Denver Urban Spectum - January 2023 - Dr. MLK Jr.

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Happy New Year!

It’s 2023. My, oh my! 2022 is over. But it was packed full of activity as everyone picked back up their lives, moving fast forward after being held down for far too long by COVID-19 restrictions.

The end of the year didn’t disappoint, offering so much to talk about here in Colorado – and DUS will – as we move throughout the new year. For this issue, DUS Editor-n-Chief Alfonzo Porter and contributor LaQuane Smith collaborate to offer a re-examination of the dichotomy that exists between the treatment of two populations in a more contemporary framework –The Million Man March (on October 16, 1995) and the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. Contributor LisaMarie Martinez shares a piece on how misgendering (or the usage of the incorrect pronoun) can affect a person’s mental health and sense of belonging in the world.

Contributor Wayne Trujillo gives us an update on the upcoming 2023 MLK Jr. African-American Heritage Rodeo of Champions celebrating African American cowboys and cowgirls. Contributor Brittany Winkfield’s conversation with Julia Rich, the principal of KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy, details how she pushed through COVID-19 as a mother and an educator.

Our “Around Town”’ photo collage captures good times from the DUS pre-show reception at the Newman Center for Damien Sneed’s “Joy to the World: A Christmas Musical Journey.” Our publisher, Rosalind “Bee” Harris also caught up with radio pioneer James “Dr. Daddio” Walker at Brother Jeff’s Cultural Center where he was signing his new autobiography called “Radio in My Soul.” It was beautiful to see the community support such a legendary figure in the Mile High City.

2022 definitely saw people getting out and about making up for lost time. The year also saw the loss of many who are near and dear to us. It is in their memory that we refuse to slow down. It is in their memory that we keep moving forward and live.

This first edition of the year is dedicated to the life and memory of Doyle James, the father of publisher Rosalind “Bee” Harris. His life is reflected in the tribute, A Song for My Father, written by her brother Dante J. James.

The Denver Urban Spectrum is a monthly publication dedicated to spreading the news about people of color. Contents of the Denver Urban Spectrum are copyright 2021 by Bizzy Bee Enterprise. No portion may be reproduced without written permission of the publisher.

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I posed this question one Sunday to a member of my church: Why doesn’t the international community verbally condemn the mistreatment of Muslim women around the world the world? His response: The government of those countries wouldn’t care anyway. He was right… up to a point. These theocratic regimes such as, Iran may not have cared in the past about international scrutiny before the death of Mahsa Amini, allegedly murdered while in the custody of the Iranian morality police.

Now the eyes of the world are fixed upon Iran and Afghanistan and all the other brutal regimes that rule they claim according to God‘s dictate. All of this is occurring because of the selfless, courageous and noble sacrifice of one woman. This is not to say that

Amini was the first woman to openly defy the system – but perhaps she was. At any rate, her death was the catalyst for the explosion of a wound that had been seething and festering for a long time.

Dianne Palosi said in effect that George Floyd sacrificed himself in order to bring about change. She was castigated for this statement by people with little knowledge of the higher workings of things. It is quite possibly within the realm of possibility that souls agree to carry out certain missions on earth before they incarnate.

It seems that change only comes through sacrifice – someone willing to die because they recognize that death is mere illusion, so they do not attempt to avoid it at all costs.

Now that the Iranian people have witnessed such a stunning example of selflessness, they have put aside their fear of death, and as a consequence,

cannot be defeated. It is not a question of whether or not, they will be liberated, it is only a question of when. All of humanity is in bondage; even those who rule. Until all or free there is no freedom for any.

Fortunately, consciousness ebbs and flows in cycles from low to higher; from darkness to divine light. No theocratic system can crush higher awareness forever – nor can any economic system. There will always be fearless leaders like Mahsa Amini and George Floyd – for as long as we need them to guide us back into the light, for humanity has an undeniable penchant for slipping into darkness.

I applaud the Iranian people for their courage and determination in the face of repression. May their struggle be a shining example for the rest of us who languish under oppression. There will be no justice until the powerful are just-us!

DUS Reader Concerned For Muslim Women Editor:
Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2023 3 Volume 36 Number 10 January 2023
Alfonzo Porter LaQuane Smith Wayne Trujillo Brittany Winkfield COLAB
Ishikawa - Story Coordinator ART DIRECTOR Bee
PUBLISHER Rosalind J. Harris
Lawrence A. James
LisaMarie Martinez
Cecile Perrin
Jody Gilbert - Kolor Graphix SOCIAL
Melovy Melvin
Lawrence A. James - Manager

Since the founding of the nation, America has historically been a contradiction in terms.

While professing in its founding documents that “all men are created equal” with equal protections under the law, millions of American citizens have not always enjoyed the country’s enormous wealth and bounty.

Many may suggest that the conversation regarding the disparate treatment of white and Black Americans is old and tired, and represents the country’s past. These people believe the discussion is best left to the history books.

Yet, the shocking spectacle, witnessed by the world on January 6, 2021, brought these differences into stark focus. It created an opportunity for reexamination of the dichotomy that exists between the treatment of these two populations in a more contemporary framework.

When a violent mob of an estimated 2,000 “American patriots” descended upon the nation’s Capitol nearly two years ago, the restraint demonstrated by law enforcement in response to the assault caught the world, African Americans in particular, by surprise, to say the least.

African Americans were speechless, stunned, mouths agape in disbelief and wondering out loud, “where are the helicopters, the officers on horseback, the armored personnel carriers, the troops, the tanks, the flash bang grenades, the dogs, the water cannons that are purposefully on display at Black protests? Where was that overwhelming power, the retaliation in kind?”

The Capitol police, along with the District of Columbia police and other agencies, were totally surprised and overwhelmed. They clearly had not remotely considered that a crowd of good, Christian, conservative patriots would ever

The Million Man March and the January

6, 2021 Attack on the


A nation’s glaring hypocrisy exposed to the world

stage a dangerous, violent, murderous, insurrectionist siege.

Beaten and bloodied with their own nightsticks, stabbed with flagpoles, gassed with their own chemicals, law enforcement appeared confused and clueless as to how to deal with the mob. Obviously, no backup plan was needed, or so they tragically thought.

Having broken through police lines, the rioters smashed their way into the Capitol building destroying federal property, reportedly defecating on the floor, breaking into offices, and entering the Senate and House chambers. They called for the Speaker of the House, repeatedly chanting her name.

One Capitol police officer died from injuries sustained during the riot; four others would commit suicide in the weeks following the event. An estimated 140 to 150 officers were injured, according to several news and fact-checking sources.

This, in comparison to the 1995 Million Man March that saw an estimated 870,000 Black men converge on the same grounds at the nation’s Capitol, according to a Boston University computer analysis. Their behavior was the opposite of the myth that America’s thought leaders

have perpetuated about Black men being inherently violent, lawless and deviant.

However, as we retrospectively reviewed the Million Man March the only arrests involved minor infractions such as curfew violations, blocking the streets, and carrying open containers, according to a USA Today article. Not one violent crime was reported.

The only similarity shared by the two events was that they were promoted by an individual leader with a predetermined purpose.

In 1995, the African American community on a national scale, was overwhelmed with high crime stemming from the ravages of the crack cocaine epidemic and the proliferation of so-called “gangsta-rap.” Black leaders begged for a remedy from Washington, D.C., even threatening President Bill Clinton with the withdraw of support from the Black community for his 1996 re-election campaign if he didn’t act decisively to address the problem.

What emerged in 1994 was a disastrous crime bill that would see millions of Black men

thrown into jail with hefty sentences for largely petty crimes.

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan called for a Million Man March to happen the following year. He pressed Black men to take more responsibility for their communities and families, reinforce support for their children, and atone for their behavior by promoting unity, self-respect, and selfawareness.

Conversely, President Donald Trump called his supporters to Washington, D.C. under the guise of “stopping the steal” and “taking your country back.” In December 2020, he tweeted to his followers to come to the Capitol, and “it’s gonna be wild” as he continued to insist that he won the 2020 election and it was stolen from him.

With no evidence to back up his claims and having filed and lost 62 lawsuits in the days and weeks following the election, Trump continued to wage a campaign of deceit. With the help of internet trolls and dangerous rhetoric from right wing

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2023 4

networks masquerading as news, conspiracy theories spread quickly and took a firm hold among his supporters.

At the January 6 Congressional Hearings, Rep. Jamie Raskin (DMaryland) said, “President Trump’s tweet drew tens of thousands of Americans to Washington to form the angry crowd that would be transformed into a violent mob.”

“I came all the way from Idaho to …let my voice be heard that this election was not right,” said Trump supporter Christie Nicholson, in an interview with TIME, wrapped in a pink Women for America First flag. “President Trump won it fair and square,” she said, adding that the coronavirus pandemic was “BS” and her vote had been robbed.

Trump supporter Todd Possett said, “I absolutely stand behind, 100 percent, what happened here today. One thousand percent. It’s terrible how this election was stolen and I had to come here and do my patriotic duty.”

While many protesters may have legitimately felt as though they were doing their patriotic duty, it seemed more like naivete and gullibility in believing “the big lie” that resulted in more than 1,000 being charged with felonies and sentenced to serve time in prison.

Despite reneging on his promise to “pay the legal fees” for his supporters for “knocking the crap” out of protesters at his rallies in 2016, Trump has continued to bait his supporters by dangling pardons across the board if he is re-elected.

Even as these lies were laid bare to the nation and the world, the delusions continue to this day. Right wing agitators persist in insisting that the riot was a “peaceful” protest.

However, not everyone has continued to drink the KoolAid. In a recent Quinnipiac poll, 58% of Republicans said they’d rather see someone else run for president in 2024.

The revelations unearthed during the January 6 Congressional Hearings, concerning Trump’s true intentions to stage a coup d’état by seeking to invalidate the 2020 election, may have been key in his diminished support.

The objectives of the Million Man March and the January 6, 2021, insurgence could not be more distinctive.

