Denver Urban Spectrum - February 2021 - Black History Month

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Celebrating Black History

Lauren Y. Casteel Photo by Bernard Grant

Lauren Y. Casteel & Jordan Casteel: Two Paths Honor Whitney M. Young Jr...4

Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccine Haunted by Tuskegee Experiment...10 Recognizing the 2021 African Americans Who Make A Difference...15-18

Jordan Casteel Photo by David Stevens

Whitney M. Young, Jr.

MESSAGE FROM THE PUBLISHER History Is Created From History Volume 34

Number 11

February 2021

PUBLISHER Rosalind J. Harris GENERAL MANAGER Lawrence A. James EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Alfonzo Porter COPY EDITOR Tanya Ishikawa COLUMNISTS Barry Overton Dr. Lane Rolling FILM CRITIC BlackFlix.Com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS TaShia Asanti Tina Griego Thomas Holt Russell Angelia D. McGowan Alfonzo Porter ART DIRECTOR Bee Harris GRAPHIC DESIGNER Jody Gilbert - Kolor Graphix PHOTOGRAPHERS Lens of Ansar Bernard Grant DISTRIBUTION Ed Lynch Lawrence A. James - Manager

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

Black history is always an interesting and exciting time of the year. And this year is no exception as we learn and reflect on African American accomplishments and honor the rich history and culture cultivated centuries ago. Communities will recognize people who are making an impact in society and around the world. On the national (and international) level, we recently witnessed the Inauguration of the first African American woman as vice president of the United States, which many did not expect to see in their lifetimes, much like the election of President Barack Obama. Over the last 12 months we have experienced a preponderance of civil unrest, racial injustices and a global pandemic, while a former president turned a blind eye. The recent insurrection at the Capitol was not about keeping a president in office who did not want the job nor was he qualified for it, but to keep a president out of the office – one who is sandwiched between the first African American president and the first African American vice president. The color of the world is changing. The majority is becoming the minority and they just cannot accept that fact. They are fearful and afraid. As we celebrate Black history, our cover story features Lauren and Jordan Casteel and the footsteps they are walking in as they make their mark in society. Alfonzo Porter reveals why some people are reluctant about taking the COVID-19 vaccine, and contributor Thomas Holt Russell shares his family’s experience with contracting the coronavirus. Also this month, we recognize 17 individuals as our 2021 African Americans Who Make A Difference. African Americans have succeeded and have prevailed, and in spite of all the trauma, pain and suffering since 1619, African Americans will continue to overcome and survive. Our history has been created from their history, intertwined with hate and fury. But as Rev. Del so aptly says in his letter to the editor this month: living to fight another day is what we do. It’s also a time for change. So as we shift into another phase of democracy, let us ALL try not to turn a blind eye to one another, but instead unite in honor of our country’s name for the betterment of all. Rosalind “Bee” Harris DUS Publisher

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR rior, but obviously well below even the least performing, least educated and least wealthy while people lived in the new British colonies. It was very convenient for the slave sellers and the slave owners to create a lower caste of Black folks. She details how the caste system was codified into the laws of the colonies and the American States. She shows how it became and remains a foundational element of the U.S. American mentality. A substantial part of the book examines and compares the caste systems of India, the U.S. and that system developed and implemented by the Nazis in Germany against the Jews. She discusses how the Nazi commission to codify the laws against the Jews actually used the American laws against Blacks, and even rejected many of them as too strenuous. The laws of the American states dealing with Black folks were extremely harsh. Isabel Wilkerson gives us a deep look into the issue of “white privilege” and shows how it developed and morphed over the centuries, becoming codified after the Civil War into Jim Crow laws. She reviews the sordid history of lynching and the destruc-

The Dream of Inclusion Editor: Yes, folks, there’s a lot of Black History in the U.S. In fact, the extent of Black History, in the arts, education, industry, invention, religion, and whatever else you want to mention is remarkable. It does leave one a bit chagrined that people are surprised to find that it is remarkable. We have to be honest that those among us of darker skin have been and still are routinely singled out with the expectation of inferiority, and often there is surprise when the “colored” ones are successful, talented high level performers. Instead of stating that such a person is an extraordinary human being, the remark is made, “and did you know he (she) is Black?” The remarks are infuriating, but are very common. For those who would be interested to delve deeply into the examination and the history of the race divisions and race prejudice in the U.S., I highly recommend the well-written and highly informative book Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. She first examines the early treatment of the African slaves in the U.S. She shows how the society immediately set the slave aside as not only just infe-

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


tion of African American communities. She shows how studies have confirmed that those who are segregated into groups who are considered inferior tend to mimic what others think of them. She makes it clear that getting beyond the caste restrictions will take great individual and group effort. She does, however, not detail her recommendations on how to get beyond it. American society expects Black folks to work harder to achieve success. It is ingrained into the caste system that there have to be good justifications to allow one to escape its constrictions and restrictions. Unfortunately, it is our history, our harsh caste system, and a generally accepted world view that still allows us to feel comfortable looking at the color of skin as a meaningful determinative of worth. It is enough to make one very sad. Yet through the sadness we see a brilliant history, brilliant possibilities and a great reservoir of happiness that has remained in the consciousness, the talents and the soul of the Black community. I do greatly venerate that, and I applaud the herculean effort that Black folks have given to making our Continued on page 29

Philanthropic LeaderLauren


Two paths of excellence and community service honor the legacy of civil rights pioneer Whitney M. Young Jr.

and Rising ArtistJordan


By Angelia D. McGowan

America’s civil rights era

had a unique impact on the life journey of Lauren Y. Casteel, president and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado. Her experiences lay a foundation for how she fulfills her mission to reach women. “I’m a vessel that happens to have a legacy upon which I can build,” says Casteel, who spent her teens participating in a more informal version of Take Your Daughter to Work Day when she and her older sister, noted New York educator Dr. Marcia Y. Cantarella, accompanied her father into the community in his role as executive director of the National Urban League. Whitney M. Young Jr. led

the organization from 1961 to 1971 and is credited with bringing the League into the limelight in a number of ways. Under his 10-year tenure the organization experienced pronounced growth, increasing the annual budget from $325,000 to more than $6 million and increasing staffing from three dozen employees to more than a thousand. He also moved the organization to the forefront of the civil rights movement. When Casteel was 10 years old, her father was among the “Bix Six” who helped to organize and speak at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The others are Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, John Lewis, and A. Philip Randolph. “Each brought their own constituents and voices to the march and the movement,” says Casteel. Her father, who also served as advisor to U.S. Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon, helped bridge the gap between white political and business leaders and poor Black communities and power groups. Under Young’s direction, the League shifted its focus from middleclass concerns to the needs of the urban poor. He was particularly credited with persuading corporate America and major foundations to aid the civil rights movement through financial contributions for programs supporting jobs, housing, education, and family economic mobility in Black America.

“My dad was strategic and pragmatic,” says Casteel who watched how her dad built relationships when visiting the Urban League’s programs and partners including Head Start, Street Academy, the United Negro College Fund, and Freedom National Bank. “At 6’2”, 200 pounds, he was this big gregarious personality that could hone in on an issue quickly. I would watch his ease with everyone, everywhere. He looked folks in the eye.” She does carry a sadness that her children didn’t get to know him personally. He drowned in a swimming accident in Lagos, Nigeria when she was 17 years old. Casteel is the mother of three beautiful, loving and strong Black children, including two sons. Her youngest son labors in the grocery industry, helping to ensure that Colorado families have food on their tables. Her older son is a commended flight rescue registered nurse who serves the Navajo Nation. While the young men in the family serve the community out of the spotlight of the media, daughter Jordan has created a career as an artist, which is more similar to her mother and grandfather being in the public view. “All any parent wants for their children is for them to be whole, have purpose, and engage in honest work that sustains them. Every Black mother wants her children to be safe and well,” Casteel says.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


Pioneering Inclusive Philanthropy This month Casteel celebrates six years at the helm of the only statewide community foundation in Colorado focused on the advancement and acceleration of economic opportunity for women and their families. At the Women’s Foundation of Colorado (WFCO), she oversees the finance, development, programs and communications teams. The long-time Denver resident is also responsible for the foundation’s assets, which are valued at more than $25 million. Her career is well-known to those in the state’s and nation’s philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. She is the only person in Colorado to have led three of the state’s major foundations. Prior to the WFCO, Casteel served at The Denver Foundation for 16 years, most recently as vice president of philanthropic partnerships. As the first person in that role, she launched the Inclusiveness Project, a program that increased the recruitment and retention of people of color at metro Denver nonprofits. The program changed the face of Colorado’s nonprofit community and garnered national attention when it won the Council on Foundations’ Critical Impact Award in 2011. She also instituted The Denver Foundation’s Nonprofit Internship Program, inspiring college students to choose a career in the nonprofit sector. Additionally, Casteel sat on the

national Executive Alliance for Boys & Men of Color. As the vice president of donor services at The Denver Foundation, Casteel helped establish the Reisher Family Scholarship and grow the number of donor-advised funds to 400. From 1996 to 1998, she served as the executive director of the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation. Prior to this she spent six years at the Hunt Alternatives Fund as the executive director, then as the president. Casteel’s trademark leadership style represents an assetbased approach, in which all parties’ voices and strengths are listened to, respected and projected for outcomes that benefit women and families of every background and identity. Throughout her career, Casteel has earned numerous accolades, including: the Denver Urban Spectrum’s Timeless Legend Award; The Women of Power and Purpose Award by

the Denver Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; Anti-Defamation League Mountain States Region’s Civil Rights Award; the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce’s 25 Most Powerful Women Award; American Association of University Women’s Trailblazer Award; the Girl Scouts’ Woman of Distinction Award; the Monte Pascoe Civic Leadership Award; and the Mountain Region Black Economic Summit’s Legacy Award. In 2014, she was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.

Former first lady Michelle Obama and Women’s Foundation of Colorado President Lauren Casteel in Denver on July 25, 2017 (Jason Bahr/Getty Images for the Women’s Foundation of Colorado)

women are undervalued still and more negatively impacted when it comes to education, employment and equality. “I bow to these women. I have so much respect for them, especially those on the frontline who are being hit hard by this pandemic. Many others have lost their jobs. They are having to homeschool their children.

Building Opportunities for Women of Color The Women’s Foundation of Colorado has been working toward a future where Colorado women and girls of every background and identity can prosper since 1987. Then, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the truth about how

Some of them have limited or no internet service. They are making a way out of no way through this crisis,” says Casteel. “I’m grateful for the privilege to work with the Women’s Foundation of Colorado. We are continuing to set initiatives in place to help women meet their core needs.” Continued on page 6

Women & Girls of Color Fund Join us in investing in women, girls, and nonbinary people of color leaders! WFCO’s newly established Women & Girls of Color Fund invests in building economic power, dismantling oppressive systems, and lifting up the voices and experiences of communities of color across the state. Thanks to Ford Foundation’s generous $50,000 matching grant, your gift of $5, $50, or $100 goes even farther. Applications for Front Range nonprofits open in July 2021.

