Denver Urban Spectrum - February 2023 - Black History Month

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Celebrating Black History New Foundation Supports Nonprofits in Making Black History...4 Ben Slayton: America’s First Black Realtor...10 Celebrating African Americans Who Make a Difference Honorees...11-14 Noel Distinguished Professorship Inspires and Educates...18
Richard Lewis CEO, RTL Networks RTL Foundation
MAR 31 – MAY 7 WOLF THEATRE “A GLORY TO BEHOLD!” – The New York Times Critic’s Pick The Color Purple Based Upon the Novel Written by Alice Walker and The Warner Bros./Amblin Entertainment Motion Picture
by Marsha Norman
and Lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis & Stephen Bray


Rosalind J. Harris


Brittany Winkfield


Lawrence A. James


Alfonzo Porter


Angelia D. McGowan


Tanya Ishikawa


Barry Overton


Angelia D. McGowan

Thomas Holt Russell

LaQuane Smith

Wayne Trujillo


Tanya Ishikawa - Story Coordinator


Bee Harris


Lens of Ansar


Jody Gilbert - Kolor Graphix


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 2023 by Bizzy Bee Enterprise. No portion may be reproduced without written permission of the publisher.

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365 Days...

This month we celebrate Black history just as we would any other month of the year, and that is with a deep pride in the accomplishments made in our communities and with the ultimate optimism for what is to come. It’s also one of our favorite times of the year when we honor African Americans Who Make a Difference, the Urban Spectrum’s annual recognition of those positively impacting the lives of others.

In this issue longtime contributor Wayne Trujillo writes an insightful cover story on Colorado businessman Richard Lewis and his inspiration to provide nonprofits a place and a platform to maximize performance for the minority communities they serve. As the city of Denver nears the next mayoral election, LaQuane Smith provides some notable details about candidates interested in taking on the challenge of leading the Mile High City.

For this Black History Month issue, we also had the pleasure to speak to sister and brother – Angie Noel and Buddy Noel–as they reminisced about their mom, Rachel B. Noel, and her legacy that continues through the MSU Denver Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Visiting Professorship. Plus, the February issue remembers two long-time pillars of the Denver community –writer and editor Madestella Holcomb and artist Jess Dubois.

On a final note, Denver Urban Spectrum is excited to be one of six media outlets in the nation selected as part of an inaugural cohort of the Black Media Initiative Bridge Project to develop audience revenue, which is pivotal to sustainability in the ever-evolving media world. These days that is 365 days of the year.

Money is More Powerful than Altruism

Op-ed by Thomas Holt Russell

When Deion Sanders arrived at Jackson State University in Mississippi in 2020, he promised to bring exposure and visibility to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The coach’s arrival was good news not only for Jackson State, but his presence would also bring a badly needed boost to all HBCUs, which have been in a financial freefall for the last three decades. His impact was immediate. Before Coach Sanders arrived, no HBCU games were shown on ESPN. That changed to 125 games scheduled for the 2022 season. He recruited the nation’s number-one recruit, five-star player Travis Hunter, who could have attended any college in the country, but because of Deion Sanders’ presence, Jackson State was his choice.

Sanders donated half his coaching salary to help renovate the JSU stadium. He brought a sold-out, record crowd to the


university’s in-state rivalry game against Alcorn State University, and some members of his staff came directly from the NFL. After only two and a half seasons, he led Jackson State to a 26-6 record, finishing first in the Southwestern Athletic Conference in his last two years as head coach. He won the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision’s Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award in 2021.

Everything seemed to be going well until Sanders announced that he was taking his primetime show to the University of Colorado in Boulder, and instantly, all the good feelings and goodwill seemed to evaporate in a chorus of disapproval from many in the Black community.

Accusations of betrayal and mistrust were spread among social media outlets and news programs as many viewed Sanders’ change in address as turning his back on his people in favor of money.

For many people in the African American community, Sanders’ decision to leave the historically Black college in the South for a predominately

white college felt like a punch in the gut. His story at Jackson State was a feel-good story, a sports celebrity opting to forego the brighter lights and comfort that his star allowed him to go to a small, financially struggling HBCU in the Deep South. His team would often be the lead story on a national sports show, and all the major news networks were vying for a Deion “Primetime” Sanders interview.

We should have seen his departure coming. A closer look reveals Sanders’ time at the college could have been smoother off the field. There were complaints about him being late for his own meetings. He spoke publicly, stating Alabama State University was unprofessional to his team. In post-game press conferences, he’d complain about things that did not pertain to the game, such as his stating the press conference location was unacceptable for him. He also mentioned that his personal belongings were stolen during the game while complaining about the city’s crime. Though not directly related to sports or the university, the Jackson, Mississippi water

Continued on page 29

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2023 3 Volume 36 Number 11 February 2023
SOCIAL MEDIA / DIGITAL MARKETING Melovy Melvin Lawrence A. James - Manager

Richard Lewis incarnates the body, soul and spirit of Black history. Adversity and challenge weren’t strangers in his past endeavors, and they endure today, but persistence lifted Lewis to his present position as the president and CEO of RTL Networks, a local enterprise with a global footprint. According to a Denver Business Journal profile on Lewis, he claims a couple of setbacks – being laid off two times in as many years at the turn of the century – as the impetus for his current success and inspiration for Lewis to launch RTL Networks in 2002.

The company markets itself as “Your Solutions Provider,” providing, among other services, IT cyber security and maintenance that have reaped, according to his bio, nearly $200 million. In two decades, the company’s setbacks, successes and accolades have prompted Lewis to consider how he can apply his own experiences in support of the Black community.

As an extension of both his experiences and acknowledgement of Black history, Lewis established the RTL Foundation, a 501(C)3 nonprofit in 2021 with a mission to Provide and support educational opportunities in the areas of history, technology and entrepreneurship and advocating for unity of all people while promoting economic opportunity for the historically disenfranchised and underprivileged. As a part of this mission, the RTL Foundation is

Black History Month Isn’t Limited to February on Richard Lewis’s Calendar

“standing up” the BIPOC Nonprofit Development Center (BNDC) to assist BIPOC lead and serving nonprofits. As RTL Foundation states on its website,, the nonprofit intends to support rather than compete with similar organizations. “There are an abundance of minority led and serving nonprofits in the Denver Metro doing fantastic work,” the RTL Foundation website explains. “As opposed to starting a new organization with a new or overlapping mission, the RTL Foundation endeavors to be more of a convener and to provide support infrastructure.”

The foundation will have a new home soon. Scheduled for opening this spring, it will reside at 2900 Welton Street, Denver’s historical nexus of Black culture and commerce. BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous and People of Color, the historically marginalized communities not only outside society’s epicenter, but often under its radar. The BNDC will serve sort of as a non-profit incubator/accelerator, offering nonprofits opportunities to network, communicate and collaborate. The member organizations also have access to office and event space, conference rooms, media production equipment, seminars, training , fundraising support and an art gallery. The BNDC provides these nonprofits a place and a platform to maximize performance for the minority communities they service – all at what Lewis describes as “deeply discounted rates,” allowing nonprofits with minimal resources a chance at maximum returns.

The foundation recognizes famous TV and radio personality Casey Kasem’s adage – “success doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” allowing fledgling nonprofits opportunities to network and partner. As Lewis writes in an email exchange with Denver Urban Spectrum, “In addition to connecting community serving organizations to the communities they serve, the BNDC will also connect community serving organizations to each other.”

He further explains, “The RTL Foundation desires to see a Denver Metro community where more of the historically underserved communities are able to

receive the necessary support they need to improve their quality of life; and we are convinced that one of the most effective routes to this outcome is to provide this necessary assistance to our BIPOC led and serving nonprofits, to enable them to effectively scale up their operations and increase their capacity to serve.”

Offering trainings, seminars and workshops on topics ranging from sustainability to scalability to grant writing, the ambitious endeavor reflects a lifetime of his personal and professional experiences on what frustrates and drives success.

Lewis is both the face and soul of RTL Networks and the RTL Foundation. While his colleagues, customers and community all contribute to the company’s and organization’s successes, it was he who first envisioned and subsequently created what ultimately emerged. His company bio reads like the ideation of the All-American Success Story. Senior class president and heavily recruited athlete. A graduate of the US Air Force Academy, he later earned an MBA and MS in Computer Science. He served 10 years in the Air Force, earning the rank of Captain. His professional resume lists stints in senior management at Cisco Systems, Qwest and Avaya and highlights honors including Inc 500 recognition, E&Y’s 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year for the Mountain Desert Region, Cisco System’s “Business Partner of the Year in the Public Sector,” and the Department of Defense’s “Small Business of the Year in the Pike’s Peak Region.” But Lewis remembers the sometimes tenuous and turbulent journey that led to his current place and position.

When asked what inspired him on his success path, considering the apparent success at all his endeavors, he emailed a revealing response. “Well… first let me say that while I am flattered by your stellar opinion of my track record, I have not been successful in all my endeavors. Not even close. My failures in love, business, and family have been epic! But we live, we learn, and we never give up.”

