DUS Anniversary April 2024 - Rosalind "Bee" Harris

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Moving on and moving up…

This month marks 37 years of publishing Denver Urban Spectrum. I was fortunate enough to publish and design 443 issues of our award-winning publication. And I say our because DUS belongs to all of us, the Denver community and all who helped breathe life into this voice. The words by all of you in the cover story are spoken individually, but represent everyone collectively who supported DUS for the last (almost) four decades.

So where did the time go?

They say life is fleeting but that’s what makes it beautiful.

When I moved to Denver in 1980, I was the mother of two sons. Today, I am the proud and happy great-grandmother of Desiree.

In April 1987, our first congratulatory letter was from then Mayor Federico Peña. And since that time, we have shared our pages with five other mayors: Wellington E. Webb, John D. Hickenlooper, Guillermo, “Bill” Vidal, Michael B. Hancock, and currently Mike Johnston.

And soon, in December, it will be time for me to turn my page with DUS and open another chapter. One that will be as gratifying and fruitful as the last one. Over the years, I focused on the future of our youth. Today I want to focus on the future of our elders in honor of my Mother with the Ruth Boyd Elder Abuse Foundation.

I look forward to how the next team will take Denver Urban Spectrum to a New (digital) Era at the end of 2024, and I’m counting on continued community support.

It is difficult to find the words to express my love and appreciation to everyone – but know that my faithful heart is full of gratitude and hope.

P.S. Don’t worry. I won’t be leaving quietly. I’m going out with a bang! Our Anniversary/Retirement/Benefit, “Denver’s Voice,” will be held on October 19. And I look forward to seeing all of the Denver community in the house.

A Call to Action: Ban Menthol and Flavored Tobacco Products to Save Black Lives

An op-ed by the Honorable Elbra Wedgeworth, John Bailey and Terri Richardson, MD

Menthol cigarettes are a number one killer of Black lives. For more than 60 years, the tobacco industry has deliberately targeted the Black community with menthol cigarettes while profiting enormously and disproportionately destroying Black lives and health. The tobacco industry continues to target a new generation of young Black Americans, addicting them to flavored tobacco products like those that have historically ravaged their communities.

We need to end the tobacco industry’s exploitation of Black lives for profit by eliminating flavored tobacco products in Denver – including, and espe-

cially, menthol cigarettes – and address the systemic causes of addiction including poverty and a lack of access to healthcare.

Racism is a public health crisis, fueled in part by the tobacco industry’s intentional infiltration of the Black community to sell menthol tobacco products. We can no longer allow them or their enablers to profit from a history of systemic racism that continues to put the health of Black Americans at risk.

The tobacco industry’s intentional marketing tactics have ensured Black communities choose menthol cigarettes over regular cigarettes. Tobacco companies targeted Black

Americans with slick marketing campaigns in Black media, and have flooded Black neighborhoods with free or cheap menthol products, often appropriating Black culture and music to do so. Their tactics have worked to addict Black Americans to menthol cigarettes. In the 1950s, fewer than 10% of Black Americans who smoked used menthol cigarettes. Today, 85% of all Black smokers choose menthols.

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LETTERS, OP-EDS, OPINIONS Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2024 3 Volume 38 Number 1 April 2024 Denver Urban Spectrum is a monthly publication dedicated to spreading the news about people of color. Contents of Denver Urban Spectrum are copyright 2024 by Bizzy Bee Enterprise. No portion may be reproduced without written permission of the publisher. Denver Urban Spectrum circulates 25,000 copies throughout Colorado. 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 Denver Urban Spectrum at P.O. Box 31001, Aurora, CO 80041. For advertising, subscriptions, or other information, call 303-292-6446, email publisher@urbanspectrum or visit the Website at www.denverurbanspectrum.com. PUBLISHER Rosalind J. Harris ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Brittany N. Winkfield GENERAL MANAGER Lawrence A. James MANAGING and COPY EDITOR Ruby Jones COLUMNIST Barry Overton CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Christen Aldridge Elena Brown Tanya Ishikawa Ruby Jones Stacy Narine Brittany Winkfield SPECIAL PROJECTS ASSISTANT Tanya Ishikawa ART DIRECTOR Bee Harris GRAPHIC DESIGNER Jody Gilbert - Kolor Graphix SOCIAL MEDIA / DIGITAL MARKETING Melovy Melvin CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER Bernard Grant DISTRIBUTION Lawrence A. James Email your... Letters to the Editor, Opinions, OpEds & Comments to Editor@urbanspectrum.net Rosalind “Bee” Harris Publisher Denver Urban Spectrum

DUS Celebrates 37 Years as the Community Voice

Publisher Rosalind “Bee” Harris lauded for sustaining vital communication resource

When Rosalind “Bee” Harris published her first issue of Denver Urban Spectrum in 1987, she was focused on her mission of spreading news about people of color, not on the distant future or what DUS would be almost four decades later.

“It was a job. I was thinking about how to keep the business going from behind the scenes,” Harris recalls. “I was going with the flow, you know, and letting nature take its course.”

She didn’t stay behind the scenes for long. Though she has spent tens of thousands of hours in the office – laying out the publication, selling ads, supervising staff, paying bills and ensuring the news magazine was delivered each month – her dedication to her mission meant she was out and about at community events several times a week, all year long.

“I don’t think I have been to any community meeting, gala, opening, protest or barbecue that Bee hasn’t been at,” says Wanda James, a political mover and shaker and the first Black regent of the University of Colorado in 44 years.

“Almost everything that I hear about that’s happening in Colorado, I learned through Bee and the Urban Spectrum. She’s amazing; she’s got her fingers on the pulse of the community,” says James, who has known Harris for 20 years and advertised several businesses in

DUS throughout the years. Wellington Webb, Denver’s first Black mayor who served for 12 years in addition to four years as a Colorado State Representative, described himself and wife, Wilma Webb, as very close advocates and good friends of Harris after decades of

mutual support through the publication. Wilma served in the Colorado House of Representatives from 1980 to 1993, and was the initiator and sponsor of legislation that adopted Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a Colorado state holiday, long before it became a national holiday.

“You can’t find an event that Bee’s not at,” the former mayor jokes, adding that you can always find photos in DUS’s Around Town section proving her presence. “When I go somewhere and if she’s not there,

then I’m wondering, ‘Why am I at this event? If it was important, she would be here.’”

Mrs. Webb adds, “I can’t go anywhere or to any event where I don’t see the presence of the Denver Urban Spectrum “It’s a source of comfort to know that our news is being covered. Like at the BlairCaldwell [African American Research] Library – every time a new exhibit is created I see Bee or her writers and photographers there.”

Harris has also created many DUS-sponsored events over the years; perhaps the most impactful being the annual African Americans Who Make a Difference which recognizes community servants who are making history. Major anniversaries of the publication were celebrated with major galas, which – in the spirit of the news magazine –highlighted the notable contributions of community leaders in areas as diverse as performing and visual arts, politics, health, business and sports.

Building a WomanOwned Legacy

Harris met Norma J. Paige on the first anniversary of DUS, at a print shop where the publisher was ordering specially embossed invitations for an anniversary event. Paige, who describes herself as a wife, mother, grandmother and community servant, has played diverse roles at the publication through the years, including as

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an Around-the-Town columnist and event committee member. The publication has likewise promoted fundraisers organized by Paige.

“We did so many things together. We pulled allnighters, while she put things together and I watched the inner workings of what it was to put a newspaper together before digital. Everything was pasted up, including the lines that you see separating columns. It was always so impeccably done,” she says, describing Harris as tenacious.

Like many DUS friends and supporters, Paige, who is the vice president of the 100 Men Who Cook Black Tie Fundraiser, passes out the print publication to friends, family and neighbors each month. “It fortifies you as a woman to see this woman-owned business powering through, and doing everything possible to make sure that it is a quality publication and showcasing who we are as women,” she adds.

The first few years of DUS cover stories and features were mostly focused on diverse women of color, including mega-celebrity Oprah Winfrey; Oglala Lakota human services pioneer Della Bad Wound; Latina/Chicana muralist, social activist, painter and activist Carlota D. Espinoza; Hispanic folk medicine healer Diana Velasquez; Doctor Justina Ford; CU professor and Chinese immigrant Evelyn Hu-DeHart; and educator and activist Nita Gonzales. Others who graced the cover and pages of Denver Urban Spectrum’s early years were Miss Colorado LaTanya Hall; griot Opalanga Pugh; singer Indeya; matriarch of Five Points “Mama” Zona Moore; and Cleo Parker Robinson.

Originally called the Denver Journal for one month, the name was then changed to Denver Urban Spectrum; gracing the very first cover was government contractor, Sandra D. Bice.

In 1989, the late singer James Van Buren was the first male to be featured on the cover.

Both DUS and Harris are recognized for their maternal nurturing of the community. Not only have many young writers, photographers and others been mentored through the years, but Harris established the Urban Spectrum Youth Foundation to provide handson journalism experiences to middle and high school students. She said working with youth and watching their growth were some of her proudest moments.

At 12 years old, Kia Milan already saw Harris and Denver Urban Spectrum as pillars in the community that she wanted to emulate. Having picked up copies in the lobbies of recreation centers and churches, she decided she wanted to write stories. She sent a floppy disc to Harris, asking if her stories could be published in the newspaper.

“Eventually we met and she invited me to be a part of the Urban Spectrum Youth Foundation; I served as the editor on that youth paper for three years while in high school, overseeing meetings, helping pick stories and working with the graphic designer,” explains Milan, who is now a creative content marketing manager for Netflix.

“The Youth Foundation really gave me an opportunity to see what my future could potentially look like. There were guest speakers who came in and talked to us about their careers. Those leadership opportunities, which I had at 15 and 16 years old, helped me as I entered the job world, and I had no problem getting up in front of meetings,” she says.

In her personal life as well, Harris has been a doting

mother, grandmother and now great-grandmother. She even adopted African sons during a trip with Mayor Webb’s delegation to Africa in the late ‘90s.