More details available now at

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


Continued from page 5 This month the foundation is opening up a grant application period for a new program, the Women & Girls of Color Fund. The community-developed, community-led, field-of-interest fund is dedicated to investing in and partnering with womenof-color-led organizations that are working to advance the economic security of Colorado women and girls of color. In addition to the WFCO’s own seed investment of $50,000 for the first three years, first funders include grants from The Colorado Health Foundation, Ford Foundation, Chambers Initiative, and Xcel Energy. Also, gifts from a diverse group of individual donors are helping this fund come to life. Casteel says everyone, even those who want to give $5, can support the fund as the Ford Foundation is offering $50,000 in matching dollars. In determining how to move forward with the fund, the

WFCO referenced a 2020 study released by the Ms. Foundation for Women, entitled, “Pocket Change: How Women and Girls of Color Do More with Less.” The landmark study addressed how paltry philanthropic giving is toward women and girls of color in the United States. The report showcases the drastic need to hold philanthropy accountable to communities, movements, and the changes they seek. The findings reveal that the total philanthropic giving to women and girls of color is just $5.48 per year for each woman or girl of color in the United States, accounting for just 0.5 percent of the total $66.9 billion given by foundations. This report also offers a much-needed, data-driven description of the funding landscape and provides new tools as well as a mandate for the philanthropic community to give more, better, and with greater transparency to gender and racial justice movements.

She points out that the study, combined with the inequities revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrate that her father’s mission is just as relevant today as it was in the 1960s. Casteel, who also serves on the board of the Association of Black Foundation Executives, adds, “If I don’t use my privilege on behalf of others, then I would have done a disservice to my family, father and legacy.”

Photo by David Schulze

Making an Original Impact: Jordan Casteel The paintings of Denver native Jordan Casteel have been exhibited from Harlem to the Netherlands and Beirut. She counts several exhibitions and distinctive works in her portfolio, including a 2019 solo exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, September 2020 Vogue magazine cover, and most recently her first solo museum exhibition, “Within Reach,” at the New Museum in New York City. While 2020 was a harsh year for many, it was also a year of opportunity. Casteel paints from her own photographs of people she encounters in her community. Her life-size portraits pose her subjects within their natural environments, and offer intimate perspectives of the human experience as it pertains to people of color. The New Museum was forced to temporarily close during the pandemic while her work was on exhibit, so created a virtual experience that offered viewers a rare opportunity to hear a description of nearly 40 of her large-scale paintings in her own words. The museum

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Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


also published a fully illustrated catalogue to accompany the exhibit. In September, Casteel was one of two Black artists commissioned to make paintings for the cover of Vogue magazine. The only requirement was that they choose a dress by one of four Vogue-selected designers for their subject to wear. She chose to portray Aurora James, creative director of the sustainable luxury brand Brother Vellies. James is also the founder of the 15 Percent Pledge, a nonprofit created in response to the Black Lives Matter protests in June to call on major retailers to dedicate 15 percent of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses. The very act of choosing someone with such a strong social justice message speaks to Casteel’s commitment to her family’s civil rights legacy, namely her grandfather. It also honored her grandmother, Margaret Young who in the 1980s served on the board of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Lincoln Center and the Dance Theater of Harlem. “It was totally overwhelming, but what I’ve hoped for is to have my work cross barriers,” says Casteel, who was given complete freedom to decide who would be on the cover, real or imaginary, and how that person would be portrayed. “People were tagging me online from Australia to England.” An international audience is a long way from her earliest memory of producing art in elementary school when she recalls being particularly invested in getting the shades of a rose just right. “I think it hung in the hallway at school for a week,” she says proudly of what was probably her first public exhibit. While she regularly took art classes, she never thought it would spearhead her career. Considering herself an artist

ignore stories she heard regularly about her family’s civil rights legacy. She had to ask herself what it meant for her, but still set her own intentions for her life as an individual. A year with Teach for America helped integrate her innate passion and capacity for the classroom. Now as a 32-year-old assistant professor of painting in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media at Rutgers University-Newark, she is grateful for the opportunity to combine art and teaching in her career. She credits her village of friends, family and mentors for believing in her and supporting her on her journey. While in undergraduate school in Atlanta, she spent summers interning at Denver art institutions including PlatteForum where artist Michael Gadlin is the board chair. “The road of an artist is not easy,” says Gadlin, who serves as television host for Rocky Mountain PBS’ Arts District, an Emmy award-winning, halfhour, arts and culture series that features local and national artists in pursuit of their artistic passions. “It’s hard enough as an artist, then as an artist of color. When you see people of color, you are nothing but happy and excited.” When thinking about her Denver support system, Casteel recalls legendary artist Darrell Anderson who wrote her a reference letter for graduate

Golden Arches, 2020 by Jordan Casteel, Oil on canvas, 78 X 60” 198.12 x 152.4cm Photo by David Schulze (c) Jordan Casteel - Courtesy of the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York

with a type A personality, she was attracted to stability and a sense of a plan. With that in mind, she bypassed arts school to go to a liberal arts college where she could learn to write and exercise critical thinking skills to navigate the world around her. She received her bachelor of arts in studio art from all-

women’s Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia in 2011 and her Masters of Fine Art in painting and printmaking from Yale School of Art in New Haven, Connecticut in 2014. While at Yale she realized that she could create a sustainable career in the arts, and definitively carved out a space for art in her life. All the while, it was hard to

school. “My love for Denver is immense. I would not be who I am without them.” Casteel, who has had her share of ups and downs in the industry, does not take her journey for granted, and encourages up-and-coming artists “to trust that you are not alone. Just because you are not getting acceptance doesn’t mean that you’re not destined. Always put your hat in the ring. There’s something to come from it, something to learn from it. People will find you. Your commitment will shine through.” The young girl who worked so diligently to get the shades of a rose just right is now “deeply entrenched in the world trying to find my own way, my own voice. I’m experiencing success I could not have imagined even five years ago.” In 2011 when she was 22 years old, the Denver Post showcased her among their 12 best Colorado artists 35 and younger. To date, more than 130 articles or podcasts from The New York Times to the Los Angeles Times have highlighted her work. To further confirm her spot among the newsmakers and cultural influencers of the world, Casteel’s alma mater selected her as its commencement speaker in 2019 and then named her 2021 Outstanding Young Alumni. She is well on her way to honoring the legacies of family, while establishing her own legacy..

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My Personal COVID-19 Story

The Russell Family

By Thomas Holt Russell


ike many people, I was surrounded by the coronavirus but was lucky enough to stay COVID-free. I have been working from home for months, as the cyber education program manager and online cyber educator for a nonprofit. I do not really need to be around people, but I have been wearing a mask and keeping my distance when I have gone out. Everything was great until it wasn’t. COVID-19 entered my home in mid-November. My adult son was the first to display signs, quickly followed by my wife and my pregnant daughter. I first noticed my symptoms four days after my son’s. There were a lot of layers to my worries. We live in an extended family environment. Along with my wife and I, we have two adult children and four grandchildren living in our home. My daughter was pregnant, and the baby was due in less than two weeks. She was very ill with the classic symptoms such as body aches, sore throat, fever, chills, and throwing up. My wife was plagued by the same symptoms except not the sore throat. My symptoms are more flulike, little aches and pains, congested chest, and coughing. I did not notice that I lost my sense of smell until my wife pointed out that she could not smell anything. I held a flower under my nose, then a pot of food that had been cooking for hours, and finally I burned incense and put it directly under my nose. I noticed I too had lost my sense of smell, as

well as a bit of my sense of taste. My other family members all lost their appetite, but I never lost mine. My wife and I went to take a COVID-19 test at Evans Army Hospital in Fort Carson, Colo. My son took the test earlier, and he came back positive, so we were sure we were going to be positive also, and we were. My biggest worry was contracting pneumonia or some other secondary infection. I already have asthma and diabetes, so there was a chance that I could get very sick. While I was in the middle of a Zoom meeting, I received a text; one of my former coworkers had just died from COVID-19. He had been struggling for a few weeks, and the last thing I heard about him was that he was on a ventilator. I was not surprised, but his death renewed my worry. We were close to the same age. Since January 2020, I have been taking vitamins and other health supplements, and my blood sugar levels have been excellent. But I was still concerned. COVID-19 has many faces, and I know of stories where people seemed to be

doing well, only to have their health rapidly decrease in just a matter of hours. Of course, I hope that I will make it to the other side of this, but concerns linger. I have to admit that I felt depressed and more worried about my wife and pregnant daughter. The toxic political climate made things worse and contributed to my malaise. On the outside, I may have seemed healthy. I was walking and talking. However, I still felt body aches, my breathing had become more labored, and my body seemed to be telling me that something else is coming. The grim reaper seemed to be hanging around every corner. Some days I felt fine in the morning, but body aches, headaches, and labored breathing would return by the evening. During my quarantine, I did not leave the house and it was much easier to stay away from each other during the quarantine. We remained secluded in our rooms and continued to wipe things down. I read very little and writing was sparse. I was not doing anything with photography or art of any type, and I did not engage in social media at all. I did not listen to

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


music, and surprisingly, I did not miss any of that. I rarely checked email from work, and I knew I most likely missed a couple of deadlines. My dreams were more vivid than ever before, and I also noticed that I was more emotional. I also had a tough time concentrating on what I needed to do. My mind would wander, and thoughts would drift. Simple tasks took a long time to complete. I tried to convince myself (without success) that even though the numbers of COVID deaths are astronomically high, most people who contract it will not die. The mental and emotional aspects of coronavirus cannot be underestimated, but I found a way to combat negative thoughts. On sunny days, I would sit on my back deck. I cleared my mind and was thankful that I did not want or need anything. Thinking this way stills my mind and calms my soul, and gives me peace. My heart rate slows, and I relax. This state of mind is as close to heaven as I can be while living. The worst part of my COVID infection passed. One night while taking a bath, I was

delighted that I could smell the bath salts, the first time I was able to smell anything in two weeks. I sat in the tub holding the canister of bath salts, putting it to my nose, and inhaling deeply. My wife looked at me sideways, but it was a reminder that I was getting much better. This was just a little victory and a small sign that things were getting better. This was good news in a season of bad news. And the good news continued. Early on Thanksgiving morning, my daughter gave birth to a healthy baby boy, free of COVID, which was a lifting of a significant burden that my wife and I were carrying. As a matter of fact, none of my grandchildren contracted COVID. I cannot express how happy this made me feel. Hearing about people dying every day, I turn off the news when it gets to be too much. I take nothing for granted. Even though I am feeling much better, I have not stopped being cautious. I still keep my distance, wear masks and wipe down doorknobs and remote controls. My wife, daughter, and son are all doing better. We may have made it through this! But again, I am very cautious. Since we do not have much data about COVID, we do not know where the line is between a COVID symptom or just the run of the mill ailment. This virus has many faces. Even now, over two months since I was diagnosed, my sense of smell is selective. Some things I can smell, such as my grandson’s poop, but I can’t smell a flower directly under my nose! Also, I get easily distracted, so my concentration seems to be worse. My short-term memory gives me problems, but maybe that is only a side effect of aging. In the ‘90s, gulf war syndrome encompassed many aliments. After it was given a name, the disease increased across the population. I know COVID is real, but I believe there’s a little piggybacking of unrelated


Q. There is still a lot of doubt and questions, mostly with African Americans, on taking the vaccine. What is your opinion on taking it? A. My opinion on the vaccine is what we consider Experimental Use Authorizatio n (EUA). The vaccination is an experiment. The vaccine is not a cure all for the SARS COVID Pandemic. The vaccines are still in their early stage of development and in time we will find out if the vaccine is vaccine effective effective or vaccine fitness to mitigate and contain the infection. Dr. Fauci has said the vaccine would not have an impact on the course of the global pandemic and the virus will always be here. I will not be taking it or my grandchildren until the medicine and science supports it use. People have died and had major side effects. Q. Does the amount of exposure from the virus load determine the degree of contraction for the disease?