His words aren’t mere modesty. Lewis offers an example of an early challenge –one he might not have conquered had it not

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2023 4

been for the boost and encouragement of a supportive shoulder and helping hand.

During his grade school days, teachers categorized Lewis as a “slow learner,” recommending a special academic program that fit what they believed was his limited potential. They advised his mother not to set high academic expectations for her son. But she refused their program and prediction, enrolled him in a different school, and challenged him to “not just ‘go along’ with the school’s recommendation.” The teachers’ early profile of Lewis could’ve sabotaged his later life, but an early influence – his mother – changed course.

As he notes, others aren’t so fortunate. “I was young, but I remember believing what the teachers said about me, because after all… they were the experts and school was hard for me,” Lewis recounts. “Fortunately, my mom’s influence prevailed and I ended up doing quite well academically by the time I got to high school, but I’ve always wondered how many others were not so fortunate. How much greatness was snuffed out before it even had a chance?”

It’s this thought that guides his designs for the RTL Foundation and its home, the BNDC. Lack of opportunity, encouragement, guidance and resources limits not only people, but it also limits the organizations and their associated good intentions to assist. Underserved communities at society’s periphery face additional obstacles. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a hot and hip component of modern commerce, everywhere from Fortune 500 companies to startups. But Lewis’s dedication to the ideal predates the concept’s current vogue. It comes from experiences in a childhood classroom where his mother, not the teachers, educated him in the school of encouragement,

commitment, collaboration and confidence.

Despite the prospect of something the size and scope of the BNDC, along with the assorted hurdles already cleared and those still in the headlights and around the bend, Lewis isn’t cowed by myriad obstacles. When asked if any particular moments or events stood out as life changing along his personal and professional progression, his response isn’t any one example. “There are too many individual moments to recall, but the one common thread for all my endeavors that proved life changing and progressive is the level of difficulty. The more difficult the challenge, the more impactful the outcome,” he responds. With that reasoning and attitude, if the foundation and the center present difficult challenges, their vision and mission will be realized with even greater impact.

That’s not to infer that he anticipates the foundation’s future completely cast in a rosy glow. Pollyannish naivety isn’t among the attributes that propelled him to leader of a company with global reach and multimillion dollar revenues. Beside his professional experiences, he also claims a wealth of personal encounters with the underserved communities the foundation intends to support – and the accompanying constraints that discourage their success. Many of these constraints he sees as indigenous to communities of color are reflected in the personal regard he reserves for Black History Month.

“For me personally, Black history is a 365-days-a-year event,” he writes in describing what the observance means to him. “However, the month of February is a time to celebrate and reflect on how far we have come as a ‘people’ and to soberly assess how far we still have to go. I ask if I’ve done all I can to advance as an individual… what have I learned and

accomplished over the past year, what books have I read, what have I done to increase my own potential to grow? Did I do my part over the past year to help others, just as so many before me have done their part to make sure I had the opportunities I have had in life? What will I learn this coming year and how will I help others?”

That’s a substantial laundry list of reflections; one that would intimidate many people in the hurried and harried Information Age with its countless distractions. It appears that the RTL Foundation and its home, the BNDC, is a consequence of the questions posed within that ponderance. Lewis penned a post for the Black Resilience in Colorado blog that expanded on his personal perspective of Black History Month’s significance. It’s a testament to not only his experiences, but examples of obstacles threaded through not only Black history, but throughout

communities of color. Near the post opening, he asserts, “Many contend that the race-based barriers of the past are ‘ancient history’ and that all communities are now on a level playing field. But these claims don’t match the facts.”

He notes that the Black community has succeeded since emancipation, but the few success stories in the spotlight overshadow the many shortcomings in the shadows. “There has always been just enough success in the Black community to provide the illusion that equality has arrived,” he writes. “But the truth is, the percentage of wealth owned by Black Americans today is not much different than it was 100 years ago. In fact, the Black community has lost ground.”

He backs up that dismal observation with statistics. “In 1968, the median Black household had just 9.4% of the wealth of the median white household, Continued on page 6

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Richard Lewis

Continued from page 5 according to federal data. In 2016, that ratio fell to just 8.7%. The wealth divide widened over nearly a half century of what’s commonly regarded as a period of notable progress for Blacks.” He adds, that is “the sobering assessment of how far we have to go.”

His words are a reminder of something that the late civil rights activist Dick Gregory said in a Denver Urban Spectrum interview over two decades ago. Gregory stated something along the lines that things may have actually regressed in the threeplus decades between the ‘60s civil rights struggles and the new millennium since injustices, inequalities and disparities commanded more attention (likely due to greater media coverage brought on with the Civil Rights Movement) during what is often referred to as the Age of Aquarius. The late civil rights icon John Lewis also asserted that true equality hadn’t been reached when interviewed for another Urban Spectrum feature.

Richard Lewis (no relation to John) views the statistics about inequity that he quotes as a treatable challenge. As he states, “The more difficult the challenge, the more impactful the outcome.” But he’s also a realist, recognizing that problems aren’t treated, let alone cured, without action. Wishful thinking alone is nothing more than a placebo, a simple panacea elusive if not fantastical. But he touts philanthropy as a proven remedy. “I think deeper philanthropic engagement within the Black community is needed,” he writes in his blog post.

He later expounds with a lesson in Black history, “The truth is, philanthropy has always shown up in the Black community. We’ve always self-cared, and have given back, supported, and uplifted each other – from preparing food for sick and mourning neighbors, to

raising the children of siblings or neighbors, and creating formal organizations to address systemic issues.”

He further advises, “Those of us who have achieved at any level should do what we can to answer this call, understanding that countless others came before us – Black Americans who failed, sacrificed, marched, toiled and died fighting against the barriers this country constructed to block Blacks from opportunities.”

From the Age of Aquarius to the Age of Obama (the election of the first Black president of the United States), equality for Black communities (and communities of color) seemed within reach if not a done deal; both media and politicians celebrated a colorblind society. Others declared discrimination both an anachronism and a card played for personal gain. But the last decade has revealed serious fissures in the façade of racial and ethnic harmony.

Lewis didn’t need the relatively recent reports about worsening inequity to enlighten him to the persistent problem. His personal and professional experiences swept aside that illusion. Those portraying discrimination as an historical artifact are as wrong as the teachers who advised his mother to surrender high hopes for her son’s academic success.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement relied on philanthropy to survive and thrive; nonprofit Black churches energized the fabled ‘60s struggles. With Lewis committing to a year-round observance of Black History Month, the work of both the RTL Foundation and its home, the upcoming BNDC nexus in Five Points, will extend his past victories into the present and beyond. Those triumphs – both big and small – will play out on a daily basis throughout the year courtesy of its nonprofit members and their philanthropy within marginalized communities of color. .

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Who’s Who in the Race for Denver’s Next Mayor

The following list offers a few nuggets of information about most of the candidates who have thrown their hat in the ring for the chance to take on the role of Denver mayor after the departure of Mayor Michael Hancock, who is term limited after 12 years in office. The growing list has been a fluid situation through midJanuary, the editorial deadline for Denver Urban Spectrum articles. The Denver Office of the Clerk and Recorder will release the final list on Feb. 3.

Kelly Brough is former chair of the Denver Chamber of Commerce. The Denver native is an advocate for “the promise of Denver,” and seeks to solve problems such as homelessness, public safety and the housing challenge in Denver. The candidate’s website is

Lisa Calderón is executive director for Emerge Colorado and an adjunct faculty member at Regis University. With and educational background in law and education, she is running for mayor to transform how city government fundamentally operates so that every Denver community member and resident can thrive. Calderón has experience in nonprofit, city government and education. Her T.E.A.C.H. platform stands for transformational transportation, economic and environmental justice, affordability, community safety and housing and health equity. She ran for mayor in 2019 and has experi-

ence as chief of staff to Denver’s District 9 Council member Candi CdeBaca. The candidate’s website is

Paul Noel Fiorino is a graduate of Metropolitan State University and has a background in the arts as a ballet dancer, singer and songwriter. A political advocate for the arts and humanities, budget cuts to the arts inspired him to get into public service. His platform is all about preservation and conservation. He also wants to tackle affordable housing. Fiorino has run for governor of Colorado five times, the U.S. Senate once, and mayor of Denver in 2011 and 2015. The candidate’s website is

Marcus Giavanni ran for mayor in 2019 as a write-in candidate. He’s running again to take the lead in making Denver once again a non-partisan government. The candidate’s website is

Chris Hansen is a sitting state senator for Colorado Senate District 31 and has a background in energy sector economics and data analytics. He has 20 years of experience in the global energy industry. He served as representative for House District 6 from 2017 to 2019, representing the east-central neighborhoods of Denver. His platform is to create a greener, safer and more affordable Colorado. The candidate’s website is

Leslie Herod has a background in public service and is a graduate of the University of Colorado. She is an advocate, community leader, and the first Black, LGBTQ+ member of the Colorado General Assembly. Elected to the General Assembly in 2016, she has served three terms and was instrumental in passing statewide police accountability legislation. She has also supported

programs such as Caring for Denver and STAR to provide mental health support. Her mayoral campaign platform focuses on housing solutions, public safety, people-oriented public transit, homelessness and mental health solutions. The candidate’s website is m/

Mike Johnston is a former Democratic state senator representing northeast Denver. With a background in education and the private sector, he worked as a principal, teacher, and an education advisor to former President Barack Obama’s first campaign. As state senator, he passed a landmark teacher evaluation reform. His platform addresses homelessness, affordable housing and crime. Johnston also wants to revitalize downtown by incentivizing businesses to offer childcare at their downtown locations. He wants a vibrant, affordable and safe Denver. The candidate’s website is

Aurelio Martinez is a former boxer, boxing coach and CEO of the publication, Inside Boxing. The Denverite, who grew up in the Cole neighborhood and Five Points, is running for mayor because he feels that the city is broken. A graduate of Manual High School, he attended Metro State University and worked as an IBM customer engineer before starting his own business, Martinez Business Center. He wants to see affordable housing for lowwage earners and expanded services for recreation centers. The candidate’s website is about/

Deborah Ortega brings 40 years of government experience to the mayoral race. She is an atlarge member of Denver City Council. She worked for Lt. Gov. George Brown’s office and for U.S. Sen. Floyd Haskell. She attended Barnes Business College and attended the

University of Denver Law School Clinical Education Program.