Melovy Melvin began as a high school intern with DUS, learning most aspects of the business in 2015, and today works as the social media and digital marketing manager. “I was fortunate – very fortunate and blessed that Ms. Harris saw potential in me and offered me a permanent position. I was just embraced and introduced to so much through Denver Urban Spectrum, from knowing the different types of great organizations that are here in Colorado and the different stories,” Melvin remembers.

While meeting national leaders like Maya Angelou, the Obamas, Tyler Perry, Quincy

Jones and Oprah Winfrey have been especially satisfying over the decades, Harris was just as inspired by local heroes like marathon runner Essie Garrett, educators Rachel B. Noel and Marie Greenwood, sculptor Ed Dwight, rodeo visionary Lu Vason, Little Rock Nine’s Carlotta Walls-LaNier and musical legend Charles Burrell.

“Before Essie passed away, she said she only wanted Denver Urban Spectrum to do her story. Moments like that show me how important it has been to be the voice for so many people,” Harris explains.

“I always think about the time when we were working late one night and a fax came in at about four in the morning. It was from community activist Ashara Ekundayo sending an announcement and hoping it would make the deadline into the newspaper, because it was important for us as the community voice,” she says.

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Join us for an up close and personal conversation with DUS publisher and founder, Rosalind “Bee” Harris. Tune in to hear a discussion with Colorado filmmaker Brien Hollowell and his debut short film Saudi Aurora , advocating for a gun control. Colorado Association of Black Journalists returns with awards and scholarships for the next generation of journalists. X

Celebrating 37 years of excellence!

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Stream on denverurbanspectrum.com
in progressive action work in the metro
area and surrounding
Denver Urban Spectrum and KGNU Radio present a magazine-style community news radio program that amplifies the voices and stories from people engaged

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Recording Essential History for the Benefit of All

Former Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, blues powerhouse vocalist Hazel Miller, media personalities Renelda Muse, Tamara Banks and James “Dr. Daddio” Walker, MLK Jr. African-American Heritage Rodeo, the Honorable Elbra Wedgeworth, Dr. Syl Morgan Smith, Bronco Superbowl Champion Rod Smith and a long list of inspiring community leaders and institutions have graced the covers of DUS. The articles and editorials on the inside pages have been just as significant, covering activists, church leaders, entertainers, health issues, education, social injustices and other topics of importance to communities of color.

Founder and CEO Richard Lewis of RTL Networks Inc., an award-winning technology leader with an international presence in government sectors, says, “Denver Urban Spectrum is an essential part of not just the Denver metro area, but Colorado in general. There’s a lot that happens in our community that just doesn’t get picked up by the mainstream. I can’t imagine Denver as a person of color without the Denver Urban Spectrum.”

greater endorsement as to the importance of an organization than that.”

“Denver Urban Spectrum has enabled a lot of people who want to engage with the community to understand who they need to be talking to and where and why. Others are just looking for light-hearted stories and entertainment,” he says. “Like so many others, I’ve leveraged Denver Urban Spectrum to understand and connect with the community.

Lewis’ ongoing business accomplishments and philanthropic endeavors have been covered in several issues of DUS. Similarly, Geta and Janice Asfaw, successful owners of McDonald’s restaurants in the Denver metro area, have been covered in DUS

Through the Asfaw Family Foundation International, the Asfaws provide local philanthropy annually through a senior citizen dinner, bicycle giveaway, scholarship and educational grant. In kind, these organizations have supported DUS with advertising.

“Bee is like a cheerleader for the community. She is so full of energy and connected in so many ways, and she is just always there to encourage people and share what they need to know,” comments Lewis, who also founded the RTL Foundation as a development center that incubates nonprofits serving the BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) community.

Being around for 37 years is no accident; he continues, “I don’t know if there’s any

Geta, who was recently appointed by the governor to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, also commended DUS on its 37th anniversary. “In America, for any African American business to stay for 37 years is incredible because it’s not easy. All the fights, all the unequal treatment, all the pressure you have. For Bee to struggle and keep the publication alive for 37 years by itself is a great achievement,” he lauds.

Janice adds, “When we moved here, over 30 years ago, we were looking for the leadership of Denver throughout the metro area, and one of the leaders that we met was Bee.

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She’s so important with her outreach to people. She’s been a catalyst to bring people together.”

Mrs. Webb emphasized Bee’s championship of producing a valuable communications tool with professionalism and diverse coverage of an underserved community, making sure that all voices are heard.

Wellington agreed that DUS helps the community sustain itself by providing a critical communication device. Since KDKO Black Community Radio went off the air, Denver Urban Spectrum is even more important for “amplification of what goes on in the Black community.”

The Webbs echoed the sentiments of many when they praised DUS for sharing information fairly about both the positive and negative issues and important topics affecting the African American community in Denver. The articles include expertise, accomplishments, celebrations, significant stories and daily struggles of people of color of all economic levels in science, government, arts, entrepreneurship, fraternal organizations, sororities and other areas; plus, the voices are multiethnic.

“Thomas Jefferson said in order to have a democracy, you have to have a well-informed electorate, and that means that we have to have publications that can make that news available to the electorate,” Wellington notes.

“Denver Urban Spectrum is a historical document. Bee has made so much history by virtue of the stories that she covers, such as the way the publication wrote about Wilma and her breadth of work, whereas major newspapers wanted to pigeonhole her accomplishments. Bee’s publication captures all of that historical information and documentation for future generations,” he says.

Mrs. Webb also points to DUS’s tradition of putting out a

print edition as “something that you can really hold on to and cherish. You can show others, frame it and let people know. It’s very, very important that it’s printed. You see very few printed pieces that focus on the African American community in America; because Denver Urban Spectrum is printed, it’s very, very valuable.”

Meeting Challenges with Grace and Determination

Harris has served on many boards throughout the community, being a resource to those organizations as they have been resources for residents. She not only served on the board of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance for several years, but she also raised money for the organization by performing in the Dancing with the Denver Stars gala.

Dance and cultural institution founder, Cleo Parker Robinson, explains, “Our company is 54 years this year. Denver Urban Spectrum has been in our lives since its beginning and is the soul of the community. People will see me at Safeway or they’ll see me at the park and they’ll tell me what I’m doing, and I’m thinking, ‘How do they know?’ And then I realize that Bee has already covered it in the publication.”

Spectrum helps us just feel so empowered, I think more than any other publication that I know of,” she says.

She also appreciates the affordability and creativity of advertising and marketing options in DUS

At the same time, ParkerRobinson and others agree on the “tremendous planning and work” that it takes. “It’s hard to keep publications alive. I mean, she works overtime. And always smiling. You know, you never know how hard she’s really working. She’s never telling you about the blues, although she may have them. Or she may know about them, but she never brings you down that rabbit hole of whatever it is that she’s covering, even in the community. I think that’s pretty extraordinary because she gets to see the beauty and the good, the bad, the ugly and the everything,” she says.

Harris admits there have been challenging times – three

in particular. The first one happened only two years after the publication’s founding, when a fire destroyed the offices on New Year’s Eve in 1989.

“But you know, I saw from the community that DUS was important because they rallied. They held fundraisers throughout the city. We were only two years old, but it was then that I realized the importance of needing to tell the stories of color that were not covered in the mainstream publications,” she remembers.

That was the only time in the publication’s history that a print edition was delayed. In 1990, the January and February issues were combined.

The second big challenge has always been getting funding and sufficient advertising support to pay for printing and build a staff. After being solely supported by advertising dollars for so many years, “That’s one thing I’d say about COVID: Continued on page 8

“I think people can cover news, but if they don’t do it in a way that touches people’s hearts, then it doesn’t stick. And somehow she does it with the photographs and the storytelling and the and the facts and all of those things combined because she is absolutely present,” Parker-Robinson says.

She describes the DUS’s coverage of the community and events – even deaths and difficult news – as smooth, having real dignity and depth, with great ease, intention and grace. “I call her a true griot, a real storyteller. Denver Urban

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Continued from page 7 it did bring grant opportunities, and I think it opened the doors for other journalism funding opportunities. The Colorado Media Project, and other mediabased programs and organizations, saw the need to keep local journalism alive. We have really been supported these last few years,” she says.

The third challenge was when her mother passed away suddenly and violently in 2008. “It was a big challenge, a shock, and one of the reasons I’m looking forward to pursuing my next chapter to help carry on her legacy through the Ruth Boyd Elder Abuse Foundation,” Harris shares.

Setting up AwardWinning Tradition for Future Generations

Colorado Press Association CEO, Tim Regan-Porter, said the staying power of DUS is remarkable, especially as a very small business. “To hold on that

long in an environment that has changed so much. I mean, so many publications have gone out of business in the last 15 years – really since 2006 – which was kind of the peak of the newspaper industry. It’s a lot of work. It’s exhausting, no matter the economic environment. It’s a labor of love and so I commend anybody who’s still out there making it happen,” Regan-Porter comments.

He observed that “Other journalists in Denver and the suburbs pay attention to Denver Urban Spectrum, and it helps them tell their stories better, and become more aware. The work that Bee and her team does elevates the community and makes it harder to ignore, intentionally or unintentionally.”

He is impressed with how strong of a community Harris

has gathered around her, and the work that the small DUS staff does. “It’s a great team and I think that’s a testament to Bee and the passion and energy that she brings to it and vision,” he adds.

Harris served on the Colorado Press Association (CPA) board, followed by the late DUS editor emeritus Alfonzo Porter and DUS Associate Publisher, Brittany Winkfield DUS staff and contributors win approximately a dozen awards annually in the CPA contest, which is judged by news professionals in other states.

Winkfield said the DUS staff works hard because Harris has set the example and the bar is high.

“She hardly ever takes the credit and just shares the credit where it’s due. She recognizes the effort, the team effort that it takes to never miss a deadline and continue to produce great journalism and stories that are meaningful,” she says.

DUS Managing Editor, Ruby Jones, credits Harris for uplifting people who either need help or want to explore journalism. “She’s always willing to give someone a chance. She’s always willing to bring people in and bring out the best in them,” Jones observes.