A. Absolutely! 100% of the viral load is the most important thing in contraction of the virus itself. The bigger the viral load the bigger the infection. That is why wearing a mask is mandatory to decrease the amount of viral load that is breathed into the lungs or contracted. Washing hands to decrease the viral load by feces is also important. Q. How does COVID-19 differ from the coronavirus? A. The difference in the SARS virus versus a normal coronavirus is that this virus is what we consider a beta coronavirus. The SARS COVID virus itself is very mutagenic and is the largest RNA virus on the planet. The virus has been around for millions of years and the virus is evolved into what it is today – driving the global pandemic. The virus came from a bat. Q. Can I get COVID-19 from my pets or other animals? And can I use hand sanitizer on pets? A. Yes you can contract coronavirus from your pets or birds, ducks, minks, bats, gorillas. The only sanitizer I recommend for pets to disinfect them is the Proguardem solution. It is safe, organic and non-toxic. You can get it www.srspro- or by calling 720-8494197. Q. Am I at risk for serious complications from COVID-19 if I smoke cigarettes? A. Yes you are. You can get severe complications from being a smoker specifically pulmonary fibrosis where you lose 25% more of your lung capacity, secondary to the inflammatory reaction from the SARS COVID virus. So smoking is a significant risk factor for anyone who smokes in addition to the effects of causing cancer. Q. I was feeling flu-like symptoms but am starting to feel better. Is there any way to tell for sure whether I had COVID-19? A. That’s a very good question. And the most important thing when you think that you have signs of symptoms of COVID-19, make sure you get tested. And the test to take is the PCR which is the most sensitive and standard test worldwide. The only company that has that mobile technology testing in the states is Lablinq. Rapid tests give false positive and negative results. This is what has driven the global pandemic because of the inaccuracies. The gold standard is PCR technology. You can also get a test for influenza A and B; and you will be fine.. Editor’s note: If you have a question for Dr. Rolling, email

symptoms. To add another layer of uncertainty to the crisis, many Black people are wary about getting a vaccine against COVID. I am not one of those African Americans. However, I do not blame anyone suspicious of the inoculation. I understand, but when they start giving these vaccinations to the public, I will be the first in line. My recovery is not anything to brag about, and it is not miraculous. Just like water nat-

urally flows and goes around everything that obstructs its path, our bodies naturally work to rid themselves of malignant invaders. All of life lives and dies. I will not make long speeches about the misery I faced for a few weeks. Everybody is going through something during this time. As Lao Tzu’s teachings have taught me, a whirlwind does not last all morning, and a cloudburst doesn’t last all day.

This is a very dark time. However, just as everything else, this pandemic will not last forever. By the summer, I believe things will start returning to normal. Until then, I would encourage all people not to give up hope, continue to wear masks, and keep a safe distance away from others. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and soon, we will find ourselves looking at this pandemic through a rearview mirror..

Vaccinate, Pets, Cigarettes? By Dr. Lane Rolling Editor’s note: Each month virologist and infection disease expert Dr. Lane Rolling responds to questions from the public about COVID-19

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccine Haunted by Tuskegee Experiment By Alfonzo Porter

In the wake of the COVID19 pandemic and the development of vaccines to treat the disease, many African Americans have expressed deep apprehensions about being vaccinated. With more than 400,000 Americans dead and some 24 million infected with the virus, it may seem peculiar that anyone would decline a treatment that has been hailed by the medical establishment to be as much as 95% effective. However, for African Americans there is a disturbing backstory. In 1932, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) launched what would later become known as the Tuskegee Experiment. It was designed to study the progression of the contagious venereal disease, syphilis. The government deceived unwitting, largely uneducated Black men into participating in the program under the guise of it being a treatment. More than 600 men, principally sharecroppers and those who lacked access to professional medical care, were recruited from Macon, Ala. Physicians from the PHS told the men they were being treated for “bad blood”—which in those days could have been used to describe a wide range of conditions. Of the group, 399 of the men reportedly had an underlying, latent case of the disease while a control group of 201 were disease free. Under the observation of health workers, the men consistently received placebos that physicians knew would have zero effect on the condition. When penicillin became available in the late 1940s, the very same health officials convinced doctors in Macon

Doctor drawing blood from a patient as part of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study By National Archives Atlanta, GA (U.S. government) - [1], originally from National Archives, Public Domain,

County to deny the treatment so their studies could continue. They subsequently moved the program to Tuskegee Institute, which is now Tuskegee University, the well-known, historically black college (HBCU) founded by Booker T. Washington. As the progression of the disease was tracked, health care workers watched as the men died, lost their eyesight, suffered mental and psychological manifestations—ultimately going insane, and experienced other health problems resulting from not receiving appropriate medical care. It would be more than 30 years before a San Franciscobased disease investigator discovered the program and expressed deep concern over whether it was medically ethical. A committee, formed to review the study in the mid 1960s, determined that the program would continue until all the participants were dead. The analysis of project data was deemed to outweigh the physical well-being of the participants. Outraged, the investigator leaked the information to a

member of the Associated Press, and the story broke in the summer of 1972. The public was infuriated. An ad hoc panel was assembled by the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health and Scientific Affairs to review the study. Comprised of nine members from the fields of law, religion, medicine, education, labor and public affairs, the panel found that the men had freely agreed to participate, be studied and treated. Yet, no evidence showed that they were informed by the researchers of the program’s real purpose. Furthermore, the men were grossly misled and not provided with factual information prior to giving informed consent. Beyond the lack of transparency or true consent, the men were never provided with appropriate treatment for the condition—not even when an effective treatment became widely available in the 1960s. They were never presented with the option of leaving the study. Based on this lack of opportunity to get treatment when available, the panel concluded that the Tuskegee study

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


was “ethically unjustified.” The panel also determined that the program’s results were statistically insignificant when considering the risk the program posed to its participants. The results actually showed that the treated men’s life expectancy decreased by 1.4 years. The panel finally recommended an end to the program. In November 1973, the Tuskegee Experiment was officially terminated. However, 28 of the men had died from syphilis, and more than 100 had passed from disease-related complications. Additionally, more than 40 of their wives were infected and passed it on to scores of their children. Congressional hearings in 1973 led to an out-of-court settlement of $10 million to the heirs of the participants. It also led to policies designed specifically to protect human subjects in research projects funded by the government. Not until 25 years later did a government official publicly acknowledge that the study occurred and accept responsibility. In a gesture to promote better race relations, President Bill Clinton issued an official apology for the Tuskegee program, saying, “The United States government did something that was wrong—deeply, profoundly, morally wrong… It is not only in remembering that shameful past that we can make amends and repair our nation, but it is in remembering that past that we can build a better present and a better future.”

Vaccination Fear Founded on Multiple Historic Medical Injustices Today, the profound injustice of the Tuskegee study is just one historic episode behind the trepidatious attitude of African Americans about receiving a government-

approved medical treatment. This community relates more than most to President Ronald Reagan famous words that “the nine most horrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help!” America’s cultural and medical landscape has had many other examples of historic injustices based on race. After the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865 that freed enslaved Blacks, those who could not accept equal rights for African Americans used science to reinforce racial biases. Some in the medical community engaged in purportedly scientific studies to prove white superiority. Their hypothesis was that African Americans were uniquely fit to be slaves. If they could prove the Black male was physically strong and simple minded with a primitive nervous system, then they theorized that Black slaves suffered from less emotional and mental illness than their free contemporaries so were not impacted negatively by slavery. With this type of scientific reasoning, programs like Tuskegee were bound to be approved and normalized. Many historic documents show that the majority of medical and scientific authorities of the late 1800s and early 1900s held these unproven notions about African Americans. They advanced the theory that Black men had underdeveloped brains, overdeveloped genitals, a large sexual appetite, and a deep-seated desire for sex with white women. These unsound scientific beliefs included Black people’s genetic proneness to sexually transmitted diseases. Thus, researchers, and those in government who would authorize their work, devised the Tuskegee program. The PHS justified the Tuskegee project, calling it a necessary “study in nature” rather than an experiment. They suggested that it

would be a basic observation of the normal progression of syphilis among people who would not seek treatment on their own. Macon County was selected due to estimates of high rates of syphilis among its population. The program sought to initially recruit participants between the ages of 25 and 60, who were told that the program would only last six months. The program initially ran into significant resistance as members of the community did not trust the researchers. Since the men believed that they were receiving the medical attention in order secretly to be drafted into the military. To convince them, the program began to test women and children as well. The male participants became suspicious, believing that they were being deceived, and stopped keeping their appointments with the physicians. However, during the Great Depression, a good, consistent hot meal was an effective lure. The program even hired a nurse to transport them back and forth to the research facility, and offered to cover funeral expenses when the men died. When World War II broke out and the men’s syphilis was discovered during their physical exams during army recruitment, the program had them removed from the army to keep them in the study. Even with the passage of the Henderson Act of 1943, requiring public funding of tests and treatment for venereal diseases, the program continued to actively prevent their participants from receiving treatment—an act that was expressly against the law. Despite the researcher’s best efforts, about one third of the participants began to receive treatment anyway. They continued with the deception through the late 1960s, saying that it was too late for the men to receive treatment. This led the World Health Organization to publish

the Declaration of Helsinki in 1964, designed to protect humans from experimentation. Even then, the PHS continued the Tuskegee program. Finally, after the program’s 1973 termination, the U.S. Congress passed the National Research Act in 1974. The act requires that programs obtain informed consent from study participants, and any research be administered and supervised by Institutional Review Boards both within universities and medical facilities, overseen by the national Office of Human Research Protections. As part of the 1973 settlement, the Tuskegee Health Benefit Program was launched to provide lifetime health services and burial benefits to the wives, widows and children. In 1995, it was expanded to include medical benefits.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


Today, the program is housed within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While those strides in human rights are important, the Tuskegee program already created a lasting impact on the level of trust and acceptance in any governmental health program, especially by African Americans. Stories about the program continue to inform decisions about who and where they seek medical services, including whether to be treated by a government-recommended vaccine for COVID-19. The last Tuskegee test subject passed away in 2004. The spirit of Tuskegee and its negative impact on African Americans’ acceptance of government health programs is still very much alive today, during the worst international pandemic in a century..