Ortega is known for her emphasis on environmental and safety issues. A long-time public servant, She believes that Denverites will bring change to their city. The candidate’s website is

Jesse Lashawn Parris is a social justice advocate with a background in criminal justice. He has a criminology and criminal justice degree from MSU Denver. He has advocated for those without housing, worked with Occupy Denver, and was a member of Denver Homeless Out Loud. In 2019, Parris ran for council’s at-large position. His platform is to advocate for Black and Brown populations, which include issues such as housing, fixing sidewalks and replacing police with friendly, compassionate and empathetic agencies. He shows up frequently at city council meetings. The candidate’s website is /jesse4denver2023

Terrance Roberts, a civil rights activist, former gang member and anti-gang activist, is a community leader who advocates against police brutality. His platform includes addressing the Denver housing crisis, homelessness, youth violence and the development of the music and film industry. Roberts is a co-founder of the Frontline Party for Revolutionary Action. He is running on a housing-first model and would like to see changes in the current camping ban. He wants people to have sanctioned access to showers, waste facilities for trash and bathrooms. The candidate’s website is

Trinidad Rodriguez has had a 23-year career in financing, funding projects that include schools, health clinics and affordable housing communities. The Denver native has

Continued on page 8

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2023 7

Continued from page 7 served as senior vice president for both George K. Baum & Company and D.A. Davidson & Co. He has served as a commissioner of the Denver Housing Authority under three mayors. He believes that his diverse experience in management and finance can help address the problems of housing affordability, homelessness and economic opportunities. The candidate’s website is

Andre Rougeot is a former Army intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan. He earned a graduate degree at Harvard Business School and has a background in business. He wants safe communities, lower crime and affordable housing. The registered Republican wants to enforce the Denver camping ban. The candidate’s website is

Ken Simpson is a tech consultant with a bachelor’s degree in

criminal justice and criminology as well as a master’s degree in public administration. He ran for the Denver mayor’s office in 2011. Simpson’s platform is affordable housing. He wants a housing-first initiative for the homeless and a reduction in crime. The candidate’s website is

Kwame Spearman is the CEO of Tattered Cover, a historic independent bookstore of Denver. Spearman grew up in Denver and attended East High School. He earned his bachelor of arts in political science and history from Columbia University, his juris doctorate from Yale Law School, and his MBA from Harvard Business School. His background includes working with Bain and Company, B.GOOD and Knotel. He has also been involved in student government and worked for former Colorado Senator Mark Udall’s deputy press secretary during his successful 2008 campaign.

Spearman has reported that if elected mayor, he will resign as Tattered Cover CEO. The candidate’s website is

David Stevens has a background in education and is the founder of The Language School. The native of New Orleans, Louisiana wants to tackle education issues. He wants easier access to education from preschool all the way to college. He also wants to increase funding for mental health. His platform is greater access to economic opportunities, less crime, affordable housing and wage equity. He believes that lack of education is the root cause of many problems that Denver faces. No candidate’s website was found.

Ean Tafoya has experience in education, nonprofits and the arts. Tafoya also has experience in public service, having worked in local government, community boards and on bal-

lot initiatives. The advocate for civil rights and environmental justice serves as the co-chair of the Colorado Environmental Justice Action Task Force. His platform is regional cooperation, housing, environmental issues and public health and safety for Denver. The candidate’s website is Thomas Wolf has a background in investment banking. He graduated from the University of Iowa and earned his MBA from the University of Denver. Wolf began his career in finance at JP Morgan in New York and spent six years in London with Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley, before relocating to Denver. He a managing director at Crewe Capital, an investment bank and private wealth management firm. He ran for Denver mayor in 2011. His platform is to confront and control encampments, stressing that encampments are a humanitarian crisis. The candidate’s website is .

Key Dates in the Denver Mayoral Race

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Building a Legacy by Being First

The story of America’s first Black realtor, Ben Slayton

Slayton’s remarkable career in real estate spans six decades. He has set the bar for agents with his willingness to venture into uncharted territory, allowing those that follow to benefit from his courage and drive. His success is inspiring proof of what can be achieved when one takes initiative and makes a bold move!

Slayton is a man of many firsts. He was the:

•First Black franchise owner of a Century 21 office.

•First developer and builder of a condominium project in San Fernando, California

•First person of any race approved by Freddie Mac as a multi-family program plus seller

•First and only person to be appointed by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae for the inaugural affordable, housing, advisory council, at the same time

But the most important “first” that has had an impact on myself and other AfricanAmerican realtors is Ben Slayton is the very first AfricanAmerican realtor.

Now, when you think “the first Black realtor,” you would assume that we are talking about an event that occurred in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. We are actually talking about 1964. Just four years before I was born. See you in the 1960s. The National Association of Realtors was still working in the “good old boys” system. You couldn’t just apply to become a realtor – you actually had to be sponsored by a current realtor.

There is a difference between being a real estate agent and a Realtor. A real estate agent is anyone that has secured a

license to sell real estate in a particular state. A Realtor is a trademarked name for any real estate agent that is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), a professional association. It offers a lot of benefits and privileges.

Ben Slayton believed he deserved to have those same benefits and privileges as his white counterparts. Unfortunately, he was challenged to find a realtor sponsor that was willing to take on the ridicule and being ostracized by their fellow realtors.

Many years prior to pursing a real estate career, Slayton had been adopted by a Jewish family who taught him the business of real estate in the mortgage industry. He learned the value of building wealth through real estate. Since Slayton was unable to find a realtor who would sponsor him, his family paid a realtor to sponsor him. The realtor charged his family $5000 for that sponsorship. To put that in perspective in 1964, $5000 would buy you a two bedroom one bath house in California.

At 78 years young, Slayton is on another mission. His focus in life has never been about being first, but more so about making a difference. Slayton founded Legacy Home Loans in July 2018 with the sole purpose of

shrinking the 30% gap between African-American homeowners and white American homeowners. Currently that gap is 70% of white American homeowners to 40% of AfricanAmerican homeowners. His company’s mission statement is “to empower the AfricanAmerican community throughout the United States with the focus of building, sustainable wealth through their homeownership and leaving family legacies.” Approximately 77% of his business is with AfricanAmerican clients with 23% is with non-African-Americans.

Legacy Home Loans is committed to making a substantial difference in the AfricanAmerican community by providing home loans across 11 U.S. states. This bold mission, guided by Slayton’s unwavering drive for change, has an ambitious goal of advancing $1 billion towards homeownership opportunities and securing his status as a hero within the nation..

Editor’s note: For more information on Legacy Home Loans, visit

Editor’s note: Barry Overton is a licensed Real Estate eXp Realty, LLC. He has been an agent since 2001 and started investing in real estate in 1996. For more information, email: or call 303-668-5433.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2023 10
Ben Slayton

T T he “husband and father first” is best known as a coach, tutor, and teacher who is active in the far northeast Denver community. Gene Fashaw, who was nominated for Colorado Teacher of the Year in 2022, led a rally at Denver Public Schools centered on change, the “Know Justice, Know Peace” trademark lawsuit, and lifting the ban on Brandon Pryor, co-founder of STEAM Academy.

“Being able to shape the minds of children and contribute to the wellbeing of the same community I grew up in is a true blessing,” says Fashaw, a true community advocate. “I am proud of the work I have done hosting forums on issues in our community, bringing our communities together in festivals, and doing other selfless work constantly.”

As a Morehouse Man, Fashaw says “I am not living my purpose if I do not give back to the community that I came up in. Contributing to the strengthening and growth in my community is one of my life’s purposes.”

According to Fashaw, the biggest challenges in the African American community surround group economics, youth violence, education and opportunity. He says these challenges can be resolved “at the macro level, it involves us all to come together in collaboration. From there we can come up with plans to help our dollars circulate more within our community, and create support, opportunities and experiences for our children that change trajectories.”