She also appreciates Harris’s openness to new ideas. “She really wants to continue to see Denver Urban Spectrum as a fixture in the community, and she’s been really willing to be open minded and let different generations of staff and different people carry it forward,” she explains.

In recognition of her contributions through DUS and per-

sonally, Harris’s office and home are filled with awards from a wide range of community organizations from the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce to the MLK Social Responsibility Award. A bookcase at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library houses many of the awards received from over the last 35 years. She was also inducted into the 2020 class of the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame (CWHF). Along with that honor, she was featured in a book about obstacles overcome by Hall of Fame inductees, as well as being highlighted as a distinctive Colorado woman in a National History Day curriculum being taught in schools.

CWHF Board Chair Barb Beckner first met Harris years ago when Beckner was working for Rich Lewis. “Bee is just such a bright light. Every time you see her, every time you have a conversation with her on the phone, she just shines. And it doesn’t matter if she’s under a deadline,” she says.

Parker-Robinson summed up the legacy of Denver Urban Spectrum’s publisher: “She’s just loved and there’s nothing greater than to work so hard all your life, and to really be loved. She’s really respected and she doesn’t take herself so seriously. She’s humble, and I think that she’s just a great, great role model.”.

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Denver Urban Spectrum Prepares for Publisher’s Exit

Rosalind “Bee” Harris’s retirement signals new era of ““ spreading news about people of color spreading news about people of color ””

In April 1993, six years after the first issue of Denver Urban Spectrum was published as a tabloid newspaper, the World Wide Web launched into the public domain. Though some sources report that the first online news was published in the 1980s, printed newspapers and magazines would remain the main vehicle for news until the mid-2000s.

DUS Publisher Rosalind “Bee” Harris was keeping her finger on the pulse of the Black community, while keeping an eye on the development of the internet. She added a website featuring articles and photos from the print publication in the early 2000s. When social media and other online platforms started becoming ways to reach readers, Harris and her staff educated themselves and adopted the digital tools that fit the community’s needs.

She vividly remembers one DUS anniversary gala where TV and video journalist, Tamara Banks, and Greg Moore, a Denver Post editor for 14 years, talked about the changing media landscape. Harris realized that she and the Spectrum would need to continue to transform with the times.

Now, after 37 years at the helm, the iconic publisher is making another type of transformation: retirement and handing off her baby to her staff at the end of 2024.

“I think that we’re grounded now. Thanks to some outside support, we are prepared and still preparing to continue to be the voice of the communities of color in a much wider space, digitally and globally,” she says.

A Tradition of Staying Relevant

With the rise of free online news sources, traditional advertising revenues have declined in the newspaper industry. While DUS has added email advertising and other revenue sources to the mix, grants from the Rose Community Foundation, Colorado Media Project, the Knight Foundation and BloomLab, among others, have supported staff transitions and additional digital innovations.

“I’m glad that my retirement is happening now, when the younger generation is in

a position to take over as well as do some of the things that I don’t want to do. I don’t want to learn any more technological platforms. I have other projects and interests that I’ve been waiting to explore,” she says.

She assures that Denver Urban Spectrum is being positioned to carry on for years to come, though she cautions there’s still a lot of work for her to transition away and for the new leaders.

Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb has stayed engaged in community leadership since leaving office in 2003, both supporting and getting coverage from DUS over the years. “I think it’s important to stay relevant, not only with issues, but also with the technology. Older people read more. The younger generation likes more digital information. By virtue of having both print and digital, Denver Urban Spectrum has the ability to get information to the whole community,” he says.

While Denver and Colorado don’t have as large of a Black population as some major metropolitan areas in the nation, Webb says the accomplishments of the

community here are just as important and newsworthy. Having an evolving information source like DUS is just as pertinent as in those other cities.

Colorado Press Association CEO Tim Regan-Porter echoed those comments, describing how difficult it was for him and his family to see less diversity when he moved here from a majority Black community in the South. “I think as we’ve gotten to know Denver and the Black community here, we can see how it is such an important part of Denver. And I think it’s so important that Denver Urban Spectrum is here to not only serve that community, but also to be a visible presence for the rest of the community to show what the Black community in Denver is doing and what an important part of Denver it is,” he says.

People in the news industry have “a tremendous amount of respect and pay attention to what’s going on in in the pages and with the business of Denver Urban Spectrum,” observes Regan-Porter, adding that DUS has been involved in many exciting projects that bring state-of-the-art tools to its advertising, reader interaction and operations.

Unlike the leaders of some legacy publications, decades-old, family or entrepreneur-owned companies, Harris recognizes the need to adapt to technological change, and has surrounded herself with people who also recognize the need and are digitally savvy, he notes.

“Bee is just a prime example of why a publisher is needed, and of the good work they can do in the community and how important they are to the publication. They establish the sustainability of the publication with the business community and readers, and set that vision for its evolution as new technologies emerge and consumer habits shift,” he says.

The Next Generation is Ready

Melovy Melvin, social media and digital marketing manager, has been at the center of the DUS’s digital transformation. The youngest permanent staff member, she brings an enthusiasm and innate desire to learn to her role.

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Melvin was hired as an allaround assistant right after high school graduation through a City of Denver internship program, and began her journalism studies with a scholarship to Metropolitan State University of Denver at the same time. Working closely with Harris, her tasks have ranged from office assistant tasks to writing stories and posting on social media.

“Journalism and writing stories has been something I’ve always had a passion for, and it even developed more in college when I started getting into broadcasting and producing,” Melvin says. “My internship with the Spectrum made it clear for me that this was what I was meant to do. Under the great leadership and mentorship of Bee Harris, it just couldn’t be any more perfect, and that’s why I continue to stay on. I’ve seen the publication going into this digital transformation. It’s been interesting and it’s been a learning experience. I’m just grateful to be along for the ride.”

Brittany Winkfield began writing stories, attending media industry events as a DUS representative and talking about other roles in the company in the autumn of 2022. She had contributed stories many years before but had been busy with other jobs since then. In early 2023, she was promoted to associate publisher to learn the ropes from Harris, as well as to help manage transitional projects.

“DUS is an institution. Even beyond the publication, you recognize its influence as a community resource. There’s this storytelling aspect, yes; but I feel like it’s a gathering of voices and people from all walks of life and experiences. It is this hub of information and while the traditional print publication is known and recognized, I think it’s important to continue that recognition to the next generation and not having it stop at Bee. She has built a great foundation. And so now, it’s just time to keep building and continuing on the journey

Our Network Shows Expanding the Narrative

of collecting the history of the Denver metro area and beyond, and keeping that narrative going into the future,” Winkfield explains.

She continues, “What’s more important than ever right now is that next generation. I just have a heart for young people. Knowing how they are growing up in a technological world with all this information at your fingertips, I want to be right there at the center of it, being able to show up for the young people, be a platform for them as well, to just continue that storytelling and information sharing.”

She looks forward to continuing to find opportunities to leverage funding, training, technology, and events to keep DUS sustainable.

Ruby Jones is another DUS contributor who went on to other ventures, and returned over the last couple years with strong skills to support the publication and its impending transition. As managing editor, she works with Harris and the writers to select stories and ensure they are ready for the page. She is also a talented interviewer, podcaster and video producer.

Like others, she remembers her family bringing home a copy of Denver Urban Spectrum every month, and how seeing herself and her community in its pages inspired her love of journalism and writing. After living near New Orleans for several years, she was excited to return to Denver and used the publication as a resource to learn about community changes in her absence.

“The opportunity to contribute to Denver Urban Spectrum is really special to me because I know that there are young people and members of the community who are able to see themselves represented in the stories. And I think that representation matters so much so it’s really meaningful and fulfilling to be able to contribute to that,” she says.

She also says that her role at DUS is more than a job for her and doesn’t feel like work. It’s an opportunity to give back, and to shed light on local businesses, people and things that otherwise go underrepresented, through stories and advertising, she adds.

Jones points to the importance and power of Black news and media after slavery during the Reconstruction Era and up until today, adding that communication trends and standards are changing drastically. “When you have all these technologies brought in and people say that people don’t read newspapers anymore, they only read blogs online and things like that, it’s really important to continue the practice that has sustained so many communities throughout the years when it comes to unbiased, fair, accurate reporting across all formats,” she explains.

“We’re really in a transitional time in this country where a lot of people – such as Bee Harris, who created these platforms for news which rose in prominence – are at the age of retirement, and looking into other things to do. I think it’s really important for that next generation to take the torch. Just like the torch has been passed in so many other areas of business and commerce, it has to be passed in the media, too,” she adds.

“Denver Urban Spectrum takes up a unique space along Denver’s Front Range communities, Colorado communities, and really the nation. There’s not too many Black media sources left,” she laments. “We don’t want Black media or media for communities of color to become a lost art.”

A Season of Change, A New Era

Harris jokes that when she let her hair go silver during the COVID pandemic, she realized she was ready to retire. Then, getting more serious, she says,

Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2024 10
Scan to Listen

“I just knew it was time, because I was looking at the publication trends and how things were changing; and I am at a point in my life where I want to do a lot of other things and I want to pass it on to a younger generation that can stay above the curve. I stayed above it for many, many years and now it’s time to jump over another hurdle. I’d like to see others jump over that hurdle and take DUS to the next level. And I want to spend time with my great-grandbaby and work on some of my other projects.”

She would like to perfect her Spanish (because it’s become a universal language and she has enjoyed learning it over the years), and start practicing her keyboards again (like she did as a child). She plans to travel, make jewelry, sell clothes from Ghana and write another book. She published a first-person narrative novel about her mother’s life titled “The Story of Ruth” last year, which is available online where all books are sold, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

“What I want to do is work on my mom’s foundation. She was killed in her home and it was elder abuse. My focus for the next several years will be organizing the Ruth Boyd Elder Abuse Foundation,” she said. The foundation will provide caregiving services, counseling and helpful tools for aging adults; it will raise awareness about elder abuse through outreach and education to save lives and improve the quality of life for the elderly population.

