioed that shots had been fired and Weisenhorn called for medical assistance. Both officers told investigators they could not see Gifford’s hands as he ran and feared he might have a weapon. Stump said he worried, in particular, that Gifford might pose a threat to residents of Brandon who he said would have been home because of the statewide COVID lockdown. Somewhere between six and 11 people live in Brandon, which is considered a ghost town.  Weisenhorn told investigators she found Gifford lying on his stomach, hands at his waistband and “still fighting” when she got to him. She handcuffed him, trying to pat him down, then rolled him on his side. Gifford, shot through a lung, told her he couldn’t breathe, she said. In her first interview with investigators, she said he asked her to tell his family that he loved them, adding “I have always wanted to die. Just let me die.” She told investigators she assured Gifford that he was not going to die. She started CPR. Her final exchange with Gifford cannot be corroborated. Weisenhorn at that time was not wearing her body camera, which was still on the ground by the truck, and she had instructed Stump to return to Morrell after she cuffed Gifford.  Weisenhorn also did not repeat her story about Gifford’s alleged dying words in a subsequent interview – this one with her lawyer present. Nor did CBI investigators follow up with her on that point. John Holland, the Gifford family’s lawyer, says, “People who want police to kill them attack the police. Zach was running away from them.”  “It is very troubling that, having shot Zach repeatedly, one of his shooters would try to make it appear that he wanted to die that day. This unfortunately is not an

uncommon ploy in unjustified law enforcement killing cases.” State crime bureau investigators concluded that each officer shot twice, but that only three of their bullets struck Gifford. Only one bullet was recovered, and that was found in his lower back.  The medical examiner’s report finds that the lethal wound came from the bullet piercing Gifford’s lung, but investigators said they could not determine who fired it. The report went on to determine Gifford’s death to be a homicide caused by massive blood loss from multiple gunshot wounds. The autopsy found methamphetamine in Gifford’s blood. Two small baggies with residue from meth were found in the grass near his body.  Weisenhorn’s fallen body camera captured Morrell yelling “Y’all killed my friend,” repeating the words several seconds later as if they were a question.  “He was just trying to get away because they were hurting him,” Morrell says months later, his hand trembling at the Thunderbird Café up the highway.

A Pass Sheriff Sheridan asked the Prowers County Sheriff’s Office to investigate Gifford’s shooting along with the state crime bureau, which processed the scene and conducted the officer interviews. Sheridan also put Weisenhorn and Stump on paid administrative leave, as is customary after a police shooting until the investigation is finished and the prosecutor has decided whether to press charges. But in May, Kiowa County residents said they had seen Weisenhorn wearing her uniform and driving a patrol car, and Stump, dressed in civilian clothes, wearing his badge on his belt and carrying a gun. Locals wondered how seriously Sheridan was taking the Gifford shooting. In response to an inquiry, the sheriff’s office said the officers were following policy. That policy does not require officers to turn in their badges and guns while on paid administrative leave, unlike policies in many other departments statewide. The question of whether Weisenhorn was working

“Made it home from Sturgis. Had a great time. Best get away, with amazing friends,” she wrote on August 11 while posting 80 photos from the trip, including one of the sheriff. The trip caused a stir among residents who were still in the dark about the outcome of the investigation. Sheridan has yet to answer questions about vacationing with his undersheriff while the criminality of her role in killing Gifford was still in question. He also refuses to say if Weisenhorn remains on his staff, but as of this week, her name has been removed from the office’s website and the undersheriff job is listed as vacant.

Kiowa County Sheriff Casey Sheridan has stayed virtually silent, at least publicly, about Gifford’s killing, and has refused phone calls from the Gifford family seeking answers. (Photo: Kiowa County Sheriff’s Office website)

Bryan Morrell, 52, of Brandon is the lone known eye witness to the killing of his friend, Zach Gifford by Kiowa County Sheriff’s officers in April 2020. “It didn’t have to happen that way,” he says. (Photo by Marc Piscotty / © 2020) remained unanswered. He says he can’t stop thinking In August, two months after the about what happened that afterinvestigation was completed but noon. Gifford did nothing to physibefore the district attorney had cally threaten either officer, he decided whether to charge, says, and drug possession should Weisenhorn joined Sheridan and not warrant a death sentence. others on a trip to the annual “It’s just hard to talk about. Oh, motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South goddamn. Crying,” Morrell says, Dakota. Weisenhorn posted pictearing up.  tures of the trip on her Facebook “If only I’d used my turn signal.” page. Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2021