Sam Cary: A Rightful Trailblazer Editor’s note: The following information was taken from the Sam Cary Bar Association website


early a century ago in Colorado, there was a remarkable attorney by the name of Samuel Cary. Cary was a remarkable attorney, in part, because he practiced law as an African-American at a time when there was very little minority representation in the American West, including Colorado. Samuel Cary was born in Kentucky on July 9, 1886. In 1910, Cary became the first African-American graduate of the Washburn University School of Law, in Topeka, Kansas.1. More importantly, however, Cary was a remarkable attorney because he dedicated his professional life and considerable skill to securing justice for all those who sought it, not merely those who could afford to pay. During a time when practicing law as an African-American was a monumental challenge in and of itself, Cary willingly took on the additional challenge

of representing those individuals who might otherwise have been denied representation entirely. As an attorney with a specialty in criminal law, Cary’s clientele was made up of the people mainstream lawyers often shunned as clients: Blacks, Asians, Indians and the poor, many of whom could ill afford to pay him. It was commonly known among his family and friends that “nearly half of Denver owed him money.”2. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the timing and character of his practice, Cary’s legal career was not without controversy. In the fall of 1926, the allwhite Colorado Bar Association, acting on complaints it had received, petitioned to have him disbarred. A referee was appointed to take testimony and report, and he did so, recommending disbarment on October 15, 1926. Upon review, the Supreme Court of Colorado elected not to disturb the referee’s findings and on December 20, 1926, “the name [Samuel Cary was] stricken from the roll of attorneys of [Colorado], and he [was] forbidden to appear as such in any of its courts.”3. Questions remain whether the punishment was harsh and unjust, and whether racial prejudice played a part in Cary’s disbarment. Years later, in 1935, Cary was reinstated to the Colorado Bar and was once again permitted to practice law. The Sam Cary Bar Association endeavors to embody the fortitude and spirit of its iconic namesake.. Resources: •V. 42, No. 4 Washburn Law Journal 803, 822, (2004) •The Colorado Lawyer, Six of the Greatest: A Tribute to Outstanding Lawyers in Colorado History, June 1994, Vol. 23, No. 7, p. 1487 •People ex rel. Colorado Bar Association v. Cary, 251 P. 597; 80 Colo. 443, 445 (1927)

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


The Sam Cary Bar Association (SCBA) was formed in September of 1971, in order to create a self-help group to instill professionalism and serve as a vehicle for the exchange of ideas among African-American lawyers. The original seven members were: Norman Early, Dan Muse, Raymond Jones, Gary Jackson, Phillip Jones, King Trimble and Billy Lewis. Probably the first controversial task undertaken by the new group was choosing “Sam Cary” as the name. It was deemed by several AfricanAmerican attorneys to be inappropriate to have a bar association named after an attorney disbarred from practice. However, an examination conducted by the organization into the life and law practice of Sam Cary (including an address to the organization by the Honorable O. Otto Moore, former Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court), revealed that Sam Cary was indeed an appropriate person after whom to name the organization. When the SCBA was formed in 1971, there were less than 15 AfricanAmerican attorneys practicing law in Colorado. The initial membership meetings were held in members’ homes and in their law offices. Presently, there are over 300 African-American attorneys in Colorado. 2021 is the 50 year anniversary of the Sam Cary Bar Association and will be led by President April Jones and the leadership team of Allison Gambill, Joyce Akhahenda and Joe Whitfield.


Women Wanted For COVID-19 Survey Women make most of the healthcare decisions in their family. And Black women, in particular, not only make decisions for their own families but are considered the leaders in the community for information and guidance on health care. Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett was one of the leading scientists in the development of one of the COVID-19 vaccines. The first person to get the vaccine in the U.S. was also a Black woman, Sandra Lindsay, a nurse at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center. The Colorado Women’s Alliance, a non-profit organization that focuses on the issues of greatest importance to women has identified accessible healthcare as one of the top issues for Colorado women this year. Women have been amongst the first to get the vaccine nationwide, with more than 75 percent of healthcare

workers being female (National Women’s Law Center), and still some, particularly women of color, are hesitant to embrace it. The group, while not taking a position one way or another, plans to convene town hall meetings, bringing together experts who can answer questions that women might have about the COVID-19 vaccines. The town hall meetings will be held during Women’s History Month in March. They’re asking for your help in determining what information you’d like to have and who you’d like to hear from. Please visit www.ColoradoWomensAlliace. org to take a brief survey that asks, “Will you get the COVID19 vaccine and if not, why not?” The Alliance will bring in experts, based on your responses on what you need to know and who you would trust to provide information. Watch for information on the town halls in our March issue.

Advocating For Impact Host Virtual Trainings In response to the violent attack on democracy at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the WFCO has moved the launch date of its “Advocating for Impact” series to provide responsible and respectful understanding of and tools to engage in building community, civil society, democracy and peaceful discourse. The WFCO is hosting 90minute virtual trainings on the third Wednesdays of four months, when attendees can learn about issues that impact women’s economic security, develop skills to influence legislation, and take action to build more equitable systems and a stronger Colorado. The trainings, which will run from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 17, March 17, April 21 and June 16, will focus on different topics each month and are designed to build on each other. Recordings

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and resources will be available online for those who miss the scheduled dates. For more information or questions, email Alison Friedman Phillips, director of programs, at

BAWM Clarification Let it be known that the article titled “BAWM Recognizes First Black Doctor, Dr. Justina Ford’s 150th Birthday” in the January 2021 issue Vol 34 #10 of the Denver Urban Spectrum, was not authorized by the Board of Directors of the Black American West Museum & Heritage Center. This article was written by Sylvia Lambe. She does not speak for the museum and is not a board member. Daphne Rice-Allen Board of Directors Chairperson Black American West Museum & Heritage Center

Color Me Proud! Name_____________________________ School___________________________ Age__________ Grade ____________ Address_________________________ City_____________________________ Phone__________________

Instructions: Color this drawing and receive a prize! Any child, 12 and under, who colors and returns this drawing to the Denver Urban Spectrum will receive prizes from the participating sponsors. All entries must be mailed to DUS, P.O. Box 31001, Aurora, CO 80041 by Monday, Feb. 22.

Lauren Y. Casteel President and CEO Women’s Foundation of Colorado

Civil Rights Leader Whitney M. Young Jr.

Artist Jordan Casteel Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


Ashlee Wedgeworth President, Urban League Young Professionals Organization

D uring the last year, Ashlee Wedgeworth helped launch the Enrichment Scholarship Fund to award scholarships to high school students. She also supervised the annual Thanksgiving in July, a day of sharing food and resources, and led the Mingle and Jingle event providing toys and financial contributions to families during the holidays. Wedgeworth takes an active role and says, “Community is important to me. Our youth need role models who can help shape them into productive members of society. I am a product of my environment and I take pride in pouring back into the community that helped me.” She says the biggest challenges facing the Black community are lack of resources, lack of family structure, unfair imprisonment rates, and financial illiteracy. She feels that continued education and support will allow the community to work through these challenges. Her future goals include continuing to build her scholarship fund to support youth of color seeking higher education, running for office in some capacity, and obtaining her real estate license. “I would like to be remembered as a woman who is resilient, ambitious, a strong community advocate and determined to make a change for those less resourced,” says Wedgeworth. “I want young girls to know that they can overcome anything – and there is no limit to what they can accomplish.”

Brian Arnold Program Director, Ready to Work Aurora

B rian Arnold is known for working on and creating solutions to address the disparities of BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) within the home less community. He believes in hir-

Editor’s note: During Black History Month, Denver Urban Spectrum honors African Americans who are making a difference in the lives of others. Based on recognition, number of times nominated, impact and service to the commumity, 17 individuals (from 50+ nominations) were selected as the 2021 AAWMAD honorees. They shared their achievements, what motivated them, and how they would like to be remembered. Once you read their profiles you will understand why they were chosen. Edited by Ta’Shia Asanti

ing a staff that reflects the communities he serves – from leadership positions to frontline workers. “Over the past five years, I have engaged in activities where I can be a voice, not only for the homeless community but also for how homelessness affects the African American community,” says Arnold who adds that his life’s mission is to end homelessness in metro Denver especially for BIPOC. “Housing, housing, housing is one of the biggest challenges faced by the African American community. There are too many African Americans who do not have adequate housing. Everyone deserves a place to call home. There are far too many who rely on subsidies and low-income housing. As a nation this needs to be made a priority. I believe we are on our way; we just have a long way to go. If we solve housing, we solve a lot of other issues,” says Arnold. By accomplishing an end to homelessness for Black and Brown people, here the Denver metro area can be an example for other cities across the county. “I believe it can happen in my lifetime,” he says. Arnold hopes to be remembered as a father, a husband, one who loved unconditionally, and someone who made the world a better place.

Dedrick Sims CEO, Sims Fayola Foundation

D edrick Sims has made improving the lives of young boys and men of color his mission. Over the last five years, Sims has connected youth with profes-

sionals who serve as mentors and role models who provide opportunities they may not have and options through programs in Denver, Ohio, Michigan, Arkansas and Texas. In 2020, Sims refused to let the perils of COVID-19 stop him from doing his work. He transferred his agency’s in-person services to a digital platform and doubled the amount of program participants served. “Before the pandemic, we worked with 60 to 70 young men and boys of color and 50 young professionals. Last year we doubled that number and served 150 young men and more than 100 young professionals,” he says. Sims says his activism is focused on “creating opportunities for communities of color, especially young men and boys to ensure they had access to opportunities.” He views education, lack of information related to economic empowerment, and mental health as top priorities for African Americans. He believes increasing schools with an Afrocentric focus that promote positive reflections of Blackness would be extremely helpful. “In the future, I’d love to lead both a community and a school system in creating equitable and meaningful educational experiences for students of color,” says Sims. He wants to be remembered as someone who made a difference and left the place better than he found it.

GiGi Hatcher CEO/Founder, Etiquette on the Runway LLC

G iGi Hatcher is best known for helping teens

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


build self-confidence and providing tools to deal with low self-esteem, bullying, and addictions. She launched a scholarship program for low-income families and founded the Let’s BEAT Lymphoma-Cancer Walkathon/Festival, raising more than $35,000 for lymphoma research. Hatcher says the struggles she faced as a teenager led to her involvement. “My early teenage years were extremely traumatic. My father was tragically taken from us. I had no confidence. I was bullied verbally and physically. I was told my life didn’t matter. I had thoughts of suicide.” Hatcher says the African American community needs “more parent and teacher mentors that truly care about our youth and who are willing to listen instead of assuming and predicting what they will do. There is too much lecturing and comparing, instead of supporting and directing youth onto a positive path. It starts at home by listening.” Future plans for Hatcher include expanding Etiquette on the Runway to provide services that will utilize her skills as a behavioral psychotherapist. Hatcher says she would like to be remembered “as a strong confident Black woman who was bullied to success, as the woman who offered the first Christian-based, minority-owned etiquette program for African American youth. I want to be remembered in the stories of the youth I helped. And finally, I want to be remembered as the woman God told, ‘Mrs. GiGi, you can do it.’ And so she did.”

Halim Ali Executive Director/Founder, From The Heart Enterprises; Co-Founder, King’s Council Black Male Health Initiative

H alim Ali serves as a master facilitator, spiritual teacher, mentor, mental health advocate, and motivational speaker. He is best known for his former work as Colorado hip hop

artist Don Blas. He admits while having had significant major distribution deals over the span of his music career, he was engaged in illegal activities, abnormal behavior and the destruction of communities. Today, he is now being recognized as a leader in mental health, a social justice advocate and someone who has overcome anger issues, depression, addiction, and homelessness. Ali’s most notable contribution this past year was the HeartWork Campaign, a 90-day community response to critical challenges such as COVID-19, police brutality, racism, and Black male mental health issues. Sessions provided information on living a healthy lifestyle. He believes the greatest challenges facing African Americans are “our unwillingness to embrace change and do the work to undo generational trauma. We also must address ancient wounds and dismantle structures rooted in patriarchy or matriarchy. Then we can move forward for the sake of the family, and ultimately for the welfare of the whole community.” In the future, Ali hopes to launch a learning center dedicated to trade skills, the arts, mental health services, social justice, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship programs for young men. And when asked how he would like to be remembered, Ali’s answer was simple, “As God’s man.”