Will she stay involved in Denver Urban Spectrum? Yes, she hopes to offer her consulting assistance as needed for at least a couple of years… if we can catch her between national and international trips.

When people first hear of her retirement plans, many have a hard time envisioning DUS without Harris and Denver without her in the leadership role at DUS. But, after the initial

shock wears off, a common response is that she is a strong leader who has built a great team, a foundation of trust in the community, and a legacy that will outlast her.

Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame Board Chair Barb Beckner says, “My guess is she’s been preparing for this transition for a period of time. She’s really just taking the model full circle where she’s got the resources and the people to take the reins. She’ll be available, but by letting her go, it really allows her to bloom a little bit more.”

Longtime friend and collaborator on DUS projects Norma J. Paige ironically has no problem imagining Denver Urban Spectrum without Harris, she says, “because for everything, there’s a season. Nothing remains the same and I’m excited to see the evolution. You know, we’re all now at that stage where we want to pass the baton. We want to see what our next generation will do with the foundations that we’ve laid. So yes, I can imagine it without her, and I can’t wait to see what that will look like.”

At the same time, Paige describes Harris as a one-of-akind, busy bee, who may be retiring and stepping aside from DUS, but she’ll keep moving into things that will continue to improve our society, community and world.

Another longtime friend and sister in spirit, as well as advertiser, newsmaker and dance world innovator, Cleo Parker Robinson, admits, “I’m in shock, actually; I really am. When I heard the interview was about her retirement, my brain would not accept that. It was like, well, I’ll talk about anything but that. And yet I think that no one knows how hard Bee works, and whatever it is she needs, that’s what she should do. She should take time to have time for herself. I’m quite envious on one level.”

Parker-Robinson is relieved to hear that Harris plans to stay in the community, and they are

sure to see each other when the retiree brings her great-granddaughter down to the dance studio for classes.

While Webb took a philosophical view of Harris’s retirement, his wife, Wilma Webb, a former Colorado State Representative with a wealth of accomplishments in various leadership roles, was more practical.

She explains, “There will never be another Bee. But the good thing is, I’ve seen through her career here in Denver that she’s always had young people around her and surrounding her, and she’s teaching them and not letting them just stand around – they participate in each aspect of the publication. So there will be people who want to be like Bee and people who have had the opportunity of having a great role model, so they can continue her legacy.”

Wellington says, “We like to be acknowledged as the first of something, but we don’t want to be the last of anything. You do such a good job that people will say you made history, but records are meant to be broken and we want to see other people come after them.”

“That’s her baby that she’s nurtured. She’s raised it and it’s always difficult when you get to a point where you have to let kids go on their own, whether it’s going to college or whether it’s getting married or whatever. Then you have to take on a more grandparent role or advisory role, guiding from a distance, and understanding

that you raised them so that you know that they’re going to make it. You trained them well, so they’re going to do the right thing, but you have to give them a chance to, as we all had a chance to be successful as well as fail,” he says.

Wanda James, University of Colorado Regent and Simply Pure Cannabis Dispensary CEO, expresses her love for Harris and sadness over her departure from DUS, but added that it will be fine.

“I don’t think you can carry on her legacy, honestly. You know, real talk,” James explains. “I don’t know that anybody can step into Bee’s shoes and do what Bee does. And I mean that in a good way. Not in a negative way, right? I mean, I’m not saying that no one else can make this work. Yes, there can be other people. But then the Spectrum is going to be different and equally as spectacular. I hope that the new person realizes that, and they create a Denver Urban Spectrum 2.0, because nobody in Denver will be able to walk into Bee’s shoes and have that level of trust and understanding of history. So I think if I had to give advice to the next publisher, it would be to build on what’s been built, but if you’re going to try to recreate who Bee is and what she’s done, I don’t think that you can. No, I know that you can’t.”

Likewise, McDonald’s franchisee and philanthropic

Continued on page 12

Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2024 11
An ongoing campaign effort to support local news . #newsCOneeds

Continued from page 11 foundation leader, Geta Asfaw, observes, “It’s not going to be easy to replace her. Anytime we lose African American leaders within business, media, sports, or anything, it’s not easy.”

He emphasized that the future of DUS will depend on its new leadership. “I hope that we’ll have leaders who understand the African American community, so Denver Urban Spectrum can continue without any kind of distraction like it has for the last 37 years.”

Community Support as Important as Ever

Though Asfaw is confident that Harris is putting a strong team in place, he’s concerned about the loss of so many Black businesses and minority media outlets around the United States. “The business community will have to make sure to contribute news and advertising to Denver Urban Spectrum to keep it going. It cannot survive unless we help. Minority businesses really have to start supporting the [publication] so that they can have another 37 years,” he urges.

RTL Networks Inc. and BIPOC Nonprofit Development Center Founder Richard Lewis also finds it “very difficult to imagine Denver Urban Spectrum without Bee Harris, but she’s earned this time to herself, so we’re very happy for her and knowing the operator that she is, I’m sure she will figure out how to make sure that Denver Urban Spectrum has just as much impact and energy as it always has, even without her.”

Lewis adds, “Just because Bee is retiring does not make any of the amazing work of the Denver Urban Spectrum any less important, so it’s going to be probably even more critical than ever that we get out there and support it in Bee’s absence.”

The Webbs agreed with the increased importance of supporting DUS after Harris’s well-

deserved retirement. They also expect she’ll be around to support the new publisher.

“The community is going to have to come together and support it financially. And not only just financially, but also promote it so that these corporations know it’s important,” Wellington says.

Wilma adds, “We have to have some faith and trust in what Bee has done, what Denver Urban Spectrum has already done, so that those who are standing on her shoulders can go forward.”

Calling Harris one of the pioneers in Denver’s media landscape, Wellington concludes, “It’s still the voice of our community. It’s still the place where we can go to find out what’s happening in our community and not just all of the quoteunquote negative things that regular media is going to focus on. It’s still the place where we can discover what is happening with us. It’s still the place where we can advertise our small businesses and know that they are reaching the people that we want to see be patrons to our small businesses.”

Former Urban Spectrum Youth Foundation participant and Netflix Creative Content Marketing Manager Kia Milan was brought on by Harris as an advisor on DUS’s plans over the years. She continues to offer input and perspective during the current transition.

Milan pointed to the beautiful legacy that started with her generation and their parents relying on the publication, and now continues with her son. “When we take drum lessons at Cleo’s, he says, ‘Mom, get your Denver Urban Spectrum,’ because we can always find a stack there. It’s so much a part of me and my story and the community’s story,” she explains.

Associate publisher, Winkfield, revealed that she just turned 38, one year younger than the Spectrum, “so it’s all I’ve ever known and has been

there my entire life as a resource.” She wants the next generation to know they have a voice and a place where they can share celebrations as well as trials they may face, and learn from others’ stories.

She points to the reader revenue campaign launched in 2023, and its importance in demonstrating support for the publication. “More than 50 people contributed in just a month’s time, which speaks to how much they value DUS,” she shares, adding that beyond financially contributing, people can be the source of stories and share the publication and the website with others.

“It’s absolutely critical in these times of misinformation, when there’s also an agenda to erase history, that DUS continues to serve as a modern-day historian, not only telling the stories, but getting the facts and being a trustworthy new source,” she continues.

For her part, she says she will strive to make DUS increasingly accessible, both in print and online, and inclusive to all ages and all people. She’ll be innovative, strategic, and look for ways to be sustainable and engage with the community.

Managing editor, Jones, reiterated Denver Urban Spectrum’s commitment to keeping up with the changing times, such as adding YouTube videos and a podcast network, but also holding true to tradition and the print edition. “If you look at during the pandemic Denver Urban Spectrum was able to meet the community’s needs through digital news, which was huge. I mean, the whole world changed and people were shuttered inside, but DUS still found a way to speak to people, to bring people together and to show that the community hadn’t been forgotten. And I just hope that as the future progresses, the community will show Denver Urban Spectrum that it hasn’t been forgotten as well,” she said.

“I just want people to stay tuned in and continue to demand the same standard of reporting that they’ve gotten for so many years. This is the community’s publication. It’s the voice that shares your stories. So I think it’s important that you ask for the stories that you want to be told, ask for the platforms that you want as technological change happens,” Jones says. “It’s important that Denver Urban Spectrum continues to have the support of great writers and the support of great people who are willing to bring it forward into whatever form it takes in the future, and hopefully that stays true to the integrity of the publication. And so, I’d be happy to continue to help push it forward and bring it into a new era, do whatever I can to represent it and show love to the publication that made me want to be a writer.”.

Publisher’s note: DUS Contributor and Special Projects Assistant Tanya Ishikawa started with the Urban Spectrum as a contributor in 2006, when she would take her baby son to storyboard meetings. After frequent contributions, she became managing editor for a few years, and served on boards like the Denver Foundation representing DUS. She then moved on to assisting with special projects like events, videos and youth education, while serving four years on Federal Heights City Council. After she moved to Ridgway in southwest Colorado, she continued to work on special projects with DUS and write the occasional story. Her son is now in his first year at university and Tanya is the executive director of the nonprofit Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership, but continues to stay involved in DUS and support the digital transformation and ownership transition. She has truly appreciated Bee’s trust, friendship, and opportunities for growth and inspiration.

Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2024 12

The Newman Center for the Performing Arts is a nationally recognized arts, culture and entertainment venue. Located on the University of Denver campus, the Newman Center has featured some of the world’s finest dance ensembles within its intimate Gates Concert Hall. Performances in recent years include Dance Theatre of Harlem, Paul Taylor Dance Company and the Martha Graham Dance Company.

On April 12, the Brooklynbased Urban Bush Women Inc. (UBW) will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the dance company’s legacy, with a performance at the Newman Center titled Legacy + Lineage + Liberation.

