Denver Urban Spectrum January 2021 - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and African American Heritage Rodeo

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Valeria Howard-Cunningham Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo Producer & CEO

The Greatest Show on Dirt Returns with the

MLK Jr. Rodeo of Champions...4

MESSAGE FROM THE PUBLISHER Honoring the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Volume 35

Number 10

January 2022

PUBLISHER Rosalind J. Harris GENERAL MANAGER Lawrence A. James EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Alfonzo Porter COPY EDITOR Tanya Ishikawa COLUMNISTS Barry Overton CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Angelia D. McGowan Thomas Holt Russell

This month we enter a new year and like years past, we celebrate and honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesman and leader in the American civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. King advanced civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, inspired by his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi. He was the son of early civil rights activist and minister Martin Luther King Sr. MLK Jr. participated in and led marches for Blacks' right to vote, desegregation, labor rights, and other basic civil rights. He led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and later became the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)…King helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. (Source: Wikipedia) This January, the famous “I Have a Dream Speech” will be heard at breakfasts, luncheons and dinners around the country in King’s honor. Spoken for the first time almost six decades ago, his words still resonate in the hearts and minds of so many people. Our cover story features another person with King-like aspirations: Valeria Cunningham-Howard, producer and CEO of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo. She and her late husband, Lu Vason, had a dream and she continues to live it. Read how this African American woman is continuing a visionary’s journey and helping Black cowboys and cowgirls pursue their dreams through the spirit of Dr. King, not just in January but all year long. Have a happy and prosperous New Year!

COLAB Tanya Ishikawa - Story Coordinator

Rosalind J. Harris Publisher

ART DIRECTOR Bee Harris ADVERTISING & DIGITAL MARKETING Theresa Ho GRAPHIC DESIGNER Jody Gilbert - Kolor Graphix PHOTOGRAPHERS Lens of Ansar Bernard Grant SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER Theresa Ho DISTRIBUTION Ed Lynch Lawrence A. James - Manager

Member The Denver Urban Spectrum is a monthly publication dedicated to spreading the news about people of color. Contents of the Denver Urban Spectrum are copyright 2022 by Bizzy Bee Enterprise. No portion may be reproduced without written permission of the publisher. The Denver Urban Spectrum circulates 25,000 copies throughout Colorado. The Denver Urban Spectrum welcomes all letters, but reserves the right to edit for space, libelous material, grammar, and length. All letters must include name, address, and phone number. We will withhold author’s name on request. Unsolicited articles are accepted without guarantee of publication or payment. Write to the Denver Urban Spectrum at P.O. Box 31001, Aurora, CO 80041. For advertising, subscriptions, or other information, call 303-292-6446 or fax 303292-6543 or visit the Web site at

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR ceedings in such a way as to force the prosecution to focus its attempt to prosecute Rittenhouse on the short video showing the defendant being chased and attacked by the socalled mob. The jury was not allowed to view or hear any evidence that precipitated the chase; evidence that might have shown Rittenhouse to be a homicidal monster. The message here is clear: those who hold reins of power, don’t necessarily care about truth and justice.... those things are features of a democratic democracy – we live in a republic. What matters is the status quo be maintained at all costs. Divide and rule; even if that means freeing a killer, or in the Simpson case, making an innocent man appeared to be one.

America Has Not Moved Far Editor: What does the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict say about America? Well, in my view it indicates America has not moved far from its founding. America was founded by a group of white Aristocrats. Even though a constitution resulted, the intent of these men was to found a society in which the bulk of wealth and political power would remain in the hands of a few. In this type of society, the people must be constantly divided against themselves and these – for control. So the people are divided along the lines of race, class, gender, religion and so on… Emotion is manipulated by those few who own mass media, to fire up the masses, especially in racial matters. We saw this tactic used in the O.J. Simpson trial and the outcome of the trial only served to further divide the people. In the Simpson case, the defense had to agree that some evidence would be suppressed. The same thing happened in the Rittenhouse case. The judge in the latter case steered the pro-

Antonius Aurora, CO

Justice Served in Ahmaud Arbery Murder Trial Editor: The Sam Cary Bar Association, representing African American attorneys in Colorado, applauds the guilty verdicts reached in the murder trial of the three men who chased and killed Ahmaud

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


Arbery, without provocation, in a South Georgia neighborhood where Mr. Arbery was jogging. Indeed, we are relieved that justice was done in this case, but in light of the countless cases in which white people have either not been charged or were acquitted after the murder of unarmed Black men and women in this country, the guilty verdicts in the Arbery trial seem like exceptions to the “rule.” Certainly, as Black lawyers’ intent on reforming our often biased criminal justice system, we are heartened that the citizens arrest defense in the Arbery case did not prevail. However, we will not be letting our guard down any time soon, especially when we consider the injustices that preceded the ultimate outcome in this case. Let us not forget that even though Mr. Arbery was killed in February of 2020, the three white pursuers were not charged until many weeks later—after the Brunswick County, Georgia District Attorney had initially decided not to file charges, and after Defendant Wiliam Bryan’s Continued on page 21

Valeria Howard-Cunningham BPIR Producer & CEO

Grand Marshals: (LtoR): Name unknown, Jamie Foxx, Reginald T. Dorsey, Obba Babatunede and James Pickens, Jr. Photo by Ed Miller

Photo by Cyril Bailleul

Black Cowboys and Cowgirls Living the Dream By Angelia D. McGowan This reunion would not exist on the national level without the vision of the late Lu Vason, a longtime entertainment promoter in the Denver community and the founder of BPIR. In 1977, during Wyoming’s Cheyenne Frontier Days, Vason’s interest turned toward rodeo when he noted the absence of Black cowboys and cowgirls participating that day. Over the next couple of years, he conducted research and found thousands of Black cowboys and cowgirls across the United States lacking the opportunity to showcase their talents. In 1984 and against the odds, he created the all-Black rodeo association named after Bill Pickett, the legendary Black cowboy who originated the rodeo event called “bull dogging.” Pickett was the first African American inducted into the National Rodeo Hall of Fame and is credited with helping to

“I don’t want to watch it. I want to do it,” Aleeyah Roberts recalls saying to her parents when they took her to watch her first rodeo at the age of four in Colorado Springs. A few years later she had her own horse and was regularly competing in rodeos. She was indeed doing it. Though she wasn’t the only female competing in rodeos through the years, she was often the only African American participating. Today, the 20-year-old college student is a champion cowgirl in the only African American rodeo that tours the country from coast to coast, as well as other rodeos.

She recently won the ladies barrel racing championship at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo (BPIR) Showdown in Vegas. “Doing regular rodeo is a lot of fun, but the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo is a Blackinspired rodeo,” says Roberts, who thinks of it as a family reunion on horseback.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


bridge the racial divide at the end of the Civil War in 1865. “I was so impressed he didn’t let anybody talk him out of doing the rodeo,” says his widow Valeria HowardCunningham about the naysayers in those early days. “They tried and they were very negative.” Vason was determined that the story of Black cowboys and cowgirls needed to be told. For more than 30 years he blazed a trail, telling their stories while featuring the best rodeo competitors in the country in various disciplines including bull riding, bull dogging, bareback riding, ladies barrel racing, and ladies steer undecorating and tie down roping. When he became ill, he told his wife that they would have to give it up unless she wanted to take the reins. After his passing in 2015, she stepped up to keep his legacy alive.

A retired insurance executive, Howard-Cunningham is the only African American woman owner and promoter of a touring rodeo circuit in the world. She understands her unique position. “Women in the rodeo business know if you want to succeed you have to develop a very strong backbone. Rodeo is a man’s world and we all know that,” she says. “When you add being a Black woman on top of that, it has additional challenges and opportunities. You have to stop to do a proper assessment to see how to overcome them.” From COVID Cancellations to First-Time Television Broadcasts When she took on this new role, she followed her own advice and started developing a strategic plan to keep the rodeo evolving for generations to come. She stayed focused on the vision even when the pandemic hit. Like many major organizations, BPIR cancelled its 2020 and 2021 season tours in the hopes of protecting its staff, audiences and partners. Fortunately, she ensured the rodeo audience was entertained with virtual rodeos and educational components. “We didn’t just go to sleep and stop thinking about” the rodeo, she says. In fact, she positioned the rodeo for a couple of historical milestones. The BPIR aired for the first time on television on June 19, 2021— Juneteenth. She cherishes the blessing of having the first African American touring rodeo televised in American history, the same year that United States President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth bill, making it a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. The show was taped in Las Vegas a week earlier, with footage of the top contenders making it to the CBS broadcast. The national broadcast was part of a partnership, announced in February 2021, between the

Professional Bull Riders (PBR) and the BPIR in which the two organizations work together to create new events and opportunities for the largest and longestrunning rodeo celebrating Black cowboys. Under the partnership, PBR, the world’s leading bull-riding organization, will co-produce and co-market some BPIR events alongside competition in PBR’s top two U.S. tours in select markets.