Harold Fields President, Denver Black Reparations Council

H arold Fields produced the think-tank style gathering, Second Tuesdays, where African Americans and their allies gathered for more than two decades to dialogue about race relations. “I was engaged with the Denver Foundation to help move the foundation to focus on racial equity in internal and external operations. And through Second Tuesday we created an environment that

brought together hundreds of people to address race issues and set the stage for moving from discussion to action,” says Fields. During the past year, Fields helped to start the Fund for Reparations and became the chair. He then brought together other African Americans to create the Denver Black Reparations Council to administer two funds. “I grew up in Tulsa with the survivors of the 1921 Race Massacre. John Hope Franklin and Dr.Vincent Harding were role models for me,” says Fields about the reasons why he takes an active role. “They helped me learn the value of connecting events of the past to our future survival. We can lead our society to make the shift from the dominant values of separation, hierarchy and patriarchy to create transformative solutions based on interconnection, interdependency, balance, and wholeness.” Fields believes racism is still one of the greatest challenges faced by African Americans. He would like to be remembered as a person who connected thinkers and activists in ways that promote positive structural change to address the unresolved trauma of historical inequities in society.

James Roy II Executive Director, Denver Metro Community Impact Founder, Urbanity Advisors

J ames Roy II is best known for creating opportunities for others and utilizing his career to continually strive to cultivate social equity in Denver. As a social entrepreneur, his business efforts aim to solve problems affecting marginalized communities, by uniting people to co-create innovative actions for positive change. In 2020, Roy helped produce a series of community conversations in Northeast Park Hill, which led to the mobilization of $100,000 of COVID-19 Relief Funds, providing

children and families with emergency access to food, transportation and educational materials. Roy says over the last five years, “I have led the collective efforts of a network of organizations in Northeast Park Hill, cultivated community engagement and agency, guided a collective strategy, facilitated collaboration between nonprofit organizations, and advocated for policy change.” Love of community is why he takes an active role. “Being active gives me an opportunity to advance social equity and maintain a future that is hopeful in the face of systemic oppression.” Roy says African Americans are challenged by the legacy of segregation and redlining, which create obstacles to wealth building through real estate, as well as inadequate infrastructure, disproportionate policing, and the lack of access to quality education, healthy foods and human services. Roy has big plans for the future and a strong vision for the legacy he hopes to leave, saying, “My focus is on job development and professional advancement. I would like to be remembered for creating long-lasting, life-changing opportunities and generational and community wealth for African Americans.”

Jason McBride Founder, McBride Impact Prevention Specialist, Struggle of Love Foundation

J ason McBride helps direct valuable resources and mentoring to at-risk youth of color, including Black and Brown youth who are gang involved or influenced. McBride Impact’s activities include the distribution of backpacks, food and toys and the facilitation of connections with people in leadership positions, to help produce a new generation of winners “The success of the young people I’ve been blessed to mentor is everything. Some of the kids have won community awards and

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


are now leaders in the community themselves,” says McBride who established McBride Impact to honor his father, John McBride who worked in the Five Points area for many years. The younger McBride believes the challenges facing the African American community include educating our youth with new methods and encouraging young people to get involved in the political process. “In the future, I would like to expand our programming to better serve all demographics of our community, serve more families, and set up more education and training to help provide and improve employment pathways for youth,” he says. He would like to be remembered as someone who loved being from Park Hill, worked for equity and equality for children from his neighborhood, and helped change the narrative for Black youth. But most importantly, he wants to be remembered as a man who continued his father’s legacy as a caretaker of the community.

John A. Reid Fund Development Expert

J ohn A. Reid uses his 35 years of experience as a fund development expert and professional fundraiser to level the playing field in the nonprofit sector. From building organizational capacity to promoting sustainability, he has not only helped raise millions of dollars – he has directed critical resources to needy organizations. Best known for putting “fun” in fund development and among his accomplishments, Reid is most proud of serving on the board of directors for Grand Design, Inc. and supporting the Center for African American Health over the last five years. Reid says COVID-19 is the greatest challenge facing the African American community. He believes the level of uncertainty and economic impact of COVID-

19 will devastate the community unless solid efforts are made to help sustain the community. Resources are very much needed to support families and youth. Reid looks forward to “helping to build our Black youth voices for a greater and more sustainable tomorrow with the Urban Spectrum Youth (Journalism) Foundation. Building a sustainable infrastructure that gives teenagers and young adults viable pathways to careers in journalism, advertising, and marketing. is more important now than ever in this digital age of technology.” He would like to be remembered as someone with a “can do” attitude who left a large enough footprint for others to follow, and who committed his entire life to giving and creating so others, especially youth, have a fighting chance.

Lisa Young Founder, IDEA Stages

L isa Young calls herself an “actorvist,” meaning she uses her work as an actor as a form of activism – advocating for racial and social justice. As an actor, director and youth theatre educator in Colorado, Young has served for seven years on the board of Colorado Theater Guild and is chair of the Diversity Committee. She also mentors youth at Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church where her parents are pastors. “I founded IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access) Stages to be a grassroots advocacy and resource organization centering on the needs of theater makers who are BIPOC, WOC, LGBTQIA+, blind, deaf/hard of hearing, living with disabilities, or neuro-diverse. I’m really proud of our video series, Outspoken, which gives a platform to participants of the Black Lives Matter movement. IDEA provides mentorship and support to African American directors, actors, and participants for their artistry and to elevate marginalized voices.”

Young survived multiple strokes that caused paralysis on her left side, but persevered and continued doing her work, staying mobile with the aid of a motorized scooter and a wheelchair. She has served as the president of the Disabled Student Union, shining light on the needs of disabled citizens. Young wants to be remembered as an unapologetically Black and disabled woman, as well as a change agent in the arts world who passionately loved artists and the arts, enough to bring justice and liberation to the theatre community.

global network of Black women in business, creating an ecosystem, for and by us that recycles the Black dollar, cultivating more Black millionaires, and building unprecedented wealth in the Black community. As far as her legacy, Boothe says, “I don’t know that I care so much about what people think about me now or when I’m gone. I try to focus more on pleasing God, serving my community, loving my family, walking in my purpose, fighting for what I believe in, and becoming a better me every single day.”

Matthew Burkett

Makisha Boothe Founder and Head Business Coach, Sistahbiz Global Network

M akisha Boothe provides free and low-cost coaching, training, technical assistance, and community space to Black women in business. She has worked diligently to close equity gaps in entrepreneurship for more than two decades. Her work branched into political activism, legislative work and education reform. Among her many achievements include raising and distributing $85,000 in COVID-19 relief grants to businesses in 2020. She also raised $75,000 in emergency funding to launch an accounting clinic to help Black women business owners streamline their financials. Boothe has supported 500 women business owners with free training, coaching sessions and support services to help their businesses grow, and created a space where women have become business besties, supporters and friends on their entrepreneurial journeys. “I take an active role in this work because I want to see our community break chains, heal and prosper. The work I do is about eradicating racism and creating equity for our people,” says Boothe. Future goals include creating a

Founder and CEO, FlyFisher Group

B est known as an entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist, Matthew Burkett has played a major role in the redevelopment of the Five Points community and Lincoln Hills areas. During the past year, his financial support and investment in the Five Points Black-owned restaurant community helped sustain it through the pandemic and allowed it to thrive with the health restrictions. “The Rossonian is a spiritual anchor for Five Points and it needed to be guided through the redevelopment process by Black ownership,” says Burkett who purchased the Rossonian within the last five years. When asked about challenges facing the African American communities, Burkett believes, “It will take both commitment and the ability to work together to build a strong future for African Americans in Denver.” He also believes community members must lead by example. Burkett says the successful redevelopment and activation of the Welton Street retail corridor is at the top of his list of many future endeavors. He sees Welton Street as an area with great potential for future Black businesses and a place to catapult community projects

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that support leaders, youth and families. Simply put, Burkett would like to be remembered as someone who led by example.

Morris W. Price Jr. Vice President and Executive Director, City Year Denver

I n his lengthy career in education, nonprofits, philanthropy and civic engagement, Morris W. Price Jr. has helped shape public policy, and highlighted intersections between the civil rights movement and the LGBT community. At the end of his first year as the only African American on the board of trustees of Rose Community Foundation, he played a role in the creation of a $750,000 Community Action Racial Justice Fund providing general operation and programming funds for Black-led and Black community-focused nonprofits. During the last five years and while serving as the executive director of City Year Denver, Price built a team that grew the number of AmeriCorps educators in Denver Public Schools from 55 in seven schools) to 75 in 11 schools, growing its impact from 2,000 to nearly 4,000 students. He feels that the biggest challenge for African Americans is to make the most of the momentum that was created last summer with the racial unrest and the awakening of the broader mainstream and corporate communities, to move the needle from protest and outrage to policy and outcomes. His future goals include launching a philanthropic organization that will not only increase personal, institutional and corporate giving but create a pipeline for individuals to move into executive director and C-suite level positions. Price wants to be remembered as someone who brought honor to his partner’s name, loved Colorado with a passion and made it better for generations to come.

Dr. Nita Mosby Tyler Chief Catalyst, The Equity Project

D r. Nita Mosby Tyler is best known for her equity, inclusion and diversity consulting, facilitation, and HR expertise. She is a philanthropist and social justice advocate who has worked with more than 300 organizations to advance racial equity in the past year alone. Tyler says her most notable contribution to the community has been her ability to provide college scholarships to 12 African American youth in Colorado. “I have also launched two successful businesses, The Equity Project LLC and The HR Shop LLC. Growing my business to work internationally in my equity, inclusion and diversity consulting practice has been rewarding for me. I have worked in the U.K., Australia and Sweden.” She cares deeply about Colorado and will always take an active role in advancing systems to help African Americans thrive. She says, “I have seen the journey of our neighborhoods, schools and our people, and there are extraordinary opportunities to strengthen our lived experiences here.” “Some of the biggest challenges facing African Americans have been lack of resources, access in strengthening small businesses and access to footing inside larger organizations. To create the best conditions for us to thrive means we must be at decision-making tables, resourced for success in our businesses, and knowledgeable about strategies that ensure success in what we do,” she says. Tyler would like to be remembered as leading from many positions: the front, the back and the sides, and as someone who took great pride in knowing where her leadership strength sits at any given time.