Legacy + Lineage + Liberation features new work by co-artistic directors, Chanon Judson and

Urban Bush Women Celebrate 40th Anniversary of Dance in Denver

Mame Diarra Speis, along with iconic works by founder Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. Based in Brooklyn and formed by Zollar in 1984, UBW was created using dance as a mechanism to tell stories that are often ignored or under-represented. Each of the works presented in April depict multiple dimensions of life, resonating in a time of reflection around equity and justice while uplifting Black lives in inspiring


Off the concert stage, UBW has developed an extensive community engagement program called BOLD (Builders, Organizers and Leaders through Dance) which was created as a unique approach to facilitating dialogue within organizations. BOLD workshops are held using a unique blend of conversation and movement to improve commu-

nication in work environments.

In addition, UBW’s Summer Leadership Institute is an intensive, 10-day convening where participants learn effective ways to deepen or begin work as artists, connecting art to community organizing and progressive social change strategization. As part of their Denver visit, the ensemble will perform for students at South High School.

The UBW dance company takes its role as a platform for artistic world improvement very seriously. The powerful choreography transcends genres, with musicality and reflections of empathy and joy.

Patrons will leave the Legacy + Lineage + Liberation performance feeling energized and inspired..

Editor’s note: For more information about Urban Bush Women, visit www.urbanbushwomen.org. To purchase tickets, call 303-871-7720 or visit www.newmancenterpresents.com.

Waste Directory Collection Reminders CONNECT WITH SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT! CONNECT WITH SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT! Sign up for notifications on the FREE Denver Trash and Recycling App to receive collection reminders and service alerts, view upcoming events, and search items on the Waste Directory. Scan or visit Denvergov.org/CartSmart TO GET STARTED:
Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2024 13

Saudi Aurora

Colorado Filmmaker Calls for Gun Control with Debut Short Film

Photographer, filmmaker and Aurora native, Brien Hollowell, is making waves at spring film festivals around the country with the release of his directorial debut titled, Saudi Aurora.

The independent drama short film premiered in February at the DaVinci International Film Festival in Los Angeles. From April 4-8, it will be shown under the African American-directed shorts category at the Phoenix Film Festival; and it is in contention for an award at the Chicago Horror Film Festival from May 4-5 at Chicago’s Facets Theater.

Inspired by the infamous 2012 mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater, Hollowell hopes his film will aid in the fight for safer gun laws, ultimately preventing the tragic violence that took place one fateful night over a decade ago.

When Tragedy Hits Home

On July 19, 2012, 24-year old gunman, James Holmes, entered through an exit door at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora. The theater was packed full of Batman enthusiasts of all ages for a special midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. Dressed in tactical clothing, Holmes set off tear gas grenades and began firing indiscriminately into the audience with multiple high-powered firearms. Twelve people were killed, and 70 others were injured – 58 from gunfire.

Dubbed the “Century 16 Massacre,” that night changed the lives of many. Residents of Aurora were shaken by the

news of the shooting, which occurred in the same parking lot as the popular Town Center of Aurora mall and retail district. The nation watched in horror and disbelief as news coverage detailed the heinous crime. For Hollowell, the event hit too close to home.

Hollowell was a Batman fan who was excited to attend the midnight premiere of the third and final film in the Batman saga. “My girlfriend and I were excited to see the movie and have a good time,” he recalls.

On the way to the theater an argument ensued, disrupting the couple’s plans. “I dropped her off at home. We were pretty upset, so I called my friend to see what he was doing,” says Hollowell, who went on to discover his passion for photography that very night. He met up with his friend at a local concert, and was attempting to forget the previous argument when he encountered a photographer at the show.

“Just out of the blue, I asked if I could hold his camera and take some pictures,” he says. Immediately, Hollowell fell in love with the art of photography.

After the concert, he contemplated attending a later viewing of The Dark Knight Rises without his then-girlfriend. “There was still one more showing of the film. I was debating with myself.” Instead, he decided to call it a night and go home. He had no idea what the unsus-

Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2024 14

pecting midnight audience had endured in the dark theater he was coincidentally absent from.

The next morning, Hollowell woke up to his startled mother rushing into his room. “Mother looked like she just saw a ghost. She told me to turn on the news.”

He watched a news report about the shooting that occurred in the same theater he planned to attend.

“All I remember is my ears ringing, and I felt sick to my stomach. I was supposed to be there; in one of those seats. I decided to turn around and not go to the movies. That saved my life,” Hollowell affirms.

A Harrowing Scene

The Aurora Century 16 shooting became the deadliest shooting by a lone perpetrator in the history of Colorado, and the state’s second-deadliest mass shooting, following the devastating Columbine High School Massacre in 1999, which had the largest number of victims (82) in modern U.S. history. This number was later surpassed by the 107 victims that were killed or injured in the 2016 Orlando Nightclub shooting, and eventually the 927 victims of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting.

Police arrested Holmes from his car just minutes after the attack as he sat behind the building. During the investigation, officers found that earlier in the day he’d rigged his apartment with homemade explosives and incendiary devices.

The heroic Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad managed to defuse the devices without further incident or harm to unsuspecting neighbors.

Holmes confessed to the shooting but pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. The trial began nearly three years after the event on April 27, 2015, and on July 16 he was convicted of 24 counts of first-degree murder, 140 counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of possessing explosives.

Arapahoe County prosecutors sought the death penalty, but a deadlocked jury ultimately resulted in an Aug. 26 sentencing giving Holmes 12 life sentences – one for every person he killed. He also received 3,318 years for the attempted murders of those he wounded, and for rigging his apartment with explosives.

Beauty from the Pain

The untimely argument between Hollowell and his former girlfriend detoured his night, but led to one of the greatest realizations of his life. His love for photography was born from the anger and frustration he experienced, and in the midst of one of the country’s most devastating acts of violence.

After the narrowly averted event and a concert where a stranger shared his camera, he jumped at every opportunity to use a camera.

“I would take pictures of my friends, weddings and family.

You could see the talent was there for me,” he states.

He enrolled at the Art Institute of Denver to hone his newfound interest and learn skills that would refine his gift. While in art school, he participated in the Issachar Urban Leadership program, which provided an opportunity to take part in an apprenticeship while ministering the word of God to others. Hollowell discovered that this allowed him to be more connected to God, sharpening his God-given photography talent. After completing his studies, he went fullforce to build his new career.

“I went out to New York; shot New York Fashion Week; and took advantage of what the city could offer,” he says.

Hollowell spent a year in New York City, and networked with several people in the film industry while living and working there. “I would drop film equipment off to film sets and get excited because I was on a famous set,” he laughs.

He recently hosted a photoshoot featuring Deion “Primetime” Sanders during his coaching tenure at University of Colorado Boulder. His photography has been featured in Yoga Journal, 5280 Magazine, Google, and Essence Magazine.

In December 2020, Hollowell’s first gallery exhibit “On for My City: A Photographic Memoir,” featured black and white photos of his Denver hometown.

“God has used photography as a vehicle that has taken me

many places over the last 11 years. It has even landed me here as a filmmaker and writer,” he shares, detailing the ways in which his love of photography slowly evolved into a love for film production, directing and writing.

The Making of Saudi Aurora

Ever since the Aurora Century 16 shooting, Hollowell has had an urge to tell the story from his perspective. Throughout the years, he has interviewed and talked to people who were in the theater as well as families of the victims. Despite his efforts, he faced a great deal of opposition. “No one wanted to relive the trauma of that night,” he explains.

Feeling compelled to memorialize the story in his own way, he began writing a script about the tragic night. He studied the incident case files and referenced other mass shootings as a resource, drawing attention to the small details which could help people understand the severity of each scene.

“There is an emphasis on popcorn in the film,” he points out. “When I was talking to people about that night, the smell of popcorn was a prominent memory that came up for people. Some people can’t even eat popcorn today because of that night.”

Saudi Aurora started as a pilot for a television show before evolving into a feature film. Hollowell gathered a team

Continued on page 12

Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2024 15

Saudi Aurora

Continued from page 11 of people and started filming in 2021, but had to end production due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“I was devastated,” he remembers. “I thought I would not be able to make this film.”

He persisted, and didn’t let the setback put an end to the fulfillment of his dream. He went back to the drawing board and changed a few things, shortening the run-time to 9 minutes – the duration of the massacre.

“I wanted my audience to be in the real-time of that night, and to feel every little emotion and tension that was felt.”

After tweaking and recasting the story, it was finally completed in time for its 2024 premiere.

“It’s very exciting. This is a full-circle moment for me. Just a year ago we were filming Saudi Aurora, and now exactly a year later it is in film festivals,”

Hollowell admits with a cheerful smile.

Saudi Aurora is filmed with the shooter’s point of view, sending a message about how diabolical someone must be to commit such an act. It ends with a quote in red lettering, explaining the amount of mass shootings that take place in Colorado and emphasizing the lack of gun legislation. The film’s name is reflective of the increased crime that has spread throughout the city of Aurora; it is a moniker commonly used among the city’s own residents.

Hollowell hopes that Saudi Aurora will bring attention to the need for stricter gun laws in the United States. By shining a spotlight on a real event that affected countless lives, he desires to motivate lawmakers to take action to prevent mass shootings in every way possible..

Editor’s note: For more information about Saudi Aurora and Brien Hollowell, visit www.brienhollowell.com.

Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2024 16

RootED Denver’s Mile High School Guide

Making Denver School and District Data More Accessible and Transparent

Latia Henderson is the partner of communications and strategic initiatives for RootED Denver, an organization that supports autonomous schools and community-led work through funding, strategy, collaboration, information and other resources to advance equity in education.

Families and caregivers need comprehensive and accurate data about Denver’s public schools to make informed decisions about their children’s education. Details around academic data, demographics and other important information is scattered across several public sites, but for years there hasn’t been a resource that compiles data in one, easily accessible place.

Parents and caregivers have had to navigate several sources – some of them more userfriendly than others – to find information that would help enroll their children in a school that best meets their needs.

In recent years, there has been increasing demand for transparent, easily accessible school information. RootED Denver has responded to this call by collaborating with fam-

ilies, caregivers, educators, advocacy leaders and several individuals who assisted in the development of Denver Public School’s School Performance Framework. The collaboration resulted in the creation of the new Mile High School Guide, a direct response to community feedback.