Moving forward, his focus is on growing “the Denver STEAM

Editor’s note: Each year 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, and service impact on the community, we have selected 10 recipients from 33 nominations as the 2023 African Americans Who Make A Difference. They told us about their achievements, what motivated them to become active in their communities, suggestions to address the challenges facing the Black community, and how they would like to be remembered. Once you read their profiles, you will understand why they were chosen.

Initiative to create opportunity and improve outcomes for our children. Future opportunity is deeply rooted in STEM and the arts allow us to embrace creativity especially when solving problems. The Denver STEAM Initiative will help our children learn, grow, and succeed.” When asked how he would like to be remembered, he says, “I want to be remembered as a good husband, father, and person that gave himself selflessly for the betterment of us all.”

learners across the Denver community. Our Black to Nature Book Club offers African American community members ways to create joyful memories of the outdoors as a collective.”

She was raised in nature, spending her “childhood fishing on docks and boats in Texas, Louisiana, and even Panama. We can heal ourselves by retaining our connection to nature’s wisdom, our stories and our histories. African Americans love knowledge and learning; our souls crave it.”

Jendayi Harris-Williams, LPC

Author, Productivity Consultant

Janet R. Damon

TThe “librarian, naturalist, and wellness organizer” integrates healing with literacy events for the community with activities that range from yoga and meditation to hiking, ziplining, canoeing, and kayaking while enjoying book talks. Janet R. Damon, in the past year, hosted 14 nature and literacy inspired events.

Damon, who co-founded Afros and Books with three Black and biracial librarians, has distributed more than 1,000 books that represent the culture, heritage and history of our community. “We have cultivated a literary community of readers, creatives, healers and

As a teacher and librarian of 25 years, Damon points to education as the biggest challenge facing the African American community. “My students thrive when they see their culture, history and stories in the curriculum. As a history teacher I know that it is transformative for us to understand our place in the world, and when we do not know our history, our children suffer.”

Moving forward, her goal is to “see the Afros and Books community grow and expand our events to serve the community’s thirst for intellectual expansion, joy and healing. I dream of seeing every child thriving with the knowledge and self-confidence that comes from reading and playing outside in nature.”

Damon would like to be remembered as “the librarian who gave away thousands of good books and took families hiking and fishing. I want children to remember when we read Langston Hughes aloud in the meadow and the trees swayed and danced, as the ancestor himself came to listen.”

TThis past year

Jendayi HarrisWilliams used her coaching expertise in the areas of physical, emotional and mental health teaching to support several conferences and events. Namely, she used her therapy tool, “My Mental Well-Ness Action Guide,” at a mental health event organized by Adam’s Purpose organization serving more than 200 individuals.

Over the past five years she has released two books dedicated to supporting healthy living under her book series, “The Chubby Church.” She has developed a multicultural women’s conference (Whole & Free) that brought more than 55 churches together and helped bridge the gap between the Black church and others in the faith community.

The licensed professional counselor feels “very called to be a change agent in terms of supporting others to heal areas of mental, emotional, health, and financial bondage in their lives. I want to inspire wholeness and freedom.”

She shared that her father “was murdered when I was 12 years old and prior to that he struggled with drugs, alcoholism and domestic violence. My mother was a pain pill addict for over 20 years of my life, and I saw God do miracles for me and my family.”

She adds, “All God needs is one person in a family unit willing to do the hard work of healing past trauma and becoming their best person, and that will inspire others to do theirs, too.”

She sees lack of economic policy and business/entrepreneurship

Continued on page 12

Gene Fashaw, Sr. 8th Grade Math Teacher, High Point Academy Founder, Denver STEAM Initiative Co-Founder, Afros and Books
Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2023 11

Continued from page 11 and ownership as one of the biggest challenges facing the AfricanAmerican community. “I’d like to see more support and education for helping Black corporate people as well as business owners to make a bigger impact on real estate ownership and business ownership in our community... While programming and education is important, nothing moves the dial in our communities more than money.”

Moving forward, she plans to earn her doctoral degree, and research and write more books to benefit the African American community. She’d “love to be remembered as someone who was genuine and cared about the wellbeing of others. I love people and I love to see the impact of growth. I truly labor in research to create quality content that impacts change.”

young African Americans who wish to enter the legal profession. “I also believe that it is important to show young children that they can become whatever they choose to and make a difference in the lives of others.”

She believes the biggest challenges facing the African American community “is the failure to ensure that our children are prepared for adulthood. Often, children receive their introduction to social and emotional learning, self-awareness, self-respect and self-confidence through school. “

She adds, “The current educational system produces children who lack empathy and compassion, knowledge of their history, and have untapped abilities. Our first and most critical task is to find and support teachers who understand how to teach African American children in a holistic way about their mental health, their potential for the future and their history.”

Moving forward, she would like to “continue to pursue my greatest self in the judicial branch, to get the most out of the opportunities I’ve been given, to become the best version of myself and maximize my potential and my capabilities as far as possible whether professionally or personally.”


SShe is committed to the legal profession, supporting the endeavors of small businesses across the socio-economic, racial, ethnic, and cultural spectrum, and working to make sure that every person has access to justice.

Jill D. Dorancy, who was appointed as one of 20 African American district court judges in the State of Colorado, explains, “There are several hundred state court judges in the State of Colorado, of which less than 10 are African American women.”

She chooses to take an active role because “I want to represent the community where I live and have a lasting and positive impact on it,” says Dorancy, who mentors young legal minds and encourages

She would like to be “remembered as a woman who was kind, compassionate and who cared deeply for her family, friends and community, and tried to make the world a better place. I also want to be remembered as a person of integrity who was fair, balanced and just.”

galas and meetings over the past year, and that included pushing through the COVID-19 pandemic to bring it directly to homes.

Joy Braud Sims shares, “During COVID-19, when many restaurants were closed, I was able to keep feeding our community with my weekly delivery specials. As a result, our community continued to enjoy delicious authentic Creole/Cajun food that I delivered to their doorstep with no-touch protocols.”

Over the past five years the owner-chef served the unhoused population by providing food, clothing, blankets and toiletries. She also worked with the Sims-Fayola Foundation to provide social-emotional skills and mentoring to young men and boys of color, and equity training to those who serve them.

She chooses to take an active role because “I was taught growing up that you must help others. No matter what you have, someone has less and wants what you have. Therefore, in order for society to change as a whole, everyone must do their part to change what they can so that life is better for the next person coming behind.”

Sims points to several challenges facing the African American community from the “breakdown of the family unit, racism becoming more in your face than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime, the lack of care for military veterans with PTSD, the lack of services provided for those facing mental health challenges, and the economy forcing people to live on the streets.”

She says the answer lies in the focus of elected officials. They “need to stop focusing on their own agendas, listen to the people who elected them, and make real policy changes to better our country. ...If the people we elect can live comfortable lives, so should those who elect them.”

Moving forward, she’d like to continue her philanthropic work, and expand Mama Joy’s Creole Catering presence in the community through a food truck. She’d like to be remembered as a “loving and giving person. So I make it a

point to focus on others and find ways to lighten someone else’s life.”

LLaToya Petty, who holds a master’s degree in nonprofit management, is an established community organizer, known for her community engagement and knowledge about the nonprofit sector.

Through her service to the community and a 10-year journey to save lives – she has focused on those “impacted by gang violence, unexpected death, trauma and the generational impact of active, collective trauma in communities of color. This year’s climax was the ACT Summit in which I co-chaired as a member of the Public Health for Public Safety Leadership Team.”

The summit was a collaborative effort to change the narrative of victimization by highlighting the voices of Black and Brown individuals who have experienced revictimization by the systems that were established to help and support them.

Through her consulting firm, The Donation Broker, she supports start-up nonprofits with infrastructure and formalities like building a board of directors, applying for 501(c)3 status, and establishing marketing campaigns.

“This work has been extremely impactful in the community,” says Petty. “We currently have 35 active clients that have benefitted from consulting services – many are organizations founded by African Americans. We also support with grant writing services, bringing funds into the community for pro-

Joy Braud Sims Owner & Chef, Mama Joy’s Creole Catering, LLC H H er Creole and Cajun cuisine has been served at many Denver LaToya Petty, MNM Founder, The Donation Broker Director, Partnerships and Collaborations; Montbello Organizing Committee
Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2023 12

grams that positively support the African American community.”

She chooses to take an active role in service because “the life I live is completely in service to the individuals I share this world with and the generations to come. If we truly want change. We must first be the change, which leads to transformation.”

She says the “biggest challenge is upholding and celebrating the value of love. We are still fighting an untrue and damaging narrative instilled in us through institutionalized slavery. And until we start finding value in ourselves and truly loving who and what we are, everything else will fall short. We are a community that needs healing.”

Moving forward, she “would like to continue on the path of healing I’m currently on. Addressing mental health and wellbeing in my community along with bringing resources into the community by supporting nonprofits with their missions.”

She would like to be remembered as a community member who took an active role.

stayed afloat continuing to serve the African American community. The foundation offers scholarships at University of Colorado Denver, University of Northern Colorado, Colorado State University, and University of Denver that are giving African American students a chance to succeed. Scholarships are also made available to other Colorado universities as well as institutions outside the state.