Sondra Young

Tanaka E. Shipp

President, Denver NAACP

S ondra Young works to make the efforts of her organization a valuable and important asset to the community. The Denver NAACP registered more than 800 people to vote in the 2020 election and provided voter registration training.Young worked to mobilize and galvanize the voices of youth by having events such as the Voter Sticker Music Party, Black Voter Day, and a GOTV caravan down Colfax Avenue. The Denver NAACP also helped pass bills that protect and empower the African American community including the Crown Act, Senate Bill 20-217 on policing, and House Bill 20-1424 Social Equity in Cannabis. The organization offered a free reading boot camp with Chromebooks for students five to 10 years old and a free workforce development training program in construction. Young lives by the saying: “Be the change you want to see,” and says, “As a transformational leader I was committed to help move the human race forward.” She cited addressing the challenge of COVID-19 as a priority for the African American community. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 exacerbated the Black community’s disparities, from access to quality healthcare to the widening gap in education for Black children. We need moratoriums on evictions, an extension of COVID stimulus packages, equitable recovery plans for Black communities, real affordable housing, and educators who understand the children they teach.” Young would like to be remembered as an unapologetic change leader, a fearless community bridge builder, a proud people connector and an empathic helper of mankind.

Co-founder, Sisterhood of Philanthropists Impacting Needs (SPIN)

T anaka E. Shipp unites women who are passionate about making a difference through charitable contributions and community service. With her volunteer work at the Center for African American Health, Shipp has supported the Diabetes Self-Management Program. She is a devoted volunteer for Denver’s Juneteenth Music Festival. Last year, she formed a COVID19 Community Response Fund that offered direct financial support to families in need. The initial $10,000 investment garnered support from foundations including Women’s Foundation of Colorado, Margulf Foundation and Colorado Health Foundation, helping to raise $70,000. The fund assisted more than 700 families and 10 Blackowned businesses. She says graduating from the Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado (ULFC) inspired her to take an active role. Over the past five years, Shipp’s organization SPIN, co-founded with fellow ULFC alumni Nneka McPhee in 2014, has granted more than $40,000 in donations. Recipients have been several nonprofits that serve African American women and girls including Star Girlz, Curls on the Block, and SistahBiz Global Network. Shipp feels that “challenges facing the African American communities include racial disparities in the education system – the school to prison pipeline, biased disciplinary practices and biased teaching standards. African Americans are also faced with untreated mental health trauma.” She would like to be remembered as a person who was flawed, yet always honest and who led with compassion, as well as for her genuine friendships and sisterhood as a woman who aspired to empower others and never gave up on her work.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


Tony Goldsby Owner, Caring & Sharing Community Resources and Transformation Center

T ony Goldsby is best known for his community involvement with his community resource center, a nonprofit organization founded more than 10 years ago. In the past year, Caring & Sharing launched a food bank that donated food to needy Colorado citizens. During the pandemic, the organization distributed more than 300,000 pounds of food and gave widely to support Black families who were disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in neighborhoods where business closures were rampant. Caring & Sharing also started a housing program for veterans. Goldsby says, “Veterans are housed in a drug and alcohol-free environment. We start them on a firm path to success through our counseling classes and offering much needed and important resources. Our aim is to help participants work toward self-sufficiency.” His long-term goals include growing the center’s staff numbers and launching a licensed facility to address issues related to mental health. He says he takes an active role because, “While growing up in east Denver, I went through some of the same issues many of our young Black men are faced with today. I know from experience, with the right people behind you and the resources, we all can grow up in our own individual ways to become great men in society.” Goldsby says he would like to be remembered as a great husband of 32 years and a great father.


Damon Barry Takes New Position at Denver Law Firm

Damon Barry became the new office managing partner of the Denver office of the law firm, Ballard Spahr, on January 1. The firm has more than 650 attorneys in 15 offices from the West Coast to the East Coast, providing services in litigation, business and transactions, real estate, intellectual property, and finance. Barry has been with the firm for five years, where has advised clients on the formation of new businesses, franchising, mergers and acquisitions, government relations, corporate governance, capital raises, joint ventures, and commercial real estate. According to his company profile, his clients include directors and executives of public companies, owners of closely held companies, and others in a wide range of industries including software and technology, retail, gaming, hospitality, food and beverage, financial services, manufacturing, and professional sports. A former in-house counsel, he also advises corporate legal departments as well

as serves as general counsel for lower- to middle-market companies. Before Ballard Spahr, Barry spent more than 10 years at CSG Systems International, Inc., a publicly traded multinational corporation, where he advised the CSG executive team and provided oversight on the operational and legal aspects of all business operations, including oversight of regional operations in Europe and Central and Latin America. Barry has been recognized as a Forty under 40 honoree by Denver Business Journal, 2010 Alumni Master by Nebraska Alumni Association, one of the “30 Leaders of the Future” by Ebony magazine, and a “Colorado Producer” by Wells Fargo bank. He has served as a trustee of the University of Nebraska Foundation, a member of the Alumni Council and Executive Board of the University of Nebraska College of Law, and volunteered for Goodwill Industries of Denver, the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District Board, Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District, and Culture Subcommittee of the Governors’ Emergency Council for Economic Stability and Growth. He has also served as president of the Middle Western Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and a member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc.. To help Denver’s premiere publication keep spreading the news about communities of color in 2021, visit: and donate today!

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


Chinook Fund and Transformative Leadership for Change Announce the Another World is Possible Fund The Another World is Possible Fund, launched in May 2020, has provided $360,000 in unrestricted, rapid response funding to 60 grassroots groups across Colorado. The Another World is Possible Fund is a vehicle to invest in the social justice organizations who are fighting for both a just response to COVID-19 in the short-term AND a visionary future for our world in the long-term. The Fund prioritizes support for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) led organizations. Of the 60 grantees, a third are Black-led and more than 85 percent are BIPOC- led.

The fund was launched through an innovative partnership between two-capacity building organizations in Colorado: Chinook Fund and Transformative Leadership for Change (TLC). Chinook Fund is a community foundation that mobilizes resources for community-led social justice organizations across Colorado. Transformative Leadership for Change is a new initiative that supports the sustainability, healing, solidarity, and radical visions of BIPOC-led social justice organizations. It was built by and for BIPOC leaders. With escalating police and white supremacist violence,

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racial wealth divide, public health crisis, and looming economic depression, it is the communities we fund who are most at risk for harm or death - and also closest to the solutions that will lead us out of multiplying crises. Traditional philanthropy underfunds BIPOC-led groups. Despite an increase in overall foundation giving, Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity found that funding to BIPOC organizations never exceeded 8.5 percent over a ten-year period. When support is given, it is often restricted for direct services rather than systemic change efforts. Neha Mahajan, Executive Director of TLC, stated, “We are living through a moment that calls for deep solidarity, interdependence and radical generosity, a moment that requires us to claim our power to make the world we know is possible. The pandemic and increased visibility of injustices against the Black community are shining a light on systemic inequities and overlooked communities. Many are realizing our fates are linked in a way we never have before. Because of this, we have an unprecedented opportunity to transform society - but we won’t see the change we need unless the leadership and solutions come from the most impacted communities.” In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Another World is Possible Fund grantees quickly pivoted to provide relief for food, rent assistance, and mutual aid funds. Black Lives Matter 5280 provided PPE to BIPOC experiencing heightened risk for COVID-19 due to summer 2020 uprisings. Herbal Gardens Wellness, a rural, Indigenous-led group, sent seeds to 100 Native American families to help with food sovereignty. Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism (YAASPA) added trauma-informed mental

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


health services to their youth organizing program. Fuerza Latina, based in northern Colorado, supported and organized undocumented immigrant workers in meat packing plants, restaurants, and as domestic workers. Chinook Fund and TLC are committed to raising $1 million in the first year to give out in immediate, general operating grants. Chinook Fund seeded the fund with $75,000 from its reserves. To date, the Fund has secured $730,000 from local and national foundations and donors, including The Colorado Health Foundation, AJL Foundation, Community First Foundation, Denver Foundation, United Philanthropy’s Momentum Fund, and several others. Both TLC and Chinook are trusted partners in the community, highly connected, and responsive to the needs of the leaders and organizations we support. Prior to running Chinook Fund and TLC, both Crystal Middlestadt and Neha Mahajan worked deeply in the Colorado progressive movement for over a decade. They both participated in TLC’s inaugural fellowship and worked at organizations who received funding from Chinook Fund. Together, Chinook Fund and TLC have a growing network of 75 organizations who are eligible for this Fund. . Editor’s note: To learn more about the Fund, the grantees, and how to donate, visit About Chinook Fund: Chinook Fund supports grassroots organizations working on issues of social and economic justice. Learn more and apply at About Transformative Leadership for Change (TLC): Launched in 2017, Transformative Leadership for Change nurtures the sustainability, solidarity and radical visions of BIPOC movement leaders in Colorado. Visit today.


Zephyr View Designated a Colorado Historic Landmark Zephyr View, one of the first Colorado mountain resort cabins built and owned by a Black man, was designated a Colorado Historic Landmark Building by the Gilpin County Historic Preservation Commission on Nov. 17, 2020. Zephyr View was built in 1926 by William Pitts, the mixedrace son of a slaveholder. Raised by his enslaved mother, Pitts became a carpenter and church and home builder. After moving from Missouri to Denver in 1919, Pitts built two family homes and a speculative house in the Cherry Creek area which was then mostly prairie. He was one of the first to recognize the opportunity of Lincoln Hills, a Gilpin County mountain area owned by whites but designated for Black home ownership. As Pitts pointed out to friends, church groups and civic organizations, the reasonably priced land, only an hour drive from Denver, gave Blacks an opportunity for home ownership. Another selling point was that at a time of rampant discrimination, Blacks could take advantage of the beautiful scenery and recreational activities denied to them at other Colorado resorts. Today, Zephyr View, a redpainted structure perched on a mountainside with a west-fac-

ing deck and a view on all four sides is a sterling example of the architectural style of the 1920s, enhanced by the use of native materials including river rock and pine trees. The cabin is owned by two of Pitts’ descendants, the Honorable Gary Jackson of Denver and Nancelia Regina Belton of Chicago, Illinois. Zephyr View cabin located at 31 Pitts Place in historic Lincoln Hills is enjoyed year around by several generations of Pitts/Scott/Elbeck/Jackson family.

Court where he was appointed on Jan 1, 2013. Judge Jackson’s legal career spanned five decades and included serving in the Denver District Attorney’s Office where he tried cases before the namesake of this award, Judge Anthony Greco. Judge Jackson also served in the United States Attorney’s Office and as a partner for more than 30 years in the law firm he established. Judge Jackson is one of the founders of the Sam Cary Bar Association and has been actively involved in several diversity initiatives focused on increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession and judicial branch. He has generously shared his legal knowledge and experience through mentoring programs and instruction at colleges and law schools throughout Colorado. Judge Jackson has been recognized by many organizations for his achieve-

Judge Gary Jackson Receives the 2020 Anthony Greco Award

The County Court Judge Association congratulated Judge Gary M. Jackson on being selected as the 2020 Anthony Greco Award winner for judicial excellence. Judge Jackson, who retired on December 31, 2020, presided in the Criminal Division of the Denver County Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


ments and leadership including the 2018 Colorado Judicial Institute Judicial Excellence Award for a County Court Judge, the Denver County Monte Pascoe Civic Leadership Award in 2018, the 2020 Center for Legal Inclusiveness Hon. Wiley Daniel Lifetime Achievement Award, and the 2020 Denver Bar Association Judicial Excellence Award. The Anthony Greco Award is given each year to a Colorado County Court Judge and recognizes exemplary achievement and leadership as a county court judge. The award was named after the late Judge Anthony Greco who was appointed to the Denver County Court bench by Mayor William McNichols and served from 1970 to 1984. The award is in recognition of a county judge who exemplifies the traits to which all county judges aspire. .