A New Tool for School Mile High School Guide is an interactive tool that makes it easier to locate and understand data for Denver’s public schools. It provides detailed information about each school, allowing users to view and compare school data including academic performance, teacher retention, attendance data, student-to-teacher ratios, demographics, social-emotional support, enrichment opportunities and more. All data comes from Denver Public Schools, the Colorado Department of Education, school websites and through open records requests.

The guide makes no recommendations on schools and doesn’t rate them. It simply relies on available public data, and provides detailed information about every public school –including district-run, charter, innovation and innovation zone schools – so that parents and caregivers can find the information that matters most to them.

“The guide has all the necessary tools to know more closely the school you are interested in,” says parent Maybelline Quintanilla, who participated in a community feedback session about the guide’s design.

Through community conversations in Denver area neighborhoods and a year-long com-

munity research initiative including dialogue with more than 135 people and 200 surveys, RootED recognized a need for more transparent and comprehensive data about Denver’s schools. The organization learned that it is particularly important to community members that it honor the perspectives and lived experiences of families and caregivers from underrepresented communities, particularly Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and Latino.

There was an expressed need for a wide array of information; families and caregivers care deeply about their children’s academic success along with several other factors that contribute to their development. The community at-large values programs that nurture children’s social, emotional and mental health while enriching their overall learning. Families also care about educator demographics in a school, knowing that adults who reflect the backgrounds and ethnicity of students can have a profound impact on their educational experience.

For families and caregivers, the spectrum of programs and services schools provide and the availability of rigorous academic curriculum result in more meaningful outcomes for their children. In creating the Mile High School Guide, RootED sought to provide information about the many layers that comprise the academic and cultural experience of a school.

“The access to this data is very helpful,” says Moriah Rodriguez, another parent who participated in a community feedback session. She says the student-to-teacher ratio and discipline data helps to show how a school is supporting students. She also likes seeing four-year graduation rates and information on schools’ special education programs.

“Special education data is personal to me and a lot of par-

ents, to show that [schools] serve students with special needs,” she says. “I feel that looking at the data and having the opportunity to compare schools is a very useful tool when making your decisions on what school will best fit you and your child’s needs. This tool takes a lot of stress off parents.”

Benefits of the Guide

RootED took on the task of funding and maintaining the Mile High School Guide because the community advocated for it.

The creation of the guide is aligned with the organization’s guiding principles: the values of strength in lived experiences, collaboration across differences, community partnership and continuous innovation.

The Mile High School Guide gives families and caregivers an opportunity to explore schools in and beyond their neighborhoods, leading to better preparation for the annual SchoolChoice process and a deeper understanding of the diverse offerings within Denver’s unique family of schools. They can also gain a better understanding of their boundary schools and schedule tours of schools that might best meet their children’s needs.

Since the tool’s launch in January 2024, RootED received thoughtful and helpful feedback from educators, parents and parents. The design team has implemented quick software updates whenever necessary to ensure accuracy and provide exactly what families are looking for.

The organization hopes that the Mile High School Guide’s accessible, easy-to-understand format allows families and caregivers to make well-informed decisions, leading to greater academic success and personal fulfillment for students..

Editor’s note: To try the new Mile High School Guide, visit https://guide.denveredexplorer.org/.

Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2024 17

rontLine Farming (FLF) is a local organization working to ensure that underserved communities have access to fresh, healthy food. With educational programming, resources for local farmers and farmland producing organic produce, FLF is preparing for the spring and summer months with opportunities for community members to get involved in all they do.

Increasingly Expensive Health

From the start of the new millennium, nutrition and diet trends have resulted in more expensive food products. According to a report published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2014, “The Growing Price Gap Between More and Less Healthy Foods,” the price of healthy food was greater than that of less healthy foods from 2002 to 2012, a trend that has continued well past the end of the recording period. The gap between inexpensive, low-nutrient food and expensive, healthy food contributes to food insecurity for millions of people around the world.

Food insecurity, defined as the condition of not having access to sufficient, quality food to meet one’s basic needs, affects 2.4 billion people around the globe and 44.2 million people in the United States, according to National Public Radio’s Public Health reporting. This number contains a dispro-

FrontLine Farming FrontLine Farming Food Security, Justice & Sovereignty

portionate amount of Black communities, with Feeding America reporting that in 2022 nearly 23% of Black people living in the U.S. experience food insecurity – over two times the rate of white people.

Poverty and food insecurity go hand in hand, with Black and Indigenous groups experiencing higher rates of both due to disproportionate levels of education, employment and income. In addition to healthy food being less affordable, these populations commonly experience a socioeconomic phenomenon called “food deserts,” where people have limited access to healthy, affordable food. Specifically, people living further than 1 mile from a large grocery store where they can purchase fresh produce are living in a food desert.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service identified 6,500 food deserts in the U.S. These areas

are commonly found in urban environments with high poverty rates and inadequate access to transportation.

The cause of food insecurity is systemic and economic inequity, and the effect is detrimental.

Implications concerning the affordability of healthy food directly impact physical health, with the World Health Organization (WHO) identifying unhealthy foods as key contributors to chronic disease. In 2023, NIH published another report, “Healthy Food Prices Increased More Than the Prices of Unhealthy Options during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Concurrent Challenges to the Food System,” which identified an increased cost of healthy food at a time when people needed access most.

On the FrontLines of Food Justice

In 2007, Urbiculture Community Farms (UCF) created a nonprofit farm that grew affordable food for Denver residents. In 2018, FLF Co-Founder, Executive Director and Head Farmer, Fatuma Emmad, and Center for Food Justice and Health Communities Co-Founder and Director, Dr. Damian Thompson, recognized a need for greater food-based advocacy centered on the experiences of Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), and FLF was born.

Originally, FLF expanded UCF’s Cultivate Health Project partner program with Regis University and Urban Ventures LLC. Today, the organization operates Celebration Community Farm and Sisters Gardens in Denver, as well as Majestic View Farm in Arvada. These farms serve the community directly by providing access to healthy, fresh, organic food to BIPOC and low-income residents.

The Black-owned organization’s goal is to implement strategies that will build a more equitable food system along Colorado’s Front Range, a mission that Emmad takes seriously.

Recognizing food insecurity as a growing problem, government entities such as the USDA have implemented programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to ensure adequate nutrition among the most vulnerable populations. However, much of the work to combat food insecurity is carried out by community organizations like FLF.

Born and raised in Denver’s Westside neighborhood, Emmad’s heritage gave her a unique perspective surrounding food justice and sovereignty. Her parents were Ethiopian and Yemenis, and she spent a great deal of time in Ethiopia, living there until high school.

“As a young child, Ethiopia was often seen by people as a feast of famine in the 1980s. I saw how people treated food here and I would see people hungry,” she explains. “When spirit and community call you

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to do something, you do it –and I wanted to farm.”

Emmad’s homeland has remained at the center of her work, along with international travel which has broadened her perspective about the culture of food throughout the world.

“I grew up with my Mexican brothers and sisters on Federal Boulevard, and I’ve seen Black people [in Denver] who are experiencing some of the exact global harms I’ve experienced and witnessed abroad – the levels of not having access to food. So, I decided to settle back here and start farming.”

With 20 years of farming experience, Emmad and Thompson have created a framework based on community-derived, asset-based and data-driven solutions that address every level of food insecurity from the ground up.

Food and Farming Knowledge

FLF’s three farms support the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which provides fresh foods to individuals who sign up for a seasonal, 16-week membership. The affordable membership ensures that seeds, supplies and labor are funded for a growing season in exchange for one or two shares of food or plant products each week. SNAP benefits are accepted as payment for the CSA food shares in addition to Double Up Food Bucks, which provides a state-provided 50%

discount for SNAP users.

The organization also provides a No Cost Grocery program in partnership with Denver Food Rescue, providing items rescued from local Whole Foods and Sprouts grocery stores to the public. Individuals who wish to purchase produce without joining the CSA can do so at local farmer’s markets.

Along with providing food, FLF established the Center for Food Justice and Healthy Communities to provide education, research and policy-making. “We’re an education space, but we’re actually real producers. We pride ourselves in growing food and feeding our community,” says Emmad.

Education is a critical component of food justice programming. Often, generations of poor food choices are passed down. Therefore, teaching good eating habits and providing educational resources that teach how to grow food can produce food sovereignty, or the ability to control and create sustainable agricultural systems.

The recently launched Cultivators Program is a 10-week summer program designed to help Black youth integrate agriculture with cultural and community leadership. The Summer Youth Garden Series is a free program that hosts youth ages 3 to 17 with farming classes and education.

Adults can utilize FLF’s educational training by participating in a 2-Week Immersion program or Full Season Work Experience, which gives handson farming lessons. Individuals 18 and over can take on-off farm classes to increase farm and gardening knowledge. Additionally, FLF’s Herbal Certification Program empowers individuals to learn how to cultivate the land and utilize traditional herbalism Scholarships are available for programs and classes, and individuals are encouraged to volunteer in support of the organization’s efforts.

Special Events

FLF is gearing up for its next big event celebrating Earth Day. The Electric Black Earth Festival will take place on April 20 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., embodying Afrofuturist visions through tangible action and spiritual connection.

Throughout the spring and summer months, FLF hosts potluck dinners on Friday evenings. Supporters and community members are invited to gather and dine together, with a menu featuring cuisine from various countries. The potluck represents people from all walks of life, while allowing the community to share history, culture and stories.

During harvest season, the community is invited to participate in the Mosaic World Heritage Farm to Table Dinner, featuring a cocktail hour and dinner service with a silent auction, games and live music. The dinner showcases African, Arab and Bio-Regional foodways direct from FLF’s gardens.

The Future of FLF

As an advocacy resource for local farmers, the organization continues to support the creation of legislation and policies that increase access to healthy food while reducing food insecurity.

Amid COVID-19 shutdowns, FLF worked to pass the biggest farm bill in the nation to help protect farm workers.

Throughout the pandemic, it collaborated with Project Protect Promotoras to provide access to training and resources for legal, health and food-based issues for food systems workers. Project Protect Food System Workers, FLF’s sister organization, was created to protect the rights of farm workers. Emmad explains the mission of the initiative saying, “We seek to support and create greater leadership and access for women and People of Color.”