As we consider these events, the facts completely disprove long-held propaganda and centuries of racist, stereotypical rhetoric. Over the entirety of American history, African Americans have been maligned and labeled with every conceivable, negative characterization. The predictions of the Million

Man March, particularly among right wing pundits, were so dire that they resulted in virtually every federal official evacuating Washington. Clinton flew to Dallas, and Speaker Newt Gingrich went home to Georgia, for instance. Some commentators

Continued on page 6 Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2023 5

MMM and January 6, 2021

Continued from page 5 forecasted scenes of “barbarians at the gates.”

Most conservatives were appalled at the notion of a Million Man March of largely African American men, most notably because it was called by Minister Louis Farrakhan. In a National Review article by Reihan Salam, Farrakhan was described as “a loathsome, notorious Black nationalist.”

However, conservatives were not the only ones who expressed skepticism about the potential success of the Million Man March. Liberal politicians and commentators did as well. African American men, themselves, also admitted to being concerned.

As one of the organizers of the Denver delegation, 65-yearold Denver resident Alvertis Simmons acknowledged his own trepidations.

“We just didn’t know what might happen,” Simmons confessed. “When we left from our rally site on Welton Street that day, the mood was a mixture of excitement as well as uncertainty.”

“That all changed as we arrived in D.C. The messages of hope and the spiritual uplift remains with me to this day. We returned home with a sense of resolve and commitment. We felt stronger and it was clear that we demanded more from ourselves,” he told Denver Urban Spectrum.

Community activist, Shareef Aleem, 54, agreed. “I wasn’t going to attend but made a split decision once I arrived at the rally to send our delegation to the march.

There was no plan. We just left the city driving to D.C. We had to collect donations along the way for gas and food. We didn’t have money for a hotel and at the invitation of the Rev. George Stallings we stayed overnight at the Imani Temple African American Church,” Aleem recalled.

“When we arrived, we noticed SWAT teams strategically positioned all around the perimeter of the Capitol complex. It seemed as though the entire government, except the Black leadership, had evacuated the city,” he told Denver Urban Spectrum. “It didn’t matter because by the time we left D.C., we had been transformed by the experience. It was as if we had all fallen in love with each other.”

Others who attended the march seemed to echo Simmons’ and Aleem’s sentiments.

“Right off the bat it was just euphoria seeing all those Black men come together in such love, embracing one another. We had never seen anything like it and have been convinced all this time that something like this wasn’t even possible,” said 63-year-old Allen Smith of Denver, who goes by the moniker ‘old school.’ “The whole time I was there it was like heaven; I just could not believe it.”

“It was amazing to stand in that moment. More than 300 of us left Denver and connected with a delegation of brothers from L.A. We represented every facet of our community from those with the least to the super wealthy,” said journalist and long-time community organizer Brother Jeff Fard.

Fard, 55, served as the primary organizer of the Denver coalition that left to join the national event in Washington, D.C. “It was all about selfawareness and self-determination. We learned who we are. Black unity is more powerful than a nuclear bomb. We had a feeling that nothing could stop us. Many of us are still attempting to live up to the pledge we made that day.”

Like the January 6 event, it may be a safe bet to submit that the Million Man March had a profound impact on those in attendance. Among those in the crowd, undoubtedly swept up in the unity, love and resolve was an unknown young lawyer and aspiring politician by the name of Barack Obama.

Obama would later suggest that the experience reinforced his reasons for entering politics. He was elected to the Illinois State Senate the following year.

“What I saw was a powerful demonstration of an impulse and need for African American men to come together to recognize each other and affirm our rightful place in the society,” he said in an interview with The Forward, an independent, nonprofit Jewish publication. “There was a profound sense that African American men were ready to make a commitment to bring about change in our communities and lives.”

He would go on to say, “historically, African-Americans have turned inward and towards Black nationalism whenever they have a sense, as we do now, that the mainstream has rebuffed us, and that white Americans couldn’t care less about the profound problems African Americans are facing.”

Obama also offered some sage advice for current and future Black leaders.

“What was lacking among march organizers was a positive agenda, a coherent agenda for change. Without this agenda a lot of this energy is going to dissipate. Just as holding hands and singing ‘We shall overcome’ is not going to do it, exhorting youth to have pride in their race, give up drugs and crime, is not going to do it if we can’t find jobs and futures for the 50% of Black youth who are unemployed, underemployed, and full of bitterness and rage,” he told The Forward. “Cursing out white folks is not going to get the job done. Anti-Semitic and anti-Asian statements are not going to lift us up.”

As we celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday later this month, we recognize that the two events held similar significance because they both occurred on the Capitol grounds where he delivered his most prophetic speech, “I Have a Dream.”

What happened on January 6, 2021, may have made that dream appear to be nothing but an aberration all these years later. However, by continuing to channel the spirit of the Million Man March, King’s dream may still be realized.

In the end, the words of Maya Angelou, spoken during the march, best incapsulate the overall message and continue to bring it into focus, “The ancestors remind us at this time in history, despite the history of pain, anguish, despair and sacrifice, we are a going-on people who will rise again. And still we rise.”.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2023 6

hen the pandemic hit in 2020, the crisis tested the world’s ability to deal with large-scale disruptions on a multitude of levels, including in the classroom experiences of children and educators.

KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy Principal Julia Rich shares her story of triumph, tragedy, love, and pain as she sheds light on the impact of COVID-19 and its intersection with the nation’s K-12 education system. She explains how she took her passion for English and African American studies to educate children beyond the classroom with a curriculum that focuses on how to better their community and themselves.

“I've always viewed myself as an educator for children who look like me, using education as a way of liberation,” says Rich, who underscores that as the reason she enters the building

every single day. “It is now up to us as a community to build as its legacy a more resilient society. Our call to action is to ensure that all young people have the opportunity to succeed at school and develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that will allow them to contribute to society in a meaningful way.”

Growing up in Virginia, Rich recalls experiences that she had in the education system that she wouldn’t wish on any child. In college, she felt called to this work and made a personal vow to recognize and problem-solve around the current state of Blacks in this country. With each career opportunity, she felt a tugging on her spirit and divine intervention.

In February 2020, her biological mother passed away. She remembers traveling to South Carolina, where her mother had passed, and really didn’t have an idea what was to come the next month. Shortly after, she made the decision to travel to Detroit. “I distinctly remember March 2020. I remember getting off the plane and going to the store to try to buy Lysol and

there was none. I remember being terrified. I remember feeling like I didn't know this was coming and I don't know what to do.”

Working at KIPP Jacksonville at the time, and nearing spring break she recalls, “When we got that email that stated that we were not returning after spring break. I remember thinking to myself, I don't know how to teach if I'm not in the classroom, and not knowing what to do.”

Educators had to learn how to create a Google Classroom and consider the special population of students who have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and 504s to help protect the rights of children with disabilities in schools. They were trying to hand out computers, hotspots, or an actual subscription to an internet provider. All of those things were necessary to ensure every child had access, and yet, there was still an access gap.”

She remembers that there were so many educators who chose to leave because they got hit so hard. “Not only that, but the ability and the sheer

amount of sickness going around, like just all those different things were major factors,” she says. “The logistics for teachers became about covering other teachers who have left their classrooms and having to gather data for students they’ve never taught. So many different moving parts.”

Relentless and Intentional Rich became a mom in her teens, and experience made her the person that she is today.

“I'm built differently, and I have a point of view and education that makes me relentless and intentional about the education that I know Black and brown children deserve. Now as a mother of four, it’s a personal experience,” she explains.

“I'm a single mom, and every day I get up, that is my biggest privilege and the biggest thing that I'm proud of because I know I'm raising great kids. And I'm sorry, I get a little emotional because the pandemic year was rough. I've never seen my kids when they’re truly struggling.”

Having two children with IEPs and different sets of needs, it became a juxtaposition of mom and education leader for Rich.

“I remember saying to myself, this feels so conflicting because I'm an educator, I know what my children need, and they're not getting it over the computer,” she says.

“Virtual learning is just not the Continued on page 8

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2023 7 One-on-one with a Mother and an Educator The impact of COVID-19 on K-12 education as experienced by Julia Rich
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COVID and K-12 Education

Continued from page 7 best. Those who are in education understand that virtual learning was not an ideal situation to learn in. Education leaders have to be intentional about how to address the learning gaps that formed.”

Living Where You Serve

Fast forward to February 2021. It was her first time ever setting foot in Denver, Colorado. She arrived with snow on the ground and immediately fell in love with the community, the school, the students, and staff members. She recalls saying to herself, "Okay, this is what's next."

She made the decision to live in the community where she serves, a decision that she hasn’t made before. “I’ve always commuted 25 to 30 minutes, and I've been okay with that, but this time around, I said, ‘No, it is important to me to be a representation of where

I choose to serve,’ and that's how I got here.”

That decision allows her to lead change in a school community, but also work alongside the community, and partner with parents, families, children, businesses and universities and colleges, to really, honestly show what's possible. Her philosophy is: we are here to educate children, and we're here to educate them holistically.

“Our babies made it through that pandemic year on those computers and were able to sit still, pass classes, and pass state tests and all those things,” she says. “They can do anything. And that's one thing that when you talk about resiliency, I think about like, what, if anything, the pandemic has shown us, we can do anything, there is nothing that we can't. There isn't anything.”

She stresses, “The 2020 year was rough. It was rough. The difference with the pandemic year, is that not a lot of us rec-

ognized and were able to tend to the emotional, social, and emotional learning needs of students at home, giving this whole scope of everything happening in the world, happening in class, all of those things.

“Simple luxuries of kids being able to raise their hands to ask a teacher for help and becoming frustrated because they can't socialize with their friends. These things took a toll on our kids, not just mine, but that was rough. As an educator watching that and seeing it happen in real-time; and, knowing that as an educator, I too was trying to keep my promise to other families, I knew I needed to do for the generations that are to come after me,” she says.

