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History-Making Women Mentor Future Candidates...4 Park Hill Golf Course Development Brings Questionable Debates.............6 Black Boss Summit Inspires Business Minds...............................................8 Medical Professors Believe in Vaccines.......................................................10 International Travelers Face Inconsistent Rules......................................…14 Motivator Dr. Billy Alsbrooks Comes to Denver….......................................18 Photo by Bernard Grant


PROTECT LOCAL VOICES AND LOCAL CHOICES Let the local community decide on the future of the former Park Hill Golf Course.

“I have lived in this community since birth. I am a 3rd generation Park Hill resident, and I have experienced 昀rst hand city policies that have not directly bene昀ted this community. Divestment and displacement of long term residents have dramatically changed this neighborhood. As residents, we have the sole right to engage in a visioning process just like any other community or neighborhood. Vote yes on 302.” Samie Burnett Northeast Park Hill Resident

“There are those in this city who don’t live in the neighborhood, who prioritize the tranquility they experience driving by the current golf course, over the ability of vulnerable NE Park Hill residents to access community stabilizing resources. I 昀nd it dif昀cult to understand that type of value system. We need to ensure that the voice of NE Park Hill is leading this discussion, and that’s what our ballot initiative is about. Vote yes on 302.” Mark Marshall North Park Hill Resident

“As a Denver native, I have witnessed the transformation of NE Park Hill from a vibrant neighborhood to one that has suffered from intentional neglect and disinvestment since the 1970’s. Long-time residents like me know what we need to do to revitalize the health and wealth of this community, and our voices need to be heard. Neighborhood issues should not be subject to the will of people who do not live here or understand the history of this community. Vote yes on 302.” LaMone Noles Park Hill Resident

Learn More: Paid for by Empower NE Denver

MESSAGE FROM THE PUBLISHER The Power of Women and Politics Volume 35

Number 7

October 2021

PUBLISHER Rosalind J. Harris GENERAL MANAGER Lawrence A. James EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Alfonzo Porter COPY EDITOR Tanya Ishikawa COLUMNISTS Kim Farmer Barry Overton CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Daryn Fouther Joshua Glen Theresa Ho Angelia D. McGowan Malcolm Quattlebaum Alfonzo Porter COLAB Tanya Ishikawa - Story Coordinator 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

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

Trevor Noah, RuPaul, Tracee Ellis Ross, Anthony Anderson, Kenan Thompson, Leslie Odom Jr., Michaela Cole, Cynthia Erivo, Uzo Aduba, and Jurnee Smollett…what might they all have in common? As you ponder that riddle, let me tell you about this month’s cover story by Angelia McGowan. She writes about former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner as a special guest for the Emerge Colorado open house. Turner and a power panel of local political experts engaged the Denver community with a weekend of events that focused on mentoring future candidates for elected office. In another story in this issue, Alfonzo Porter looks at the pros and cons of the Park Hill Golf Course development. Joshua Glenn reports on “Resilient,” the Fifth Annual Black Boss Summit. And with continuing coverage on COVID, Theresa Ho talks with medical professors who say vaccines prove effective, while Malcolm Quattlebaum looks at public health policies and COVID-related travel restrictions. Meanwhile, Daryn Fouther talks with Dr. Billy Alsbrooks on how faith inspired his journey. Because of the hype about many African American nominations for the Emmy Awards, I watched and literally wasted three hours hoping to see people of color take home an Emmy, but instead watched them dole out multiple awards in various categories to Ted Lasso and the Crown. So, did you figure out the riddle? What do the aforementioned talented actors all have in common? All were nominated but only two walked away with an Emmy. Yes, there were a few nuggets offered to get Black eyes on the program, including Cedric the Entertainer as the host, Debbie Allen being honored, and Angela Basset presenting an award, but it was still somewhat disappointing that the aforementioned actors just got a nod – except RuPaul and Michaela Cole. How political were the decision makers? It’s no wonder that African Americans have created the NAACP Image Awards, BET Honors, the Trumpet Awards, the American Black Film Festival, and others. After watching the program, and as an avid supporter and fan of Queen Sugar and the women – Ava Duvernay, Oprah Winfrey and the many female directors – who have produced and created this award-winning television show, I wondered why they were not nominated. Before our press date, I was only able to find this: Among the Primetime Emmy Award rules, a show must originally air on American television during the eligibility period between June 1 and May 31 of any given year. In order to be considered a national primetime show, the program must air between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m., and to at least 50 percent of the country. I’m not sure if the show met that criteria or what else may have been required for a nomination, but women like Nina Turner, Wanda James and Lisa Calderon – who are making waves in the political arena – are needed now more than ever, women in power to generate change for people of color. The Year of the Woman arrived in 2020. Let’s keep that momentum going! Rosalind J.Harris Publisher

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR invasion of India. From the time of Augustus Caesar, the Roman Empire routinely traded with India. But when many modern writers reference the “Ancient World,” Greece and Rome come to mind, but not India. Neither is references made to Native American cultures that were in existence thousands of years before Columbus set sail. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, European religious and cultural leaders began to develop narratives that centered themselves and people like them in the history of humankind. This centering had a profound impact upon the development of Western civilization. In the absence of the Roman Empire, Europe fractured into much smaller independent states with little knowledge of what existed beyond their borders. These states warred with each other and promoted their own characteristics as superior to all others. It was during this

White Supremacy’s Culture War Op-ed by Oscar H. Blayton For more than 1,500 years, Europeans and their cultural descendants have been defining reality for the people they have subjugated around the world. We tend to think that global domination by that small percentage of the world’s population living in the northwest corner of the Eurasian land mass began in the late 15th century when Christopher Columbus sailed to the Western Hemisphere and Vasco da Gama sailed to India. But the seeds of white supremacy were planted long before that. Ancient Europeans were aware of the existence of India. Most serious students of history learn of Alexander the Great’s

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021


time that the national identities of the French, the Germans and the Spanish began to solidify, and for almost 1,000 years, there was constant violence and conflict as each culture tried to gain dominance over the others and secure for themselves the limited resources that were available. After this 1,000-year period of ignorance, violence and conflict in Europe, which is often referred to as the “Dark Ages,” state-sponsored European explorers began to venture out beyond their small corner of the world in search of resources. Spain sponsored Christopher Columbus’ voyage westward to find a new route to India. And soon after Columbus stumbled upon the Americas, Vasco da Gama sailed south from Portugal along the West African coast, rounded the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of the African continent and eventually crossed what Continued on page 28

History-Making Female Senator Shares Insights Ohio Democratic Party Force Nina Turner Headlines Emerge Colorado Event

“People should not be able to buy elections. But until we get there, we’ve got to deal with the world as it is as we work to make it the way we want it to be. We do need money for the mission,” said former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner while speaking on Aug. 28 at an open house for Emerge Colorado, the state’s premier training program for Democratic women seeking public office. The organization, which recently named Lisa Calderón as its executive director, seeks to increase the number of Democratic women leaders from diverse backgrounds in public office through recruitment, training and providing a powerful network. Emerge has trained more than 450 women across the state since 2013, and maintained a 90% win rate. Colorado is one of only six states in the nation with a majority-women state legislative chamber. Specifically, in 2020, Colorado elected the most women to the state legislature in history, expanding the number of women to 34 serving in both chambers. Of those women, 18 are Emerge graduates and 10 of those alums hold key leadership positions. To build on this monumental foundation, Emerge Colorado will need “time, talent, treasure and yes, money,” Turner emphasized as she recalled how necessary support came into play in her own campaign. “The movement of workingclass people came to my rescue time and time again.”