Franklin says one of the biggest challenges facing the African American community is education: “affective education, knowledge, developing healthy relationships with law enforcement.” He adds, “Build and maintain strong systems that help us hold on to our communities in the light of gentrification where we are losing ground. Review school curricula to insure appropriate learning and success. Adding learning sessions and tutoring outside of public school systems.”

Moving forward, Franklin would like to make sure “everything I know and have learned in my life including my experience of working 25 years for IBM, is passed on to future generations in hopes their lives can be easier. I shall give all my knowledge to all who can learn from my experiences.”

He would like to be remembered “as a person who loves everyone and that I have made a positive and lasting difference in the lives of children and families.”

The most notable contribution this past year to the African American community was “my service as the African American Outreach Director for U.S. Senator Michael Bennet’s reelection campaign. …I met with African American leaders and organized events for the senator and African American leaders geared towards issues close to home.”

Through his nonprofit 10for10, he has “united over 300 Black men in Colorado to feed over 1,500 people in Denver. The summer of 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, 10for10 brought together a group of young people and we organized 12 events in six weeks, all geared towards youth empowerment.”

The organization also awarded two students with the Davarie Armstrong Scholarship, established to honor the South High School athlete and college-bound 17-yearold killed in his Denver neighborhood.

Lubembela chooses to take an active role in his community “because I was lonely growing up. I strive to be a friend, an advocate and a public servant to the community and young people, so no one grows up feeling like I did.”

Mrs. Colorado 2022

Licensed Freelance Esthetician and Makeup Artist

SSylvia Waller serves as Mrs. Colorado and advocates for the Alzheimer’s Association.

As a volunteer community educator, she helps to bring awareness to the importance of a healthy lifestyle, diet, exercise and the connection to brain health and dementia-related diseases. “I enjoy working with young women on embracing their own beautiful uniqueness, not fearing the process of maturity and aging gracefully.”

LLes Franklin works with and supports children and young people, helping them stay alive and reach their goals.

Through the foundation, he delivers speeches in the community sharing facts and resources on mental health and suicide prevention and intervention. He enjoys talking with students about little known contributions African Americans have made to society.

Through the COVID pandemic, The Shaka Franklin Foundation

The biggest challenge facing the African American community is a lack of collaboration and lack of knowledge on how to best utilize the three levels of government to support our communities. “I see organizations and individuals all working to achieve the same mission working in silos. There are so many people who want to serve the community but try to take on the community issues all on their shoulders instead of leaning on other people. There is an African proverb that says if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together. If we work together, we could accomplish so much for the community we cherish.”

In the future, he would like to represent the community as a city councilmember.

“African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, women make up twothirds of the Alzheimer’s population and if you have a parent with the disease, you are at risk. Hypertension, heart disease and diabetes are prevalent in our community, and these three are directly related to Alzheimer’s. My personal connection to Alzheimer’s is due to my family history. My dad passed away in 2017 from dementia and I have aunts and uncles currently living with the disease.”

As a young dark-skinned girl growing up in the ‘60s, she saw little to no images of herself in the beauty industry. “My parents helped me to embrace my beautiful uniqueness with confidence. I have never felt insecure,” says Waller, but she felt fear when considering competing for Mrs. Colorado at the age of 59. Her husband encouraged her.


eter Lubembela works to unite Black men throughout Colorado and empower young people.

He would like to be remembered “standing tall and proud with my community with a smile on my face.”

“In my journey I showed women, young and seasoned, to never restrict themselves in a glass

Continued on page 14

Leslie “Les” Franklin Founder and Chairman of the Board, Shaka Franklin Foundation for Youth Peter Lubembela Sylvia Waller
Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2023 13

Continued from page 13 box or allow obstacles to discourage them,” adds Waller, who went on to compete for Mrs. America in August 2022, placing in the top 15.

The biggest challenges facing the African American community include mental and physical health, food deserts and healthcare insecurities. “It’s important to have African Americans in decision-making spaces to ensure our community has the same opportunities as the majority to access adequate health care, mental health care and healthy foods within our community,” she says.

In the future, she plans to write a book on queen-agers and aging gracefully and a children’s princess etiquette book.

She would like to be remembered as Mrs. Colorado who advocated for the Alzheimer’s Association and for women of all ages to maintain a healthy lifestyle, diet and exercise to maintain a healthy brain and age gracefully.

peers, parents and community members their stories around mental health and overcoming challenges during and after a global pandemic,” says Manuel, who was honored by peers with the distinguished graduate award as well as the Richard Lewis Rising Star Award for outstanding leadership and service.

Manuel, who has worked with young people and organizations focused on mental health and mentorship, chooses to take an “active role in my community around this work because I understand the importance of understanding our ‘why’ and the impact that it has when we take time to embrace that.”

The biggest challenges in African American communities, according to Manuel, is social determinants such as health care, finances and mental health. “We have for many generations swept these issues under the rug or avoided the conversations because of a lack of vulnerability or courage because of what we’ve been taught generationally.”

“We can change these things by merely deciding differently and having access to the resources without guilt or judgment. I’m a huge advocate of restorative justice/practice in the art of how we break generational trauma and curses. We have to educate ourselves and others in our communities and get back to the root of ‘it takes a village.’”

TTonoa L. Manuel’s most notable contributions come from her time with the Leadership Connect Program, organized by the Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado.

“In my 10 months of active participation in this program I led fellow team members in a service project around mental health and young people, where our youth had an opportunity to share with

Manuel works in an executive accelerator program for leaders focusing on mindset, purpose, strategy, culture, alignment and vision. “I really want to help Black and Brown leaders impact the world with a shift in mindset around what it looks like to lead and change the culture along with how we connect with our teams and remain sustainable and connected,” she says.

Manuel wants to be remembered “for my service in leadership and organizational change strategy, led from a place of owning my vulnerability and experience alongside integrity and dignity for people.”.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2023 14

Chauncey Billups

Honored in DPS High School Gym Dedication

George Washington High School Gym Renamed After Famous Alumni

Denver Public Schools honored alumnus Chauncey Billups in their new gym dedication. The dedication ceremony on Jan. 17, was one of the many ways George Washington High School hopes to continue their legacy and history of athletic success.

The rededication ceremony included Billups and his family who were honored guests at their homecoming rally. Billups included his words of encouragement for student athletes following in his legacy.

Billups graduated from George Washington High School in 1995. In Billups’ tenure at DPS, he was a four-time Colorado Basketball All-State selection and Colorado Player of the Year. Billups went on to have a successful college career at University of Colorado before being drafted by the Boston Celtics.

Billups continues to inspire athletes of all ages as the current coach of the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers. George Washington High School students and administrators also are working with Billups and his family to continue his inspiration in his hometown community and within DPS.

The gym rededication revealed the name of Coach Billups on the basketball court, and hopes to issue in a long history of George Washington alumni that will be engraved after. .

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Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2023 15 HATS OFF TO
Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2023 16
Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2023 17

The annual Metropolitan State University of Denver Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Visiting Professorship will be held March 7 and 8 at various locations on the university’s campus and at Shorter AME Church. The theme is “Breaking Free: Cultivating Conditions for Liberation.”

This year’s visiting honoree is Shakti Butler, Ph.D., who is a visionary filmmaker, transformative learning educator, and founder and president emeritus of World Trust Educational Services, Inc. The nonprofit utilizes Butler’s films as the core of its teaching tools.

Her films, curricula, workshops and programs are catalysts for institutional, structural and cultural change. Butler, who is an African American woman of West Indian and Russian-Jewish heritage, has produced five documentaries: The Way Home, Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible, Light in the Shadows, Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity, and Healing Justice: Cultivating a World of Belonging. Her work moves conversations beyond Black and white and speaks to the interconnectedness of racism, classism, sexism and homophobia.

“These aren’t films meant to sit on the shelf. They are meant to have social impact,” said Angie Noel, daughter of Rachel B. Noel, who made her mark on various educational institutions in Colorado, becoming one of the most respected leaders in the state’s history.

Visiting Professorship Continues to Honor Civil Rights Champion Rachel

B. Noel

Visionary Filmmaker & Educator Shakti Butler to be Introduced March 7 & 8

meetings with white men sitting on either side of her smoking cigars,” he said. “They miscalculated badly. They made mom look more dignified.” He stressed that she was a force to contend with and she had no need to raise her voice. “She raised a point,” said Buddy, the founder of The Noel Law Office, LLC who has practiced law for more than 35 years handling matters in commercial litigation and employment law.

Noel’s Legacy

As guardian of Noel’s legacy, MSU Denver has painstakingly documented her impact in Colorado on their website. The university has capsulized her impact through the sponsorship of the film, Great Colorado Women: Rachel Bassette Noel, and through the creation of the film, Rachel B. Noel: The Middle Years.

Excerpts from the university website state: On April 25, 1968, she presented the DPS board with the Noel Resolution, recognizing that the “establishment of an integrated school population is desirable to achieve equality of educational opportunity.” It directed the superintendent to develop “a comprehensive plan for the integration of the Denver Public Schools.”