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Sheridan was not much more transparent about Stump‘s employment status. On Sept. 24, according to an official reprimand, the deputy was drunk and riding as a passenger in a car driven by his exgirlfriend – a county social services case manager – when he fired two rounds at a highway sign with his duty-issued gun. The sheriff asked the state to investigate the incident and fired Stump when that probe was complete two months later. Yet he still refuses to talk about the former deputy. In the meantime, the Kiowa County Commission has said nothing publicly about Stump or Weisenhorn, nor about Gifford’s killing in general. “They’ve been advised. They don’t feel comfortable,” said county administrator Continued on page 28


Continued from page 27 Tina Adamson. Gifford’s death, she added, is “a subject matter we know very little about,” she said on March 5. By that point, the 57-page affidavit describing what happened had been available upon request for almost two months. George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis and Elijah McClain’s killing in Aurora, both at the hands of police, prompted protests nationally and in cities and towns throughout Colorado. Following uproar about excessive police force, Colorado’s General Assembly passed sweeping police reform legislation that bans officers from using deadly force against those suspected of minor or nonviolent offenses and requires officers to intervene if they witness another officer doing so. The legislation also makes police officers who violate people’s civil rights personally responsible in state court. Those measures passed two months after Gifford’s killing and won’t go into effect until 2023.

to distinguish that feeling from the Black Lives Matter protests she sees on TV. “It’s kind of low-class behavior to me.”  “I think that the people in our community are more solid, more unradical, if that’s a word, than to do that. We feel that there will be justice, and God has a plan in this, and we don’t know what that plan is and we will all have to suffer some kind of persecution,” she says. “I’ve tried not to write or say anything, although I know what’s in my heart and my emotions. I shouldn’t even talk about it.” 

groceries at the market, the guy who hunts and rides motorcycles with some of your friends or delights your kids by driving his squad car down Maine Street with the lights on and the siren going, leading the bus carrying the football team to state. “There’s a mentality to people on the Eastern Plains. We’re the kind of people who want to wait and watch,” says Joe Shields, Eads’ mayor. “If someone makes a mistake or does something wrong, we don’t call them out for what they’ve done.” There has been one persistent exception in town to this Zach Gifford with his niece and nephew. (Photo courtesy of Gifford family)

Why the Silence? News of Gifford’s killing hit like a bomb, threatening the identity of a county that prides itself on being small and quiet, without big-city problems. Most community members had no experience, no frame of reference on how to react, if at all. “A lot of people talk about it – just not very loudly,” says McKnight, Gifford’s neighbor.    Some of Gifford’s friends considered staging a protest immediately after the shooting, but the pandemic held them off.  “And then the whole thing with George Floyd happened and it was like … everywhere,” says Gifford’s friend Crockett. “And we didn’t want to have (our protest) be swept up in all that anger and hatred. And we knew it would be.”  Doris Lessenden was Gifford’s former art teacher and neighbor. She withheld judgement about the shooting until learning about the three shots to his back. “Of course, I am angry,” she says, quick

Jimmy Brown, the local funeral home director and elected county coroner, often wonders how a traffic stop in tiny Brandon escalated to a homicide. But, he has chosen to hold his tongue. “I gotta be very cautious because I (don’t) want to comingle my personal feelings with my professional duties.” Gifford’s buddy Josh Brown (no relation to Jimmy) attributes his silence to intimidation from Sheridan. “Nobody here will talk about it, afraid … of backlash from the sheriff’s department,” he says of Gifford’s killing. “It’s illegal to have a voice in Kiowa County, to tell you the truth. … They need to be investigated.” Some locals also express discomfort about speaking out in a small community or pointing the finger at a sheriff who is also a neighbor, the father with a child in school and a nephew who bags

unspoken rule: Jeff Campbell, a prolific writer of letters to the editor who single-handedly has tried to keep Gifford’s death in the public spotlight. Campbell, 70, is a retired police officer and investigator who is a municipal judge in Eads. He has lived in town for 18 years, which, he knows, still makes him an outsider, yet also more comfortable asking hard questions. He said he hired Gifford for a repair job years ago and rehired him several times for others around his house and property. “He did what he said he’d do, never deceived me and never hesitated to re-do something he hadn’t done (right). In all the times I encountered him, I never saw a streak that caused me to hesitate because I thought he was sideways or violent,” he wrote in a letter to the editor of the Kiowa County

Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2021

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Independent about two weeks after Gifford’s killing. Quick to note that his interest in the case is personal, unrelated to his municipal judge duties, Campbell has continued writing about it every week since. He drew on his law enforcement experience to explain typical police standards and procedures and tell readers what to expect in terms of transparency and accountability around the investigation and charging decisions. “In four weeks since mid-afternoon April 9, 2020, when Zach Gifford was shot and killed in Brandon I don’t recall any press briefings from Kiowa or Prowers County. What’s happening? The longer we wait, the more questions and doubts arise. The longer we wait, the fouler the smell,” Campbell wrote on May 6. When no arrests had been made, charges filed, or court dates set in the case by June, he wrote that he was “not alone” and that “scores” of frustrated people had spoken to him about what seemed to be authorities’ inaction. He wrote of the uneasiness in the community, of fear of the police, of the ‘Blue Code’ that protects bad officers.   As with the Army’s 19th Century massacre of Arapahoe and Cheyenne people in nearby Sand Creek, he wrote in another letter, “… ‘good men’ must have taken an active part or looked away.” “You all need to stand,” he implored his fellow residents in a Feb. 25 letter. “You know how. I pray you all will.” But no one has. Publicly criticizing the sheriff or district attorney would be a losing cause in one of Colorado’s most politically conservative communities, rancher Laura Negley says. “You won’t find a more pro-law enforcement county than Kiowa County.” She also sees the community’s silence – and her own – as a sign of deference to Gifford’s parents. “Larry and Carla are not agitators. They are peace lovers. Maybe we’re waiting for someone in the family to say ‘We are hurting. They are hurting us horribly.’”


Former police investigator Jeff Campbell has been virtually the only resident of Kiowa County to publicly call for more transparency and accountability from law enforcement officials around the killing of Zach Gifford. (Photo courtesy of Joanna Pinneo)

Hurting The Giffords are hurting. Their son was shot to death by law enforcement they trusted in a community they had believed to be safe. For nine months, they didn’t know some of the most basic things about what happened. Things like that Stump patted their son down before shooting him, and that Weisenhorn handcuffed him after. And so they made calls, maddening ones, begging for information from Kiowa County officials who didn’t call back, let alone send condolences about their son’s death. In the Giffords’ minds, the run-around that some government agencies require, the obfuscation with which some officials handle information went from bureaucracy to cruelty. And so they stopped even trying to ask. Twelve days into 2021, the couple got word that Stump had been arrested. He is free on $100,000 bond. Carla tried reading the affidavit accompanying his arrest warrant, but needed to stop, and Larry waded into it, night after night, absorbing its details. They both say it manages all at once to spell out what happened to their son, yet explain nothing really at all.  Two weeks later came a fivepage court document filed by DA Vogel charging Stump with the three felony counts, each carrying a sentencing range of 10 to 32

years. A trial, if there is one, could be months away or longer. There is no official tally of how many Colorado law enforcement officers have been criminally prosecuted for killing people on duty. But charges are rare enough that an informal survey of officers, lawyers, scholars, civil rights advocates

and watchdogs throughout the state came up with five cases statewide since 2000. Most did not result in convictions. The Giffords and others say they do not understand why the murder charges against Stump are second- rather than first-degree, and why they’re preceded by the word attempt. “Zach is not attempted dead,” they say. He is dead. The charges feel to them like a slap on the wrist and to many residents interviewed for this Zach Gifford was known throughout Kiowa story. County for donating his time and skills as a The family wants to know why handyman. (Photo courtesy of Gifford family) Weisenhorn isn’t also being county, the Giffords hired John charged, especially when she was the one who made the traffic stop, Holland, a Denver-based civil rights the one who tasered their son first lawyer in February. In a 12-page letter to county commissioners, and also fired twice, including the Holland wrote that Gifford had first shot. been patted down long enough for “That was our son. I just feel Stump and Weisenhorn to know like things were not done properly,” Carla says. “This is a situation he was not carrying a gun. He where you think you know people, cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that law enforcement officers may then something happens like this, not use deadly force on a fleeing and you realize you don’t.” suspect who is not posing “a threat Tired of non-answers from the of serious physical harm” to officers or to others. The county’s failure to discipline Weisenhorn or Stump for the shooting, he added, indicates “that the Sheriff approved of the conduct and the basis for it.”  Holland wrote that the county is liable for Gifford’s death. He says he hopes to meet with county commissioners soon to pose questions that have gone unanswered too long.  Questions like “Where is the justice for Zach?” Larry says.  And, as Carla puts it, “Where is the outcry?”. Editor’s note: This story is brought to you by COLab, the Colorado News Collaborative, a coalition of more than 100 news outlets.