By Angelia D. McGowan Photos by Bernard Grant

Lisa Calderón, Nina Turner and Wanda James

Turner made history in 2005 as the first African American woman to represent Ward One on the Cleveland City Council, and again in 2008 as the first woman to serve as a state senator in Ohio’s 25th district. In the legislature, the Ohio native defended attacks against women’s health care freedom, partnered with working families, and organized labor to protect collective bargaining rights. As a champion for criminal justice reform, she led the effort to create Ohio’s first task force on police and community relations in the wake of tragic police killings in her state and across the country. She has served as the chair of party engagement for the Ohio Democratic Party, leading initiatives to build a more robust and inclusive organizing infrastructure and support for local Democratic candidates across the state. She supported Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign and became president of Our Revolution, an American progressive political action organization spun out of that campaign. She became national co-chair for Bernie 2020. The

assistant professor of history at her undergraduate alma mater Cuyahoga Community College traveled across the country building support for progressive values such as a $15 living wage, free education from kindergarten through college, and health care as a human right in the form of Medicare for All. Her advancement to the national stage as an African American woman did not go unnoticed according to Turner. “If you are a Black woman, everything you say, everything you do from how you dress to your hair and mannerisms are critiqued and used in a very negative way,” she said, pointing out that the “pearl clutchers were offended. I was taught a long time ago that I’m a free Black woman. I’m going to be 100 percent who I am.” Part of who she is stems from her grandmother who she recalls saying that it takes three bones to be successful: the wishbone, jawbone and backbone. In other words, “It’s good

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021


to be hungry in your heart, soul and mind. You need courage to speak truth to power. And you need to have the resolve that you will stand even if you stand alone,” she said.

Power Panel Discusses Political Climate for Women Candidates At the standing-room only event at Emerge Colorado’s new location in the Five Points neighborhood, Turner also participated on a panel with Calderón, Denver City Council member Candi CdeBaca as well as founder and president of the Cannabis Global Initiative Wanda James. The power panel addressed issues women face when running for office as well as the political climate in general. It’s “exhilarating and traumatic” to run for office, said Calderón, who is Afro-Latina. She experienced sexist and racist attacks as the first woman of color to secure a place on the ballot for Denver mayoral election. While issuing a call for 20 to 25 women wanting to run for office in Colorado, Calderón noted that it can be challenging for a woman of color to say what she needs to say without being policed for how she says it. But, she added that women “don’t need to run afraid,” and that everything does not need to be in order. For women who are open to run, Emerge offers the only indepth, six-month, 100hour, training program that provides aspiring women leaders with cutting-edge tools and training to run for elected office and elevate themselves in

the political system. The local organization is a state affiliate of Emerge, which was founded in 2005 and has 27 affiliates across the country, all working to change the face of politics in the nation by recruiting and training Democratic women to run for elected office. In June, Emerge Colorado graduated its ninth class of women. Over 10 alumnae are running for local office in 2021, after 25 Emerge Colorado alums won their elections in 2020. The program’s trainers are a team of campaign consultants, advisors, political operatives, and staff from all over the state and country who have been involved in some of the most successful campaigns and initiatives seen in recent election cycles. Participants learn from these experts and develop practical knowledge in areas such as public speaking, fundraising, campaign strategy, voter contact, media and messaging, and ethical leadership. Candidates also meet an array of dynamic women who hold elected and appointed offices, and become a part of a supportive network, which includes a national association of Emerge alumnae, the Emerge board and advisory council members. Training program participants also learn how to take care of their mental health among the lies and cheating that will take place during a campaign, according to Calderón. “You’ll need to figure out what’s worth challenging. It doesn’t matter what they call you. It’s what you answer to.” Turner believes that today’s world needs the spirit of freedom fighters from the past, such as Fannie Lou Hamer and Cesar Chavez. We need “people who are willing to put something on the line for what’s just, right and good, and who are not preoccupied with who they offend,” said Turner, whose mom was a preacher. James, who comes with a

light on the racial inequalities of the industry. During the panel, James covered a broad range of subjects from questioning the true meaning of being a Democrat to how America is failing its weakest people, citing police brutality, homelessness and suicides. CdeBaca, a fifth-generation native of northeast Denver and graduate of the University of Denver, warned people about being tools for white suprem-

warrior spirit and from a long family line of veterans, said she feels good when she fights for something bigger than herself. “There are so many things we need to fight for,” said the member of the Emerge Colorado volunteer host committee. A pioneering and respected leader in the cannabis industry, the former Fortune 100 executive works to remove the stigma of the plant and sheds

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021


acy. “Be critical of who you are following,” said CdeBaca, the first LGBTQ Latina and first Democratic Socialist to serve on Denver City Council, where she successfully led the charge to force the city of Denver to divest from halfway houses run by private prison companies known for mistreatment of immigrants across the country. Calderón, who most recently served as CdeBaca’s chief of Continued on page 6

Nina Turner Continued from page 5

Determining the Future of the Park Hill Golf Course

organization and the alum network grow. At the legislature,

November Vote Promises to Reveal Community’s Prospects By Alfonzo Porter Power panel discusses political climate for women candidates...Photo by Bernard Grant

staff, has spent nearly three decades working to advance immigrant and women’s rights, racial and economic justice, and government accountability. As a criminal justice, sociology, and women and ethnic studies professor for 15 years, Calderón used her experience to build coalitions to organize legislative action to advance progressive policies. In a July 12 press release from Emerge Colorado announcing her leadership role, she said, “Over the past decade, we’ve seen the power of this

we’re witnessing leaders like Rep. Leslie Herod revolutionize Colorado politics. At the ballot box, Secretary of State Jena Griswold is fighting to protect our democracy every day. At the city level, alums like Candi CdeBaca are demonstrating why women matter at every level of elected office. The power of Emerge cannot be understated and the results speak for themselves.”. For more information about Emerge Colorado visit

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s the November ballot draws near, efforts to determine the future of the former Park Hill Golf Course continues to intensify. Two competing groups envision vastly different uses for the 155 acres in the heart of the Park Hill neighborhood. Save Open Space Denver, seeks to prohibit any residential and commercial development – maintaining it as a public park. Conversely, The Holleran Group in tandem with Westside Investment Partners, who currently owns the property, favors a mixed-use plan that would include affordable housing, grocery stores, and other commercial development. Currently, the land is under a conservation easement that has been in place for some 25 years and forbids anything other than an 18-hole regulation length golf course on the property. In 1989, $2 million was set aside to buy the land. However, the $2 million was no longer deemed adequate for the purchase of the land. The Trust entered into an agreement that would essentially limit the land to be used as a golf course. The easement was then approved by the Denver City Council in 1997. The land was used as a golf course for almost a century before it closed in 2018. In 2019, Westside Investment Partners bought the property for a reported $24 million. The goal was to develop the space once the issue of the easement could be addressed; ideally, ultimately being removed opening the

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021


door to development possibilities. However, SOS Denver’s primary aim is to maintain the easement, forcing a halt to any planning activities on behalf of Westside Investment Partners. In a recent lawsuit filed by SOS they assert that the city is spending money and employee hours working on development plans for the golf course, which is still bound by a conservation easement that requires a court order to end. The lawsuit filed by Save Open Space Denver also lists plaintiffs from each of Denver's 11 council districts, including former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, and former Denver mayoral candidate Penfield Tate III. The current development visioning process is itself the result of a legal settlement between Westside Investment and the city; which paid $6 million to cover a condemning 25 acres of the golf course for a stormwater drainage project on the property. The agreement maintains the easement but gave Westside a three-year window where they don’t have to run a golf course and can start a public engagement process. “This is a unique situation,” Penfield Tate said. “It’s as if they expect the city to give them something for free and allow time to campaign and strategize; forgetting that public tax dollars have been used to support this endeavor.”