A champion of the civil rights movement in Denver and in Colorado, Noel was the first African American woman elected to public office in Colorado, the first African American elected to the Denver Public Schools (DPS) Board of Education, the first African American to be a member and chair of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, and the first African American woman elected statewide in Colorado.

Of note, Wanda James became the second African American woman elected to the CU Board or Regents last autumn, 44 years since Noel’s election to the board.

Talking About Mom

Leading up to this premier series of events surrounding the professorship, Noel’s son and daughter shared unique memories of their mom as she went about making her

mark in the world. Angie has memories as a young child walking with her mom in the neighborhood, being at ground zero with her as she started doing work close to home with organizations from the parent teacher associations to the March of Dimes. She was “strong and straight forward” and would get started on her doorstep.

Today, African American women are making their marks at the highest levels in the nation from first lady, vice president, U.S. supreme court justice and more. When looking back at the obstacles Noel pushed through getting the Noel Resolution passed, she was ahead of her time as a powerful African American woman with no apologies.

Her son Edmond F. “Buddy” Noel, Jr. recalls coming home from law school and attending board meetings with her. “That struck me as a young man watching mom at

Under a cloud of threats to Noel and her family, the resolution passed on May 17, 1968. The U.S. Supreme Court would eventually affirm Noel’s position in its landmark decision of 1973, Keyes v. Denver School District No. 1, making Denver the first city outside the American South to be instructed by the country’s highest court to address de facto segregation with school busing.

Noel also played a critical role in MSU Denver’s history. She came to the university as a teacher of sociology and African American Studies in 1969, and served as chair of the African American Studies Department from 1971 to 1980. In 1981, the university created the Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Visiting Professorship to honor her. The professorship was created to celebrate and foster the courageous commitment to multiculturalism, diversity and educa-

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2023 18
Rachel B. Noel Noel and son Buddy Noel and daughter Angie Noel with Edmond F. Noel, Sr. and Jr.

tion that defined Noel’s years at the institution. For more than three decades, the professorship has brought renowned scholars, musicians, corporate leaders, writers, political trailblazers, actors and other luminaries to campus to conduct seminars, performances and lectures for the community.

A recipient of many awards and distinctions, Noel also lived to see a DPS middle school named in her honor. Although that middle school was closed, the building and campus is still called the Rachel B. Noel campus and is home to various charter programs. The Noel Community Arts School, housed in the former Montbello High School building, consists of both a high school and a middle school.

Noel was awarded honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Denver in 1993 and the University of Colorado in 2004, and an honorary degree from MSU Denver in 1981. The 1996 Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame honoree held a bachelor’s degree from Hampton University and a master’s degree from Fisk University.

Visiting Professors — A Common Thread

Visiting professors over the life of the program have crossed many disciplines from the likes of actor Ossie Davis and musician Dianne Reeves to professor and philosopher Cornel West and political commentator and journalist Joy-Ann Reid. There is a commonality in all of the visiting professors that strikes a chord for Angie and Buddy and speaks to the legacy of their mom.

According to Angie, the selected individuals share their personal and

professional commitments to achieve excellence, to follow their dreams and to always bring someone with them. Buddy says that there’s always been an educator thread throughout the group as the professorship provides them an opportunity to exercise their “educator chops.”

The dynamics of the professorship programming that connects renowned experts to the community is “exactly what my mom had in mind,” said Angie, explaining that a professor can learn from a student in a conversation just as the student learns from the professor. It’s a “give and take” for students to have discussions in small settings with different personalities and celebrities.

As a representative of the family, Buddy makes a point to attend all of the events associated with the professorship, from the coffee discussions and lectures to the finale event at his mom’s church, Shorter AME.

The Greatest Generation

Noel, who died at the age of 90 in 2008, received numerous awards and recognitions during her lifetime and beyond, but it wasn’t about the applause; it was about doing what needed to be done, according to Buddy.

When reflecting on his mom’s choice to get involved, he points out that she hails from what is known as the “Greatest Generation.” The term was popularized by the title of a 1998 book by American journalist Tom Brokaw. The book profiled American members of this generation who came of age during the Great Depression and went on to fight in World War II, as well as those who contributed to the war effort on the home front.

“They were just doing it,” said Buddy, who adds that his father Edmond Noel was the first African American physician to receive hospital privileges in the 1950s when he began practicing at General Rose Memorial Hospital (now HealthOne Rose Medical Center.)

Angie shared that while her mom’s sister Ida B. Haddon was not directly mentioned in the movie, Hidden Figures, she was one of the supervisors of the African American female mathematicians who worked at NASA during the Space Race.

Strong women are in her DNA according to Angie, who also pointed out that while her mom was in college she was mentored by Charles S. Johnson, an American sociologist and the first African American president of Fisk University. “She was ready from day one.”

When talking about how his mom connected with people, Buddy lauded her strength in team building, saying that she was a “politician in an old-school way.” Angie added that her mom was “sincere, compassionate. It was clear. She wasn’t faking.”

In one of the documentaries on Noel, former Colorado State Senator Pat Pascoe said, “She was a beautiful person in every way. She was one of the most persuasive public servants I’ve ever known.”

Pascoe, also an author, offers a first-hand account of the decadeslong fight to desegregate Denver Public Schools in her 2022 book, “A Dream of Justice.”

Buddy said before running for the school board, she was part of a study group, initiated by parents opposing a new school around the 29th and 32nd blocks near Colorado Boulevard. She took advantage of the opportunity to use her research skills. Angie says the study group took her mom all over town so she could see the differences between schools. Buddy added that his mom and dad could easily see the vast differences. It fueled her run for DPS school board.

Buddy also mentioned his mom’s conversation with Martin Luther King Jr. during one of his visits to Denver. King said to her that if you are in a place to make a big difference, and make things move – do it. .

Editor’s note: For more information about the professorship, visit

Howard Group

GHG collaborates with clients to connect the dots between strategy, communications, community engagement, and media relations. By reinforcing a client’s roots in the community through strategy and engagement, we also strive to provide them with wings to soar.


connecting the dots
Fueled by passion. Driven by purpose.
Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2023 19
Gerri Gomez Howard, CEO
on Easter in 1952
Noel with children

Colorado’s Free Preschool Application is Open; Here’s what you need to know

The parent application for Colorado’s new free preschool program opened last month — a major milestone in the march toward the program’s launch next summer.

The program, funded in part by a voter-approved nicotine tax, will offer 10 to 15 hours a week of tuition-free preschool to 4-year-olds statewide, with some eligible for 30 hours a week. In addition, some 3-yearolds will be eligible for 10 hours a week.

State officials expect about 30,000 children to opt into the universal preschool program in its first year. That’s about half the number that will be eligible.

Here’s what families need to know about the online preschool application:

Who gets free preschool and what age do they have to be?

Three groups of children qualify: 4-year-olds, some 3year-olds who need extra help, and a small number of 5-yearolds who are too young for kindergarten.

Let us explain. The new preschool program is designed for children in the year before they go to kindergarten — children who turn 4 before the state’s Oct. 1 cutoff date. The state will pay for 15 hours a week of preschool for these students at no cost to parents. Some preschool providers may offer only 10 hours a week — for example, a school district that offers K-12 classes only four days a week.

Some 4-year-olds will get 30 hours of free preschool a week, including those from lowerincome families, who speak a language besides English at home, are homeless, in foster care, or have disabilities.

The new preschool program will also cover 10 hours a week of preschool for 3-year-olds in these same groups.

What about 5-year-olds who aren’t in kindergarten yet?

Some 5-year-olds will qualify for free preschool and some won’t.

Children who live in school districts with kindergarten cutoff dates before Oct. 1 will qualify if they turn 5 after the district’s cutoff date and before Oct. 1. For example, a child in a district where children must turn 5 by Aug. 1 to attend kindergarten, will qualify for free preschool if they turn 5 in September. (The application may indicate these children are not eligible. State officials say families should contact the group coordinating universal preschool in their area if this happens. To find information for the right local group, search this county-by-county list,, Five-year-olds who could go to kindergarten but have been held out by their families, a practice often called redshirting, won’t be able to get free preschool through the new state program.

What do I need to fill out the application? Are there income requirements?

Many families will need about 15 minutes and not much else. The application is offered in English, Spanish, and Arabic, and parents should be able to complete the application on a cell phone or computer.

Families whose household income qualifies their 4-yearolds for extra hours or allows them to enroll a 3-year-old will need to upload documents that prove their income. Families that earn up to 270% of the federal poverty limit — about $81,000 a year for a family of four — fall into this category.

If that describes you, this FAQ lays out which documents the state will accept for proof of household income.

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Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2023 20

Families who qualify for 3year-old preschool or extra hours of 4-year-old preschool for reasons other than income levels — perhaps their child has a disability or is learning English — won’t need to show proof of income.

Check this FAQ for details about which documents,, the state will accept for proof of household income.    How do I know how many hours my child will get?

The online application system will tell you how many hours your child is eligible for after you enter a few pieces of information. There are four possibilities:

•Not eligible: Your child is too young, too old, or doesn’t live in Colorado.

•10 hours: If your child is 3 and meets one or more of the eligibility criteria.

•15 hours: If your child is 4.

•30 hours: If your child is 4 and meets one or more of the eligibility criteria.