In 2022, the organization launched the “Liberation x Land Campaign” in an effort to procure 30 acres of land within 20 miles of Denver to expand farming efforts and education.

FLF is shaping a future where human connections between each other and to the land are strengthened and protected. It is not just a farm that feeds the community – it is a farm that gives a voice to the people, hope to the community and tools for the future..

Editor’s note: For more information about FrontLine Farming, visit www.frontlinefarming.org

Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2024 19

Sprout Life Sprout Life

Learning to Garden in the Mile High City


tarting a garden shouldn’t be that hard, right? Just add some soil, sunshine, seeds and ta-da, a lovely veggie or flower garden. But wait, are you planting annuals or perennials? Or how about deciding between mulch, soil or fertilizer? How much spacing is needed for tomatoes and your cabbage? And what about your garden zone, and first and last frost? Oh, and how about those pests?

So…you think you can garden now?

Gardening 101 Gardening 101

Gardening involves more than sticking a seed in the ground and watching it grow. Successful plant, fruit and vegetable growth in Colorado comes with its own set of unique challenges; but it’s not impossible.

Starting a garden should be a rewarding experience, not an infuriating one. Vegetable gardening isn’t age specific. Like all new things it takes patience, knowledge and hard work, which often means that before getting down and dirty, prospective gardeners should take a deep breath and open their refrigerators.

Generally, in the United States, people aren’t eating healthy. We consume too much sugar, sodium and saturated fat, increasing the population’s risk of chronic diseases, according to the National Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“When you open your fridge does it look like a beautiful garden or does it look like a morgue?” asks Dr. Ietef “DJ Cavem” Vita.

Vita, 37, holds a doctoral degree in urban ecology. The OG (Original Gardener) is an activist, educator and vegan chef that raps about climate change, food justice and plantbased food.

He suggests researching the anticipated gardening environment to see what grows naturally, then determining what should be planted based on what will be eaten. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is severely lacking, according to the self-proclaimed eco-hip hop artist. Already worrisome eating habits are worsening, and the SAD diet fails to meet CDC guidelines for minimal fruit and vegetable intake, with some states doing worse than others.

Vita released the Koncrete Garden album as a digital download printed on a packet of cherry tomato seeds. BIOMiMICZ was released in the same manner on packages of kale, arugula and beetroot seeds. Planting the Seeds Planting the Seeds

Colorado’s low humidity, drying winds and alkaline clay soils can restrict plant growth more than low temperatures. Occasionally, the state experiences freezing weather in midspring called frosts, which can shorten the already short growing season for high-elevation areas and mountain communities. Along with knowing each area’s average growing season, knowing its elevation is an important aspect of gardening. The Colorado State University Extension website outlines average growing seasons by area, explaining that the city of Denver sees an average of 155 frost-free days per year, while Fraser gets only nine.

April in Denver can bring wild swings in weather; but, it

also means that springtime is near and its prime time to begin gathering seeds.

Some local libraries and organizations such as Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) offer free plant kits and seeds with limited supplies available to those who sign up quickly. Another excellent resource is to attend “Seed Swaps” at places like Colorado Native Plant Society and the annual plant sale in May at Denver Botanic Gardens. The May event is free but reservations are required by April 15.

Seeds can also be purchased directly from a number of Black-owned seed companies, including Seed Mail Seed Co., Backyard Garden Seeds, Ivy Leaf Farms Seed Co., Melanated Organic Seeds, and SoulGardener74 on Etsy.com.

Getting Rooted Getting Rooted

Once gardening space has been identified and seeds have been procured, it’s time to mind the soil.

Colorado has an alkaline clay soil, which requires a good deal of compost to make it loose and lower the pH. Plants need good, soft, nutrient dense compost in order to thrive. It’s best to use fertilizer after two weeks to make sure vegetables are getting all the nutrients needed.

When planting seeds, ensuring adequate space is important. Planting seeds too close together breeds competition for the nutrients and water, which can hinder growth.

In addition to space, water-

ing is a crucial component to gardening success. “Watering is a big mistake first-timers make,” says Vita. “People think they need to water once a day, but really it can be two to three times a day for the seeds to fully germinate.”

Dena Townsend agrees. The local gardener has run Gardens in Bloom Landscaping for the past 22 years, offering garden design, landscaping packages and additional support for new flower gardens. “The second biggest mistake for the new gardener is not getting decent mulch,” she says, suggesting the purchase of two 30-gallon bags of mulch from landscaping supply stores to get started.

She encourages novice flower gardeners to start with a one-gallon container of perennials. “For shady areas, get some astilbe, hostas and beating hearts. For the sunny areas, daylilies or salva,” she says. “Those babies are hard to kill.” For some Colorado pride, she urges residents to try their hands at planting Columbine, the official state flower.

Timing is Everything Timing is Everything

Keeping up with the calendar is key when gardening. The DUG website provides Denver planting dates, including the last spring frost around May 15 and the first frost of fall around Oct. 5.

In late March, cool season crops such as spinach, leaf lettuces, collard and mustard greens and onion seeds can be planted. These crops will be safe in the event of an unex-

Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2024 20
Dr. Ietef “DJ Cavem” Vita

Beginner Tips:

Picking up gardening is a labor of love. Here are a few tips on how to start.

••Location, location, location, isn’t just for real estate, it’s highly important in gardening. You have to figure out how much shade or sun your plants, flowers or veggies will need.

••Size does matter. For planting in the ground, a 10’ x 10’ garden (100 square feet) is a manageable size. And if planting in a raised bed, a 4’ x 4’ or 4’ x 8’ is a good beginner size.

••Not all plants are equal. Make sure you choose when to plant because not all plants are planted at the same time.

••Most veggies are annuals (planted each year). If you’re planning on growing “perennial” crops such as asparagus, rhubarb, and some herbs, provide permanent locations or beds.

••Spacing and synergy is key. For example, corn and tomatoes shouldn’t be together. They both are heavy feeders and will compete for the vital nutrients in the soil.

••Patience is paramount. A full garden will take some time. Although you can start the process indoors before transplanting outside.

••Pro Tip: Mix in flowers such as colorful marigolds which attract pollinators and discourage pests. Or reverse it, and add sunflowers. They provide shade for pumpkins and climbing beans can use them to grow upwards.

••Be gentle with yourself. Gardening is full of trial and error. Not all of us were born with a green thumb but it’s never too late to learn.

pected late frost. By mid-to-late April budding broccoli and cabbage seeds can be transferred outdoors. During the first week in May, cucumbers and melons can be planted, and budding tomato plants can be transferred outdoors the following week. Just before the month ends, hot peppers and eggplants can join the garden. Later in the growing season, spinach and leaf lettuces can be replanted.

Seed packets contain cropspecific information that are helpful for gardeners. Online gardening forums like “Black Girls with Gardens,” Facebook groups, gardening gurus called “plantfluencers,” and local groups at community gardens are readily available to give support, encouragement and advice.

Beverly Grant’s Mo’ Betta Greens (MBG) Marketplace is a helpful resource that has been in operation for over a decade. Grant founded MBG Marketplace in 2010 as a walkup and drive-up pop-up marketplace that allows her to serve various communities with fresh produce. The Seeds of Power Farms was founded in 2014 as a 5,000 square-foot urban farm located on a residential lot in the Cole neighborhood. Today, there are additional farm sites across central Denver in the

Uptown and Northeast Park Hill neighborhoods.

By opening the doors to food access and encouraging conversations around active living and food literacy, Grant facilitates the process of “growing what you eat and eating what you grow,” making healthy food more affordable and accessible to all

Reaping the Rewards Reaping the Rewards

Harvest time comes after months of a gardener’s hard work. That’s when the magic happens.

Harvesting at the right time is key because it will ensure the

especially rewarding to make a dish with food grown by hand, and surveying the flourishing flower garden is a beautiful experience.

The traditional act of horticulture establishes a connection with the soil. Growing a small sprout into a mature, fruit-producing plant is both purposeful and meaningful, in addition to being a way to create and sustain an independent sacred space.

So, be patient, persistent and persevere in your new gardening knowledge and in the words of Vita, “You can sprout that life.”.

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Unlocking the Door:

Buying a home is a monumental milestone in one’s life, marking a significant step towards stability, independence and investment. However, for many firsttime homebuyers the journey is shrouded in uncertainty and fear. From financial worries to the complexities of the process itself, these fears can often deter individuals from taking the plunge into homeownership. In this article, we’ll explore some of the biggest fears that firsttime homebuyers face, and provide practical strategies to overcome them.

Overcoming First-Time Homebuyer Fears

Fear of Financial Burden

Perhaps the most common fear among first-time homebuyers is the concern about the financial burden associated with homeownership. From mortgage payments to maintenance costs, the financial responsibilities can seem overwhelming. Additionally, the fear of taking on debt and the uncertainty of future financial stability can further exacerbate these concerns.

Overcoming Strategy: Educate Yourself and Plan Ahead

Knowledge is power when it comes to overcoming the fear of

financial burden. Take the time to thoroughly research and understand all aspects of homeownership, including mortgage options, closing costs and ongoing expenses. Create a comprehensive budget that accounts for all potential costs associated with homeownership, and consider working with a financial advisor to ensure that you are well-prepared for the financial responsibilities ahead. Additionally, explore first-time homebuyer programs and incentives that may be available in your area to help alleviate some of the financial strain.

Fear of Making the Wrong Decision

The fear of making a mistake is another significant barrier for first-time homebuyers. With so many factors to consider – from location and property condition to market trends and resale potential – the fear of choosing the wrong home can be paralyzing. Additionally, the fear of



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buyer’s remorse can lead individuals to second-guess their decisions and ultimately delay the home buying process.