Larry and Carla Gifford hold a favorite photo of their son, 39-year-old Zach Gifford, in their Colorado Springs. home in February. Two Kiowa County sheriffs officers shot Zach Gifford to death in April 2020. (Photo by Marc Piscotty / © 2021) Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2021

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Continued from page 17 and a face covering designed with pink and red flowers on a cream backdrop. Shu is the second member of her family to take the oath. Her mom did it first. Her dad is still in the process. And her little brother was born in the U.S., making him the only citizen in the family for years. But Shu laughed and said he isn’t special anymore. Her family stayed home for the naturalization ceremony. They wouldn’t be allowed past the lobby downstairs anyway, due to COVID19 precautions. If you’re not scheduled for naturalization that day, you can’t come in. Then the time came. Shu and her fellow applicants stood up, raised their hands, and repeated after Lambrecht. After pledging that they “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty,” Lambrecht congratulated the brand new citizens. And the room broke into clapping and cheers. Now that Shu is officially an American, she’s got one thing on her mind. “I’m excited to register to vote for the next election cycle. That’s one of the things I’m most excited to do now that I’m a U.S. citizen,” she said through her mask. “Every four years or every two years for the midterms, everyone gets ready to vote, everyone’s out there voting, and I’m like, ‘I wish I could do it too.’” And now she can. For Shu, the day came sooner than she thought it would. She applied for naturalization in September 2020, and was told the process could take up to a year. But five months later she is a new U.S. citizen, waving a tiny American flag. But not everybody’s journey has been so fast. Aziz Vahobov’s naturalization application has been in limbo for nine months. He said he wants to become a citizen for a lot of reasons. Like Shu, he’s eager to contribute more to his community.

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Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2021

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“I don’t want to be the person who’s just making money, feeding kids, just doing my regular routine,” he said. “I like voting in elections, but I cannot use that opportunity because I am not a citizen.” Vahobov and his wife and two kids moved to Denver from Tajikistan in Central Asia six years ago. When he applied to become a citizen in June 2020, the average processing time for a naturalization application was nine months. Now the USCIS says it can take 13 months. That’s the longest average wait time the office has seen since 2009. And it’s expensive, too. The whole process has cost Vahobov $725 so far. The USCIS website says the filing fee starts at $640. USCIS spokesperson Debbie Cannon said the longer wait times are because of the pandemic. She said demand has gone up while capacity has gone down, and that every case is different. The latest available data from USCIS indicates there were 8,537 applicants in the queue to become citizens in Colorado as of September. Vahobov said he was initially told processing would take three months. Then it was pushed back to the fall. And now, it’s even longer. It’s been a little stressful for him. He said he wants to go visit family in Tajikistan, but can’t because he’s worried that the opportunity for an interview will come while he’s gone. In the meantime,Vahobov has been taking this time to study up for his citizenship test. And when the day finally comes to take his oath, he said he’ll be ready. “We don’t have any exact answer for what and when we can have any change like any interviews or a test,” he said. “I’m just waiting.” Editor’s note: This story is brought to you by COLab, the Colorado News Collaborative, a coalition of more than 100 news outlets.


Profile for Denver Urban Spectrum

Denver Urban Spectrum - April 2021 - How Fake News and Misinformation is Reshaping Journalism  

To recognize 35 years of spreading the news about people of color, Denver Urban Spectrum looks at "How Fake News and Misinformation is Resha...

Denver Urban Spectrum - April 2021 - How Fake News and Misinformation is Reshaping Journalism  

To recognize 35 years of spreading the news about people of color, Denver Urban Spectrum looks at "How Fake News and Misinformation is Resha...