SOS also wants a city-wide vote in order to lift the easement which is why they put an ordinance Initiative 301 on the November Ballot that would change city law to require a city-wide vote for the easement to be lifted. “This measure has been brought before the city council before. The 1st time it was defeated by a vote of 10-3,” Norman Harris pointed out referring to when SOS proposed the same language for a charter amendment last summer. In response, Initiative 302, sponsored by some in the community and Holleran/Westside, would make the city-wide vote not applicable to the Park Hill Golf Course. But can there be a compromise? Westside Investment and its partner the Holleran Group has presented a proposal that appears to accomplish, at least some of, SOS’s primary aim of assuring and sustaining open space. Westside and Holleran have made public statements committing to the preservation of at least 60 acres of useable park space on the property. According to Norman Harris, principal of the Holleran Group, there need not be winners and losers. “This can be a win/win scenario. We must meet the community where it is,” he insisted. “Approximately 80% of respondents in a recent survey suggested that they favor a mixeduse development plan for the property.” While the conservation easement specifies that there be no development on the land outside that of a golf course. Harris is confident that the city council will yield to the will of the people. “Our hearts are in equity for all,” Harris says. “We are

easement on it for a reason. We want grass and open space, not concrete,” he said. “It is the normal course of action for the entire city to vote on matters concerning bond issues.” Webb says those who advocate for the development of the property continue to insist that no one is listening to them and they are being disenfranchised. “You have a Black mayor, a Black city council member, a Black state representative and a Black state senator,” Webb said. “How can they claim that no one is listening to them? I like the young people in the Holleran Group but I don’t believe that this deal is what it is perceived to be. It will lead to further gentrification of the community or wind-up producing ghetto housing.” Former state senator and Denver mayoral candidate, Penfield Tate III agrees with former Mayor Webb saying that the developers purchased the property knowing that they were not allowed to develop it. “They bought the land in the hopes that they could remove the conservation easement. It was placed there when the property was a city owned asset and the entire city must have a say in what happens to it.” Tate claims. “I have no issue with companies wanting to make money, but it is doubtful that they will be able to achieve the goal of affordable housing and the other amenities under their proposed plan. What is likely to happen is further gentrification of the community requiring middle to upper middle-class income simply to live there.” He says that the community should maintain as much control as it can over what development projects are approved within its borders. “We are currently working on some broad-ranging plans to present the space as open and recreational, without development,” Tate suggested. “The community must know that the easement provides them with

focused on asset-based community development with a vision of bringing generational change, while maintaining the character of the community. A lot of community input has already been gathered, and it generally reflects approval for a mix of development and open space. However, parks and open space remained the most popular priorities across the board.” The group has also publicly committed to a diversity of housing options including a combination of so-called affordable housing and market rate housing units. Additionally, they promise to implement strategies to attract “displaced families” back into the neighborhood. The plan would seek to address the question of a food desert by establishing a grocery outlet on the property and providing economic opportunities, businesses and services aligned with the needs of the community. The Holleran Group is both owner and co-developer of the property. But according to former Mayor Wellington Webb, it is not so simple. “The City of Denver is 155 square miles, and we are losing park space every day. There is a conservation easement in place that prevents development. That is the law,” Webb declared. “That will remain the case until either the voters or city council acts to change it. The easement was placed on the land during my administration in 1997 and I supported it then and now. I did it to protect the land. The one time the city council did act, it moved to strengthen the easement.” The former mayor sides with those advocating to maintain the entire property as open space. “City tax dollars invested in the property and placed the

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021


leverage – it is their voice. Once it’s gone, the developer can do anything it wants to with that land, based upon the deal they would strike with city administration – and regardless of what they may have promised on the front end.” But for Wayne Vaden of the Holleran Group, it comes down to a matter of community selfdetermination. “I am a 4th generation Northeast Denverite. We have seen our community undervalued for the last 50 years,” Vaden Says. “The best way to address this issue is to create mixed-use development. We must attract businesses and economic opportunities. We can do this and also maintain quality outdoor space for our children.” Vaden believes that the most sensible solution is to create economic opportunities for a community that has been “disenfranchised” for many years. “It took nearly a century simply to get a sub-division,” he said. “We want to determine our future for ourselves. It makes sense to create a business district where businesses pay and there is no cost to tax payers.” The issue will go to the voters this November. They will be presented with two options, Initiatives 301 and 302. Here are the specifics of the two ballot measures: Initiative 301, sponsored by SOS Denver, seeks parks and open space preservation and is against any residential or commercial development on the property. The group garnered more than 10,700 signatures and was approved for the ballot this past June. The measure aims to change the Denver Municipal Code removing the city as the sole source of lifting conservation easements. Continued on page 25

beliefs. Holding true to one’s core values, it is possible to create agency and leverage to be successful. Johnson adds that it was due to her resilience that she created her own resources. Being resilient will not only allow us to bounce back, but also move forward. In order to do that, “We must adapt. We must perform, and we must thrive,” she declared.

Black Boss Summit Expands with Competition and Cannabis Panel

Fifth Annual Event Continues Aim of Creating Wealth by Establishing and Sustaining Businesses By Joshua Glenn

Resilience was the theme

that fueled a weekend of inspiration at the Fifth Annual Black Boss Summit. The gathering featured entrepreneurs from across the country, as summit leaders opened their arms to give aspiring businesses the tools to adapt, perform and thrive. A ballroom at the Clayton Hotel in Cherry Creek North was home base for the jam-packed, three-day event. Hosted by Jice Johnson and Shay J of the Black Business Initiative, the summit expanded into the community this year to up the ante from years prior. For the first time in summit history, the Pitch Black competition and Cannabis and Conversations panel made their inaugural debut at this year’s event. The Jacquad Autograph Hotel was the venue for day one of the Black Boss Summit. Shay J and Rich Lewis from RTL Networks co-hosted the first annual Pitch Black competition to kick off the festivities. In the style of the popular TV series, “Shark Tank,” over 80 Black-owned businesses pitched their ideas for a chance to earn a $10,000 investment sponsored by Amanda Gordon, owner of GoJo Auto. National Business League CEO Dr. Kenneth Harris and Ben-Gurion University Chief of Staff & Strategic Initiatives for Americans Nneka McPhee sat

Create and Find Tools and Opportunities to Forge a Path to Success

alongside Gordon to form an all-star judge’s panel. Emerging from a tight pool of finalists, Truck Desk Owner Nosa Iyare was crowned the winner of the competition. The president of Commercial Rail Solutions, Christopher Senegal, led an engaging conversation about the real estate market. While sharing his market knowledge and the ways the Black community has struggled with it, he also spoke about the realities of gentrification of Black communities that results in the unfortunate displacement of Black families. Black Boss Summit Founder Johnson set the tone for day two. In her presentation, she introduced attendees to the event theme of resilience. Last year’s pandemic halted the growth and development of Black-owned businesses across the country. However, resilience is in our roots, and with it, the instinctual ability to overcome any hurdle in our way, Johnson told the audience. In her opening conversation, she mentioned how setting a goal and performing at the highest caliber will provide you with the tools necessary to create your own success. “Unless you reach the goal, you don’t change the vision,” said Johnson. She stressed the importance of changing your mentality. Mainstream media is often a culprit of dictating the way people feel and their

financial investment and can be virtually impossible to do individually. Multiple speakers from the weekend, including Pinder, discussed how partnering with other established corporations will increase funding opportunities. Following the discussion of economics was Danielle Shoots, founder and CEO of the Daily Boss Up. Her advice to the room was about the critical importance of spending money to make money. “You do not grow business without debt,” Shoots advised.