Additionally, working with the World Champions Rodeo Alliance, BPIR will create new special qualification opportunities for Black rodeo athletes at World Champions Rodeo Alliance events including its new Women’s Rodeo World Championship. Howard-Cunningham notes that there were Black rodeos prior to BPIR but they were smaller rodeos with no national stage. “The Bill Pickett

Invitational Rodeo creates opportunities that you may not get somewhere else. Our work is not over. We need to transition to the next level with other rodeos with larger pots of money,” she stresses, while noting that the hard work that comes with progress is worth it. “I can see the good and celebration for the Black cowboys and cowgirls that will come at the end.” Continued on page 6

OLETA ADAMS Friday, February 18 at 8pm Since the success of her 1990 debut album Circle of One (which went Platinum), and the hit single “Get Here,” Oleta Adams takes listeners on journeys of the heart via songs that draw deeply from her roots in gospel, while crossing effortlessly into the realms of soul, R&B, urban, and popular music. In 2019, Oleta was inducted into the American Jazz Walk of Fame at the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, MO, and in 2017, Oleta was the honoree of the Legends Award at the televised Black Music Honors, acknowledging her influence and significant music contributions to African American culture and American music worldwide. Tickets: $30-$50



Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


Black Cowboys and Cowgirls Continued from page 5 When making the announcement about the partnership, PBR Commissioner and CEO Sean Gleason said, “We are thrilled to partner with the largest and longest-running touring African American rodeo celebrating Black cowboys and cowgirls and their contributions to the American West. PBR will help produce and promote these essential rodeos, helping to keep important and underappreciated Black cowboy traditions alive, developing the next generation of champion cowboys, and bringing the sport of rodeo to a new generation of fans.” Emmy-award winning actor, director and producer Glynn Turman said of the partnership, “I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear about this alliance – having served as Grand Marshal of the BPIR for 35 years as well as being a big fan of the PBR. It is with great anticipation that I look forward to seeing this ‘greatest show on dirt’ presented over the airwaves and streamed into people’s homes.” Howard-Cunningham is also excited about the partnership and believes it will assist in elevating the opportunities for Black cowboys and cowgirls. She understands that everyone needs someone to help them get to the next level. Such exposure was a long time coming, but it was great to witness for those who have been with the rodeo since day one. “It was an excellent show,” says Maurice Wade, a tie-down calf-roping champion, who was one of the gentlemen that Vason consulted when researching the idea of a Black rodeo. He’s been along for the ride ever since. The 73-year-old

Grand Marshals: Glynn Turman, special guest Fred Whitfield, Obba Babatunede, James Pickens, Jr. and Reginald T. Dorsey Photo by Ed Miller

Vietnam War veteran and former U.S. civil servant turned to rodeo as a therapeutic way to address his post-traumatic stress disorder following the war. He also immersed himself in the rodeo lifestyle to fulfill his childhood dream of being a cowboy, which is not cheap. When Wade was a kid he learned about cowboys from watching Westerns and from

the road, and compete for award money,” according to Wade, who counts BPIR as his first competition. “It’s much different than the NBA and NFL with corporate sponsors and billion-dollar stadiums.” “It is an expensive sport to be in,” shares HowardCunningham, pointing out that participants must pay for their own horses, trailers, hay, and gas to travel. She is in awe of the competitors because “you have to be passionate and committed to be a cowboy or cowgirl.” Roberts offers, “People may not be financially set up to own horses, but they can at least support.” She adds that young people that she meets during the tour often want to know if being a cowgirl is hard. For her, “It’s not a yes or no answer. Sometimes it’s hard, but I like a challenge. It motivates me to be stronger.” Roberts is also passing on that mentality to her 14-year-old sister, Savannah, who was the 2019 BPIR Ladies Barrel Racing Champion. She is proud to see her “carving her own path. I see her coming out and challenging herself. It’s awesome.”

visiting his grandfather’s farm in Mississippi. “In this sport, we pay our own way to get down

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


Educating while Promoting a First-Class African American Rodeo Tour The vision of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo is to continue to educate everyone about Black Western heritage and the significance of Black cowboys and cowgirls, BPIR will continue to provide a cost-effective family entertainment event that is educational, fun, and safe while continuing to entertain all ages and nationalities. Every effort is put in place to make the BPIR a family-friendly event. A special moment that many look forward to is the crowd coming together to sing the Negro National Anthem. “We watch what kind of music is being played and what words are being shared. We create a safe environment for our community and our contestants. People are not wondering what their children are going to be exposed to. When they leave our rodeo, they take with them a sense of pride,” says Howard-Cunningham. She and her husband, Ronald Cunningham, who operates his own nonprofit for youth, have a shared passion for the youth. They believe it is

Valeria Howard-Cunningham, BPIR Producer & CEO

2021-2022 NEWMAN CENTER PRESENTS Dance Theatre of Harlem Jan 14 and 15

Celebrate the Live Performing Arts! Compaigne Hervé Koubi Jan 29 very important to “embrace youth and assist in all aspects of life.” As a result of that passion, she says at the rodeo, “We embrace young people and make them feel safe and protected. We try to create an environment where they don’t have to worry about racial discrimination and mentorship. We love lifting them up and guiding them.” “We have young and old African Americans who still want to experience the rodeo. Everybody wants to be a part of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo. Our rodeo family reaches all over the country and for that we are very proud and thankful. People come by the bus loads and it is quite something to see, which is why we try to create an experience that they will never forget.” “Lu Vason united cowboys all over the country,” adds Wade. “This awakened a lot of people. No one would ever realize this had we not had a traveling rodeo.”

Next year’s tour has lots of new programming on tap, including new cities. In 2022, BPIR is offering a dual path to reach the BPIR National Finals with a Texas Connection Series and a BPIR Legacy Series. To kick off the year, the MLK Jr. African American Heritage Rodeo of Champions at the National Western Stock Show is slated for January 17, 2022. Launched in 2006 during the stock show’s 100th anniversary, the event has amassed a loyal following. HowardCunningham says, “We were not sure what kind of community support we would get when we decided to do the MLK Rodeo in Denver, but the community came out to support. No matter where we go or what city we are in, that’s the reaction of the community. They feel like the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo is something that belongs to them. It’s not compromised. It’s theirs.”. Editor’s note: For more information about the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, visit

Joey Alexander Feb 2 Nashville Ballet with Rhiannon Giddens Mar 29 and 30 Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis Feb 19 and 20


Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


The Colorado Women’s

Chamber of Commerce (CWCC) announced last month the appointment of Simone D. Ross as its new president and chief executive officer, and executive director of the Colorado Women’s Chamber Foundation. Ross has served as interim CEO since August, during which an extensive national search was conducted. The CWCC Board of Directors unanimously selected Ross for the role; she will be the first Black woman CEO of the organization. A proven executive leader with unique and diverse experience in entrepreneurship, startups, sales, and within large corporations, Ross is expertly positioned to advance the CWCC’s mission to support and empower all women in business. “Simone is a skilled leader who possesses the rare combination of passion, connections, and operational excellence. She is exactly the right choice to lead this organization into the future with a focus on making CWCC an inclusive advocate for women in business across the state,” said CWCC Board Chair and CEO of Girl Scouts of Colorado, Leanna Clark. Ross is a Denver native who brings extensive insight and perspective on integrating equity into the workplace and has a unique focus on operationalizing equity and inclusivity.

Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce Announces New Leader Appointment of

Simone D. Ross “I look forward to growing this community of talented and successful women in business and allies,” said Ross. “As women continue to navigate the lasting impacts of the pandemic and experience inequities, it is essential we work harder than ever to ensure women at all intersections are promoted, supported, and empowered to continue to break barriers to reach the highest levels of success.” According to the latest McKinsey & Company report on Women in the Workplace, women have left the workforce in record numbers in the past 18 months and are experiencing burnout levels at much higher rates than men. The report also notes that women of color continue to be dramatically underrepresented at high levels. In an effort to catalyze change and elevate opportuni-

ties for women and people of color, Ross founded Simone D. Ross, LLC, a consulting firm, in 2018 with the vision of catalyzing human thriving. In addition, she uses her more than 16 years of corporate experience to bring voice to the importance of creating equity within business enterprises and creating a sustainable community rooted in equity. Ross holds a Master of Arts and master of business administration from Colorado State University. She has been recognized by the Denver Business Journal as an Outstanding Woman in Business and “40 Under 40” young business leader; the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce as one of the Top 25 Most Powerful Women; the Association for

Corporate Growth as a David Sloan business scholar; and was recognized by the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce as a community service champion. She is a graduate of the Denver Metro Chamber Foundation’s Leadership Denver program, the Colorado State Chamber of Commerce CACI Executive Leadership Program, and is an Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado Chamber Connect alumnus. She currently serves on the board of directors for Girls, Inc. and Centura Parker Adventist Hospital with past experience with the Aurora Public Schools Foundation Board of Directors. Ross is a trusted thought leader, international speaker, and facilitator, business executive, and community servant with an unbridled passion for operational development and workforce equity, the Colorado business community, and the advancement of women in work.. Editor’s note: CWCC is one of the largest women’s chambers in the US and has achieved vast market recognition as a thought leader and influencer for the advancement of women in work. To become a member or learn more, visit The Colorado Women’s Chamber Foundation is the 501(c) 3 organization and part of the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce. Learn more and get involved at

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Share the Excitement In-Person! and Honor Our

Denver Center for the Performing Arts Seawell Ballroom

March 30, 2022, 5:30pm - 9pm Located in the Helen Bonfils Theater Complex

1350 Arapahoe St. Denver, CO 80204 Tickets to be Announced Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


‘It makes me feel like I’m in a family here’ Women’s Refugee group creates connections By Amanda Horvath and Alexis Kikoen, Rocky Mountain PBS Syria, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lebanon … all countries represented in a small circle of about 30 women on a quiet November morning.

program women, they want to talk,” explained Bakhos. “Women want to meet, and then they want to talk, and then want to have fun.” Meditation time


et’s take two minutes to meditate,” said Mireille Bakhos, the leader of this women’s group. So they sat in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes before they started the day’s main activity: riding bikes around Central Park in Denver. Both of these things meant to be tools for these women as they make a home in their new country. Bakhos works for the International Rescue Committee in Denver. It is a nonprofit that supports refugees, asylum seekers, and Special Immigration Visa (SIV) holders. It helps resettle people who are fleeing their home countries due to war, disasters or persecution. “We always try to be very responsive to what the clients need, right? If people need something and like, we cannot assume what people need and just give them what we think they need. So we noticed a lot of isolation. We noticed that when we’re doing any kind of