Can I pick my child’s preschool?

Yes. Families will be asked to pick up to five preschools they’d like their child to attend and will be able to rank their choices. Options include schoolbased preschools, church-based preschools, preschool programs inside child care centers, and state-licensed home-based preschools.

Search and map functions are available to narrow down the choices. You can look for the program your child already attends or explore new options. Children will be prioritized for a spot in a preschool if they’re already enrolled there, if a sibling is enrolled there, or if a parent works there.

There are some cases where preschool providers may not accept a preschool match made by the application system. For example, a school-based preschool might turn away a child who lives outside district

boundaries or an employerbased preschool that mainly provides care to children of company employees may not enroll the child of a nonemployee. (During the application process, parents will see a blue banner indicating if selected preschools prioritize certain students.)

My child has a disability. What preschools can I pick?

If your child has a special education plan — officially called an Individualized Education Program, or IEP — your child will be served in a preschool classroom run by your school district. That’s because of the way special education laws are written.

If your child doesn’t have an IEP and you’re worried about a developmental delay, contact Child Find, the state’s early intervention program for 3- to 5-year-olds.

My child is 3. What preschools can I pick?

Three-year-olds will mostly be served in preschool classrooms run by their school districts. Some 3-year-olds may have non-school options, but only if their district partners with private preschools. That’s because of the way the state’s preschool law is written.

What if I don’t see my child’s provider on the list?

Preschool providers don’t have to participate in the state’s universal preschool program, but more than 1,000 have chosen to and more are expected to sign up. State officials say if parents don’t find the preschool they want listed in the application system, they should reach out to the preschool provider and encourage them to sign up.

What if I need more hours than what my preschooler is eligible for?

You can still pay for extra hours above and beyond what the state covers for free, as long as the preschool offers more

hours. You can also see if you qualify for financial help through other means, such as the state’s child care subsidy program for low-income families, called the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program

Do I need to fill out the application right away?

You can, but you won’t be shut out if you wait a couple days or weeks. It’s not a firstcome, first-served system. That said, families who fill out the application during the first application window will have more options and find out sooner which preschool they matched with.

There will be at least two application windows:

•The first runs from Jan. 17 to Feb. 14. Families will find out their match around March 17.

•The state will decide the dates for the second application window once the first round closes.

•After the second window closes, state officials will decide whether to have a third window or move to first-come, first-served matching.

What if I decide against the preschool my child was matched with?

You can reject the preschool match the state makes for you. However, you may have to resubmit your application.

When does free preschool start in Colorado?

Not until August or September, whenever the pre-

school program you matched with starts. Families will find out their matches sooner, but tuition coverage doesn’t kick in until late summer.

I have more questions. What should I do?

You have three options:

•Check out the state’s universal preschool frequently asked questions page,

•Contact the local group that’s coordinating the universal preschool program in your county or region. Here’s a county-by-county list,, of all the groups — the state calls them Local Coordinating Organizations or LCOs — with email addresses.

•Contact the state’s help desk from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday (excluding state holidays) by calling 303-866-5223 or email

Do you have a question that was not answered here or you can’t find elsewhere? Email us at and we’ll do our best to help find you the answer..

Editor’s note: Ann Schimke is a senior reporter at Chalkbeat, covering early childhood issues and early literacy. Contact Ann at

Editor’s note: This story is powered by COLab, the Colorado News Collaborative.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2023 21

Breaking Free Cultivating Conditions for Liberation

Schedule of Events

Tuesday, March 7 11:00 a.m. Film Screening and Discussion

Tivoli Turnhalle

900 Auraria Parkway Denver, CO 80204

Wednesday, March 8

9:30 a.m. Film Screening and Discussion

12:30 p.m. Lunch and Keynote with Dr. Butler

Tivoli Turnhalle

900 Auraria Parkway Denver, CO 80204

5:30 p.m. Community Presentation and Awards

Shorter Community AME Church

3100 Richard Allen Court Denver, CO 80205

Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Visiting Professorship

The Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Visiting Professorship was initiated in 1981 to foster multiculturalism, diversity, and academic excellence at Metropolitan State University of Denver. The professorship brings renowned scholars and artists of distinction to MSU Denver to conduct classes, seminars, performances, and lectures for students, faculty, and the larger Denver community. MSU Denver has hosted numerous luminaries and highlighted each professor’s unique background and experiences to the campus and broader community.

2023 Noel Professor

Shakti Butler, Ph.D., is a visionary filmmaker, transformative learning educator, and Founder and President Emeritus of World Trust Educational Services, Inc., a nonprofit transformative educational organization whose films, curricula, workshops, and programs are catalysts for institutional, structural, and cultural change.

Rooted in love and justice, her interactive presentations serve as a catalyst for transformative learning about systemic inequity. Through multimedia, dialogue, case studies, and other participatory methods, Shakti supports participants to reframe and deepen the national conversation on race, foster collective engagement, and build leadership skills that can illuminate pathways towards healing, equity and a more sustainable future.

Shakti Butler, Ph.D.
Learn more and RSVP at
MLK Marade & Social Responsibility Luncheon Photos by Lens of Ansar

Announcing the First Black Media Initiative Bridge Project: Audience Revenue Cohort

Denver Urban Spectrum chosen for national ‘First Black Media Initiative’ project By Center for Community Media

Six Black-led newsrooms from across the U.S. have been selected to be part of the inaugural cohort of the Black Media Initiative Bridge Project: Audience Revenue. The sixmonth program provides technology and design support for Black publishers looking to launch an audience revenue campaign.

The selected newsrooms are both traditional print media and digital-first organizations and represent communities all over the country from Maryland, Mississippi, Colorado, Ohio, Tennessee, and New York.

“I am thrilled to announce this cohort. Audience revenue can provide a sustainable source of income for Black media outlets, allowing them to continue producing meaningful content with less reliance on traditional sources of funding,” said Cheryl Thompson-Morton, director of the Black Media Initiative.

She added: “Audience revenue for Black media provides a

unique opportunity to empower Black voices and stories. By giving readers the chance to directly support Black media, we can create a more equitable system of media production, one in which Black journalists are given the resources they need to tell their stories.”

The chosen publishers will launch a subscription, membership, or donation campaign in 10 weeks and receive ongoing support throughout the six-month program at no cost to their organization. These newsrooms will also be able to harness technical, analytic, and messaging support and expertise.

Made possible by a generous grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Bridge Project is also being supported by Upside Analytics, Get Current Studio, News Revenue Hub, Poool and SimpleCirc.

Meet the 2023 cohort:

The Jackson Advocate is among the oldest continuously published Black-owned and operated newspapers in the

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2023 24
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United States. Since 1938, it has served as “The Voice of Black Mississippians.” While informing its audience about local, national, and global issues affecting their lives, The Jackson Advocate records readers’ histories of challenges, sacrifices, and triumphs and advocates for social justice. DeAnna Tisdale Johnson, Publisher, will participate in the program.

Harlem World Magazine helps readers live their best life and style around the block and around the world. Harlem World Magazine shares stories that celebrate the community’s way of life in the Harlem neighborhood of NYC. The brand has global digital reach and national distribution of its print products. Danny Tisdale, Publisher, will participate in the program.

Denver Urban Spectrum is an award winning monthly publication based in Denver, Colorado that has been spreading the news about people of color since 1987. It is supported by advertising dollars, donations, and event sponsorship but adding an audience revenue strategy would be a big boost to the newsroom’s growing operations. Brittany Winkfield, Transition Coordinator, will participate in the program.

The New Tri-State Defender is the home for news, entertainment, and information specifically focused on the AfricanAmerican community in Greater Memphis and beyond. It is the oldest AfricanAmerican-owned newspaper company in the tri-state area of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Latasha Jackson, Administrative Assistant, will participate in the program.

Bloc By Block News is a media cooperative owned by readers and news producers. The outlet is helping Marylanders make informed decisions in communities through its newsletter, social media, and mobile app. Kevon Paynter, Executive Director and

Co-Founder, will participate in the program.

The Cleveland Observer is an information and resource hub that engages, educates, and empowers Cleveland’s urban communities. The news outlet reports on relevant topics through timely news updates, effective content communications, collaboration with partners, and efficient programming. Ron Calhoun, Publisher, will participate in the program..

— – February 2023 25
Making transmissions well since 1983.
Urban Spectrum
Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2023 26 4.1312 in Coming Soon Questions? Scan the QR code for more information, including details about income-based rebates, and managing your account. | Call 311 (720) 913-1311 Weekly recycling is here for all Denver solid waste customers! Weekly composting will roll out this summer. Denver is expanding services to make it easier for you to reduce what goes to the landfill and protect the environment. The city is charging existing customers based on the size of their trash cart, so go small and save more Go online now to create and manage your account and learn how we can be Better Together. Cuttin’UpBeautyAcademy Specializinginweaves,naturalhair, hairextensions,facials,eyelashes, manicures&pedicures, andbarbercuts. 8101E.ColfaxAve.,Denver• 30 303-388-5700 3-388-5700 •Tues-Sat.10to5 Yes! KarrenHall BrokerAssociate “EqualHousingSpecialist” 720-988-6277Cell 303-752-0007Of昀ce 7995 E. Hampden #100 Denver, CO80231

Celebrating the life of... Celebrating the life of...