Moving Forward with Optimism

Author and Principal Baruti Kafele posed a question: “Is education, what you do or who you are?” Rich’s answer: “As a mother, and as a mother who is an educator, and as a mother who is a principal, I recognized more than likely, my children will interact with the students that I teach, and that I lead. I must be so intentional about everything because the children I educate will likely interact with my children. Part of me showing up as a great mom is being a great educator. I see how excited they are to just be in class, to get to do partner work or group work, and get to talk to the teacher. I have my youngest daughter playing basketball, things like that, that were taken from children, not by their choice, but that they're able to do again. I see how much they need that. They need that for proper development. And not saying that development can't happen without it, but they need it to be their best selves.”

Rich believes the way the world used to think about education and access is no longer the same because that year revealed what essentially is possible.

“Was it perfect? Oh, no, but we saw triumph in the tragedy. You have to be very clear about why you do this work before you step foot into your classroom, because if you're not clear about the population that you choose to serve, or why you choose to show up every day, when it gets tough, your first option is going to be to leave,” she warns. “In education, it can't be one-sided. All stakeholders must be unwavering in what they believe is possible for children. That involves the school, which involves family, which involves students. Everyone has to be involved. Everybody has to show up, but at the end of the day, there's still a child. The children make decisions for themselves sometimes, but they're still children.”

Rich moves forward with optimism, but points out, “It involves everybody: the community, parents, and the children. Of course, it involves everybody. And so, my path forward is one that I believe will be collaborative and in partnership. I have a really big vision for this school specifically, to be the number-one performing high school in Denver, Colorado, not just the far northeast, but Denver, Colorado, and I mean what I say. I think people speak on education, but they have no idea what goes on in these walls because this work is not easy, but if you love it enough, you'll just be able to do anything. And I love it enough. I really do.”

Rich has aimed to build a culture at KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy where everyone is seen and the team feels supported. “I have a really strong leadership team that I'm super proud to lead, but I have the right people on that leadership team that also align with my morals, values, belief in students, and belief in what's possible here. If people feel supported, they stay.”.

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Choreographer Kyle Abraham Brings His Ensemble A.I.M to the Newman Center

Over the course of its 20-year history, the Newman Center for the Performing Arts has built a national reputation for bringing world-class dance ensembles to Denver. Last year, this included two sold-out performances by Dance Theatre of Harlem and the riveting piece “Lucy Negro Redux” by the Nashville Ballet. This season, we have enjoyed so far the aerial dance group BANDALOOP, along with Pilobolus, while looking forward to the Paul Taylor Dance Company March 27. Not to be outshone, the award-winning choreographer Kyle Abraham brings his New York City-based ensemble A.I.M by Kyle Abraham to the Newman Center on Janury 27. This will be Abraham’s Denver debut.

The centerpiece of the performance by A.I.M is the fulllength work titled “An Untitled Love.” Set to the music of fourtime Grammy Award-winning artist D’Angelo, the piece celebrates the mission of the dance ensemble, which is to celebrate Black culture and history. Earlier this year, Abraham shared with The San Diego UnionTribune that the piece was created in honor of his parents, their friends, and his experience growing up. “I wanted to put that into a dance that was celebratory and full of pride. It’s about all the things I studied, admired, or just lived,” said Abraham.

While grounded in Abraham’s artistic vision, A.I.M draws inspiration from a multitude of sources and movement styles. This style mixes everything from classic ballet and West African movement to jazz to hip-hop. Recent performances of “An Untitled Love” across the country have received rave reviews. The Santa Barbara Independent called it “daring, heartfelt, and a brilliantly idiomatic celebration of love, suffering, yearning, and bliss.” Dance Magazine called the work “Elastic and electric, luxuriantly rippling, poetically arranged with moments of perfect stillness that arrive amid splashes of expression.”

Abraham is a 2013 MacArthur Fellow who began his training in his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. His expansive training and impact as a choreographer, educator, and innovator have led to a plethora of global collaborations presented at prestigious institutions such as Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, The Los Angeles Music Center, Dublin’s Project Arts Center, The Andy Warhol Museum, and the Royal Opera House.

We hope that the upcoming performance at the Newman Center will be the first of many opportunities we’ll have to enjoy Kyle Abraham and A.I.M here in Denver..

Editor’s note: A.I.M by Kyle Abraham will perform on January 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets start at $24 and are available at or by calling 303-871-7720.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2023 9 An
Untitled Love with Claude “CJ” Johnson and Tamisha Guy Photo by Carrie-Schneider


igger! Better! Bolder!”

The excited and emphastic alliteration announcing the 2023 MLK Jr. African-American Heritage Rodeo of Champions on the website of its parent and sponsor, the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo (BPIR), isn’t subdued. Scheduled for January 16 at the Denver Coliseum, the event celebrates 17 years, while Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo is celebrating 39 years.

Ropin’ in the Past, Present and Future:

The MLK Rodeo’s Multigenerational Embrace

current BPIR luminaries. She positioned long-time BPIR member and Colorado resident Maurice Wade as an incarnation of the rodeo’s spirit. An accomplished rodeo star and calf roper with deep ties to the BPIR, having hooked up with Vason in the ‘80s during the young rodeo’s initial events, Wade realized his childhood dream to compete as a bona fide cowboy in rodeos across the continent and beyond.

compete in the same arenas with other professional athletes, fulfilling one of Vason’s initial goals to introduce possibilities to Black youth. In turn, Williams would like to pay the possibilities forward.

ing in 2015, grabbed the bull by the horns (pardon the pun), and expanded the BPIR’s reach and influence. After Vason passed, people “begged and pleaded that we keep the legacy going,” recalled Howard-Cunningham. Despite the challenges of the COVID pandemic – “Covid put a stop to everything, we were out of commission for two years” – she announced that the BPIR has recovered from the pandemic with renewed vigor.

With the rodeo having survived the pandemic and the related challenges, she and her stable of stars intend to win not only competitions, but the affection and attention of an increas-

After placing a long-distance call to Valeria Howard-Cunningham, widow of Lu Vason, the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo’s legendary founder and visionary, I discovered the rodeo’s organizers and participants have prepared a milestone event. The talent is top notch, including finalists from the NFR (National Finals Rodeo), WCRA (World Champions Rodeo Alliance), and PBR (Professional Bull Riders) rodeo.

But while HowardCunningham is justifiably proud of the prowess the rodeo showcases, she’s even more appreciative of the loyalty it attracts among participants and spectators – many of whom have connections to the organization that span decades and generations. It’s an honor not only to the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, but also to her late husband who imagined, designed and developed it.

In a phone conversation and email exchange, HowardCunningham praised past and

A new BPIR star, Paris Wilburd, competes nationally and recently swept the ladies barrel racing competition in Washington, D.C. “She’s just phenomenal – and she’s just 13 years old!” says enthused Howard-Cunningham.

Perhaps the best example of the multigenerational embrace is Stephanie Haynes, who won 16 championships with the BPIR, and introduced her daughter and grandchildren to the organization and rodeo stardom.

Another budding star, Harold Williams, Jr., also known as “June Bug,” has won $12,000 competing in Las Vegas junior leagues. According to HowardCunningham, he debuted at the age of one in the BPIR and immediately became a rodeo superstar. When contacted for this article, Williams highlighted the familial atmosphere at the BPIR. “I think the most rewarding part of being involved in the Bill Pickett/MLK Rodeo is being a part of history and creating memories with my friends and family,” he relayed in an email exchange. Another benefit is that Williams gets to

When asked what he’d want to offer as a lasting contribution to and legacy with the MLK Rodeo, he responded, “My lasting contribution is that anyone can achieve their dream at any age. I was the first kid to exhibition the breakaway roping event at the MLK Rodeo when I was 5 years old.”

Examples like that of Williams are the ultimate victory for the BPIR. When Howard-Cunningham stepped into the boots of her legendary late husband, she assumed a daunting task, but her quest isn’t an obligatory, cursory or figurehead endeavor. She assumed the reins of her late husband’s legacy after his pass-

ingly diverse America. Cowboys, cowgirls and Western culture aren’t limited to a niche market. Ropin’ in the Wind became an international sensation when Garth Brooks unleashed the platter “Ropin the Wind” over three decades ago. The album proved that cowboy sensibilities could appeal to not only the American mainstream, but also international mass markets.

While Brooks proved the popularity of the cowboy culture with spectacular success, Lu Vason had already proved the point – albeit in a more subdued but no less exciting scale –nearly a decade before when the Bill Pickett Invitational

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2023 10
Cowgirls walk the arena after rodeo event Photos by Dan Honoree III

Rodeo debuted in 1984. While the famous country music star demonstrated that traditional cowboy culture could attract widespread attention and crowds, Vason’s efforts not only crossed cultural boundaries, they added color to the complexion, complexity and narrative of the American frontier.

The rodeo literally swept aside ingrained perceptions of cowboys and cowgirls as simply and solely the John Wayne, Will Rogers, Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane types.

Bill Pickett wasn’t a fixture onscreen during Hollywood’s Golden Age. But Vason, a seasoned music promoter who helped launch the Pointer Sisters, decided to correct that oversight.

Nearly 17 years ago, I wrote in the Urban Spectrum: “Long gone are the days when Vason had to convince people that African American cowboys and cowgirls really existed. Their reality was never a figment of Vason’s imagination, as some might have originally believed. Embedded in his imagination 20-odd years ago was the reality today of a transcontinental awareness and appreciation of the African American Westerner.”

I went on to note that despite Vason’s accomplishments, he still seemed unsatisfied, writing, “…one gets the impression that Vason won’t be satisfied

until Bill Pickett and his compadres’ presence in Western folklore is recognized as easily to audiences as are the celluloid images of Roy Rogers and Wyatt Earp.”