In 2018 Bakhos started this group called “We Can Do It!” The program has served 55 women from 12 different countries and aims to create a safe environment for women to connect with others, rebuild communities they lost with displacement, and give them tools and mediums to process their traumas. “Because often we feel, like, very lonely and very heavy with our story. And we don’t know what other people would think if we share it,” said Bakhos. “But then when we start hearing other people talking about their stories, we feel like, ‘Oh, I’m not alone in this, and I can share my story and put it out there for the group and for the world to, you know, carry it with me.” This program runs once a year for about five or six months, meeting for three hours, once a week. Each year the program has looked different. During the first year, the group learned different artistic

Appreciation time

skills like candle making, painting and pottery. The second year, they did more expressive art like photography, theater, dancing and singing. Last year was a little complicated with the pandemic, and this year is all about the outdoors: hiking, biking, snowshoeing and ice skating are all in the plan. “We wanted to give the women this opportunity to also discover this side of Colorado, but also because wilderness is huge with the impact it has on people and their wellbeing,” said Bakhos. That is the main thing each year’s program has in common: to give women the ability and space to work on their mental and emotional health. “We use those tools to give people mediums and ways to, like, relax, be creative, be mindful, connect with other people, forget about all the stress that’s happening outside,” Bakhos explained. “And we try to help them add to their toolbox of wellbeing.” With every meeting there is a moment of meditation and a number of volunteers and interpreters help translate the introductions of the meeting. Not wanting language to be a barrier, Bakhos made sure this group felt welcoming and inclusive. “So we created this women’s group where we all come from different backgrounds and have different stories, but we feel safe to share their stories, our stories, to feel less lonely in them,” said Bakhos.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


She knows first-hand the difficulties of moving your entire life to a new country. Originally from Lebanon, she left in 2004 for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Then she moved to Colorado in 2010 where her family was already settled. While she’s not a refugee, Bakhos understands some of the cycle of emotions. “Like you’re walking and, like, maybe a small smell or like a sound or a song, or a face will bring you back to your homeland and brings all those emotions in you,” Bakhos described. Having these experiences and connections in the We Can Do It! program can help each of these women deal with those emotions. Plus for some women at this meeting, just riding a bike can be a freeing and empowering experience. For example, Afghan women may not have ever ridden a bike or been allowed to as an adult. Once a woman comes of age, they’re not allowed to ride bikes in that country. During the meeting on Thursday, November 18, some women asked their friends in the group to take a picture or video of them riding to send to their families since it was such a significant moment. “The women are taking their bikes home, which is great because we’re hoping that the bikes will bring joy, of course, but also independency. So you don’t wait, you know, for someone to take you to the grocery store, you just can bike there,” said Bakhos. “And then you bike, you have all those good hormones, you feel good in your body and your mind.” That independence part is key. As many women have come from countries where traditionally men go out to work and women take care of the home, many are isolated when they first arrive in the United States. “Isolation can lead to a lot of mental health challenges,” said Bakhos. “If you’re isolated and

Riding Bikes: A day’s main activity

not growing, you just stay where you are. And such new experiences always help women feel that they’re growing, they’re learning new skills, and it’s very empowering to be in this zone of trying and discovering.” That’s a big reason why this is a women-only group. It is a space where they can learn more English, learn their rights to an interpreter, and discover ways they can become more proactive in their lives here. As Bakhos puts it: “Women have more challenges. Displaced women have another added layer of challenge.” We Can Do It! also focuses on women because many feel more comfortable around other women, and volunteers can act as temporary babysitters as the women focus on bike-riding or just sharing stories. “Working with women from Afghanistan and Syria and Iraq and Congo and Belarus and all those countries, when you sit and listen and you just, like, open your heart and your mind, you feel like how a lot is common between women in the world and how empowering and how beautiful,” said Bakhos. “And [what] it is to like to help another woman and to also receive help from another woman and create this female energy.” That seems to be the highlight for the participants in the program as well — hearing stories from around the world that still connects them. “I can talk with the...another woman is not from Syria is

Afghanistan woman. I can listen in different language. I like it. I like to [hear] story from woman,” said Saba, a woman originally from Syria and active member of the group. “I like this program, it makes me feel like I’m in a family here and it helps us to learn something we didn’t know before,” Fatuma told Rocky Mountain PBS through an interpreter. “I like the program. It’s good. We’re all women and we are doing different things and we are learning things from each other, that’s what I like about it.” Dina also told Rocky Mountain PBS through an interpreter. Both Dina and Fatuma are from the Democratic Republic of Congo. All three women got on the bikes on Thursday to try their hand at riding. Many felt like they had a long way to go, but the smiles on their faces were undeniable. Bikes Together, a group that aims to give everyone the option of bicycling as transportation, donated the bikes for these women. Volunteers helped them get fitted for the right bike and others taught them to ride. Bakhos said she is so grateful for the community partners that make this program possible. “So I think this collaboration that we’re having in the program with other community partners are helping us and helping them and opening doors to more and more to build a bigger inclusive community in where we’re living in

the city,” said Bakhos. After the bike-riding on that particular Thursday, the group held a special Thanksgiving feast ahead of the holiday. It included a variety of food from all over the world, and the descriptions of the food were written out in several languages for all to understand. “We believe that the more inclusive we are, the richer we are in our experiences. And then we can always learn from each other,” said Bakhos. “It’s not always like, ‘Oh, let me teach you how to do this... it’s like, you tell me to tell me what you do back home because I’m curious to know and to learn as well.” Once the program wraps up, they have one final event to celebrate the women’s success. One year involved selling their craftwork, another included a showing documentary of the women and this year’s finale is still in planning but will be something in the spring and recognizing their strength. “The story is not full unless we say, and we share how strong, how resilient, how cre-

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


ative our, how whole, those refugees that .... we’re welcoming to the U.S. are because they’re carrying a lot of wisdom. They’re carrying a lot of experiences and because of what they went through, they’re more resilient,” explained Bakhos. It is no surprise that Bakhos titled her group with an exclamation point at the end. Her passion and energy fills you up, no matter which of the three languages she knows she’s speaking to you in. And she said her passion comes from the women around her in this group. “Just the fact of seeing people showing up every week for five and six months, year after year, it shows that it is important for them, that it is adding to their life. And that it’s only, you know, it’s three hours every week, but those three hours might give them energy and joy for the rest of the week,” said Bakhos. “The program brings me so much joy much meaning to my life.”.

The Webbs Pledge 10-year Athletic Scholarships for NJC Student Athletes By Tish Maes


ormer Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and former First Lady and elected official Wilma Webb announced they will give yearly scholarships for the next 10 years to one male and one female athlete at Northeastern Community College in Sterling, Colorado.

Webb Wellington played basketball at Northeastern Community College where he received All-Conference honors. The couple has supported students there for decades and want athletes to get financial help to complete their educations. Each student selected will receive $1,000, which totals $2,000 yearly. The endowment is for 10 years. The NJC Athletic Department coaches and director will select the final candidates and present to the Webb family. The Webb scholarship committee who will choose the recipients include son Anthony Webb, daughter Stephanie O’Malley, and grandson Allen Webb II. “We are very proud to have Mr. and Mrs. Webb’s support,” said Vivian L. R. Hadley NJC Foundation, Executive Director. “The NJC Men and Women Basketball Teams work hard to succeed on the court

and in the classroom and having strong leaders on their side is invaluable. Aiding a student financially helps them concentrate on academics and to know they have someone rooting for them to succeed through education can make the difference for student success.” Wellington Webb has fond memories of his time at NJC. “NJC gave me a second chance in life,” Webb recalled. “I can remember that day just like it was yesterday. I left my grandmother’s home in Denver after graduating from high school to share time between living with my dad in Chicago, and my aunt and uncle in Gary, Indiana. I have always been known to be ahead of my time, and I guess that “finding my true self time” is now called a “gap year.” It was only after I had said my Midwestern goodbyes that I had an epiphany to go to college, but I wasn’t sure where I would go.