Jice Johnson, Hill Harper and Shay J

Throughout Saturday’s event, entrepreneurs and economic professionals had opportunities to share their personal experiences navigating the business world. Duwain Pinder from the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility presented a portion of the McKinsey Report that discusses the economic impact of small businesses. With a significant number of Black-owned businesses opening in healthcare, “How do we start Black businesses in sectors where the economy is growing?” asked Pinder. Launching, owning and operating a business are a major

Photo by Ajay Kyle

Stern in her speech, she mentioned the word “risk.” As the banking industry has routinely operated against Black people, she described risk as the word used to keep Black businesspeople out of the capital machine. Through years of developing financial literacy, she developed the tools to stand up to the banking industry and create her own path to success. “There is no entrepreneurship without purpose,” asserted Dr. Kenneth Harris, 12th National CEO of the National Business League who followed Shoots by discussing how now is the time for a Black economic revolution. The pandemic in

Panelists and guests enjoying the summit Photo by Ajay Kyle

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021


2020 blankets one of the largest wealth transfers in American history, Harris said, adding that we should use the current economic climate to take back wealth and resources into Black communities. “If you ain’t got no money, you ain’t got no politics, and you ain’t got no status,” Harris told the crowd. Amanda Gordon of GoJo Auto concluded Saturday’s festivities by sharing her “Y.” Y, being the shortened version of the question, “Why?” As an independent business owner, she is not bound to a franchise. “Knowing your purpose is half the battle,” she said. Gordon is the first and currently only African American woman to own a car dealership in Colorado. Her why? She was fed up with working for others in a maledominated industry. She started GoJo Auto with the intent “to introduce women and people of color to the auto industry.” In the inaugural Cannabis and Conversations event at the Summit, moguls in the Colorado cannabis industry congregated with summit participants in the Tetra private lounge and garden. They shared stories of their experiences navigating an industry that has historically locked up and locked out Black people. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, nationwide data shows law enforcers arrest Blacks almost four times more often than whites, even if the rate of cannabis consumption is equal. The third and final day of the Black Boss Summit featured brunch and the Boss by Design panel with Johnson, Shay J and Coach Ken Ficklin. The three hosted an invigorating discussion on how leading by example starts with the individuals desire to grow. The world of entrepreneurship is ruthless and it only has room for those willing to commit. “When you’re not performing you can be cut,” said Ficklin. The three panelists continued their conversation and shared their knowledge of the personal and mental obstacles they faced on their path to success. To conclude a weekend of education, information and inspiration, award-winning actor, humanitarian and entrepreneur Hill Harper was the keynote speaker. “You cannot have social justice without economic justice,” Harper said as the room fell silent. He is the founder of The Black Wall Street, a free-to-download digital wallet. The mobile app allows users to add funds to their accounts and use those funds to invest in cryptocurrency. More specifically, it gets users involved with bitcoin.

In recent years, cryptocurrency has been on a rapid upward trajectory. One share in Bitcoin, the most popular form of crypto, was worth just under $48,000 during the summit. Though this new currency is volatile, Harper seized the opportunity to get the community involved in crypto. Gold, as a precious metal, has reached a market value of $10 trillion dollars after 5,000 years of mining, according to him. Bitcoin has reached a market value of $1 trillion in only a decade.

“This five-year window we’re in right now is the opportunity for one of the greatest wealth transfers to the Black community in history,” he said. To make this happen, he talked about how imperative it is for Black people to change the way they think about money. In his book, “The Wealth Cure,” be asks readers to determine the role money plays in their lives. To close the summit, he revealed the tools needed to build liquidity and cross-generational wealth. .

VOTE YES on 2A-2E GETTING DENVER BACK TO WORK Over 7,500 jobs created Over $480,000,000 in wages provided Over $1 Billion in economic impact

88 PROJECTS FUNDED INCLUDING: Curtis-Mestizo Pool reconstruction 47th & Walden Park construction Globeville Library construction Peoria Street improvements National Western Center arena construction


Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021


Medical Professors Say Vaccines Proving Effective More Vaccinations Necessary to Combat Delta Variant Spread and New Variants By Theresa Ho

In September, the CDC reported that 63.5% of the total U.S. population had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine while 54.2% of the total U.S. population was fully vaccinated. According to the CDC, the United States is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases in most of the country following a surge of the Delta variant and continued low vaccination coverage in many communities. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported that 83% of Coloradans currently hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

Combining Science, Faith and Community to Combat COVID-19

Dr. Oveta Fuller is an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Her research team has explored the molecular mechanisms of entry into cells of human pathogenic viruses and how such viruses cause disease. She is part of the FDA advisory committee that has reviewed the three COVID-19 vaccines used in the United States. During an interview that began on the phone and continued over email, Fuller discussed coronavirus, the COVID-19 vaccine, and working with communities to address health disparities. Fuller explained that the amazing feat of scientific research to develop and distribute COVID-19 vaccines occurred because of unprecedented cooperation between scientists, the government and regulatory agencies during a time of pandemic. “They came together with resources from each – some brought research funding, some had studied the spike protein of other coronaviruses, and some had studied messenger RNA carrier technology and how to package materials for stability. These came together with the provision of upfront funding so that researchers could make a full throttle effort without knowing if the approaches taken would work. We are so grateful for the high vaccine protection against disease,” she said. The only thing that differs from what usually occurs, Fuller said, was the ability to document the longer-term vaccine effects. “In the midst of much loss of life, we did not have that luxury,” she said. She added that negative effects from vaccines emerge usually within the first weeks or months after vaccination. There is no precedence or reason these COVID-19 vaccines will differ. Fuller is not convinced, however, that currently available data support a need for everyone to get a booster shot.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021