Despite Vason’s best efforts, Bill Pickett remains an enigma to the average suburbanite. Lacking the cultural stature of a Wild Bill Hickok or Wyatt Earp, he’s received an enduring posthumous consolation. His contribution to rodeo, “bulldogging,” is part of the Western and rodeo vernacular. But what exactly is the bulldogging that Pickett introduced and immortalized? While the act demands skill and dexterity, it’s also simple and audacious. I wrote in 2007, “Pickett’s enduring contribution, bulldogging, is a wrestling match, where a cowboy pins the bull to the ground. Pickett would nip the bull’s upper lip, paralyzing the animal with either pain or shock at the audacity.”

A high-stakes wrestling match that involves a buckaroo and a bull rather than Hulk Hogan and The Rock makes for intense drama. And that drama makes compelling television. CBS televised the Bill Pickett Showdown in Las Vegas on Juneteenth 2021.

While the BPIR increases its international audience and visibility, an early priority remains paramount. HowardCunningham stressed that the organization creates an enduring home for its participants. “We create a safe haven for our future generations,” she explains. And within that safe haven, the BPIR offers inspiration and incentive. And in the process, she enthused that the BPIR “creates a bigger and better platform for AfricanAmerican cowgirls and cowboys.” Denver will discover that bigger, better and bolder platform this month at the 2023 MLK Jr. African-American Heritage Rodeo of Champions..

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2023 11

Sen. Warnock’s Victory Is a Win for Georgia and America

If you haven’t watched Sen. Raphael Warnock’s speech on the night of his reelection in Georgia on December 6, stop everything you’re doing, and watch it now. Then tell your kids to watch it. And your neighbors.

What you’ll see is 20 minutes that will leave you with a deep feeling of inspiration and gratitude, and a question: why was this so hard? How is it that

Warnock was so clearly the best candidate and had to prove it four times, in the last two years?

Let’s take the question first.

The surprise victories by Sen. Warnock and Sen. Jon Ossoff in 2021 were triumphs over systemic racism and a vicious misinformation and disinformation campaign by far-right forces. Immediately after they won, Georgia became ground zero for a state voter suppression effort that included harsh crackdowns on early and mailin voting. The runoff system that Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker were forced into was itself a relic of 1960s white supremacy. It was created by a Georgia segregationist who hoped it would stop

Black candidates from winning in a crowded field where white votes were split.

Meanwhile, Walker’s entire campaign was a far-right ploy to split Black votes while giving white Republicans plausible deniability about their party’s racism. Most Black voters saw right through it. But the GOP mustered enormous political firepower and financial resources for their scheme. That made the race close when it never should have been close.

It made Sen. Warnock’s road, which was always going to be hard, even harder.

On the night of his reelection, Sen. Warnock addressed all of this with his usual dignity. He gave the credit to Georgians for electing the state’s first Black and first Jewish senators at a time when the Far Right was trying to divide the country. He took on the conservative pundits claiming his victory was proof that there was no voter suppression in Georgia. Just because Georgia voters endured long lines in the rain doesn’t mean there is no suppression, he said. It means Georgians refused to have their voices silenced.

The rest of his address showed that Georgia has reelected a senator who values social justice and still believes it can be achieved through representative democracy. Democracy, he said, is the political enactment of a spiritual idea: that each of us carries within us a divine spark. It is a political system that is rooted in the belief that each of us has value, that if we have value we have a voice, and that our voice is our vote. I’m paraphrasing here, and words on the page don’t do justice to Sen. Warnock’s oratory skills. Again, I hope you’ll watch the speech.

Hearing these words at a time when democracy is doubted and under attack is a restorative experience. Hearing Sen. Warnock pledge to work in a bipartisan spirit on behalf of

all Americans feels like coming home, to an America where public servants used to believe that was possible. Hearing him say that he will fight for criminal justice reform because he believes we can have both justice and safety struck a personal chord with me. I believe that too, in my bones. My organization, People For the American Way, has dedicated itself to advancing that goal. There are so many solutions we can and should explore that will save lives.

This moment shows us something else, too, which is that a way forward to a better America now runs through the Deep South. Stacey Abrams’s visionary work to organize voters made Georgia a swing state, and others can follow.  Almost a decade ago, I worked on a study that showed that registering just 30 percent of unregistered voters of color could change the political landscape in heavily Black southern states. There are still plenty of challenges, but we’re seeing that prediction come true.

I will close with one other phrase of Sen. Warnock’s from his reelection speech, one that I think serves us well in all the work we do for social justice. This is America, he said, where we “always have a path to make our country greater.” I know there are times when those paths seem impossible, and optimism seems more like naivete. We need more Raphael Warnocks in the world to tell us there is always a way. Right now, I’m deeply grateful that the one we do have will spend six more years in the U.S. Senate.


Editor’s note: Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. A New York Times best-selling author, his next book  “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free” will be published by Harper Collins in January 2023.

JAN 20TH-FEB 5TH, 2023 THU.-SAT. 7:30PM | SUN. 2PM | TICKETS $20 - $36 BETTY HART STARRING THE AURORA FOX STUDIO THEATRE 9900 e. Colfax Ave, Aurora, CO 80010 Tickets: 303-739-1970 | Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2023 12

African Chamber of Commerce Presents Second Business Awards Reception with Special Guests Journalist Roland Martin and Actor John Amos

The African Chamber of Commerce Colorado, USA will host the second annual Business Awards Reception on January 27, 2023. Special guests include journalist Roland S. Martin and actor John Amos. Keynote speaker will be US Representative for Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District Joe Neguse.

In addition to attendees enjoying food, African dancing, networking, and a silent auction the event will include a business video awards ceremony and a presentation by the African Chamber of Commerce. John Amos will be receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the African Chamber of Commerce.

The event will be held at the Infinity Park Event Center, 4400 E. Kentucky Ave., in Glendale from 5:30 to 9 p.m. A VIP reception will be held at 5 p.m. General admission tickets are available for $55 and VIP tickets are $120.

Tickets can be purchased at Eventbrite.

— – January 2023 13
Urban Spectrum James
“Dr. Daddio”
Walker James
“Dr. Daddio”
“Unity in the Community” “Unity in the Community” Book
Release Celebration Book Release Celebration Radio in My Soul: The Journey of James “Dr. Daddio” Walker was unveiled at his book release and signing on Saturday, December 17. The memoir includes varied stories of his life including his arrival in Five Points from Houston in 1966, his narrative of his time at KDKO, a few other business ventures and his many years with wife Patsy and many other treasured moments that are a part of his ongoing legacy. The standing room only crowd packed Brother Jeff’s Cultural Center for an afternoon of memories from this living legend and remarks from many who’s lives he touched. Dr. Daddio reminisced with many in the audience on their role in his journey including Moses Brewer, Rosalind “Bee” Harris, Captain Willie Daniels, Reverend Reginald Holmes, Brother Jeff, and Sandy Thompson – all, among so many others, who are also featured in his book through words and photos. For up-to-date information on obtaining copies of the book, visit Photos by brother jeff Moses Brewer recites a poem honoring Dr. Daddio Dr. Daddio and Rev. Terrence “Big T.” Hughes and Rachel Dr. Daddio with Michael and Jennifer Walker and guest. Dr. Daddio with Lenora Alexander Dr. Daddio with Peggy and Jill Wortham Dr. Daddio with Rosalind “Bee’ Harris

Telling Our Own Stories: Supporting Black Girls at Wyatt Academy

Collaborative Healing Initiative Within Communities (CHIC).

CHIC, founded in 2017, focuses on building women’s economic, social, and cultural capital across multiple generations. Specifically, its education programs focus on creating safe spaces centered around mindfulness, positive identity, and relationship development among peers and family members.

“Supporting our Black girls was high on our list and we wanted our students to feel seen and heard in a way that was authentic to their own lived experiences,” Means said. “We wanted to be more proactive so our girls are making the right decisions when faced with problems and have positive role models as cheerleaders to support them.”

When in-person classes resumed after the pandemic and many teachers opted to leave the profession, Wyatt Academy’s principal, Melody Means, went back in the classroom to teach fourth grade. During her time in the classroom and as principal, Means, the only Black female educator in her building, noticed a marked and meaningful improvement in the class work and test scores of her Black students.

“Having adults in our schools who mirror our student population is an equity issue,” Means says. “Students perform better academically and socially with representation, and we have the data to prove that.”

As part of Denver Public Schools Black Excellence plan, the school prioritized the development of the social-emotional needs of its students, with an emphasis on mentoring and supporting Black girls. To do this, Wyatt is working with the nonprofit organization

CHIC visits Wyatt Academy twice a week during and after school to support girls in three cohorts split by grade level. Starting with individual connections, mentors meet students during lunch to get to know them and build relationships. This also gives mentors an opportunity to meet with teachers and discuss the needs of students, both in school and at home.

“It’s really hard to be a young person of color, especially a young woman of color,” said Aubrie Mason, education coordinator at CHIC. “But to have someone who is willing to understand your culture, understand your ‘why’— that builds your confidence, your life skills, and it shows what healthy relationships can look and feel like. Those are things that transform how the rest of your life plays out.”

The curriculum has group, individual and family activities with a focus on active and applied learning in skill development and social emotional learning.

The aim is to expose young people to “whole child” experi-

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2023 14 ON VIEW SEPTEMBER 16, 2022 - FEBRUARY 5, 2023 The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse explores the aesthetic legacies and traditions of Black Culture in the African American South as seen through the lens of contemporary Black musical expression.
Tickets are available online at or by scanning the qr code above. Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse
Dobale to the Spirit, 2017, Fahamu Pecou (American, born 1975), acrylic on canvas. Courtesy Fahamu Pecou, Image © Dr. Fahamu Pecou, Courtesy Studio KAWO/Fahamu Pecou Art

ences, such as music, poetry, dance and cooking; and to show them a variety of health, wellness and mindfulness activities, including meditation and journaling. Mentors also provide students with access to different mental health supports, such as clinical therapists or yoga teachers.