Sunrise: February 5, 1921

Sunset: December 25, 2022

Madestella C. Holcomb Madestella C. Holcomb

Mattie Estelle (Madestella) Copeland Holcomb was born Feb. 5, 1921 in Okmulgee Oklahoma. She passed away peacefully on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2022, with her son Eric Holcomb, daughters Dianne Holcomb and Melodie Brooks, and grandson Quincy Shannon by her side. She was the last of seven children born to Isaac Columbus Copeland and Mattie Estelle (Hollis) Copeland. The family lived an affluent life style in Okmulgee as a result of her father discovering oil on his property. Because of the oil money, many of her siblings had access to education matriculating through Tuskegee institute, Hampton Institute, Langston University, and Lincoln University of Missouri to name a few. After moving in 1926 to ‘Black Wall Street’ in Tulsa OK, she graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1937. At the early age of 16 she began college at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, MO, where she majored in English. She later obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in English at Temple Buell College in Denver and later earned graduate hours in Playwriting at Denver University. While attending Lincoln University, she met and married Moses (Moe) Eldridge Spencer. They settled in St. Louis, Missouri where they raised their two children Kay Lorraine and Eldridge Justin. After separating, she and her children relocated to Denver. She worked for 23-years with the US government at the Air Force Accounting and Finance Center, in various capacities including writer-editor. She retired in 1981 as a GS-12. She met and married Richard C. Holcomb in 1954. They were the second Black family to move to their block on Albion St. where they had three children Dianne Cecille , Eric Cecil, and Melodie Estelle. During the school years of all five of her children she served as a Girl Scott leader and on all PTA Boards . She was a devout Christian and upon coming to Colorado, she worshiped at Scott United Methodist Church. After getting married she began worshipping at Park Hill United Methodist Church where she was the newsletter editor. From Park Hill she worshipped at Shorter African Methodist Episcopal Church where she also was the newsletter editor. She then transitioned to New Hope Baptist church in 1979, starting and serving as the newsletter editor. Over the years, she served on many committees and arranged different theatrical holiday events. She served as the co-chair and editor for the New Hope Baptist 75th Anniversar y Souvenir Book Committee. In the mid 90’s, she moved across the ally from her youngest daughter, Melodie Holcomb and her grandson Quincy Shannon, who would jump the fence to visit his grandmothers for food, advice, and more. This nurtured a close bond between Quincy and his G-Ma. They shared a love for poetry, writing, and attended church together. After a role in a James Baldwin play she became interested in playwriting. She authored and produced multiple plays, including Upon this Rock, Here, There, Everywhere, and Escape to Paradise. She authored and published five books

“I Am Black,” “A Chip Off the Old Black Block,” “How to Write an Obituary,” “Therefore Choose Life,” and “For Such a Time as This .” From 1968 to 1975 she was the Managing Editor for the Denver Weekly News and became a copy editor and columnist. She wrote editorials for the Denver Post and obituaries for Pipkin Mortuary. She loved social times with friends where they would meet up and play bridge. She was a member of several Book Clubs including the King Leisure Club, the Black Book Writers Network of Colorado, Colorado Dramatists, Playwrights Group, Denver Center Theater Company, and often helped with productions at the Eulipions Inc. Theater and the Shadow Theatre Company. Left to cherish her life and memory are her children Kay, Eldridge (Skipper), Dianne, Eric and Melodie, her grandchildren Justin, Sinwanda, Sharitha, Zimon, Erica, Quincy and Nadia, her great granddaughter Imani, her ex-husband Richard and many nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2023 27 REST IN PEACE...POWER...PARADISE

Jess DuBois: His Canvas of Life

Jess DuBois was born on July 6, 1934, in Denver, Colorado. Having deep roots in Colorado, he was raised by his stepfather Obrey and mother Melba Hamlet (his biological father died when he was 12.) His stepfather built Winks Lodge, the first facility opened in Lincoln Hills, which was been founded in 1922 as a resort property for black patrons. At the time, it was the only such resort west of the Mississippi River.

DuBois was a Marine Corps veteran, who served from 1952 to 1956. “It was something I felt I had to do,” he said. It gave him his first chance to see the world: He did hitches in South Korea and Japan. He came home to study at the Art Institute of Colorado courtesy of the G.I. Bill. He graduated from the inaugural class of The Art Institute of Colorado in 1957. DuBois then traveled the country to study with several established artists including Ray Vanilla, David Lafel, and Daniel Greene. As a Creole of Cherokee ancestry, Dubois was passionate about Indian art. He showcased it in his successful DuBois Gallery in Estes Park, Colorado until he was forced to close following the town’s devastating 1982 flood. He subsequently returned to his native Five Points neighborhood in Denver, Colorado, where he cultivated the arts of glassblowing and sculpture, combining those skills with his existing media.

DuBois received The Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1988 Denver Black Arts Festival, where he was lauded for his ability to “Project the soul of his subjects onto canvas.” The Denver-area Regional Transportation District commissioned him to cast a bronze statue of Denver’s first African-American doctor, obstetrician Dr. Justina Ford, which was dedicated in 1998. It can be viewed at the 30th & Downing Light Rail Station in Denver. DuBois was one of three artists who received the Denver Mayor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts in 2004. He was inducted into the Art Institute of Colorado Hall of Fame that same year. He was also recognized by the City and County of Denver as a Five Points Jazz Festival honoree in 2019 DuBois’ beautiful paintings, sketches and sculptures grace galleries and fine art collections around the world. Today, his work is featured in galleries in Santa Fe, Taos and art venues around the world.Thousands have marveled at his ability to capture likenesses of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., figures from the early American West, John Elway and jazz greats like Ray Charles. All of the Tuskegee Airmen signed his portraits.

DuBois taught children’s art in a number of local settings, continued to take art classes himself, and said his goal in life was “to get better and better.” Art was his calling, his passion, his life. DuBois has three daughters and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. DuBois died on December 28, 2022, at the age of 88.

Celebration of Life Memorial: February 26, 2023

The public is invited to celebrate the life and legacy of world renowned artist Jess E DuBois. A Celebration of Life Memorial will be held on Sunday, February 26, 2023 at the Park Hill golf course, located at 4141 East 35th Avenue in Denver 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. The family will showcase many of his fine works of art. Come and share your stories and memories to honor a life well lived.

For more information, email

Denver Urban Spectrum — – February 2023 28

Continued from page 3 crises had an undeniably negative effect on the campus. Because of flood damage, water pressure was so low, students could not bathe, flush toilets, brush their teeth, take showers, or have meals prepared at the dining facility. Sanders and his players had to take baths in a swimming pool.

Money is a substantial factor in people’s decision-making, though people say they do things for altruistic reasons. Ayn Rand vehemently rejected self-sacrifice in the service of others. She felt the less you do for people, the better off they are in the long run, and it will grant them more individual freedom. Money can make the idea of altruism a moot point. The NFL is 71% people of color. When the president of the United States called players “sons of bitches” for protesting police violence, there were enough players of color that they could have shut down the NFL until a public apology was made. Instead, they remained silent and played on. Too often, multi-millionaire athletes and entertainers will not make a solid political statement if it means they will lose a lot of money. Sanders was taking care of himself. Maybe his three years at Jackson State were enough of a sacrifice. And who is to say that he will not continue making a positive impact on the Black community while serving as a coach in Colorado?

HBCUs are worth saving. In the face of historical struggle, HBCUs have produced over 80 percent of the nation’s judges and 50 percent of Black doctors. Rising college cost alone is enough to keep many African Americans from attending any college. In HBCUs, 60 percent of all students are from first-generation, low-income families.

According to Forbes, HBCUs have been underfunded by at least $12.8 billion.

Twenty years ago, I left my corporate position at Time Warner Telecom to become a public-school teacher. The reason for this move: I became tired of watching the school system failing our children. The national test scores showed African Americans on the wrong end of every educational statistic. My salary shrunk to half of what I previously made, and I had to change my lifestyle. However, leaving corporate America to teach was my best professional decision ever. I cannot expect anyone else to do what I did under the same circumstances. I made an individual decision with no expectations other than wanting to positively impact students who other authority figures may sometimes ignore. Beyond the lives I personally touched, I may not have made a dent in public schools’ widespread systemic problems, but at least I could positively influence a few. That can go a long way.

Sanders was never going to be the savior of HBCUs. The problems facing the nation’s historically Black colleges are too far-reaching and profound. One coach, even a celebrity coach, would not be enough to untangle this Gordian knot. What should we expect of Deion Sanders? Can the hopes and future of HBCUs rest in the hands of one football coach? If that were true, that would be the easiest fix in the world. But a village, not one man, needs to tackle the financial woes of HBCUs. All of us need to contribute..

Editor’s note: Thomas Russell, a contributor for DUS, is an educator and the Director of Cyber Education for the National Cyber Security Center. He was awarded an honorary doctorate for cybersecurity from the Denver Institute of Urban Studies. His latest non fiction book is Binary Society.

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