She explained that the data provided in the recent Pfizer application for licensing of an immune boosting third dose were not as extensive as the results from the clinical trials of the original application in December 2020. Evidence to support a third dose was presented from the Minister of Health of Israel. They are using a third injection of Pfizer vaccine as a booster strategy to combat illness from a surge of the Delta virus variant. “Their data indicated that antibody levels were lower before they started giving the booster to older people who were becoming ill from infection by the Delta virus variant. With the third dose, primed immune systems responded with stronger protection. Hospitalizations and deaths in Israel now are decreasing,” Fuller said. “But, there’s a huge difference between Israel and the U.S. First, Israel’s vaccination level of those over 12 years was high. Secondly, they only used Pfizer vaccine in Israel, so providing a boost also of Pfizer was simpler for everyone. We have three different vaccines and just over 54% of the U.S.A. population fully vaccinated. This means over 40% of our population is not vaccinated. These are very different circumstances. Third, Israel is a highly homogenous country with extensive health care and a younger population. The U.S.A. is a highly heterogeneous country with an older population. It’s almost like comparing apples to oranges, or perhaps apples and cucumbers. The features are very different.” The advisory committee did not think there was compelling evidence yet for waning immunity in the U.S. to suggest that every person currently needs a booster. Thus, the application to license Pfizer for a third dose for those 16 and older was not recommended for approval. Instead, the committee recommended emergency use author-

ization availability of a third Pfizer dose for those aged 65 years old or those in medical or other high risk occupations. Fuller conducts research with the Trusted Messenger Intervention, which involves moving science advances into wider use in communities through engaging networks of faith leaders in communities. She has conducted prevention implementation research through using a science-based intervention, Trusted Messenger, to reframe perspectives on HIV/AIDS and leadership actions within networks of religious leaders. She uses similar principles to help combat COVID-19. “[The community leaders] are major opinion leaders and gatekeepers in their communities,” she said. “We provide them with a fundamental science background so that they are more capable and confident in helping people to get to and use available resources. This reduces misconception and misinformation. The approach is used with COVID-19, except the response is not rigorously documented as in the HIV research. We seek to change real-time practices that affect the COVID-19 pandemic. People need the truth on what is known, and they need to hear truth from people that they trust. We try to be accessible and trustworthy. She believes that getting the pandemic and the virus under control depends on communities working together. If there are people that are reproducing the virus, she said, then it will be difficult to get rid of, or at the very least, get virus transmission down to a manageable level. “There are some, a relative few, who cannot get immunized,” she said. “The rest of us must take on responsibly masking, distancing and vaccination as possible to protect them.” “Yes, there may be fear – fear of the unknown is natural. There are many unknowns

about COVID-19 disease and the virus replication. However, the available vaccines have been well studied and been provided safely to many people around the world. As evident with the data from clinical trials, there are side effects. These are short-lived mostly from activation of the immune system by a COVID-19 vaccine. The unknown risks from the vaccines that protect from COVID-19 disease are low relative to the well-known visible risks of serious illness or death from COVID-19,” she continued. “Getting vaccinated may be a choice or required. If one chooses not to get vaccinated, it is absolutely necessary to be diligent in physical social distancing, masking and avoiding gatherings. Avoiding virus exposure becomes even more difficult because the Delta variant is more contagious. We must come together and put aside individualism and focus on what must occur to get to and manage co-existing with this new human virus,” she concluded. Current COVID-19 Vaccines and the Nature of Viruses Dr. Ross Kedl is a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Colorado Anschutz School of Medicine where he pursues the discovery and development of novel and clinically applicable vaccine technology. According to Kedl, no strong evidence shows that the Delta variant is symptomatically any worse than the original strain. But what Delta does seem to do, he said, is replicate very well so that it spreads more effectively. “It particularly replicates and spreads really well from the unvaccinated,” he said. “If you consider its contagiousness, its chances of infecting somebody else as part of its dangerous profile, then yes it is more dangerous in that sense because you’re likelihood of getting

infected if you’re standing in the room with somebody with Delta variant versus with somebody with another strain, than your chances of getting infected are certainly higher.” He emphasized that it is important to recognize that 95% of the people hospitalized due to COVID-19 are unvaccinated, and there is an even greater percentage with serious complications. “So the vaccines, including J&J, all of them are contributing to keeping you that kind of safe … The vaccines are working, and they’re all working against Delta. At that level of analysis, they are working extremely well,” he said. “The more people that it has a chance to replicate in and the better it has a chance of replicating, the more likely it is to spin out a variant,” Kedl said. “The larger the pool of people who are unvaccinated, the more likely that we’ll have another variant that comes out. And that’s true locally as well as globally. So if we stay fixed at 30% or 40% of the total population that is unvaccinated, that’s a bit of a recipe for concern because at some point in time, there will be another variant that comes out of this whole thing, and we’ll see what happens.” He explained that viruses have one goal: to replicate. In the natural world viruses compete at the level of contagiousness and a decrease in symptomology. “If you think about it,” he said, “The virus doesn’t actually want to kill you, assuming we can describe it as an anthropomorphic desire. It needs a host, or it can’t go any further. So if it kills you too quickly, it dies itself out. The ideal strategy for a virus is for it to get more contagious and less severe. So Delta got more contagious, and there could be ones in the future that decide to get less severe. Others might get more contagious, and they’ll have to

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021


duke it out with Delta. And that’s just going to happen at a certain rate.” While variants are always a concern, Kedl believes that the bigger concern is the rate at which those variants are generated, which is completely dictated by how many people are not vaccinated. He thinks that another question is whether the vaccines will still be able to protect against whatever variants that do come out. But he adds that he is not haunted by variant production or the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines. “At the moment, given the last year and half or so of experience, it doesn’t seem likely,” Kedl said. “In fact, the vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 actually provide a significant amount of reactivity against the original SARS, which is pretty distantly related to the SARSCoV-2 even though the names are similar … The vaccines are that good, so we’re lucky there.”.

13 Candidates Vie for 4 Open Seats on School Board By Melanie Asmar, Chalkbeat Colorado - September 2, 2021 Editor’s note: “Thirteen candidates are vying for four open seats on the Denver school board” was originally published by Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization covering public education. Sign up for their newsletters here:”


he Denver school board election will be held Nov. 2. Thirteen candidates have filed to run for four open seats on the Denver school board in November. Though a majority of the seven board seats are up for grabs, the election is unlikely to shift the balance of power away from members backed by the teachers union. The candidates include Denver Public Schools parents, graduates, and educators. Several are former Denver teachers or administrators. One candidate is the executive director of a group of autonomous schools in the district, and another works as a community liaison at a high school. Board policy does not allow district employees to serve on the board. In the past, district employees elected to the board have resigned from their jobs to serve. Of the four open seats, one is sought by an incumbent running for re-election: Carrie Olson, a former Denver teacher and current president of the board. Two other seats are vacant because board members Jennifer Bacon and Angela Cobián declined to run for a second term. The fourth seat is open because Barbara O’Brien is ineligible to run again due to term limits. School board elections are held every two years, with the number of open seats each election varying from three to four. Since a historic “flip” in 2019, when three unionbacked candidates won, members aligned with the union have held a 5-2 majority. The two board members not backed by the union, Cobián and