“Wyatt is a community school, and this community deserves generational healing and that all starts with the kids in school,” Mason said. “If we work with them, we can bring healing to their families too. We feel that by bringing in the extra social emotional tools and practices to Wyatt, we can help close the circle and offer meaningful support to the whole community.”

This curriculum is equally focused on supporting teachers as it is students. Through professional development, Wyatt and CHIC are working to shift educators’ understandings of children’s behavior and the assumptions they make about kids based on some behaviors. These sessions can be transformational for teachers and impact how they interact with students and families.

Wyatt and CHIC plan to continue their collaboration. For Means, the principal, the partnership is extremely valuable. She sees their work’s impact as important to the school’s work on Black Excellence and to providing students and teachers with necessary support.

“This is important work,” Means said. “It’s more than academic achievement. This is about empowering our Black girls to tell their own stories instead of following the ones that have been created for them.”


Editor’s note: For more information on Wyatt Academy, a tuition-free public K-5 community school in Denver Public Schools, visit Learn more about CHIC and their programming at

Home Home Shopping Shopping the Smart the Smart Way Way

your furniture with you so that you can determine if they will fit properly before signing any paperwork.

Inspect Appliances and Electrical Outlets

Appliances and electrical outlets should be inspected thoroughly before buying a home as well. Look for signs of age or wear on appliances and check for proper functioning. If there are any issues with electrical outlets, such as loose wires, flickering lights, or lack of appropriate grounding, make sure that these are corrected prior to buying the property. This could save you from expensive repairs down the road.

for your home, the first thing to consider is whether or not the cost of having them is worth it in the long run. A pool or hot tub may seem like great ideas on paper, but if you don’t have time or money to keep up with regular maintenance then they may not be worth it.

Additionally, certain amenities may add value to your home if you plan on selling in the future while others might not be as attractive to potential buyers down the line. It’s important to do some research and talk to experts before making any decisions.

Location and Price

Big and small considerations when purchasing a home

shopping can be an exciting and overwhelming experience. It’s easy to get caught up in the beauty of a home when you look at it, but it’s important to be smart about your purchase so that you don’t find yourself with a bunch of unexpected problems shortly after moving in. In this article, we’ll discuss some tips for smart home shopping.

Check If Your Furniture Fits

One of the most important things to consider when looking at new homes is how well your furniture will fit in the space. Many times, homes are designed so that furniture will only fit in one spot or one particular way, making it difficult or impossible to move around or bring in larger items like televisions or couches. Make sure you bring measurements of

Consider Small Details

Finally, pay close attention to all the small details when looking at potential homes. Doors and windows should be checked for proper operation; wall paint should be inspected for fading; floors should be checked for warping; and ceilings should be looked over for any signs of water damage or other issues that might need repair work. The last thing you want is to move into a new home only to find out that certain areas need more work than originally thought! Your home inspection, which will be conducted by a certified inspector will also give you much greater insight into the condition of the property.


Deciding whether downsizing is right for you after your children leave home can be difficult —it’s an emotional time! But by taking into consideration factors such as size requirements, maintenance costs, storage needs, and location preferences, it becomes easier to make an informed decision on what will work best for your needs going forward.

The Pros and Cons of Having Extras

When thinking about extras

Location plays an important role in determining how much a house costs. Homes located in urban areas tend to be more expensive than those in rural areas due to higher demand from buyers. Higher taxes in certain cities may also contribute to increased prices for homes as well. Of course, if you’re looking for convenience, these higher prices may be worth it since city locations typically have access to stores, entertainment centers, and other amenities that are not available in rural areas.

Buying a home is an exciting process but it’s important to shop smartly so that you don’t end up with unexpected problems shortly after moving in. By taking into account factors such as furniture fitment, appliance condition, and small details like windows and doors, you can ensure that your new home is exactly what you wanted. With a bit of research and careful consideration ahead of time, you can avoid costly surprises down the line..

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 — – January 2023 15


Urban Spectrum Kicks off the Holiday Season with Damien Sneed

DUS Pre-Show Reception: “Joy to the World: A Christmas Musical Journey” at the Newman Center - December 1, 2022 Dr. Zelda DeBoyes, Debra Gilbert, Bee Harris, Dr. Brenda Allen, Janice Napper and Gwen Brown Left to right: Chenee Campbell, Markita Knight, Matia Washington, Linny Smith, Anitra McKinney and Alicia Peters-Jordan Alfonzo Porter, Marcus and Brittany Winkfield, Angelia McGowan and Rod Coffee Mable Sutton and Darryl Collier Helen Bradshaw and Lori Collier Mable Sutton, LaTerrell Bradford, Linda Theus-Lee, Thatcher and Lee Lee Leonard Chenee Campbell, Bee Harris, Alicia Peters-Jordan and Anitra McKinney Sandra Stephens, Candy Brown and Misti Aas Karren Hall, Markita Knight, Bee Harris and Caroline Price Ed Jenkins and Damien Sneed Stephanie Rance of Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival is “up close and personal” with Damien Sneed Photos by Justin Levy, Ed Jenkins and Sandra Stephens DUS Publisher Rosalind “Bee” Harris and Damien Sneed DUS Publisher Rosalind “Bee” Harris and MVAAFF Stephanie Rance Darryl Collier, Helen Bradshaw, Bee Harris and Lori Collier
January 2023 16
Denver Urban Spectrum —

Song for My Father

A Tribute to Doyle James May 14, 1928 – December 7, 2022

Publisher’s note: Following is a tribute written by my brother in honor of our father, Doyle James, who passed away at the age of 94 on December 7, 2022. A homegoing celebration will be held in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2023.

The spirit of my father, Doyle James, is now with our ancestors. He peacefully transitioned at his home in Lowell, Michigan, on December 7, 2022. He was 94 years old. We knew the end of his physical time with us was near. Now we move forward knowing his spirit, intellect, humanity, and dignity live directly and indirectly throughout the six generations of James’ that mourn his passing and celebrate his life. The lives he touched go beyond our family, extended family, and friends. Hundreds of Grand Rapidians played Little League Baseball for a team he coached on the segregated west side of Grand Rapids. Sponsored by McInerney Spring and Wire, the team was a source of pride for Black youths and the Black community in the 1960s.

There are numerous former General Motors Diesel employees he supported and mentored as a union representative. His work as a longtime active member and former President of the Grand Rapids chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute and his commitment to the labor movement influenced me, some of my siblings, and others to embrace the Black freedom strug‐gle and contest economic oppression and exploitation. Yet, my father also had human frailties, as we all do. Nonetheless, his love for me and my siblings and his commitment to the strug‐gles of Black people inspire us to move forward. It is what he would want, actually, demand that we do.

I listened to the Horace Silver Quintet’s recording of Song for My Father daily as my father’s health deteriorated. Written by Silver, a master jazz pianist, Song for My Father was released in 1965 on an album of the same title. A photograph of Horace Silver’s father graces the album cover. He seems to be at peace with an expression of pride and dignity, a look my father often projected throughout his life.

My father introduced me to Song for My Father and many other jazz classics. He loved jazz and passed his love and respect for the art form to me. Over the years, many artists have recorded Song for My Father but listening to the original Horace Silver version is a cultural, spiritual, and father‐son connection I will always have. Several years after the release of Silver’s recording, Ellen May Shashoyan wrote lyrics to his composition. Her lyrics further connect Song for My Father to my father’s influence on me.

If there was ever a man, Who was generous, gracious, and good That was my Dad The man.

Another verse reads, To be devoted to And always stand by me So I’d be unafraid and free.

Because of my father and my mother, Ruth James Boyd (1928‐2008), I am “unafraid,” and I embrace the struggle to be free. Now my father is free and with our ancestors. May their spirits continue to guide me. YYY

Editor’s note: Dante J. James is a sibling, father, grandfather, independent filmmaker, educator, writer, and freedom fighter For more information on James, visit

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2023 17

Swarn, a 25-year Radio Veteran, Will Oversee Operations, Build Community Bridges for Rocky Mountain Public Media’s Two Radio Stations

Rocky Mountain Public Media announced THE DROP 104.7 General Manager Nikki Swarn is stepping into the role of General Manager of KUVO JAZZ, supervising management for both stations.

Swarn is a dynamic leader and visionary with over 25 years of radio experience. As Colorado’s first AfricanAmerican woman to serve as general manager of a radio station, Swarn’s career is filled with milestones. She has repeatedly created new pathways in the independent music movement through radio programs that showcase and promote diverse and emerging artists.

Swarn began her radio career in 1998 working with

KHIH jazz in Denver. Since that time, her radio journey includes leadership roles at KS 107.5, KYGO, ESPN, and Alice 105.9. She launched THE DROP in 2019 as an extension of KUVO JAZZ with grant support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. At the time, it was one of the first urban alternative public radio stations in the country, paving the way for a new format that continues to expand and shape public media as a whole.

Under Swarn’s leadership, THE DROP 104.7 recently won several awards, including Westword Magazine’s Best New Radio Station (2020) and Best Radio Station for Music (2021); and Colorado Broadcasters Association Awards of Excellence (2021) for Best Station Sponsored Community Event, Best Midday Show, Best Evening Show, Best Public Affairs Program (merit), and Best Sales Event or Live Remote Broadcast

(merit). Swarn was also the inaugural winner of the Asante Award, Black Pride Colorado (2021); and Urban Spectrum’s Annual People Who Make a Difference Award (2021).

“Nikki has put together an excellent team of committed radio professionals with strong ties to Denver’s R&B and hip hop community, while continuing to build a vision for public radio that shapes the industry nationwide as an avenue to engage and serve diverse communities,” says Carlos Lando, former KUVO JAZZ General Manager and current host of “The Morning Set with Carlos Lando.”

Swarn is a prominent youth advocate, facilitating high school and university enrichment and community service programs throughout Colorado. She is featured as a guest

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2023 18 Nikki Swarn Appointed General Manager of KUVO JAZZ and THE DROP 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.

speaker at music and entertainment conferences, colleges, and universities around the world, building capacity with colleagues and providing experiential learning opportunities for future programmers and broadcasters in the music industry.