A New Year And New Vision For African American Health With the New Year and new vision, The Center for African American Health (CAA Health) will present new and exciting things. On January 30, CAA Health celebrated its first anniversary in its new 21,250 square foot free-standing building. Thanks to the generosity of numerous community organizations and leaders who initially supported their capital campaign, CAA Health raised donations totaling $2.5 million. Now in the public phase of the campaign, CAA Health’s goal is to raise an additional $2.2 million by May. The funds will allow CAA Health to purchase the $4.7 million building that it is now leasing and complete the renovations necessary to help address the urgent health access needs facing African Americans in metro Denver. With expanded facilities come expanded goals for how the organization can have a greater impact in supporting the African American community, as well as a broader footprint in shaping statewide policies to eliminate disparities. In 2019, CAA Health served approximately 9,500 individuals

through programs, events, and services, and its goal upon moving into the new facility was to expand services and programs by 25 percent. While the pandemic posed challenges, the organization quickly adapted its programming to an online format and re-envisioned the facility’s usage to become an outdoor hub for offering onsite health and community services with full safety protocols in place. Last year highlighted CAA Health’s importance and emphasized how systemic health and social inequities have a disproportionate impact on the African American community. Today, CAA Health looks forward to elevating its work in the following areas.

COVID-19 Response and Recovery

Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic, CAA Health has actively engaged in COVID-19 community-wide relief efforts, including the distribution of food, emergency assistance funds, and PPE supplies. In 2020 CAA Health distributed more than 12,000 masks and other critical supplies to families, food banks, homeless shelters, churches, and nonprofit organizations and more than $92,000 in direct emergency financial support to help families pay for food, rent, utilities, prescriptions, and other critical supplies. CAA Health also served as a communitybased COVID-19 testing site, and flu vaccine clinic site. This year CAA Health will continue to provide community support and is planning with our medical provider partners to serve as a community site for COVID-19 vaccinations.

Amplifying Advocacy

The Center for African American Health recently received a three-year, $600,000 grant from The Colorado Health Foundation to build a robust, community informed African American advocacy and policy-making infrastructure in Colorado. As a result, the organization’s expanded capacity will lead to further advocacy work and drive to influence local and statewide policies to better address health equity and create opportunities for low-income families and communities of color. “This investment in our advocacy capacity allows us to amplify the community’s voice in communicating a shared policy agenda,” explained said Deidre Johnson, CEO and

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


Executive Director. “Through strategic collaborations, our goal is to build linkages to critical policy levers that will support our community’s improved health and wellbeing.” Advocacy and policy involvement are not new to CAA Health. Since the beginning, CAA Health has addressed and represented the community’s issues, frequently testifying at the capitol, and participating in multiple task forces. From the Blue Ribbon Commission in the early 2000’s to the Behavioral Health Task Force and Health Equity Task Force in 2020, CAA Health has historically championed social change, justice and health equity on the local, state and regional levels to make a difference for our community members. “We know that health equity and the social determinants of health are inextricably linked,” explained Johnson. “Therefore, our community-driven approach will embrace health care access as well as the various social determinants of health (SDOH) that are identified and prioritized by our community members.” With the Amplifying Health Advocacy funding, CAA Health will grow as a change agent to promote and champion health equity. In the past, many local and statewide organizations have collaborated with CAA Health to enhance their legislative activities and leverage CAA Health’s trusted reputation in the African American community. However, the time has come for CAA Health to step forward and lead on issues most critical to our community.

Behavioral Health In December of 2020, the Caring for Denver Foundation awarded CAA Health with a generous two-year, $568,925 grant to support the implementation of a community-informed and innovative, collaborative

behavioral health program entitled “Building Mental Health Equity in The Black Community.” The program seeks to increase access to culturally responsive mental health, substance misuse programs, and counseling services to positively impact Denver’s African American communities. “This project will identify and support African Americans with behavioral health issues and connect them to culturally responsive care,” said Johnson. “Our goal is to bridge gaps and generate heightened access to behavioral health services across the spectrum.” In partnership with Element of Discovery Therapists of Color Collaborative, CAA Health will connect community members to critical mental health services in-person and virtually. Element of Discovery Therapists of Color Collaborative is a group of mental health professionals who are culturally responsive and reflective of the community members served by CAA Health.

BeHeard Colorado

engage in conversations about health and healthcare policy and be empowered to help change public policies to create health equity. Specifically, participants can expect to receive free training, leadership development and advocacy skills to help develop and expand grassroots and grass top level networks. The overarching goal is to create positive change from within the community by determining health related issues and healthcare advocacy priorities that can drive policy changes. Through peer-to-peer support, participants will co-create a leadership curriculum and intersect with experts, community leaders and other partners as they work to eliminate community health disparities. CAA Health is built on a foundation of collaboration – the action of working together. As such, they provide many opportunities for individuals or groups to get involved in making a difference for themselves and the communities in which they live, work, play and pray..

Black Lives Matter 5280 Building more loving and united Black communities while eliminating anti-Black violence and racism.

Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism Encourages and supports under-served youth to participate in their communities socially and politically.

Soul 2 Soul Sisters Black Womxn-led faith-based programming that focuses on anti-Black racism, reproductive justice and voter engagement.

CAA Health’s BeHeard Colorado program is designed to amplify the African American voice on health and social justice issues. The program will serve as an advocacy and training platform for the community to engage, learn, lead, and voice social issues critical to their health and wellness. BeHeard Colorado participants will collaborate with others to

Editor’s note: To get involved with any of the CAA Health programs, send an email to or call 303-3553423. For more information on how you can make a financial investment in the work of the organization, support the capital campaign, or learn more about the history, goals, and future expansion plans, visit

Learn more about The Giving Project, our grantees, and get involved at

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021




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Beautifully Combines Romance and Music in ‘Sylvie’s Love’ By Samantha Ofole-Prince

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Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


A story which also explores the sordidness of love, it doesn’t shy away from the messiness of a very protracted breakup and the chemistry between Thompson and Asomugha (who each give terrific performances) is undeniable. “At its core,” Ashe says, “it’s being able to let the love go if you feel like you are holding the other person back, which is for me the highest form of loving somebody. That’s the final message there.” Also starring Aja Naomi King, Alano Miller, Lance Reddick, Wendi McLendon Covey and Eva Longoria, it’s a well-made movie set in the 50s and ‘60s, which also delicately skims the racial issues of that era. “It would have been naive to leave out what was happening during that time,” Ashe adds. “The micro aggressions are just as important as the macroaggression and those things are still happening but in a subtle way. I didn’t know at the time this movie was going to start being screened when voting and election was happening. I got lucky.” With stylish and lovable characters, a lush score, and striking visuals, Sylvie’s Love is a charming and sentimental movie that wants viewers to cry at the end.


“American Skin” By Samantha Ofole-Prince


provoking and powerful film, Nate Parker’s latest project American Skin, follows a Black Iraqi War Vet, who seeks justice for his only son after he is killed by a white police officer. This socially urgent narrative on police brutality and systematic racism, which is written and directed and directed by Parker, stars Omari Hardwick, Beau Knapp, Theo Rossi, Shane Paul McGhie, Milauna Jackson, AnnaLynne McCord and Vanessa Bell Calloway. In the film, Parker plays Lincoln Jefferson, a Marine veteran who has served two combat tours in Iraq. Now stateside, he works as a custodian in a prestigious California high school - a job he secured only to ensure enrollment in the school to his 14-year-old son KJ, following his divorce. One night, Lincoln and his son are stopped by police and an altercation leads to the fatal shooting of Lincoln’s unarmed son. Lincoln, hopeful the system will provide a trial, is dismayed to learn the officer responsible for pulling the trigger will go uncharged and will return to active duty without an indictment. Disillusioned by the fact he was denied a fair trial for the death of his only son, Lincoln desperately takes the matter into his

own hands in a series of events he hopes will finally lead to justice for his son. Parker has focused much of his life and career on addressing social injustice and creating content that addresses disparities for marginalized communities around the world. He first received critical attention for his starring role in The Great Debaters opposite Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker. Other projects include George Lucas’ Red Tails, about Black airmen, the Spike Lee–directed Red Hook Summer, and Beyond the Lights, for which he was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Parker’s directorial debut, Birth of a Nation won the 2016 Sundance Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award while shattering the record for the highest acquisition price ever paid at Sundance. “In 2014, following the death of Michael Brown, I traveled to Ferguson, Missouri to gain a

better understanding of the tensions between law enforcement and young men and women of color. It became clear to me, instantly, the disconnect in our understanding of citizenship, law enforcement, and our responsibility to preserve American life. As an American citizen, father, brother, son and artist, I felt compelled to use my platform as a filmmaker to respond to this crisis in a way that could not only promote social equity but initiate a global culture shift that can result in the preservation of lives. If saving one life is the only thing this film achieves, it will have served its core purpose,” shares Parker. “By tackling difficult issues such as race, fear, and cultural division, we can set a course toward genuine racial healing. One that, if successful, can become a model for addressing other systemic issues in America and across the world.”.

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ylan Jones is not naive. He is a 20-year-old Black man living in the United States. This reality does not easily accommodate naiveté. When he was in middle school, he says, he and some Black friends got off the bus in their east Denver neighborhood and an “old white lady” came out of her house to declare she had no use for “monkeys” as neighbors. When he was 15, he says, Denver police pulled over a car in which he was a passenger and then asked only him, the sole Black kid in the group, for ID. While he was digging in his backpack for it, he heard an officer unsnap the holster strap holding his gun. It stayed holstered, but Jones still thinks about the sudden, sharp potential of the moment: that a cop might have shot and killed him. No, he’s not naive. But neither is Jones jaded. He talks about himself instead as a clear-eyed optimist. A believer that the good will outweigh the bad, that a society can be just and equitable, and that he can and will play a role, even if it’s a small one, in the ushering in of that future. “No matter how bad things will get, I want to make something somewhere a better place for somebody I care about,” he says. But that flame of hope inside him hasn’t been easy to keep burning. Jones grappled with anxiety and panic attacks even before this past year’s ons-


Anxiety is also a Battle between Optimism and Pessimism By Tina Griego Colorado News Collaborative

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


laught of stressors. COVID, unemployment, death after death of Black men and women at the hands of police nationwide, the relentless weight of “being judged and mistreated because you fit a description” fed a battle within him: The idealist fighting disillusionment, the optimist going toe-to-toe with the pessimist. The pessimist watched a police officer slowly suffocate George Floyd to death. The pessimist heard then-President Trump say on Twitter “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” during the Black Lives Matter protests of the spring and heard equally loudly Trump’s silence as his supporters, nearly all of them white, violently overran the nation’s Capitol in mid-January. “I try to be open-minded. I try to see other people’s perspective. But you can legit see how people are being treated differently,” Jones says. “The more I see the more open my eyes get, the more I hear, the better I understand how certain things are in the world. It’s just such a hypocritical world... “It pisses me off a little bit. Not a little bit, actually. A lot.” Don’t let it get to you, his father has advised over the years. That’s no easy thing for Jones. When a panic attack hits, he wrote in a poem, “it hits hard taking my breath, making my mind go way into depth. I start to shake uncontrolled once that happens I leave and keep my eyes closed. Take deep breaths, I say, hoping it will work today.”