O’Brien, will be leaving this year. The three union-backed members elected in 2019 — Tay Anderson, Scott Baldermann, and Brad Laurvick — will remain on the board for another two years. If even just one of four open seats this year is won by a unionendorsed candidate, union-backed members will retain their majority. In past elections, union-backed candidates have faced off against candidates favored by education reform organizations, which are more supportive of independent charter schools and school choice than the union. The union has thus far endorsed candidates in three of the four open races. Board members are elected to four-year terms, and the next four years in Denver Public Schools will be important. The new board members will oversee a relatively new superintendent, Alex Marrero, who took the top job in July. The board will also write a new strategic plan for the district after the previous one, the Denver Plan 2020, expired last year. The board will make decisions on critical issues facing the district, including whether to close or consolidate small schools as enrollment continues to decline. And it will oversee ongoing efforts to improve education for Black students in Denver and to redefine school safety and discipline after the removal of police officers from some middle and high schools. In addition, the board will be responsible for signing off on how to spend millions of dollars in federal coronavirus relief money, approving new autonomous charter or innovation schools, and reviewing existing ones. Decisions

about charter and innovation schools have long been controversial. That’s likely to continue, though charter expansion has slowed in recent years. Denver Public Schools is Colorado’s largest school district, serving about 90,000 students. About 52% of students are Hispanic, 25% are white, 14% are Black, and 3% are Asian. More than 60% qualify for subsidized meals, and 36% are learning English as a second language. The district’s annual budget is about $1.2 billion dollars, and it employs about 15,000 people. Past Denver school board elections have been contentious and expensive, even though serving on the board is a volunteer position. Spending by candidates and outside groups in the last Denver school board election, in 2019, topped $2 million. The election is scheduled for Nov. 2. In alphabetical order, the candidates who filed with the Denver Office of the Clerk and Recorder to run are: At-large, representing the entire city Marla Benavides describes herself in a campaign video as a homeschool mom concerned about literacy rates in the district. She sells books as an independent contractor. Scott Esserman is a Denver Public Schools parent who previously worked as a teacher in public and private schools. He currently volunteers as the chair of the district’s accountability committee. Vernon Jones Jr. is a Denver Public Schools parent and executive director of the Northeast Denver Innovation Zone, a group of autonomous schools in the district. He previously ran for a school board seat in 2009 but did not win. Jane Shirley is a former teacher and principal in neighboring Aurora Public Schools and the former head of a school leadership program. She now works at a management consulting firm.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021


Nicky Yollick is a community activist who has worked on Democratic political campaigns and helped found several Denver-based education advocacy groups. District 4, representing northeast Denver Gene Fashaw is a Denver Public Schools graduate who worked until recently as a math teacher at a Denver charter school. He now teaches at a charter school outside Denver. Chalkbeat could not find a campaign website or social media page for Andrea Mosby Jones. Attempts to contact her were unsuccessful. Michelle Quattlebaum is a Denver Public Schools graduate whose three children graduated from George Washington High School. She works as the family and community liaison there. Jose Silva is a Denver Public Schools graduate and executive director of the Colorado Association of Infant Mental Health. He twice ran unsuccessfully for Denver school board, in 2003 and 2007. District 3, representing east-central Denver Mike DeGuire is a former teacher and principal at schools in Denver and other local districts. He now coaches school principals in Denver and elsewhere and works as a realtor. Carrie Olson worked for decades as a Denver teacher and was first elected to the school board in 2017. She has been president of the board for the past two years. District 2, representing southwest Denver Xóchitl Gaytán is a Denver Public Schools graduate and current parent. She works as a realtor and previously ran for the school board in 2017 but did not win. Karolina Villagrana has worked as a teacher and administrator in district-run and charter schools in Colorado and other states. She now works for Camelback Ventures, an organization that supports women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color. .

Public Health Policies and COVIDrelated Travel Restrictions Vary Widely across the Globe By Malcolm Quattlebaum


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he traveling landscape has changed drastically since COVID-19 turned the world upside down a year and a half ago. The pandemic caused 2020 to be the worse statistical year for tourism ever. That was until the numbers for this year’s tourism statistics came out. Today, many people around the world are reluctant to travel due to the surge of new coronavirus variants and related traveling restrictions, making 2021 tourism numbers just as bad, and may end even worse than last year. In an official report published by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the data shows, “that over the first five months of the year, world destinations recorded 147 million fewer international arrivals (overnight visitors) compared to the same period of 2020, or 460 million less than the pre-pandemic year of 2019. However, the data does point to a relatively small upturn in May, with arrivals declining by 82% (versus May 2019), after falling by 86% in April. This slight upward trend emerged as some destinations started to ease restrictions and consumer confidence rose slightly.” Although the stats show that most people have suppressed their travel bug, this is not the case for everyone. A large group of people have still been taking advantage of current low airfare rates and exploring the world. Of course, public health restrictions and policies are in place, though they vary from country to country. Denver Urban Spectrum caught up with two Denver residents who have traveled internationally this past year, to get

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021


an insight on international travel during a pandemic.

Dr. Ryan Ross, 40, recently traveled to and from Uganda as well as Rwanda. He visited those countries as a liaison for the Urban Leadership Foundation. His trip was part of the foundation’s new international leadership program that provides African American leaders from the United States an opportunity to connect with leaders from the continent of Africa. Though Ross is fully vaccinated, he had to go through the same procedures as the unvaccinated most of the time.

“Honestly, I don’t think there was a difference. I still had to take multiple COVID tests and pass within 72 hours. I still had to show proof of those COVID tests to reenter any of the countries that we went to. I think having the vaccine, from my perspective, is about safety and being safe when you embark on travel,” he said. When visiting Rwanda, Ross was required to take COVID tests and show a negative result. However, in the Congo, just 930 kilometers away, no COVID test was needed upon entry whether you were vaccinated or unvaccinated. Geoffrey Moussavou, 24, is a Denver resident who is from the Congolese in Africa. Moussavou traveled to three distinctively different countries this past year: Mexico, France, and the Congo. He is not vaccinated and had different experiences in each country he visited. He encountered no issues when traveling to the Congo, as they did not require him to show any proof of vaccination or to take a COVID test. He explained that many African countries don’t necessarily push the vaccine. They also take a much more relaxed approach to traveling policies, rooted in the lack of trust in Western medicine. Western medicine has a bad reputation with Africans, “so I can never believe them when it comes to healthcare,” Moussavou explained.

Congo’s laissez-faire demeanor about the vaccine allowed him to enjoy his trip with little to no vaccination requirements. As he said, he had a great time. This, however, was not the case when he traveled to France. Pandemic or not, France will always be a tourist hotspot. The Paris Charles de Gaulle airport has one of the more rigorous travel guidelines and policies in the world. Similar to Ross’s experience on his way to Uganda and Rwanda, Moussavou encountered strict polices in Paris where all travelers were required to take a COVID test and show a negative result

regardless of their vaccination status. However, given that he was not vaccinated, he did notice a difference in airport employees’ attitudes. “When I went to France I saw a bit of unfairness. The workers were rougher and tougher with the unvaccinated, and treated and talked to the vaccinated with more kindness, and airport COVID tests are expensive,” he said. All in all, Ross told us he had an amazing time in Africa. The biggest obstacle that he had to overcome was the constant rules and regulations that were changing in real time. He would sometimes leave one country, and when he returned, different health clearances were in place. None the less, he was able to overcome all COVID restrictions and policies and had a successful trip. Moussavou has been traveling internationally his whole life and has been to several countries. He mostly has the

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time of his life while traveling. Conversely, this time around was less enjoyable. “I love discovering new cultures, but I didn’t have as much fun as I usually do because things were closed, and people had attitudes. I give it a six out of ten, whereas usually, my trips are nine out of ten or even ten out of ten,” he said. Both men plan to travel some more before the year is up. Ross will be staying stateside and traveling to Kansas. Moussavou is planning to go to Gabon in a few weeks. If past experience is any indication, traveling policies are likely to have changed since his last trip. Due to the changing situation, researching the COVID regulations of your destination is useful if you plan on traveling. If traveling internationally and even in some American states, you should also expect to take COVID tests and be prepared to be turned back if your results are positive. .