“I am humbled and honored to serve our Colorado community in this capacity. The impact that KUVO has stretches beyond our state borders as we share a love for community, culture, and music with the world. Together in concert, both stations remain committed to developing and delivering content that explores and shares community voices and perspectives by providing platforms for access and authenticity,” says Swarn. “I’m excited to continue collaborating with THE DROP and KUVO teams as we strengthen our community relationships and earn trust. It is our hope that, through active engagement and listening, we inspire excellence, nurture emerging artists, and cultivate relevant content and connections with those whom we serve.”

KUVO JAZZ co-founder Flo Hernandez-Ramos returns to the station as a strategy and team-building consultant and joins the Rocky Mountain Public Media Board of Directors as an Emeritus member. In addition to his role as executive producer and host of “The Morning Set with Carlos Lando,” Lando continues to serve as a senior radio advisor for Rocky Mountain Public Media.

“Nikki, Carlos and Flo all bring with them knowledge of the past, present and future of KUVO,” says Rocky Mountain Public Media President and CEO Amanda Mountain. “Together, we are building bridges between our organization and our communities to create true co-ownership of Rocky Mountain Public Media

that supports our continued relevancy and expands positive community impact.”



Since 1985, independent, public radio station KUVO JAZZ provides a rare blend of music and news. The station broadcasts the very best in jazz, Latin jazz, and blues in addition to 17 locally produced, culturally diverse programs. In addition to the broadcast on 89.3 FM, KUVO JAZZ’s free app gives the station the ability to stream programs live to a worldwide listener community. KUVO frequently features live broadcasts of national touring artists as well as local musicians and students from the station’s Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Performance Studio, and broadcasts remotely from concerts, festivals, and community events.

About Rocky Mountain Public Media

Rocky Mountain Public Media (RMPM), the parent company of Rocky Mountain PBS (RMPBS), KUVO JAZZ and THE DROP 104.7, is Colorado’s largest statewide, member-supported, multimedia organization. Rocky Mountain Public Media has more than 90,000 members representing every county in Colorado and reaches 98 percent of the state’s citizens through television, radio, and digital platforms. A non-commercial media organization by and for the people of Colorado, RMPM creates high-quality local and multimedia content through Regional Innovation Centers in Denver, Colorado Springs, Durango, Grand Junction and Pueblo.

RMPBS, started in Denver in 1956 as Colorado’s first public television station, is now a statewide television network. For information about the Center, RMPBS, KUVO JAZZ and THE DROP 104.7, visit the

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2023 19

Misgendering & Mental Health

Today’s email signatures include them. They are on name tags at conferences. Their appropriate usage can make or break someone’s day. They are pronouns. Unfortunately, many people are still confused about the importance of using the right pronouns with family, friends and co-workers. How does the use of incorrect pronouns impact a person’s mental health and their sense of belonging in the world?

To answer this question, Denver Urban Spectrum reached out to several members of the LGBTQ+ community in the Denver metro area. Here’s what they had to say.

Failure to use the correct pronouns with anyone, whether they identify as trans or not, can have effects on people and how they feel about their environment.”

Seamont, who uses he/him pronouns, adds, “This, along with other factors, may drive the person into a sense of isolation, sadness, frustration, or anger. To be repeatedly disrespected and denied one’s own identity erodes trust, civility, belonging and contributes to depression and anxiety in the trans population.”

State Rep. Leslie Herod, who uses she/her pronouns and is running for Denver mayor, concurs. “It is very important that we use people’s preferred pronouns, very similar to how I want someone to address me by my name, very similar to how I want people to address me and acknowledge my race as a Black woman.”

According to Morgan Seamont, the director of the Pride Office at the University of Colorado Boulder, “It is important to use the correct pronouns with someone as it shows a sign of respect and that you acknowledge someone else’s identity. Similar to names, if someone repeatedly called you the wrong name, you would begin to feel as if they did not respect you or care enough about you to learn and use the correct name.

“It is really important that folks are intentional about asking what people’s pronouns are and using them,” explains Herod, who cautions that using the wrong pronouns could also be done to mock or direct hate at someone. “Using the wrong pronouns or ‘dead names,’ which are their old names before they may have transitioned, is extremely detrimental to someone’s psyche, to someone’s sense of belonging and well-being.”

“It could cause dysphoria (a feeling of unease) when assumptions are made about a person’s identity based on their external presentation, which does not let the person show up as themselves,” says Olivia Hunte, who holds a master’s degree in social work, is a firstyear doctoral student in social work at the University of Denver, and a teacher of social work with LGBTQ+ people at

FEB 24 - MAY 21 A moving and heartfelt play about the universal experiences of everyday life. | 720.898.7200
Spectrum — – January 2023 20
Photo by Lisa Marie Martinez

Metropolitan State University Denver.

Hunte, who uses she/her pronouns, identifies as cisgender, a queer person, and Black or Afro Caribbean. She sees herself as existing at the intersection of being a person of color and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, an intersection of oppression. “Oppression comes from not identifying within the gender binary (as male or female) and consequently being misgendered,” says Hunte, who is an executive board member of Soul 2 Soul Sisters, a faith-based organization that works to honor and protect Black women’s lives, loves, decisions, families, communities, and futures.

days, affected her sleep, created personal self-doubt about her presentation and ability to maneuver in the world. When it involves someone close to you it can cause you to not want to engage in community or social events, to withdraw or isolate yourself from friends and family.”

Shanae Adams, a licensed Colorado mental health professional, laments, “It is like a blow in the gut to not have one’s gender identity perceived by others because of the extremely hard work one goes through to put oneself and one’s long thought-out gender identity in view of others. Being misperceived can cause one to question oneself or wonder if the effort to be oneself around others is worth it.”

extremely detrimental to who is being misgendered because of the time, energy and attention they put into being in the

don’t know what that means or maybe you don’t know why they’re dressing a certain kind of way, maybe you don’t know why they use ‘they/them’ pronouns. That is okay.

“But together, as long as we support that young person and help them through whatever process they are going through, and support them through it, that’s how we’re going to raise strong communities and strong kids. Just make sure that young person knows that you love them for who they are, not despite who they are.”

identity that is good for them, that is their reality.”

The number of times the incorrect pronoun is used by family and friends can speak volumes, according to Sable Schultz, the manager of the Trans Gender Program at the Center on Colfax in Denver, where she oversees peer-led support groups and trains organizations and businesses regarding the transgender experience and inclusion.

Schultz, who uses she/her pronouns, identifies “as a queer transgender woman, which means that I was assigned as a male at birth, and I identify as a woman.” She says being misgendered by someone close to her “has left her stressed out for

Adams, who serves on the executive board for Soul 2 Soul Sisters and is a candidate for a doctoral program in clinical sexology, uses she/they pronouns, identifies as trans masculine, Black and queer. In her private practice, Adams reveals, “I see the effects of misgendering on one’s mental health can involve a denial of a person’s reality, their identity. To not be seen or experienced for who one is as a person can create a gas lighting effect, cause a denial of one’s own reality or perception. For a transgender person it can cause mental turmoil, can be a life-ordeath situation when not called by the correct pronouns or the name they identify with. They could feel like a burden or feel the world would be better off without them.”

Adams stresses that “the incidence of misgendering does not apply to those who mistakenly use the wrong pronouns. It is used with those who intentionally misgender or refuse to see someone as they are. This can be

To be addressed appropriately can be a beautiful experience, according to Vanellope Santibanez, the TransAction program manager, HIV/STI tester, and PrEP coordinator for the transgender community at It Takes A Village, an organization which provides a variety of other supports to the community.

“I see many trans individuals in the beginning stages of their transitions and they light up when you address them with correct pronouns because to us it feels good to get acknowledged for who we are,” says Santibanez, a Latina transgender woman who uses she/her pronouns. “Sometimes you may not know (someone’s pronouns), and that is okay. Just ask!”

She cautions, “It is important to always use the correct pronouns, especially in public places. You never know when you can be outing someone and putting them at risk of violence.”

A Positive Outlook

Rep. Herod says, “I think it is important that families of color, of trans youth specifically, embrace their youth. It’s such an important conversation that we’re having at the community because it can feel very scary when you have a young person that has identified as gender non-binary, maybe you

Adams encourages self-help for families, “through involvement in support groups (such as PFLAG: parents, families, friends of lesbians and gay people) to explore how your experience differs from your child’s experience, or by getting therapy. These are ways to get more education, knowledge, and background to support children going through a different and difficult transition; it is okay to feel uncomfortable, to not know, and to feel lost. This will help creating a story of how one wants their child to be, how they should live.”

Showing advocacy in their child’s school setting is another way to support, according to Hunte.

If you have not met or do not know which pronouns to use, Seamont recommends using either they/them pronouns or a person’s name as one way to prevent misgendering people. “Like everything, it just takes some practice, and it will sound regular in no time. As a trans person myself, I was forgiving of people using the incorrect pronouns when I first transitioned but if a person continued to make mistakes after a few months, they generally didn’t remain a friend as they clearly didn’t respect me.”

To help create a smooth introduction for students who are transitioning (changing their pronouns), CU’s Pride Office

Continued on page 22 Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2023 21
Photo by Lisa Marie Martinez Photo by Lisa Marie Martinez

Misgendering and Mental Health

Continued from page 21 under Seamont’s direction helps CU students to readily select their pronouns or make preferred name changes within their student portals, which then shows up on their class rosters and for their professors to see prior to the start of their first class.

For Vanellope, her misgendering experiences came from a work environment or being out in public, and it was her family and friends who were her greatest supporters. “Honestly, they are my strength and reason to continue my journey. They inspire me just as much as I inspire them. Unfortunately, in the workplace and public things have been so different. I have been disliked because of my gender identity and judged, been called a ‘man’ under their breath, and honestly if my journey wasn’t going to be easy and if I was going to survive in this

world, I was going to need to be confident and tough.”