“I was driving on the highway towards Denver, where after leaving Julesberg, the next stop was Sterling. As I came around a turn, I saw a sign that said, ‘Northeastern Junior College.’ I decided to pull off the highway and go onto the campus. I went to the Administration Building, and asked to see the basketball coach. The staff asked me to take a seat and 20 minutes later, Coach Roy Edwards came in and introduced himself. We went over to the gym and talked for about an hour and a half when Roy had me shoot some baskets. Then, Roy asked me to attend NJC. “I got back to Denver, and when I told my grandmother I was going to college, she was thrilled. My life had just changed forever,” he said. . Editor’s note: For more information on how to donate to NJC, visit

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DPP.ORG OR CALL 303-595-4DPP Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


2022 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Schedule of Events City of Denver 31st Anual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Awards Tuesday, January 11 at 7 PM Boettcher Concert Hall - 1000 14th St, Denver, CO 80202 Business Social Responsibility Luncheon Friday, January 14 at 11 AM Hilton Denver City Center – 1701 California St. 37th Annual MLK Marade Monday, January 17 8:30 AM (Gathering) at Denver City Park 10:30 AM (Step-Off) to Civic Center Editor’s note: This is a partial list of events and activities. For more information, call Vern Howard at 720-971-1329 or visit

City of Aurora 36th Annual MLK Commemoration Sunday, January 9 Interfaith Service – 4 p.m. Heritage Christian Center, 14401 E. Exposition Ave. Aurora, CO 80012 Pastor Marlon Saunders - Keynote Speaker Featuring Tarell Martin & C2 Mass Choir Hosted by Aurora Community of Faith Monday, January 10 Opening Ceremony – 10 a.m. Hosted by the City of Aurora - Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Virtual Event Prayer Vigil – 5:30 p.m. Hosted by Aurora Community of Faith, Virtual Event Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Proclamation Reading – 6:30 p.m., Read by Mayor Mike Coffman, City Council Meeting Tuesday, January 11 The Mountaintop by Katori Hall a Staged Reading – 7 p.m. Aurora Fox Arts Center, 9900 E Colfax Ave. Aurora, CO 80010 Featuring Cajardo Lindsay as Martin Luther King Jr. and Betty Hart as Camae Thursday, January 13 At the Table with Dr. King – 6 p.m. A multifaceted performance about the American Civil Rights movement through music, poetry and historical video footage. Hosted by Mizel Institute - Virtual Event Friday, January 14 Aurora Community of Faith Prayer Breakfast – 9 a.m. The People’s Building, 9995 E. Colfax Ave. Aurora, CO 80010 Mordecai Ian Brownlee, Ph.D. - President, Community College of Aurora - Keynote Speaker; Hosted by Aurora Mental Health Center & Aurora Community of Faith Saturday, January 15 MLK Jr. Youth Summit – 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Empower Community High School, 450 South Chambers Road Aurora, CO 80017 Hosted by NAACP Aurora & YAASPA

Monday, January 10 – Saturday, January 15 Week of Service City of Aurora staff and community partners serving nonprofit organizations through volunteerism and giving. Hosted by the City of Aurora - Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion & Human Resources Department Monday, January 17 Motorcade – 7 a.m. Meet at the Aurora Municipal Center to process to the wreath laying ceremony. Escort provided by Aurora Police Department. Capacity is limited. Wreath Laying Ceremony Honoring Dr. King – 8 a.m. MLK Jr. Library, 9898 E. Colfax Avenue Aurora, CO 80010 Sponsored by ReACT MLK Jr. Rodeo – 6 p.m. National Western Stock Show, Denver Coliseum 4655 Humboldt St., Denver, CO 80216 Sponsored by the City of Aurora - Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion & City of Aurora Human Relations Commission Monday, January 24 Dr. MLK Jr. Dedication Luncheon – 12 p.m. Community College of Aurora, 16000 E. CentreTech Pkwy Aurora, CO 80011 All-in person events take place in Aurora and are free unless otherwise noted. Events are subject to change. Please visit for the most updated information. Email or call 303-739-7699 with questions.

City of Boulder NAACP Boulder County Presents: Walk With Me, A First-of-itsKind Experience in Black Culture and History in Colorado Walk With Me celebrates Black culture with six weeklong event series from January 16 through February 27. Take a walk-through history with a never-before-seen series of events in Boulder County leading up to and during Black History month. Walk with Me includes an exhibition of historical photographs documenting the lives of African Americans across the South in the 1950’s and ‘60’s by prominent photojournalist Ernest Withers, a two-part Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, keynote addresses by Ernest Withers' daughter Rosalind Withers and Attorney Rodney K. Strong, a performance by the Grammy award-winning Fisk Jubilee Singers, and several live performances featuring harpist and violinist, Annastezhaa M and other local dancers, poets, and musicians. Sunday, January 16 at 1:30 PM MLK Day Celebration Part 1 – The Dream…Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow Dairy Arts Center - Boulder, CO NAACP Boulder County kicks off the Walk With Me events with speakers, singers, dancers, and a keynote address by Rosalind Withers, daughter of Ernest Withers. This Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration (part one) will take place in the Gordon Gamm Theater at the Dairy Arts Center. Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


Withers Walk With Me Photography Collection Exhibit Opening (January 16 – February 27) Dairy Arts Center, Boulder, CO Rosalind Withers will open the Walk With Me photo exhibit that will remain open to the public through February 27. NAACP Boulder County will host an opening reception for Walk With Me, an exhibition of over 100 historical photographs from the Withers Museum & Gallery in Memphis, TN. Ernest Withers is one of the foremost Black photographers documenting the lives of African Americans across the South in the 1950’s and ‘60’s in music, Civil Rights, sports and everyday life. Monday, January 17 at 10 AM to Noon MLK Day Celebration Part 2 - The Dream… Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow Silver Creek High School, Longmont, CO NAACP Boulder County’s Walk With Me series continues with speakers, singers, dancers, and a keynote address by Attorney Rodney K. Strong. Rodney is a celebrated innovator in minority business contracting. A champion of the Civil Rights Movement, he advises and collaborates with a host of civic leaders. He will speak on lessons learned and how we move forward with Civil Rights work today. Saturday, January 29, February 12, and February 19 from 3 to 6 PM Black Experiences in Art Dairy Arts Center, Boulder, CO For three consecutive Saturdays, the NAACP Boulder County will present live performances by local dancers, poets and musicians featuring harpist and violinist, Annastezhaa M. Docent led tours of the Withers Walk With Me photography exhibit will be offered as well. Sunday, February 27 at 2 PM Fisk Jubilee Singers Performance CU Macky Auditorium NAACP Boulder County’s Walk With Me programming will conclude with a performance by the nationally recognized Fisk Jubilee Singers. This is not an ordinary a cappella ensemble! The Grammy award-winning ensemble is credited with introducing and sustaining the tradition of the Negro spiritual to the world. The group began performing in 1871, touring America and Europe singing songs that were sacred to them --- and raising money to save their school, Fisk University, from financial ruin. One hundred and fifty years later, the Fisk Jubilee Singers continue to wow audiences with their extraordinary performances. The ensemble is composed of Fisk University students. This is the first time they will perform in Colorado. All events are FREE and OPEN to the public, registration is required. For full details, visit About NAACP Boulder County Chartered in 2017, the Boulder County Branch of the NAACP works with advocates and agencies throughout the county on issues that affect our greater community. Our mission is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.

Don’t Short Change Your House Make more money on the sale of your house with this innovative solution to home renovation

ovated home in the Denver Market often sells above even are those who were selling a the appraised value, versus a property that needed updating ny time a seller puts their home that is need of updating or repairs for the property to will usually sell well below the home on the market, the end receive top dollar. And unfortu- market value. goal is to get as much for their nately, those sellers didn’t have A better way for sellers to house as they possibly can. In a the funds to be able to rehab the sell their home has emerged. time when home values have property and make the proper One thing certain about the real increased anywhere from 16 to upgrades to it. There are many estate industry is, it is continusellers that have left tens of 20% in just the last year, it’s ously evolving, and in most cases to the benefit of buyers evident that most sellers make a thousands, and in some cases, hundreds of thousands of doland sellers. Part of the latest significant profit with the sale lars on the table because they evolution is a phenomenal plan of their property. didn’t have the financial means that allows for sellers to borrow The sellers that have been to invest in the renovation proj- money, against their home for hurt during this seller’s market ect for their property. A renthe repairs or updating needed on their property, to be able to get the very best price when selling. The seller does not have to pay the funds back until the property sells, at which time a check is cut to the renovation company that provides the funds for the rehab. Here’s an example of a recent project completed in San Diego, California. A singlefamily home was valued, as is, at $1,250,000. With the Fix Now Pay Later plan, the homeowner borrowed $34,248 for renovation. The home was placed on the market and sold for $1,575,000. That is a profit of Enroll your 5th – 12th graders in our afterschool JETS program $290,752. Almost $300,000 profit with a $34,000 investment into taught by current professional engineers and scientists the property. The fix now, pay When: later system is helping many Classes start on homeowners to receive the very Thursday, January 13, 2022 best offers on their property. 6-8pm And the process is simple. It’s just a matter of filling out a Where: Community College of Denver, survey form online to get a free, Lowry Campus same day quote for the cost of the rehab on your property. If you are working with a licensed

By Barry Overton


Join Our Junior Engineers, Tomorrow’s Scientists (JETS) Program


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Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


real estate agent, that agent will be able to show you the amount that you could likely get “as is” versus the amount that the property will sell for after a renovation. While most home sellers will still make a very nice profit, even selling their property as is, if they have had it for a long period of time and accumulated a significant amount of equity, it just makes sense to be able to get the most for your property if it only takes a small amount of renovation funding, and you don’t have to worry about putting the money up. For more information on this unique program, feel free to reach out to a licensed real estate agent or you can contact me at the below listed contact information. . Editor’s note: Barry Overton is a licensed Real Estate with New Era Group at Your Castle Real Estate. He has been an agent since 2001, and started investing in real estate in 1996. For more information, email: or call 303-668-5433.

Lost Your Joy?