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$450M Infrastructure Package to Create Jobs and Boost Economic Recovery Referred to November Ballot Mayor Michael B. Hancock thanked Denver City Council for approving the referral of five 2021 General Obligation bond (GO bond) infrastructure investments to voters on the November ballot. The $450 million GO bond infrastructure package is a key component of the city’s financial plan for economic recovery, the investments of which are expected to create an estimated 7,500 goodpaying jobs, $483 million in worker wages and benefits, and $1 billion in economic benefits. “This bond package invests in our economic recovery by investing in our people, and I thank those Council members who voted in favor of referring this opportunity to voters,” Mayor Hancock said. “These projects will help sustain our economic recovery by supporting more than 7,500 good-paying jobs from construction and hundreds more jobs well into the future, creating new community assets to support year-round events and local businesses, improve mobility, and strengthen our cultural institutions, libraries and parks & rec facilities.”

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021


The $450 million infrastructure bond package includes more than 80 distinct projects across Denver with a focus on equity and economic opportunity. Denver voters will see the proposed GO bond package broken into five purpose areas on the November 2, 2021 ballot: •$190 million for the National Western Center campus for a new mid-sized arena to support year-round events and year-round jobs, and to renovate the historic 1909 Building for use as a public market to provide food access in a neighborhood lacking access to fresh foods and creating space for neighborhood businesses •$104 million to create new and preserve beloved community assets including making critical ADA accessibility improvements to ensure community assets are accessible to all residents, building two new libraries and expanding an existing library in un-served and under-served neighborhoods of Westwood, Globeville and Hampden, and creating a new youth empowerment center •$63 million for 46 projects to address transportation safety in neighborhoods, address six miles of sidewalk gaps, design and construct the first part of the 5280 trail, and create 16 miles of new bike lanes

MAYOR’S CORNER •$54 million to improve and build new playgrounds, athletic fields, a public pool and public restrooms •$39 million for housing and sheltering facilities serving people experiencing homelessness The bond package was created based on projects and priorities identified by several thousand Denver residents over five years of outreach and engagement (2021 RISE GO Bond, Elevate Denver Bond process, Denveright Comprehensive Planning process, 6-Year Capital Improvement Plan), including more than 6,000 residents who engaged in telephone town halls and online surveys and forums in May and June of 2021. In addition, the package considers feedback from city agencies regarding priorities and project readiness, and City Council priorities.

The city’s GO bonds are secured by dedicated property tax mills. The 2021 GO Bond proposal is expected to remain within the existing property tax rate for GO Bonds. Each bond issuance must be approved by City Council and is expected to be competitively sold based on the lowest cost to the City. Denver’s GO Bonds are currently rated “AAA” by all three major credit rating agencies who last reaffirmed the rating in November 2020 citing the city’s strong financial management prior to and during the pandemic. With final approval from City Council, the five bond measures will now be referred for inclusion on the November 2021 ballot. A full list of the infrastructure projects to be funded by the $450 million GO bond may be found on and

Making transmissions well since 1983.

Our kids deserve access to after-school tutoring and enrichment activities regardless of their family's income or where they live. Prop 119 helps level the playing field by providing $1500 for tutoring via a small sales tax increase on recreational marijuana. The pandemic widened achievement gaps that have existed in our schools for decades. Our school kids need help catching up in math, reading, and social studies — I urge you to join me in voting yes on Prop 119 for our kids’ educational success.

Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb

Paid for by Yes on Prop 119. Michele Haedrich Registered Agent. Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021



Dr. Billy Alsbrooks: Inspiring through Faith By Daryn Fouther

Where It All Started According to Dr. Billy Alsbrooks, his life has been shaped by three primary elements: music, sports and God. Born and raised in the small town of Florence, Alabama, his early life was centered around music.

“My grandmother had a music store, and my mother and all of my aunts taught music lessons at the store for 26 years. By the time I was about 1 year old, I was down there listening to music and hearing them teach,” he recalls. By the time he was 5 years old, Billy’s father had begun learning martial arts. Being the true daddy’s boy, he wanted to follow in his footsteps and became fully immersed in the martial arts lifestyle as well. “I got my black belt when I was 9 years old, was the national champion in my age group, was state champion four years in a row in the state of Texas, and a Junior Olympic champion,” he says. Martial arts made its mark on him, instilling high standards and excellence. “Being so involved in martial arts and training so early on in life helped me understand what discipline was all about,” he says. His Father, His Inspiration The major recession that hit the country when Billy was a teenager forced his family to relocate from Florence to Dallas, Texas. It was also during this timeframe that his father began to struggle with alcoholism. “My Dad’s side of the family had a history of struggling with alcoholism, and unfortunately, my father also fell into the patterns. He struggled with alcoholism from my middle school years up to my senior year of high school. It really impacted my life watching him go through that, and ultimately resulted in my parents’ divorce,” he says. “The day my dad received the paperwork for the divorce, he decided never to drink

again. He went to treatment, got sober and started helping others through addiction—oneon-ones, going to jails, and chairing meetings. I got to see a complete 180-degree turnaround of his whole situation,” Billy shares. Seeing his father go through that journey and make it out on the other side instilled in him that no matter what, change is possible. “No matter what you’re going through, you’re only one decision away from changing your life.” The Rap Years, Heartache of Loss While in high school, Billy started to pursue rap. “During my sophomore year of high school, I got introduced to the microphone, and from that point on, for the next 17 years, I was 120% all-in on music. I was on billboards, had songs on the rap charts, had my own radio show—I had that whole lifestyle. It was completely different from where I am now,” he reflected. “Yes, I had a microphone, but my mouth was a tool of destruction,” he says. “I was there to report what was going on in the streets and to promote that lifestyle. I chased that lifestyle fast during this time, and because of that, I saw many good friends and people pass. I probably buried 20 people, and by the grace of God, it never happened to me. It could have easily been me multiple times.” During the height of his rap career, Billy’s father had a stroke at 63 years old. “Twelve days after the stroke, I got a call that he was doing better, out of the ICU and into a recovery facility. I went, excitingly, to see him on that 12th day, and the doctor was encouraging us to get him out of bed and into the sunlight since he hadn’t moved from the bed all of the 12 days prior. We placed him in the wheelchair, not knowing that he had a blood clot in his leg. It dis-

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021


lodged and went straight to his lungs and shortly after he was gone,” says Billy. Seeing his father— his biggest inspiration – pass on right before his eyes shook him to his core. “I lived with a lot of guilt that changed my life,” he says. “Two days later, I went to the funeral home to make the arrangements, and the director took me out to the gravesite to show me the plot for my father. He showed me four plots: one for my grandfather, one for my grandmother, one for my father, and the last one was for me. That was the first time I really faced what it meant to die. Even though I’d witnessed so many around me pass and was rapping about all of it, I always had in my mind that it would never happen to me. But at that moment, it was real.” Finding His True Voice In the face of his father’s death and grappling with his own mortality, Billy went from performing in front of thousands of people to being afraid to go out of his home. “My father’s death caused me to have PTSD and severe panic attacks. My negative thoughts started to take over,” he recounts. This continuously got worse for seven years until he lost everything he had built for himself in his rap career. “I started talking to God every day, saying, ‘God, if you don’t heal me, I can’t do it anymore, I’m exhausted. I don’t have anything to give right now, but if you heal me, I will go out into the world and tell them who did it,’” Billy says. God answered Billy’s prayers, and from that day forward, he slowly got back to life—new life. He did not go back to rapping as he knew he had a greater calling. He wanted to inspire others who might be going through hard times like he was. He explains, “In 2016, God inspired me to write a book: Blessed and Unstoppable.