Herod says the best way that society can learn about each other is “to be around each other; exposing yourself to folks who are different than you, if it is a different race, a different gender, if it’s a different gender expression or gender identity. It is extremely important to just not be afraid and be around those folks…. Everybody just wants to be seen for them, be seen for who they are. And so, take a look, and I am sure you will find some amazing folks out there and you’ll see their hearts, too.”

Seamont says, “When people make a mistake (use the wrong pronoun) unintentionally it is best to apologize briefly and move on with the conversation.”

Hunte offers, “It is best to not assume how someone gender identifies based upon their name, and one can do this by using gender neutral pronouns (such as they/them) and allowing them to reveal their pronouns.”

What about laws? Herod says, “What I think society could do to help lawmakers and others improve on the level of safety is really calling hate crimes what they are, hate crimes. When they happen, they need to be prosecuted as hate crimes. We need to make sure that folks do not get harassed or abused simply for who they are, who they love, and how they present, because it is extremely important that we enforce the laws around hate crimes.

Herod adds, “But more importantly, we have to make sure that as a community we are stomping out any of the hateful rhetoric that we hear or see in our communities. It is not funny to make fun of someone because they are transgender. It is not funny to bully a young kid because you think they’re acting too effeminate [(in reference to a man) having or showing characteristics regarded as

typical of a woman; unmanly] or masculine, or whichever way you think they shouldn’t be acting. It is more important to lift up and love these young people; it’s more important to lift up and love all folks in our communities.”.

Editor’s Note: This article is not an all-inclusive discussion on misgendering, nor is it meant to imply that misgendering leads to acts of violence. This article is solely meant to open up meaningful conversations, with the hope of educating, informing and inspiring. Below is a list of advocacy organizations and resources: Visit CU Pride Office at; Visit Soul 2 Soul Sisters at; Visit the Center on Colfax at; Visit Dragutante at; Visit Queer Asterick at; Visit One Colorado at; Visit Black Pride Colorado at; Visit PFLAG at

2500 18th Street, Denver, CO 80211 (303) 954-0896

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January 2023 22



Significance of Ebenezer

Baptist Church, Auburn Avenue, the King Center and Raphael Warnock

Yes, the 1950s were revolutionary for me. People refer to the woman I saw as my ‘burning bush’ experience and they would be right!

Fast forward to 1968. I left the United States for five years and came back in 1972 after living in Australia and then Singapore. My husband was an Australian diplomat.

(SNCC) to pick up people at the airport who were coming to Atlanta for the King funeral. This included the renowned activist Ralph Bunch who was representing the United Nations. I also marched through the Atlanta streets in the King funeral service entourage.

Coming Back to US in 1972

This is an article about the profoundly important and influential local, national and international area where the US Senator Raphael Warnock’s church - Ebenezer Baptist - is located and where he serves as the pastor. There is no area in the United States, and/or the world, with such a remarkable present day and historical achievement for justice and civil rights than the Auburn Avenue area thanks to the remarkable advocacy for justice by the King family, and colleagues, in all their organizing and work for civil and human rights in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

Learning about US Civil and Human Rights Issues

I, Heather Gray, am of European descent in that I have so-called ‘white’ skin. I am originally from Alberta, Canada, but my father brought our family to Atlanta, Georgia in the United States in the 1950s to teach at Emory University. This began my life’s journey. My first day in the United States I saw, for the first time as a child, someone of color. This was a woman I saw outside the window of where we were staying on the Emory University campus. She began my life’s journey as it didn’t take me long to realize that white supremacy reigned supreme in the southern part of the United States.

However, prior to leaving the United States in 1968, the year Dr. King was assassinated, I had been asked by a friend of mine to attend an event at Atlanta’s Spelman College, the first week of April in 1968, and spend the night on the campus after the lecture. As fate would have it, Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, that very week, and when I woke up on the Spelman campus that weekend Dr. King’s body was in state in the college’s Sisters Chapel. I stood in line to pay my respects to the great man. Here’s briefly what I wrote about seeing him at the Chapel.

Martin Luther King Sisters Chapel, Spelman Campus April 7, 1968

The line moved in unison up the stairs and through the chapel door. No one spoke.

I could barely lift my feet. It was April, the onset of Spring. I was shivering. His body was still. His eyes were closed. He was peaceful. His compassionate voice was no more.

I wanted to run.

Yet, so desperately did not want to leave. What now? I thought. What now?

That week, I then also drove for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee

When I came back to the United States, in the latter part of 1972, I knew I needed to learn about what had been happening in the United States since I had been away. I also knew if I was to learn anything about what had been happening in Atlanta and the United States overall it was by attending the services at Ebenezer Baptist Church. That is precisely what I did. I sat in the balcony of Ebenezer Baptist Church for four weeks where I listened and learned. Rev. Joseph Roberts was the pastor at the time and I then joined the Ebenezer Church and its choir –often as the only white person in the choir group.

board members, and local and national civil rights leaders, about the efforts around the country to celebrate the first King holiday and what we would do in Atlanta. Frequent visitors were, of course, civil rights legendary leaders such as John Lewis, Andrew Young, Bernard Lafayette, Joseph Lowery and James Orange, to name a few. One of our frequent visitors was also Walter Fauntroy, who was the delegate to the US House of Representatives from the District of Columbia’s at-large district. Many of them were always coming and going consistently to the center regardless of holiday preparations, but to say this was an exciting time is putting it mildly.

When the King holiday was first celebrated in 1986, and as part of the King week celebration, Mrs. King asked me to organize an ‘International AntiApartheid Conference’ to be held at the King family’s Church, Ebenezer Baptist, located next to the King Center. I did precisely that and it was a powerful event with countless anti-apartheid national activists in the country attending and speaking. You could just feel the excitement in the air both about the King holiday itself, in addition to this representation of the important collaboration of the international movement for justice.

Working for Coretta Scott King at the Center

Starting in 1984, I was fortunate to work for Coretta Scott King at the “Martin Luther, Jr. King Center for Nonviolent Social Change” in Atlanta, first as a researcher and then as the director of the Non-Violent Program. There were countless memorable experiences for me while working for Mrs. King.

In the mid-1980s, then, I was attending many meetings with Mrs. King, along with other staff members, King Center

Importance of the King Center, Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Auburn Avenue Area Overall: Much of the history the US Civil Rights Movement is centered on Auburn Avenue

For those of you not in Atlanta, I want to share something about the King Center and the surrounding neighborhood. This is also relevant to understanding the role and importance of Senator Raphael Warnock, who is now, and importantly, both the US

Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. The original Ebenezer Baptist Church on Auburn Avenue
Continued on page 24 Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2023 23

Continued from page 23

Senator and the preacher of the new Ebenezer Church, also on Auburn Avenue.

The King Center is located on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta close to downtown Atlanta in what is one of the major historic Black communities in the city. Much of the area is now, appropriately, a National Park. Mrs. King, in fact, created the “Martin Luther, Jr. King Center for Nonviolent Social Change” in 1968 in the basement of her home in Atlanta, the year Dr. King was assassinated. Her home on Sunset Avenue was close to the Atlanta University Center and some distance from Auburn Avenue. In 1981, Mrs. King moved the King Center to its present location on Auburn Avenue.

Subsequently, in 2000, Ebenezer Baptist Church was designated as a National Historic Site and, in 1999, a new Ebenezer Baptist Church had been built across the street which is where Senator Raphael Warnock now serves as pastor.

The Auburn Avenue area also includes residential housing, shops, music clubs, restaurants, and other major churches, such as Big Bethel AME Church and Wheat Street Baptist Church, etc.

Martin Luther, Jr. King Center for Nonviolent Social Change

A block away from the King Center, on the same side of the street, is Dr. King’s birth home built in 1895 and pictured below.

The new Ebenezer Baptist Church

More about the National Significance of the Auburn Avenue Area

Further down Auburn Avenue from the King Center was the headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Created in 1957, SCLC served as the activist arm of King’s civil rights advocacy.

Dr. King was raised in this vibrant neighborhood and when he died, he was brought back home. His tomb is located on the King Center grounds next to Ebenezer Baptist and surrounded by what is referred to as the reflecting pool. It is one of the most visited tourist sites in America. The tomb of Mrs. King, who died in 2006, is now next to her husband.

gentleman’s mind and I’ve asked some friends for ideas of a metaphor of sorts to describe this devotional expression. Invariably and not surprisingly the response is that he wanted to take this opportunity to honor and thank Dr. King for his leadership, his sacrifice, his transformative service to those in need and those seeking justice in Atlanta, the United States and the world. I’ve also wondered, did he grow up with Dr. King in the Auburn Avenue area? Was he acknowledging a longtime friendship? I don’t know.

I have thought also that this gentleman wanted some time alone with Dr. King and to communicate in whatever way was possible with the spirit of the great man and to honor him.

Tomb of Martin Luther King, Jr. at the King Center

My office at the King Center was located in the back of the building so when I sat at my desk I could look out directly at Dr. King’s tomb and would often see throngs of people visiting the site.

One cold January day in the 1980s, when there was snow and ice on the ground and virtually no cars or individuals on the streets or sidewalks, I went into work anyway. Hardly anyone else was at the King Center that day.

Dr. King’s Birth Home

Also, next to the King Center itself is the renowned Ebenezer Baptist Church that was the King family church. The church was created in 1886.

In 1931, Dr. King’s father, Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr., became the pastor of Ebenezer and Martin Luther King, Jr. served as co-pastor at Ebenezer with his father from 1960 until his death in 1968.

Mrs. King always told me that the role of the King Center was to train individuals in nonviolent social change and that the activist work was that of SCLC, where those trained in non-violence could be involved or inspired regarding additional work in the movement. To me, this was a wise designation of responsibilities.