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! Sunday Worship: 8:00am (Traditional) and 10:30am (Gospel) 4VOEBZ 4DIPPM BN r 8FEOFTEBZ #JCMF 4UVEZ QN

Rev. Dr. James E. Fouther, Jr., Pastor 4879 Crown Blvd., Denver, CO 80239 303-373-0070

Free Food Market in Aurora Bridges Gap Between Food Waste and Hunger By Brian Willie and Amanda Horvath, Rocky Mountain PBS


ore Coloradans are in need of food than ever before. Food Bank of the Rockies said during 2020, the need for food in its service areas increased by upwards of 50 percent and some months it climbed as high as 80 percent. Food Connect Colorado is working to bring those numbers down in this one area of the state. “Aurora is very underserved with free food resources,” said Elizabeth Watts, president of Food Connect Colorado. Every Thursday and the second Saturday of the month, the nonprofit associated with Food Bank of the Rockies opens its

doors to a free food market. It acts just like a grocery store where people can come and choose the food and other items they need. “That’s what we strive for to have like a normal experience here that people can come in and pick whatever they want,” said Watts. “You don’t pay for anything. Everything is free.” “Basically, we wouldn’t have food this week. If they didn’t supply food for us this week and what I got last week, we wouldn’t have anything to eat. We’d be eating, probably noodles and beans,” explained Bernadette Johnson. She is currently on disability with two grandchildren to take

care of at home. Her husband is the only one working for the household. “I can save close to 300 to 400 a month basically coming here because I can limit my meals by getting the fruits and the vegetables, and I can get help with the meat and especially the diapers. ‘Cause the diapers is the biggest, my biggest budget,” said Johnson. Part of what makes this food option more beneficial than say a prepackaged box is the ability for people to pick out things for their individual needs. “So, like, if I come twice a month, I’ve already gotten flour already for the month. Then there’s no sense of getting flour again. Somebody else can get flour and it helps someone else,” explained Johnson. “I don’t have to worry about trying to, you know, overstock myself and worry about how I’m going to be able to make it through the rest of the month” That is part of Food Connect Colorado’s mission. The goal is to dramatically reduce food waste. “We didn’t pay anything for it. It’s all free. We got it all for free because this is all rescued food that we pick up from various places and bring it to our warehouse. And then we make it available to people who need it,” said Watts. While the food is offered at no cost, there are some restrictions: A person must make an appointment to visit the market. To be able to shop there some-

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


one has to live within certain zip codes and can visit up to twice a month. Still, Food Connect Colorado hopes to be that bridge for so many who need that extra help to eat. “Food insecurity is a logistics problem,” said Watts. “It’s mainly just getting that food to the people and that’s what we’re doing. We’re getting the food to the people. We’re taking the food, bringing it here and just making it available to anybody who wants it.”.

Restrictive Voting Laws

Library of Congress

“Let’s be honest, these restrictions can easily be overcome” By Thomas Holt Russell

conservative establishment’s attempt to stop them from reaching the voting booth. Politicians and activists seem to spend more time complaining about the effort to suppress votes than actually acting upon and fighting the war that

voting laws have been in the news a lot the past few years. Groups are up in arms over the Republicans’ attempt to stay in power by making the act of voting more difficult for the people that vote against them. However, when examined closely, these new restrictive laws are a lame attempt to make the voting process difficult enough to stop a large enough number of people that will decidedly change the outcome of the election. If the local and national news were my only source of information, and my mind was malleable enough, I would think that African Americans were powerless victims to the

republicans are waging on more than half of the American population. The action needed is straightforward: Get out and vote. There’s very little else citizens need to do. I am an average person, and with all of the restrictive legislation right-wing activists are dolling out


throughout different states, not one of those restrictive measures could stop me from voting. I am not unique. Most people can still vote despite these measures unless not being allowed to carry candy bars and water bottles while waiting in line is enough of a gamechanger to keep you home and away from the voting booth. These new restrictive laws can make voting more difficult and inconvenient for sure. And I do believe it has a lot to do with racism. And we should shout and fight back like hell to stop states from enacting these laws. People like Stacey Abrams are doing an excellent job of rallying people and fighting the inequities that these laws represent. However, at the very same time, we need to get out and vote. Voting is the necessary action. Many of these laws have to do with the shortening of time, such as a shortened window to apply for a mail ballot and shortening the window for deadlines for mail-in ballots. Limiting early voting days and eliminating election-day registration is also an attempt to condense time for voters. Other laws require introducing extra steps to discourage you, such as removing or limiting mail ballot applications to voters that do not apply for or request them. Then there are the tertiary laws that, on the surface, have nothing at all to do with voting but instead are designed to make the voting experience miserable and sometimes even dangerous. At the same time, we still fight off the COVID-19 virus. These laws ban snacks and water while waiting in line or restrict assistance in returning a mail ballot. The republicans are also shortening access and elongating distances. The laws also limit the number of polling places, as well as mail ballot drop boxes. And then there’s the old, “Are you a citizen?” trope. That is the old ID

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


requirement laws. Legislators have tightened ID laws for both mail and in-person voting. These are all bad and designed for a minority to remain in power. However, I only have one question: Is that all they got? Not one of those measures could legally keep me away from the voting booth or mailing in a ballot from any state. We can walk, chew bubble gum and bounce a ball at the same time. Instead of some of these news celebrities making weekly and daily guest appearances on MSNBC and writing books, more work needs to be moved to the trenches. Imagine an initiative that goes door to door with an entire voting assistance kit. Volunteers would go to every home and register people to vote, update their ID, identify any special needs, such as health or physical, and make needed arrangements. All of this can be completed digitally in the home. Even the ID cards can be made and printed. Transportation can be arranged ahead of time for all citizens with a combination of civic and private entities. None of this is difficult. It only has to be organized for every locality. The effort will not be only on election years, but for the entire year, every year. Voting action must be embedded as a fulltime job for volunteers, made and run by local jurisdictions without state or government interference. Even if the above is not implemented, if all of the registered voters got out and voted, there is no reason why the majority of the American people can win back their voice. Without activism, people become objects to be acted upon. Tyranny treats humans as objects. It is not good enough to believe individuals can make positive change; that belief has to be the primary motivation to make a change. .

Defending a Democracy in Flames By Ben Jealous


woke up this morning with my mind stayed on freedom. And how we can preserve it. Our freedom is threatened. We all need to be paying attention and preparing to take action next year. Look, I know that Christmas and New Years are around the corner. Millions of us are looking forward to time off work and time spent with loved ones. I can just hear people saying, “Ben, the last thing I want to think about right now is politics.” Well, let’s think bigger than that. Let’s think about freedom. All year long, the freedom to vote has been under attack in dozens of states. In 2020, many states made voting more accessible in response to the COVID19 pandemic. That was a good thing. We had record voter participation in 2020. But because millions of those voters rejected former President Donald Trump, Republican legislators are rolling back access to the ballot box and imposing new restrictions on voting. And sad to say, new voter suppression laws are not the only threat to our freedom. Donald Trump’s henchmen have some other schemes up their sleeve. They’re getting

themselves in positions to oversee elections at the local and state levels. They’re creating ways for legislators and election officials to count the votes they want to—and ignore the ones they disagree with. To combat this onslaught of voter suppression and election subversion measures, Congress and the White House need to get new federal voting rights laws passed, signed, and put into effect before next year’s elections. And that’s not all. In the year since the violent attempt to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election, Trump and his allies have done everything possible to deny what happened. But the truth is coming out anyway. We can be grateful for good investigative reporting. And thankful for the determination of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the bipartisan House committee that is investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. We now know that multiple lawyers working for Trump helped him pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to block congressional certification of Biden’s win. We know that a PowerPoint presentation circulated among Trump’s inner circle claiming that the election was compromised by foreign powers and that Trump could declare a national security emergency to stay in power. It has been reported that the author of that memo, a retired army colonel, met with former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows multiple times after the election. Republican members of Congress were briefed on the claims on the eve of the insurrection. Given that so many of Trump’s allies were willing to ignore the Constitution and overturn the will of the voters, it’s not exactly surprising that they are also willing to defy legal efforts to get at the truth. One after another of Trump’s

political strategists and former aides have been stonewalling the Jan. 6 committee. Meadows and right-wing political operative Steve Bannon have simply refused to comply with legal subpoenas to testify and now face charges of criminal contempt of Congress. Here is the brutal bottom line: Trump has never accepted his loss. He and his allies are showing us that they are more committed to getting and keeping power in their hands than they are to accepting the will of the voters. They are ready to sacrifice democracy on the altar of right-wing authoritarianism. That is not a pleasant thought at Christmas time—or any time. We don’t have the luxury of looking away. We have to face these threats and what it will take from all of us to defeat them in the months and years ahead. In this season of gift-giving, think of the time and energy you spend defending democ-

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


racy as a gift to your family and friends – a future of freedom. . Editor’s note: Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way. Jealous has decades of experience as a leader, coalition builder, campaigner for social justice and seasoned nonprofit executive. In 2008, he was chosen as the youngest-ever president and CEO of the NAACP. He is a graduate of Columbia University and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and he has taught at Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania.

Jazz by Yaz Straight-ahead jazz on alto and tenor sax for events and recordings.

Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” is a reminder of how the past mirrors the present T his is not a book review. Instead, it is a look back on the recent past and a cautious peep into the future. This book is a reminder that human problems do not go away without a price (violence, racism, poverty, economic woes). Mostly, it allows me to look into present affairs and link them to the past with the hope that maybe innovative and creative ideas about how to solve some of these problems will sprout like a weed. Or maybe not. Paulo Freire wrote about our current situation in the late 1960s. How can something remain so relevant after more than 50 years? As an educator, it was only a matter of time before I read this book. This book is just as important for educators as the Apology of Socrates should be read by every person who aspires to be a lawyer. “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” belongs in the hands of educators, social scientists, university professors, social activists, and politicians. It can be a beginning for revolutionaries to form theories on constructing a base for transformational revolution. This will be a revolution that includes improvements in the major areas that proletariats are suffering from, such as economic relief, education, health, and subsets, such as drugs and crime. Freire’s book is not a how-to book. There is minimal reference to how to apply practical actions to the theories that this book presents. The specter of socialism hangs over the words in this book. Freire admirably speaks off Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. Freire’s idea is not to assimilate and prosper in a system set up and maintained by the oppressor, but to de-construct the entire power struc-

By Thomas Holt Russell

ture and start again from a socialist seed. Even though it is rarely mentioned in the book directly, when Paulo Freire speaks about the oppressed, we know that he refers to people of color. In this case, that would be people of African descent, almost all the descendants of slaves, and the indigenous people of South America. And though Freire never mentioned who the oppressors were, we know that these are the people in power who happen to be of European descent. When I think about an oppressor, I do not think about hate groups and white supremacists; I think about the laws and legislation designed to keep people of color in their place. Without raising their voice or without raising their hand to strike against the people they think of as objects instead of people, oppressors smartly use the judicial system to do the dirty work for them. This is always the case, and this is the human condition. It seems that socialism naturally becomes attractive to people that are oppressed. Capitalism seems to push the huddled masses towards this way of thinking. The oppressors condemn all things that lead to social

and economic equality. Anything that leads to social and economic reform is promptly labeled as a form of socialism. Even now, socialism is vilified and married to the word “progressive.” Oppressors never stop to think that including all people in the capitalist economic windfall is the best way to combat socialism. The result is a further widening between social class and race. As practiced by America, capitalism cannot be sustainable as long as these divisions continue to grow. The rich and the people in political positions (sometimes they are the same) will fight to the very end to keep themselves in power. Violence will ensue as long as this division continues to widen. There is no avoiding it. Reasonable thinking people will surely ask themselves who will benefit from a second civil war. But even the rich and powerful will not experience a good night’s sleep as long as they fight a population of people who have nothing to lose. Living under the constant threat of violence and surrounded by armed guards for an entire lifetime cannot be considered a new and relaxing lifestyle. There are lessons to be learned in the pages of this book, but they are not revelatory. We already know these

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


things, and sometimes it is comforting to hear someone else say the things you were already thinking. It justifies the thoughts of a would-be revolutionary. One of the passages in the book reads: The peasant begins to get the courage to overcome his dependence when he realizes that he is dependent. Until then, he goes along with the boss and says, “What can I do? I am only a peasant.” I have heard African Americans state this same sentiment when it comes to voting. Some of these people have not fallen far enough to realize that their fatalistic attitudes towards voting are the very reason that power structure stays in place. There are many things in this book that are still relevant today. We turn against each other to fight for resources. The violence we put upon each other is no less destructive than the rulings against people of color practiced by Clarence Thomas or the misguided ramblings of republican Herschel Walker. “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” reminded me that nothing is new under the sun, power corrupts, and technology development is advancing at a much higher rate than the human intellect to handle the new tools responsible for breaking our society down. “Pedagogy” is an excellent book, but for once, the oppressed first need to figure out that they are oppressed (How can you solve a problem if you do not think there is a problem?). Only then will the oppressed close the gap between Freire’s high-minded theories and the practical use of the theories in the real world. Practical application is the missing element..


The Omicron Variant

With COVID-19 continuing to impact the world, virologist and trauma surgeon Dr. Lane Rolling is answering Denver Urban Spectrum reader’s questions about what developments

in the virus mean to us. As the director of TPaIDA Clinical Field Medicine Bio Research International, he has conducted research and provided training in tropical and infectious diseases for14 years in Peru, working extensively with native Peruvian shamans to find new drugs. A certified chemical and biological warfare expert, Dr. Rolling is dedicated to saving lives and eradicating the coronavirus and speaking truth to power. His mission is driven by his passion to change today’s COVID-19 statistics to create a brighter tomorrow. How is the Omicron variant different than previous COVID variants? The Omicron variant has over 50 mutations, including 33 mutations in the spike protein and 10 mutations in the receptor binding domain. There are two Omicron SARS viruses circulating in the world popula-

tion. One is normal and the second called the stealth Omicron gives the virus escape immunity from our immune system, which gives the virus the ability to be transmitted more easily. This is a game changer in the SARS pandemic. The virus cannot be picked up on testing, which allows more infections in the population. How susceptible are people who have been vaccinated to getting the Omicron variant? The Omicron variant infects vaccinated people just as equally as unvaccinated, so this is now a pandemic of the vaccinated. How susceptible are people who have had COVID already, compared to those who haven’t had it, to being infected by the Omicron variant? Equally. There is no overall protection from having previously been infected with the SARS coronavirus. Omicron is

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


the mother of all SARS virus mutations, and there will be many more Omicron mutations. What are the best ways for my family to protect against getting the Omicron variant? Basically, by following basic bio-safety and security protocols. Wear an antiviral mask. Wash your hands with antiseptic hand sanitizer and soap. Use air purification sanitizing units in the home. Do not wear shoes in the home. Do not touch screens (on phones, tablets, etc.) in public spaces – all are contaminated with feces (in the air from visiting toilets). What’s next for COVID? Will it continue to mutate into different variants? Yes, there will be many more SARS COVID mutations now and in the future. We have to come up with a vaccine that has the ability to cover all the different strains of SARS COVID. Continued on page 21

NAACP’s ‘COVID KNOW MORE’ initiative continues to stand as Black America’s best defense and resource, as the pandemic rages on With the onset of the winter months, still another variant and infections again on the rise, evidence abounds that COVID-19 isn’t finished plaguing us yet, and normalcy’s still a long way off sionals are issuing dire warnings about more spikes in cases looming this winter as people will likely choose to socialize indoors, with fewer following mask guidance in confined spaces.

Derrick Johnson President and CEO, the NAACP Photo © 2021, Courtesy NAACP

BALTIMORE (December 7, 2021) — This month, the nation marked a foreboding, record death toll: More than 5,230,000 deaths worldwide as a result of COVID-19. It’s a sad, painful and tragic milestone that signals the obvious: The coronavirus pandemic—here in the U.S. as well as around the globe—is far from over, and simply isn’t going away anytime soon. As Americans begin to ponder once again the safety of gathering with friends, families and loved ones for the holidays, infections once more are on the rise in multiple states. Although the Delta and Lambda variants are showing signs of a steady decline, the new and highly transmissible Omicron variant is emerging across the Atlantic as a cause for concern, and has now arrived in the U.S. Misinformation about the virus and the efficacy of the vaccines, coming from professional athletes and entertainment celebrities alike continues to be recklessly spread, and health profes-

For African Americans, who place a high value on their traditional seasonal gatherings, the potential threat of contracting COVID-19 is even greater. Though the majority of eligible Black adults have been fully vaccinated (62 percent) and the numbers of children now being vaccinated also continues a consistent rise, reliable, credible information is still the primary battleground. Deep in the trenches still fighting this fight is the NAACP, which through its ‘COVID.KNOW MORE’ national initiative has been tirelessly working to deliver resources, timely research and data specific to the Black community that can be found nowhere else. “The specter of the COVID-19 pandemic has plagued our nation and the world for 20 long months now, but all of its devastating effects, whether health wise or economic, disproportionately impact our Black community,” states Derrick Johnson, NAACP president & CEO. “Trust the science, and trust the data. As we’ve worked hard to move African Americans toward a phase of recovery, our research shows that the concerns of experts are justified about the coming winter months. “Worries about the Delta variant are on the decline, but other

variants like Omicron are on the horizon and have now officially landed in the United States. Overall cases are ticking up across the nation. Some 777,000 people have now died and this has clearly become a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” President Johnson adds. Among the latest facts: Proprietary research commissioned by the NAACP reveals that reports of breakthrough cases and side-effects persist as concerns among the unvaccinated, fueling their continued uncertainty and making them less likely to remain unvaccinated or accept the available booster shot (amid debates about its necessity). African Americans further remain divided in their mistrust of media influencers and celebrities, with most trusting no one to provide reliable COVID-19 information other than the NAACP, the CDC, physicians or local leaders. Most further believe that life will not return to any semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy until at least 2022. “‘COVID.KNOW MORE’ was conceived and launched to provide Black Americans with comprehensive, relevant data and resources about all things COVID-19, intent upon powering Black America’s journey through the crisis toward recovery,” Johnson continues. “Thanks to ‘COVID.KNOW MORE’ individuals, families and communities of color have access to the most current, wellresearched, expert-vetted facts they need to make the best choices for their wellbeing.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


We’re proud of the work that we’re doing for our people to help inform their decision making, and that work will continue undaunted. The NAACP will stay this course.” The NAACP’s ‘COVID.KNOW MORE’ builds upon the wealth of information it has served up since May to the African American community, while emphasizing the pandemic’s potential long term implications and systemic disparities. ‘COVID.KNOW MORE’ features a multifaceted, userfriendly online information hub housing an array of options designed to help African Americans’ stay current with the ever-changing data and guidance about the pandemic. The portal and all of its helpful featured assets can be accessed by visiting the NAACP’s COVID.KNOW MORE portal. For those wanting to get tested or obtain a booster shot, the nearest locations can searched at

About the NAACP: Founded in 1909 in response to the ongoing violence against Black people around the country, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is the largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the nation. We have over 2,200 units and branches across the nation, along with well over 2M activists. Our mission is to secure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.