Overcoming Strategy:

Conduct Thorough Research and Seek Guidance

Combat the fear of making the wrong decision by arming yourself with knowledge and information. Take the time to thoroughly research the housing market in your desired area, paying attention to factors such as property values, school districts and crime rates. Additionally, consider enlisting the help of a qualified real estate agent who can provide expert guidance and advice throughout the home buying process. A knowledgeable agent can help you navigate the market with confidence, ensuring that you make an informed decision that aligns with your needs and preferences.

Fear of Commitment

For some first-time homebuyers, the fear of commitment can be a significant obstacle. The idea of being tied down to a mortgage and property for the long term can feel daunting, especially for those who value flexibility and freedom. Additionally, concerns about future life changes – such as job relocations or family expansions – can make the idea of committing to a home even more intimidating.

Overcoming Strategy:

Focus on Flexibility and Long-Term Goals

Overcome the fear of commitment by reframing your perspective and focusing on the long-term benefits of homeownership. While buying a home does involve a certain level of commitment, it also offers stability, security and the opportunity to build equity over time. Keep in mind that homeownership doesn’t have to be permanent; if your circumstances change in the future, you always have the option to sell or

rent out your property. Additionally, consider choosing a home that offers flexibility, such as a property with rental potential or room for expansion to accommodate potential future changes.

Fear of the Unknown

Finally, the fear of the unknown can loom large for first-time homebuyers. From the complexities of the home buying process to the unfamiliarity of homeownership responsibilities, the fear of stepping into uncharted territory can be paralyzing.

Overcoming Strategy:

Educate Yourself and Take

It One Step at a Time

Combat the fear of the unknown by arming yourself with knowledge and taking a systematic approach to the home buying process. Take the time to educate yourself about each step of the journey – from pre-approval to closing – and don’t hesitate to ask questions and seek clarification along the way. Surround yourself with a team of trusted professionals, including real estate agents, lenders and inspectors, who can provide guidance and support throughout the process. Remember, buying a home is a journey, and it’s okay to take it one step at a time.

While the fears and uncertainties of first-time homebuyers are valid, they need not be insurmountable. By arming themselves with knowledge, seeking guidance and reframing their perspectives, first-time homebuyers can overcome their fears and embark on the exciting journey of homeownership with confidence and peace of mind. So, take a deep breath, trust in your preparation and unlock the door to your dream home..

Editor’s Note: Barry Overton is a licensed Real Estate with the Super Agents Collaborative Powered by eXp Realty. He has been an agent since 2001, and started investing in real estate in 1996. For more information, email: barrysellsdenver@msn.com or call 303-668-5433.


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Denver Celebrates Journalism Excellence and the Reemergence of CABJ at Annual Award Ceremony

The Colorado Association of Black Journalists (CABJ) was recently revived after an eightyear hiatus. On March 2, the organization hosted an award ceremony and fundraising reception in Denver’s Cableland event space to celebrate outstanding journalism and empower future generations of community leaders.

A Night of Recognition and Inspiration

As the ceremony began, guests were welcomed by CABJ President, Micah Smith, who highlighted the organization’s renewed focus. “When you give your heart and soul to something, you get a little nervous when it starts to come to fruition and I recognize I didn’t do it alone, I did it with so many people including our board,” she remarked. She emphasized CABJ’s dedication to creating a safe space for Black journalists, and role in creating community connections and pathways to resources for the next generation of media professionals.

Journalist and Race & Culture Contributor at 9News KUSA, Shay “Shay J” Johnson,

served as the emcee for the evening. She stated, “The success of the CABJ Award Fundraiser shines as a beacon of unity, empowerment and progress, illuminating the path for future generations of Black journalists to thrive and make an indelible mark on the world of media. In the room, we witnessed a tapestry of excellence woven across generations, each thread representing a legacy of brilliance and achievement. Together, we celebrate the rich heritage and boundless potential of multi-generational excellence.”

Laughter filled the room as comedian Shanel Hughes kicked off the awards presentation. Similar to the White House Correspondents Dinner, Shanel joked about the industry leaders in attendance, making light of the fact that the room was filled with people who could research her and do an exposé. She brought humor to a range of topics, including politics, parenting, reparations and even wild geese.

Honoring Community Leaders and Media Excellence

Civil Rights Activism Award: Portia Prescott, Rocky

Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2024 24
Photo by William Peterson

Mountain NAACP President, was recognized for shining a light on injustices and advocating for representation in the media.

Community Service Award: Charleszine “Terry” Nelson and Jameka Lewis of the BlairCaldwell African American Research Library were honored for their dedication to community empowerment through the preservation of Black history.

Cultural Competence

Award: Patricia Cameron, founder of the nonprofit, Blackpackers, was celebrated for her work in promoting inclusivity and access to Colorado’s outdoor spaces.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award: The Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado received recognition for its facilitation of leadership training programs.

Higher Education

Institution of the Year Awards: Colorado College and Metropolitan State University of Denver were lauded for their commitment to supporting aspiring journalists from diverse backgrounds.

Champion of Justice

Awards: Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP and Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC were presented with awards for providing pro bono legal work supporting social justice causes.

Journalist of the Year

Award: Chandra Thomas Whitfield of Colorado Public Radio (CPR) was honored for her work in uncovering underreported stories and amplifying marginalized voices.

Media Organization of the Year Award: CPR was recognized for its dedication to the production of diverse journalism that reflects the community it serves. Sherkiyah

Wedgeworth, accepted on their behalf and said, “I am a return on your investment as a former CABJ scholarship recipient.”

Legacy Award: Rosalind “Bee” Harris, Denver Urban Spectrum Founder and Publisher, was honored for her visionary spirit

and dedication to expanding the voice of Colorado’s communities.

Legacy Award: Sandra Dillard, a founding member of NABJ, was acknowledged for her pioneering work in journalism and unwavering belief that journalists can change the world for the better.

The ceremony culminated with a presentation of the Legacy Awards by National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) President, Ken Lemon, who founded the Charlotte Area Association of Black Journalists (CAABJ). “I am home,” he said. “Diversity in journalism is not merely a matter of political correctness or tokenism. It is essential to democracy itself.”

After closing remarks and an expression of gratitude to attendees, sponsors and honorees, a cocktail hour ensued, featuring sounds by DJ Al Your Pal, food by Two Sistahs Eats and beverages by Liquor’s Quicker.

The inaugural event raised $15,000 for CABJ’s journalism scholarship, and renewed a call to action for continued support and community engagement with the organization..

Editor’s note: For more information about membership and scholarships visit www.cabj5280.org

NABJ President Ken Lemon
Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2024 25
Photo by William Peterson


hosted by Brittany


Continued from page 3

Menthol masks the harshness of smoking and makes cigarettes more addictive. Menthol cigarettes are more attractive to younger people than other types of cigarettes and harder to quit. It’s not surprising that the smoking rate among Black residents in Colorado is almost double the smoking rate among white residents. Furthermore, Black adults who smoke in Colorado are more likely to try to quit smoking but less likely to successfully quit than other adults who smoke (TABS 2018 and 2022).

Ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products in Denver could tremendously reduce tobacco use in our Black community and save lives. If the U.S. ended the sale of menthol flavored cigarettes nationwide, it would save the lives of 654,000 Americans, including 255,000 Black Americans over

the next four decades.

In the words of National NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson “It’s profoundly disturbing that the tobacco industry has deliberately targeted Black communities. Banning menthol cigarettes will save Black lives.”

Urging our political leaders in Denver to prioritize ending the sale of menthol cigarettes and all flavored tobacco products is the first step to reducing health disparities and ending the tobacco industry’s profiteering of Black lives. We must also hold those in power accountable for enabling the tobacco industry and allowing for the exploitation of issues that truly matter to the safety of our community.

Please join us by adding your name to the growing list of individuals and organizations that support ending the sale of flavored products in Denver at https://forms.gle/qz8JMrfE6Uf3ZBhu7

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Celebrating the Life of Aquilla Delores McKnight

June 29, 1938 – February 14, 2024

Aquilla Delores McKnight was born in Calhoun, Louisiana to Algie and Mary E Britton Lewis. She was raised surrounded by her brother, Prentice and younger sister, Lejoyce.

She graduated from Wichita North high school in 1956 and furthered her education at St. Francis School of Nursing in Wichita earning her certification as a Licensed Practical Nurse.

In 1960, Aquilla wed Paul D. McKnight in Wichita. From this union, Paul D. McKnight, Jr. was born. She was a loving and devoted mother who took pride in the care and nurture of her family. She was later blessed with two grandsons, Marquise and Paul, who were both a source of joy and pride in her life.

She was a woman of faith and believed in the Lord. Aquilla joined new Hope missionary Baptist Church in when she was a youth in Wichita and remained active until relocating to Columbus, Ohio. She later moved to Denver, Colorado and joined shorter community AME church. She was very active in the church and worked wherever she was needed. She believed in the power of prayer and having a relationship with the Lord. She was also active in several civic and community organizations. She was known for her willingness to do whatever she could to aid and assist others.

She had a long and successful career in Wichita, Kansas, Columbus, Ohio, and Denver, Colorado and retired after many years of faithful and dedicated service.

Aquilla was a fun-loving woman, who enjoyed life and those around her. She will be missed by all who were fortunate enough to have known this kind and wonderful woman. To know Aquilla was to love Aquilla.

She is preceded in death by her husband, Paul D. McKnight; her son, Paul Delano McKnight, Jr.; and her parents, Algie and Mary Lewis.

Aquilla McKnight departed this life on February 14, 2024 in Denver, Colorado. Those left to cherish her memory include her brother, Prentice F. Lewis of Wichita, Kansas; sisters, Lejoyce and Alice Yvonne; two grandsons, Marquise (Shantel) McKnight of Hickory, North Carolina; and Paul Pickens McKnight of Los Angeles; four great grandchildren; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives, and many friends.

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March 2, 2024 Bee’s Birthday Celebration

March 19, 2024

MSU Denver

Rachel B. Noel

Distinguished Visiting Professorship

2024 Professor:

Cleo Parker Robinson

March 10-12, 2024

Colorado Association of Black Journalists Reception and CeremonyAwards
Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – April 2024 29
Photos by: William Peterson Lori and Darryl Collier Rhetta Shedd
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