As I sat at my desk, I looked outside yet again to view Dr. King’s tomb. No one was outside. Then suddenly an elderly black gentleman walks by my window and up the few steps to the reflecting pool and close to Dr. King’s tomb. He then kneels in front of the tomb with his head down, as in prayer. The image of him is still ingrained in my consciousness. It was such a beautiful gesture.

I’ve always wondered what was likely going through this

What was the impact on me in witnessing this beautiful moment? To me this singular gesture of humility suggests what I, and many others, have likely thought and felt about Martin Luther King. Love was central to King. If he did not like what someone did or how oppressive they might be, he would say, “I love you, but I don’t like what you do.” Love is powerful and Dr. King, of course, knew it. So, even apart from his profound leadership, speeches and analysis of the problems faced in the world, he was and remains a spiritual force in taking a stand for and loving humanity and all of us as individuals and many of us, and likely the elderly gentleman as well, know and knew precisely that reality. It is likely, in return, that the elderly gentleman that day was expressing his love for Dr. King. Or whatever might have been the reason for his gesture, his humility has empowered me ever since and I respectfully revere Dr. King and the elderly gentleman who remains forever in my consciousness.

Mrs. King passed in 2006 and her tomb is now located

Dr. King outside SCLC on Auburn Avenue
Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2023 24

next to her husband at the King Center site

Given the huge civil rights local, national and international achievements thanks to the King family and all of the other institutions inspired by their work - many located on Auburn Avenue - we have been blessed that the Ebenezer Baptist pastor, Raphael Warnock, has represented Georgia and the nation in the United States Senate. The

Auburn Avenue area is symbolic of the world we should all seek for justice and respect for the other.

As Dr. King would say:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Letter from Birmingham, Alabama jail, April 16, 1963

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2023 25 Making transmissions well since 1983. Mail Box Express 4860 Chambers Rd. in Denver 303–375–1683 Business 303-375-1684 Fax #1 in Customer Service Proudly serving the community since 1995 ~Deborah and Oliver Sanders~ Open: Monday-Friday 9 AM to 6 PM Saturday 10 AM to 2 PM •UPS Drop Off •Domestic and International Shipping •USPS Mailing Services •Truck Rentals - Local and One-Way •Faxing - Local and Long Distance •International Sending and Receiving •Computer Time Rental and Scanning Laminating Copies Keys Made Business Cards Postcards Notary Service Binding Service Mailbox Rental Mail Forward

Shakti Butler, Ph.D. 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.

As an inspirational speaker, skilled facilitator, and engaging trainer, Shakti is sought after by schools, universities, public and private organizations, and faith-based institutions. 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.

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.

The two main components of the professorship are the Campus and Community events. The community event traditionally occurs at Shorter Community AME Church, where Professor Rachel Noel worshiped, and her stained glass portrait is displayed. In addition to the Keynote address, the community event program includes the Hope for the Future Awards and the awarding of Rachel B. Noel scholarships.

Hope for the Future Award nominations are open online until January 28.

Schedule of Events

Tuesday, March 7 11:00 a.m. Film Screenings Tivoli Turnhalle 900 Auraria Parkway Denver, CO 80204

Wednesday, March 8 9:30 a.m. Storytelling in Our Community 11:00 a.m. Campus Keynote with Dr. Butler 12:30 p.m. Lunch and Noel Film Screening 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

MSUDENVER.EDU/NOEL Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2023 26

A New Era for CAAH

After 25 years of serving our beloved community, the Center for African American Health is excited to continue our next phase of growth in 2023!

In 2022, our Board of Directors created our new mission statement: To empower the Black community to make informed health decisions that benefit the whole person through education, collaboration, and advocacy. We also created a new strategic plan to guide our work for the next five years.

As we work to provide a safe place for culturally-responsive health and wellness services and resources, during the summer of 2023 we will be renovating our 3350 Hudson Street facility and adding exciting new programming to better serve metro-Denver’s Black community. We have been busy planning the creation of inviting spaces that will foster the growth and development of services available to our community and provide rental opportunities for nonprofits offering complementary services. Some of our planned improvements:

•A demonstration kitchen with the technology to facilitate virtual cooking sessions for our classes and that will be available for community to reserve.

•An outdoor garden.

•A dedicated clinic space in which our healthcare partners can provide health screenings, testing and other services.

•Community meeting rooms, classroooms and event space.

These spaces are designed to make the Center for African American Health faclility a wel-

coming community hub that offers a variety of services, supports and resources.

In addition to our health classes and parenting programs we continue to offer essential resources and services to support mental health and self care. We are here to support you and your mental wellbeing. Sometimes having a therapist who looks like you can play a big role in your healing process. Whether you have experienced a traumatic

event, or you just need to talk to someone, CAA Health continues to partner with the Therapists of Color Collaborative to offer therapy sessions (up to 18 sessions for individuals and 15 for families). For more information on how you can access this resource or learn about our Self Care Saturdays, please contact, Simone Washington at or call (303) 355-3423.

Our new perinatal health programming serves expecting and new parents. Although an exciting time, it can be difficult to navigate pregnancy and parenthood, but please know you are not alone. Birth Squad is a peer support group for new and expecting parents of Black/African American/ Latino/a descent to share experiences and find solidarity. You can join this group virtually or in-person right here at

CAA Health. You can also find a similar group of people interested in dancing and staying fit with Moms Who Zumba, a fun and healthy way to connect with other new and expecting parents. We offer childcare, snacks, and refreshments at each of our Zumba classes once a month on Saturdays. For more information about our perinatal health offerings, please contact Destiny Giles at or call (303) 3553423.

In a partnership with 1st Bank, our newest initiative is financial education. CAA Health is here to support you in navigating and managing your financial health so that you can positively impact your mental

health with feelings of security and stability. This program offers workshops on topics like budgeting, saving for a house, paying off debt, and how to start a business. This program is be free and open for anyone to attend whether it’s for one session or the entire program. For more information or to register, please contact Johnn Young at or call (303) 355-3423.

The year 2023 rings in a new era for the Center for African American Health as we begin our next 25 years. We are grateful for the many partners, supporters and community members that allow us to serve the health and wellness of Denver’s Black community. We are here to support you, your friends, family and neighbors. We hope to see you soon!.




On December 10, 2022 eight members of the Montbello community gathered in front of family, friends and community representatives to present business plans for their new business initiatives and receive cer-

tificates for completing the 12week Building Wealth From Within (BWFW) program. The second class of graduates from the Montbello Organizing Committee’s (MOC) BWFW program was comprised largely

of African Americans; the first cohort, which completed the program in July, was focused on Spanish speakers. The goal of BWFW is to provide training and resources to Montbello residents to further business employment and ownership opportunities, combat gentrification and create pathways to sustain generational wealth.

The December graduates were diverse in their business aspirations and plans for the future, but each presented ideas that addressed community needs and encompassed their unique skills and passions. The graduates and their business ideas included:

Bushenga AaronAli: B Peace Productions, an arts activation mindfulness co-op that provides peaceful experiences created through authentic expression of arts.

Margaret Casarez: The Fish and Maggie grocery store will offer affordable groceries and reduce waste by selling items that are serviceable but might otherwise be thrown away due to packaging blemishes such as dented cans or ripped plastic.

Malebo Marutle: Soul Maximum, wellness services provided by a licensed therapist including massage and bodywork, life coaching and listening sessions.

Ron Taylor: Pleasant Gift Shop, designed to bring joy by offering unique gifts and event planning supplies.

Veronica Tinoco: AV Green Remediation provides affordable and chemical-free mold remediation to improve health.

Pamela Toney: Jaxsen’s Honey offering completely natural, plant-based and sustainable candles and body care products.

April Trimble: The Babysitter Ltd. provides professional and caring childcare on a flexible schedule.

Andrea Williams: L&G’s Soul Food offers delicious and authentic soul food crafted from recipes created by generations of expert cooks.

Following the presentation of business plans and graduation certificates, attendees visited with the graduates to learn more about their fledgling businesses. Pamela Toney explained that she created Jaxen’s Honey

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Building Wealth from Within Graduates
Business Ideas Second cohort focused on African American entrepreneurs Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2023 28 Graduates and instructors group
Bushenga AaronAli discusses business with community Malebo Marutle presents business plan

after learning about the toxins in many home and personal care products while working in the health care field and through her own diagnosis with breast cancer and her son’s experience with eczema. Ron Taylor spoke about wanting to revitalize the joy and personal connection that comes from gift giving. Bushenga AaronAli shared his journey that led him to create B Peace and how he will be “paying it forward” next summer through scholarships for eight to ten youth from Far Northeast Denver to attend Peace Roots, an arts activator music intensive to explore arts advocacy within authentic expression. Veronica and Antonio Tinoco expressed their desire to help their neighbors by providing affordable mold remediation services to improve the health of their home and work spaces. In addition to talking with the graduates, attendees were treated to a delicious lunch including food from three businesses that were part of the first BWFW graduating class –Americakes, El Sabor Catracho and Lupita’s Food Delivery.

MOC plans to expand the BWFW program with the help of a Neighborhood Builders® grant recently received from Bank of America and funding from the national Building Wealth From Within Alliance. MOC recently appointed two new staff members to head BWFW. Kwon Atlas, a former Senior Advisor on CommunityBased Initiatives and Special

Projects for Mayor Hancock and the chief editor of the Five Points Atlas, will serve as the Program Director and Leonardo Lopez, a financial planner and recent graduate of Metropolitan State University, as the Program Manager. The next session of Montbello’s BWFW program will begin in February. To register or for more information, visit .

Rev. Dr. James E. Fouther, Jr., Pastor 4879 Crown Blvd., Denver, CO 80239 303-373-0070 Lost Your Joy? Sunday Worship: 8:00am (Traditional) and 10:30am (Gospel) Find it again at the United Church of Montbello! Come as you are and get connected to your best self through great fellowship and the love of Jesus Christ!
— – January 2023 29
Denver Urban Spectrum Ron Taylor shows off certificate and business plan Pamela Toney presents business plan
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