Rolling with the Doc


Letters to the Editor

Continued from page 19 That is a huge task. The science and medicine have to catch up with the virus. If you understand the science of virology, we have a good probability of bringing down the death rate and sickness in the population. When will we be able to get back to no masking and no serious widespread impacts from COVID? Not in the foreseeable future. The mask is the best first-line defense against the SARS coronavirus. The mask will be your new norm; it will be like your cell phone. The mask you have to have is an antiviral mask, available at

Continued from page 3 video footage was finally released publicly. Accordingly, while we can breathe a sigh of relief that justice was served in the Arbery case, we must remember the many other excessive force crimes committed against people of color that were not caught on video or were simply ignored. We cannot fix what we cannot see. However, what we can do is double down on efforts to raise the public’s awareness of the biases embedded in every aspect of our criminal justice system, and we can work with our public officials and allies to create a system of justice in which an outcome like the one reached in a Georgia court on November 25th, 2021, is no longer Editor’s note: If you have a question viewed as an anomaly. for Dr. Rolling, email editor@urbanThe Sam Cary Bar Association Denver, CO

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Four African American National Queens June 27 was a phenomenal day for Colorado as four African American Women competing in two different pageant systems all claimed their national division titles. Representing empowerment, inner beauty, and service, these women embody these attributes and more. Arica P. Quinn is a lifelong resident of Colorado and on that historic day she was crowned Ms. All world Beauties Elite 2021. Her platform is Queen 2 Queen Helping the sexual abuse survivor turn inner pain into outward positivity by working

through their anger resulting in a healthy relationship with self. As the executive director, she recently established the Colorado All World Beauties Pageant and will present the Inaugural Pageant on Jan. 7 and 8. Ms. Curvey Plus Legacy USA ’21 Brie Styles is a recording artist and will be competing for another opportunity in the Colorado All World Beauties Pageant in January. Kelly Loggins who won the title of Ms. Elite Legacy USA ’21 is in the ministry and serves as the First Lady of True Faith Worship Ministries in Aurora with her husband Rev. William Loggins. Colorado’s final Queen is Teresa Hailey who won the Corporate Legacy USA ’21 title. She has been an advocate in this city of Denver and Aurora to build a bridge and promote healing and change from police brutality.

Left to right: Teresa Hailey (Corporate Legacy USA ‘21), Brie Styles (Ms. Curvy Plus Legacy USA ’21), Arica P. Quinn (Ms. All world Beauties Elite 2021) and Kelly Loggins (Ms. Elite Legacy USA ‘21).

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(MST) Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022



The CAAH Celebrates 20th Annual Collaborative Health Fair This 20th year marks a milestone in narrowing the gaps in health equity through delivery of free resources to the community at The Center for African American Health’s (CAA Health) Annual Collaborative Health Fair. On Saturday, Feb. 12 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Renaissance Denver Central Park Hotel, located at 3801 Quebec St. in Denver, CAA Health will bring together dozens of health and wellness providers, educators, and practitioners to provide a fun, culturally responsive environment that fosters health promotion and awareness for men, women, and children of all ages. The Health Fair is free and open to the public with scheduled activities that include health care options for all ages. Community members can take advantage of FREE health screenings (valued at more than $1,000) and family activities that include: Physical Exams, Prostate Screenings, Holistic Care/Meditation, Mental Health Resources, Dance & Exercise, Community Resources & Services, Giveaways, Exhibitors, and more. “We recognize the last two years have impacted our community disproportionately harder due to the pandemic which had a ripple effect that went beyond our physical health and significantly impacted our mental wellbeing,” said CAA Health’s CEO and Executive Director Deidre Johnson. “That’s why the Annual Health Fair is such an

important opportunity for our community to seek resources and receive free screenings that can be life-saving and lifechanging.” For more information about this event, visit and follow us on Facebook and Instagram at @CenterforAfricanAmericanHe alth.

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SBA now accepting nominations for 2022 National Small Business Week Awards Colorado has a successful history of nominating national winners in all categoriesWASHINGTON – Nominations are now being accepted for the 2022 National Small Business Week (NSBW) Awards. The NSBW Awards recognize the achievements of SBA-assisted small businesses and the contributions they have made to their communities and our nation’s economy. All nominations should be submitted electronically by 3

p.m. EST on January 11. The awards will be presented during the NSBW Awards ceremony in the first week of May 2022. All nomination documents will be submitted electronically this year – no paper forms will be accepted by the local SBA office. To nominate a small business owner in your area or download related forms, criteria, and guidelines, visit Nominations for the following categories will be accepted: Small Business Person of the Year, Small Business Exporter of the Year, Phoenix Awards for Disaster Recovery, Federal Procurement Awards, Awards to SBA Resource Partners, and Small Business Investment Company of the Year. . Editor’s note: For more information on SBA’s programs and services visit or contact the Colorado District Office at 303844-2607.

MARLINA’S n o n • t r a d i t i o n a l stained glass designs The Robert and Judi Newman Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Denver presents Joey Alexander Wednesday, February 2 at 7:30pm at the June Swaner Gates Concert Hall. One of the most expressive and thrilling pianist-composers currently at work in jazz, Joey Alexander has become a renowned festival and concerthall headliner in just the past five years. He was the youngest musician ever nominated for a Grammy Award in a jazz category, leading to a profile on 60 Minutes, a front- page article in The New York Times and such honors as critics’ and readers’ poll victories in DownBeat and JazzTimes. Tickets start at $24 (plus applicable service fees) and are



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Black Resilience in Colorado Fund Gifts Nearly $500,000 in Grants to 39 Black Led and Serving Nonprofits in Metro Denver Black Resilience in Colorado (BRIC) Fund, the first Blackfocused community fund in the state, announced that nearly $500,000 in grants have been awarded to 39 Black-led and serving nonprofits in Metro Denver. BRIC was established to address systemic racism and inequities that negatively impact Black communities. BRIC provides valuable resources and programs to strengthen the capacity and increase the impact of Black-led and serving nonprofits – to shift from surviving to thriving. The BRIC Fund raised more than $2 million and granted over $1.5 million to 98 nonprofit organizations in just a little over a year. “We are proud to invest in and support the work of these deserving organizations who exemplify resilience in their drive to strengthen the communities they serve,” explained LaDawn Sullivan, BRIC Fund director and visionary. “Community empowering community is how we bridge the gaps, break down systemic barriers to progress, build a leadership pipeline and strengthen organizations for thriving communities to grow.” Grants were awarded following an extensive review of the 60 submitted applications led by the BRIC Advisory Committee, made up of diverse Black community leaders. The BRIC Grants Program priorities are determined by community input from Black community leaders and feedback from Black-led nonprofit partners/grantees. The BRIC Fund 2021 fall cycle grant recipients are: 5th Element Center for Dance, Another Life Foundation,

Apprentice of Peace Youth Organization, Athletics & Beyond, Black American West Museum & Heritage Center, Boss Generation, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, Colorado Beautillion, Inc., Curls on the Block, Denver Kappa Alpha Psi Scholarship Foundation, Denver Sisters Circle, Edu Ctr, Ethiopian Community Television, Financial Education & Economic Transformation (FEET) Center, Foundation for Black Entrepreneurship, From The Heart Foundation, GIVING BACK 303 INC. Heavy Hands Heavy Hearts Foundation, HOPE Center, Institute for Racial Equity and Excellence, Issues of Life Church Ministries Aurora, Kids Above Everything, Make a Chess Move (MACM), Project VOYCE, RISE 5280, SCD Enrichment Program, Seasoned with Grace Unboxed, Second Chance Center, Inc., Show and Tell Corporation, Sisterhood of Philanthropists Impacting Needs – SPIN, Soul 2 Soul Sisters, The Caregivers’ Guardian, LLC, The Crowley Foundation, Inc., The DROP, Thelma’s Dream, Urban League Young Professionals of Metro Denver, Yoruba Ni Colorado, Young African Americans for Social & Political Activism, and Youth Seen.

Sam Cary Bar Association Scholarship Endowment Fund Receives $200,000 Bequest The Sam Cary Bar Association Scholarship Endowment Fund (“Scholarship Fund”) received a $200,000 bequest from the Estate of Bennet (“Ben”) S. Aisenberg. Bennet Aisenberg was a highly talented and beloved lawyer in Denver and beyond, as well as a long-time member of the Sam Cary Bar Association, representing African-American lawyers in Colorado. For many years, Aisenberg supported important initiatives of the Sam Cary Bar Association, along with other diversity, equity and inclusion programs throughout the

Denver legal community. He was ultimately honored with the Sam Cary Bar Association Warrior for Justice Award. The plaque representing this award was gifted to the Blair-Caldwell African-American Research Library in Five Points, where it can be viewed by the public. Aisenberg’s generous bequest will significantly enhance the Scholarship Fund, which was established in 1986 for the purpose of awarding scholarships to Black law students attending DU and CU Law Schools. The Scholarship Fund was originally formed with the proceeds netted from the 1986 National Bar Association convention, which the Sam Cary Bar Association hosted in Denver. To date, the Scholarship Fund has awarded $350,000 to DU and CU law students. It is particularly fitting that Aisenberg’s legacy will live on through the long-term viability of this important source of support for future Black lawyers.

NextFifty Initiative Awards $1.7 Million in Flexible Support Grants to Metro Denver Organizations NextFifty Initiative announced $1.7 million in grants to 28 organizations working to improve the lives of older adults and their caregivers in the metro Denver area. The organization, which funds game-changing efforts to improve and sustain the quality of life for people in their second 50 years, also announced $1.8 million in grants to similar organizations around the state and $3.7 million in funding to organizations located outside of Colorado. “The COVID-19 pandemic created exceptional challenges for many organizations that support older adults,” said Diana McFail, president & CEO of NextFifty Initiative. “We created the flexible support opportunity, in part, to simplify

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


the process of applying for funds and to allow organizations to request the type of support they most need to meet the rapidly evolving needs of older people in their communities.” For this funding cycle, NextFifty asked applicants to explain how a grant would support each organization’s specific goals related to older adults, allowing for a wide variety of requests based on need. “The grantees’ myriad projects and efforts demonstrate the many ways in which organizations are working to improve the lives of older adults in Metro Denver and around the country,” added McFail. The organizations that received funds serve older adults in a variety of categories including caregiver support, community life, elder justice, health, housing, multi-generational support, social services, technology, transportation, and workforce/employment. Recipients providing programs and services include: American Indian Science and Engineering Society (Albuquerque), Visiting Ancillary Services (Thornton), Shalom Park (Aurora), Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy, & Research Organization (Denver); Soldiers’ Angels (San Antonio); Jewish Family Service (Denver); A Little Help (Denver); National Civic League (based in Denver); Safe and Healthy Communities (Denver); Think 360 Arts for Learning (Denver); The Elizabeth Dole Foundation (Washington, D.C.); Kavod Senior Life (Denver); Senior Housing Options (Denver); Bayaud Enterprises (Denver); Center for African American Health (Denver); The Denver Brass, Inc. (Denver); The Initiative (Denver); The Center (Denver); Project Angel Heart (Denver); Spark the Change Colorado (Denver); Denver Asset Building Coalition (Denver); Deserving Dental (Broomfield); Out and

NEWSVIEWS About Colorado (Douglas County); The Arc (Jefferson, Clear Creek & Gilpin Counties); City of Lakewood; Eaton Senior Communities Foundation (Lakewood); Leaf411 (Denver); Brothers Redevelopment (Edgewater).