He dropped out of school in 2018 one semester shy of graduating, and went to work in restaurants. During the pandemic, he lost his kitchen job and went back to school, taking classes online, collecting unemployment until it ran out and a lowlevel panic set in. “I felt useless, like I didn’t have anything to do in life,” he says. “Yeah, I did school, but I need to make money, I need to pay things, I need to make sure that if I can help out in the house, I can help out.” He had too much time on his hands and “if I have too much time on my hands I start thinking about so many things that have gone wrong in my life.” A doctor had prescribed him anxiety meds, he says, but they make him lethargic so he doesn’t take them. He’s picked up vaping and when really overwhelmed, withdraws into his room, playing video games. “I stay off social media. The only people I stay in contact with are my family. I can go days, weeks, even months without talking to people. My friends understand. They try to get me to kick it with them, but I don’t respond to group chat messages. I put everything on mute and disappear from the world for a little bit.” Early one December morning, when the apartment was quiet and his father asleep, Jones went into a tailspin of self-doubt and self-recrimination. He says he couldn’t stop thinking about how he dropped out of school, about his parents’ divorce, about how he’s a terrible role model to his three younger brothers. He pulled out his phone and started writing: “I need help but I cant ask ... I cant help but hide my emotions even when I feel broken I cant help but smile even when I get nothing but denial I don’t mean someone telling me no just tired of life looking at me with shit it throws I honestly don’t know what

to do if you read this I’m asking you.” Writing poetry helps ground him, he says. “I really don’t like talking about my emotions and this was an outlet,” he says. “I want to show people that we all go through struggles, some more than others. I want people to know, you are not alone, even if you don’t want to talk about what you are going through, you are not alone.” This is the optimist speaking; the person who believes words — the right words at the right time — can be a bridge among people, spanning racial conflict, spanning generational divides. It is the optimist who talks now about going to college, who looks back at last year’s Black Lives Matter protests — not just as a Black man, but as an AfroLatino — and thinks of the “kids of all different races, nationalities, genders” he saw there. “Some of the things they said, it touched my heart, you know, and it proved to me right then and there that we are not born to hate.” So, Jones carries that with him. He’s trying to more squarely face his anxiety, and, as he wrote in a recent poem, “if you have anxiety, maybe you can understand me and I you.” He just found a job as a dishwasher, has finished high school and will graduate in May. He feels good, he says. Determined. Optimistic.. Editor’s note: If you’re struggling, help is available on Colorado’s crisis hotline. Call 1-844-493-TALK (8255). This story is part of a statewide reporting project from the Colorado News Collaborative called On Edge. This project is supported in part by the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Reporting and a grant honoring the memory of the late Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal. Our intent is to foster conversation about mental health in a state where stigma runs high.

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This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land? The 158-Year Journey for African-American Homeownership. By Barry Overton


has often been coined as the American dream. But for African Americans, that dream has been an elusive one since our 158 years of freedom. Prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, there were no African Americans who were land or home owners, considering that we were slaves and considered to be property. And obviously, property cannot own property. As new African American homeowners begin to consider purchasing their first home, it is important to understand where we came from, in order to focus on where we’re going. Shortly after the Civil War, Union General William T. Sherman and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton met with Baptist ministers in the south to ask their wants and needs as free men. The leader of the ministers was Rev. Garrison Frazier who stated, “The way we can best take care of ourselves is to have land, and turn it and till it, by our own labor. We want to be



placed on land until we are able to buy it and make it our own.” On January 16, 1865, General Sherman ordered Field Order 15 which allowed freed slaves to purchase land from South Carolina all the way into northern parts of Florida. For the first time in history, African Americans were able to own their own land. In addition, retired war mules were given to newly freed slaves to be able to till their lands. More than 400,000 acres of land were confiscated and sold to African American in no more than 40acre plots. In the summer of 1865, Abraham Lincoln successor Andrew Johnson began pardoning Confederate soldiers and officers, allowing them to reclaim their land. In many instances, this land had been land that was sold to freed slaves. It now had to be returned to those original owners. This was the first disappointment for African Americans with land ownership. They were subsequently placed in a position of becoming hired labor by the white landowners. Let’s fast forward to the 1930s. FDR established the New Deal to bring economic relief to the country as we were coming out of the Great Depression. The National Housing Act of 1934 was created as part of the New Deal. This Act introduced a 30-year mortgage and low fixed interest rates, which put people of lower income classes in positions to become homeowners. To ensure that all of these new homeowners did not

default on their loans, the Home Owners Loan Corporation was created and through the creation of HOLC, residential security maps were produced which created the term redlining. These maps systematically created economic dividing lines. These maps used a color code. Green was an indication for business owners or wealthy people. Blue indicated white collar families. Yellow was for working class. Red was meant for detrimental influences, hazardous high-risk loans, where immigrants and low-income whites and people of color lived. In these areas, it became more difficult to purchase or refi. Therefore, in many instances, city services declined, crime increased, which in turn caused property values to reduce. Over the next 30 years, we saw a decline in the quality of life in the inner city, due to redlining practices. Many white families moved out to the suburbs, into covenant controlled communities where those covenants restricted homes to be sold to Black families. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in April of 1968. In the aftermath of Dr. King’s assassination, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act of 1968. This act protected the citizens from discrimination in housing based on race, religion, or national origin. But unfortunately, it did not do anything for the damage that was done over the previous 100 years. During the 52 years this bill has been in place, it has benefited and allowed African

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021



Library of Congress

Americans to purchase in all neighborhoods, but there are still instances where discriminatory practices occur. Recent studies have indicated that there are cases discriminatory practices in lending. Black and Brown borrowers have been documented to pay higher interest rates, compared to a white borrower with like credit scores. Working with trusted lenders and Real Estate Professionals become imperative to defend your rights as a borrower. While the journey to homeownership and building wealth through real estate has been a struggle, African-Americans now are probably in the best position they have been in the past 158 years. The key is getting all the right information and ensuring that your rights are protected. . Editor’s note: Barry Overton is a licensed Real Estate Agent with New Era Group at Your Castle Real Estate. He has been an agent since 2001, and started investing in real estate in 1996. For more information, email barrysellsdenver@

Letters to the Editor Continued from page 4 American culture the envy of the world. Someday we will live up to our greatest dreams of inclusion, and someday color of skin will hardly be a footnote, if it is recognized at all. Mike Sawaya Denver

Living To Fight Another Day Editor: I spent the past few days gathering my thoughts since Wednesday, January 6, the now infamous day that will be remembered by many as an insurrection against democracy. Others will remember that day as an outcry for justice, albeit their cries for justice are distorted because they were inspired by a lie, birthed from the highest ranks of national leadership. Without the captions or commentary, the videos that splashed on media screens across the world, without question would have represented an uprising in a third world country, unfamiliar with democracy. Unfortunately, we must accept the truth that the violation of our nation’s capital came from within our ranks. We are left with more remnants of a divided nation that began seeing signs of its’ splinters weeks after the first Black man was elected president of the most powerful country in the free world. We did not find our harmony, and unite as Americans, after he was re-elected to a second term. Instead, there was acceleration to the opposing extreme to insure someone could unravel President Barack Obama’s legacy. Now more than any time in our life cycle, we are faced to reckon with the existence of more than one America. Black Americans have no history of

storming the capitals of its oppressors or descending to violence because the rest of the country refused to elect someone of their liking. In the other America, the events of January 6 are far from being the first display of white anger refusing to peacefully settle its disputes with its counterparts. The privilege of white power allows infighting and tolerates insurrectionist as the rest of America continues to fight poverty, education inequity, homelessness, and the pandemic that still has the disenfranchised in its crosshairs. “Where do we go from here,” some have asked. Again, that question comes from privilege. Those asking don’t have to live to fight for the life they want every day and those that are in the fight already know – we live to fight another day. Pastor Del Phillips Denver, CO

Life In General Is Really Cheap Editor: We don’t need people making false claims like “all lives matter.” The people who make this claim would be taken more seriously if they said, well… Theoretically, all lives matter. Was it Jesus who said “you will know a tree by the fruit that it bears?” Anyone who honestly looks at the global concentration of wealth in a few hands would find the claim that all lives matter is ludicrous. Saying all lives matter is like saying all fish need gills or they cannot extract oxygen from water; we all know this, he goes without saying, as many are fond of saying. The truth is… Life in general is really cheap. If you are poor as the vast majority of earth’s inhabitants are, your life does not matter very much. In fact there are societies actively working to rid the planet of what they consider to be “useless eaters” Who have no value and only stand in the way of developed nations who want access to the natural resources

under and on the land on which these “useless” people live. Africa is a particularly egregious example of this disdain for Black life. Extreme natural wealth in the face of extreme poverty. The story of Africa is pretty much the story of the planet in general - a few takers and billions taken for granted. Poor people provide wealth that comes from the exploitation of their labor and land. With the introduction of technology on a global scale, labor has an ever diminishing value. It is no different here in the west. Jobs have left the country and resurfaced in places where labor is cheaper, leaving workers to live on sidewalks and in parks. Do the lives of these people matter? Elon Musk has just been named the world’s richest man with a personal fortune of 188 billion dollars. Should he and others like him be allowed to endlessly expand their wealth simply because they have the means to do so, while so many languish in poverty? Don’t tell us that “all lives matter!” That statement is vacuous until you call for a redistribution of wealth globally. Antonio Aurora

A Taste of Its Own Medicine Editor: President-elect Joe Biden said the insurrectionists would have been treated very differently by the law enforcers if they were Black. That statement is the American reality which led many to believe with certainty that so many of the Capitol-storming-terrorists would have been killed or badly wounded if they were not white. They came in, armed and enraged. They were “allowed” to assault and vandalize America’s most sacred political institution, at the urging of the president of the United States. Capturing the

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2021


Capitol might have been, one of the steps, towards a military intervention and declaration of Marshall Law. Soon after the November vote, the president fired his secretary of defense, who reportedly refused to send the army to attack peaceful protesters during the summer revolts, as well as high-ranking members of the pentagon. He then replaced them with his perceived loyalists; thus revealing, his intention of using the military in an eventual planned plot. One may wonder whether the letter penned by former heads of the Pentagon, denouncing president Trump has had the effect of preventing a military involvement. Doesn’t a coup attempt, instigated by the President of United States indicate a rotten political system which has different standards of treatment for its citizens? The insurrectionists planned their action openly, for weeks. They used mass communication channels and organized, without a worry about the intelligence and law enforcement services. In his refusal to accept the elections results, the president was enabled by powerful forces in the media and politics, especially the lawmakers he sent his terrorists to “strongly sheer.” With the failed coup instigated by the president, the country is getting a taste of the illegal activities American administrations have engaged in for so long, overthrowing unwanted foreign governments. United States is accused of actively fomenting coups in Venezuela and Iran; and also of having for decades attempted to destabilize sovereign nations in Africa, Asia, Latin America – nations that refuse to give up their resources to multinational corporations. These illegal interventions have caused wars, deaths, destruction and poverty in many parts of the world. Mohamadou Cisse Denver

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