Stephanie, a client of Project Angel Heart, receives a delivery of medically tailored meals at her home in Denver. Project Angel Heart is one of 125 organizations nationwide that recently received funding from NextFifty Initiative, a private foundation that aims to improve quality of life for older adults and their caregivers. Photo credit: Project Angel Heart

Editor’s note: Organizations interested in applying for funding can find the grant requirements and application portal online at The next BRIC grant cycle will open on February 14 and close on April 1 at 5 p.m.

About NextFifty Initiative: NextFifty Initiative is a Colorado-based, private foundation funding efforts to improve the lives of older adults and their caregivers. The foundation works with community leaders, experts in the field of aging, and front-line professionals to support programs and projects that positively impact aging and longevity. They focus on education, sharing best practices, and supporting innovation that will transform aging for generations to come. In 2020, NextFifty Initiative awarded grants totaling $9 million. To learn more, visit


Dr. Sharon Ruth Brown–Bailey’s Life


That, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, is the woman we knew as Dr. Sharon Ruth Brown -Bailey - Sharon! She held big dreams not only for herself, her family and loved ones, but also for the community in which she served for most of her adult life. She demonstrated love family, friends, associates, and her native home of Denver, Colorado. Dr. Bailey held great thoughts about how to make the world and the community a better more equitable world for all. She “drank from the fountain” with others in her orbit, international colleagues and mentors, scholars and educators, spiritual leaders and community leaders, historians and thinkers of our time and those who went before her who passed on our heritage and the torch of advancing educational equity and excellence! And did she speak truth to power! Right up to the end of her life in venues and communities throughout this continent and abroad. Because of her work, her qualitative research and study, her keen observation and public policy acumen, her ability to “listen” and respect the perspective of others even if her view differed - we have progressed. She was a builder of bridges across which lay path that all of us, individually and collectively, might follow in the 21st century and beyond. She showed us how to cherish our loved ones, educate our youth, support our communities and live a life worthy of admiration, emulation and celebration! Dr. Bailey was born Sharon Ruth Brown on July 30, 1953 in Denver, Colorado. Her parents now deceased were known as Ruth Brown and Glenn Brown of Denver. She has one brother, Glenn Brown (Lola) of Lakewood, Colorado. The Bailey’s three sons are Musa Bailey, Ramu Bailey both of Denver; and Kamau (Debra) Bailey of Princeton, NJ and daughter Racquel Stroud of Jersey City, NJ. Her beloved grandchildren are Angel, Solomon, Glenn, Jacob John, Soleil, Casiah and Aliya. Dr. Bailey is a graduate of Denver East high school. She received her undergraduate degree from Princeton University and earned a doctorate degree in public administration from the University of Colorado. Dr. Bailey was a leader in numerous education arenas of the Denver Metro area. In addition to her work in higher education and the Denver Public School (DPS) district, she is referred to as the district’s “moral compass” on matters of educational equity for youth and equal opportunity for African-American teachers and administrators. In the DPS district, she served with distinction as a DPS school board member from 1988 through 1995, and introduced to Bailey Resolution, passed by the DPS board in 1995. She was the primary researcher and author of the qualitative study, the Bailey Report commissioned by the district. The study was an examination of student educator experiences and DPS through the voices of African-American teachers and administrators in 2016. This and the principal Losing Ground and Gaining Ground Reports are among her most noted works. The findings of the Bailey report led to the establishment of the DPS African-American Equity Task Force. It was also her passionate and scholarly work that led the way for the advancement of the DPS Black Excellence Resolution in 2019. Dr. Bailey served as the senior DPS Equity Administrator until she was appointed DPS Ombudsperson in May 2021. Dr. Bailey is a member of the New Hope Baptist Church Denver, Denver Alumnae Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., cofounder of Future Black Women Leaders of Colorado; Colorado Black Women for Political Action, The International Black Women’s Congress, Colorado Black Round Table and many more. Sharon has fought the good fight; she has been an exemplary servant leader. Now be at rest in peace, my sister. Job well done!

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


DPS Board Passes Motion to Extend Superintendent’s Contract

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Board amends Dr. Alex Marrero’s contract from a two-year to four-year term At their scheduled meeting on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, the Board of Education for Denver Public Schools (DPS) approved a motion to extend the contract of Dr. Alex Marrero. Board members amended the superintendent’s contract from a two-year to four-year term, with the same option for a oneyear extension that was part of the original contract. “I believe in bold leadership, and I believe that we have that in Dr. Marrero,” said Board President Xóchitl “Sochi” Gaytán. “We have already seen bold and swift action from him as superintendent. Having that positive impact on a district the size of Denver Public Schools requires more than two years. Extending this contract will help Dr. Marrero’s success.” Board members say that this decision not only reflects their belief in Dr. Marrero’s ability to lead the state’s largest school district, but also provides muchneeded consistency, stability and continuity in leadership for students, families and staff members. “I trust Dr. Marrero to set a tone for the district that ensures our staff, students and families believe in the power of strong public schools,” said Former Board President Carrie A. Olson. “My affirmative vote this evening not only demonstrates my commitment to stability for our school district, it also highlights my expectation that Dr.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2022


Marrero will build on all that he’s started in order to make DPS the best school system it can be.” Over the last five months, Superintendent Marrero spent time in classrooms, meeting with students, and collaborating with teachers, educators, families and community leaders throughout the Denver community. He values the lessons he has gained during his Listening and Learning tour. “I am honored by this vote of confidence by the Board of Education, and I am incredibly grateful for the amazing reception and tremendous support I have received throughout my travels in this incredible city,” said Dr. Alex Marrero. “I will continue to build on what I have learned from the DPS community, and I will do everything in my power to ensure that every classroom within the district prepares all of our scholars for a great future.” This move does not change Dr. Marrero’s $260,000 a year salary, which is the same salary as the previous superintendent, Susana Cordova. The contract is also being amended to make a change in the evaluation process that reflects the Board’s move to the policy-governance model. . Editor’s note: The Board’s full motion on the contract extension can be viewed at For more information about Denver Public Schools, visit

Destination Freedom Black Radio Days Podcast, Audio Drama at Its Finest, Joins Broadway Podcast Network Destination Freedom Black Radio Days in association with the Broadway Podcast Network (BPN), announced their partnership in distributing this impor-

tant series produced by donnie l. betts, based on and honoring Richard Durham’s historical radio dramas. The podcast will be available every other Wednesday exclusively from the Broadway Podcast Network, on the BPN App and wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. The boundary-breaking program, Destination Freedom Black Radio Days, dramatized the lives of great figures from the African-American and other people of color communities past and present, aimed at fighting the stereotypes of them in media. It was originally written and produced by Durham, airing on WMAQ in Chicago from 1949 to 1951. The show walked a daring line between reform and revolution and was shut down by its network in 1950, as McCarthyism and anti-communism tightened its grip on American broadcasting. Using new scripts as well as drawing on archives, the new podcast Destination Freedom Black Radio Days illuminates a largely unknown, but important chapter in the history of human rights and tells how radio played its part from the very beginning. betts “has a deep appreciation for the beauty of Durham’s research and writing skills.” This was also recognized by Durham’s induction into the

National Broadcast Hall of Fame. With Black Radio Days betts continues that tradition by producing new audio dramas exploring current issues that plague the BIPOC community, such as racial injustice, gender inequities, police use of force, educational issues. The 2022-23 season of Destination Freedom Black Radio Days will examine how racial biases spark a fuse in “The Lesson” when a 17-yearold Black student starts his first day at a new High School named after a Ku Klux Klan grand wizard. The student finds himself in unsolicited trouble and is confronted by a Black male Principal. The Principal begins to lecture the student and believes he is teaching the student a lesson but instead, receives a lesson from the student. “The Lesson” features Don Randle, Steve Wise, and Ghandia Johnson Black hair history is provided with this short excerpt about “The Conk ‘’ hairstyle worn by Black men in the 1940s. A young Black musician walks into a barbershop inquiring about the conk hairstyle. A barber and his friend greeted him with regular barbershop banter, knowledge, and education about the craze of the conk hairstyle for Black man, and the mindset that came along with it. Conk features Don Randle, Steve Wise and donnie l. betts. “The Lesson” and “The Conk” are written by Kenya Fashaw. The Podcast is available on the BPN APP, Apple/iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart, TuneIn, Deezer, Player.FM, Pocket Cast, Podcast Addict and everywhere else you listen to podcasts.. Editor’s note: For more information, visit and m/podcast/destination-freedomblack-radio-days/

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Rachel B Noel Distinguished Visiting Professorship

Calvin Mackie, Ph.D. March 8–9, 2022