I had no outlets and knew no one, but I trusted in God. I had a therapist that gave me some advice in the past: when you’re at home and sense a panic attack coming on, you can go on YouTube and start listening to positive things to keep you strong when you are alone.” Billy embodied that advice, and in 2017, he started a YouTube channel making his motivational videos, which took off. He has reached a combined 50 million streams on his motivational messages and his book has now been sold in over 31 countries.

Get in Where You Fit in A new path to homeownership through this lease to purchase program

By Barry Overton


n the day and age when homeownership A Word to Share has been a Today Billy continues to hot topic, spread motivation on his 40-city particularly “Blessed and Unstoppable” tour, in the where he holds four and fiveDenver metro area, and as we hour seminars geared towards helping people unlock the great- experience continuing rises in ness they have inside of them home values, we have many and teaching the principles of potential homeowners that are success. The tour, which features looking for new methods in two other speakers, Barry order to achieve home ownerOverton and Kelisha Worrell, ship. Home Partners of America will be in Denver on October 10 has been an opportunity used at the Denver Hilton Inverness. He is also working on a second by thousands of families to take book, Burning, a hybrid of poetry an alternative approach to and personal development. homeownership. He graduated from Faith While the journey to homeChristian University with a ownership is a little bit different major in bible ministry. He also than the norm, it ultimately founded B7U Clothing, motivaresults into the same outcome. tional based apparel focuses on Home Partners of America has designs that uplift, motivate, branched out into 78 different and inspire people to greatness. metro areas, which includes He was recently awarded an more than 2,900 cities and honorary doctorate of human57,000 people they’ve been able ities for his positive impact to make homeowners in the across the globe. U.S., and the good news is, they Billy gives a word of advice are in the Denver metro area. to anyone having a tough time Who is this program for you right now during COVID or just might ask? Well, those that getting through life: protect your have encountered credit chalmind and your vision. lenges, debt to income ratio He advises, “How you think issues, or other matters that in times of trials and tribulations have just prevented someone really matters. You have to pour from becoming a homeowner. the right stuff in all day, every Typically, they are the best canday, and protect what’s on the didates for Home Partners of inside. You also have to protect America. And while there is your vision. You need to see still a credit check and a debt to yourself as healthy and victoriincome ratio criteria, Home ous. The blueprint starts in your Partners of America has a more mind.”. lenient system for applicants.

This is how it works. You first apply for the Home Partners’ lease to purchase program. And once you are qualified, Home Partners will tell you how much you can afford to pay in rent and how much that translates into the purchase price of the home they will purchase for you. Then you can actually go and shop in your real estate market for a Home Partners’ approved home that are currently for sale in the city or metro area that you live in. Once you identify the property, you then advise your Home Partners’ certified real estate agent of your selection. Your agent and Home Partners will then work in collaboration to get the property under contract and purchased. Home Partners purchases the property with cash, making them the most attractive buyer in a competing offer situation. Once the property is purchased, Home Partners will then get the property prepared for you to move in. In two weeks after purchase, you are generally able to move into your new lease to purchase property. Home Partners is the landlord of the property. You now have up to five years in which to purchase the property. At any point during that five-year period when you qualify for a loan to purchase the property, you can complete that transaction and now become the homeowner of the home that you found on the market.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021


The purchase price of the home is determined by each year that you lease the property. The price will increase 5% per year, from Home Partners original purchase price. This is beneficial in the Denver market, since home values increase anywhere from 8 to 12% per year. Therefore in the in the next couple of years, you could find yourself purchasing with builtin equity. So it puts a resident occupant in a great position to become a homeowner while they take care of credit concerns or anything else that keeps them from currently qualifying for a property. For further questions, email or call me or any other Home Partners’ certified agent to learn more about this program.. 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.

Black Billionaire, Robert F. Smith, Launches HBCU Tour to Upgrade Campus Cybersecurity and Help Students Find Alternative Way to Pay

Nationwide ( – Acclaimed writer and Broadway playwright Lorraine Hansberry once posed the prolific question: what does it mean, “To be young, gifted, and Black?” Nearly 60 years later, the sobering reality that persists for many Black American students seeking a college education in navigating

the challenges of being young, educated, Black and broke. Overburdened with crushing, disproportionate levels of student debt, they are playing catch-up from the first day they step foot onto a college campus. As a result, they start their careers strapped with significantly more educational debt than most white college gradu-

ates. More than 70 percent of Black students go into debt to pay for higher education, compared to 56 percent of white students, according to the American Association of University Women. The Association’s recent report also found that Black women carry about 20 percent more student debt than their white counterparts, owing an estimated $41,466 in undergraduate loans in comparison to the $33,851 that white women owe. The Brookings Institute finds that the Black-white disparity in student loan debt more than triples after graduation, with Black college graduates owing $7,400 more on average than their white peers ($23,400 versus $16,000). And regardless of the incomes they make after graduation, Black households carry more student debt affecting their creditworthiness and ability to save money or buy homes. The debt difference tends to worsen over time, in part because of the longstand-

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ing racial wealth gap, which is only beginning to gain interest on the heels of America’s racial reckoning reignited in 2020. Billionaire philanthropist Robert F. Smith is all too familiar with the ongoing student debt crisis and he’s doing his part to try and help. Smith drew headlines in 2019 when he pledged a $34 million gift to Atlanta’s historically Black Morehouse College, paying off student balances for 400 graduates. In the spirit of that lifechanging support, this Fall he has launched the Student Freedom Initiative tour on the campuses of an initial cohort of nine Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). It provides science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), starting with HBCUs, opportunities to receive educational grants of up to $20,000 per academic year, filling the gap after financial aid awards.

The overarching goal is to provide students with alternative funding sources, in lieu of pursuing traditional student loans or their parents having to take out Parent PLUS loans, which are unsubsidized federal loans with higher interest rates and fees. “This is to help significantly reduce their financial indebtedness, which we believe is largely driven by long-standing economic disparities that persist in American society,” says the Student Freedom Initiative’s Executive Director Mark Brown. “We provide them with opportunities to receive income-contingent funding in lieu of traditional college loans that have long wreaked havoc on their financial futures. These income-contingent agreements, which we refer to as Student Freedom Agreements, are based on a ‘pay it forward’ concept; meaning they pay it back only when they’re working and their payments are based solely on their income.” Smith, who serves as chairman of the 501(c) (3) organization, says the objective is to provide HBCU students with longterm financial freedom. “Through the Student Freedom Initiative we hope to give Black students access to the education they need to move forward in this digital economy without the burden of student loan debt stopping them from realizing their fullest potential,” says Smith, who also helms the private equity firm Vista Equity Partners. “While our community continues to face inequities that too often bar young students of color from accessing quality higher education, the Student Freedom Initiative aims to empower our students with the tools they need to control their financial futures.” The students also have the opportunity to receive microgrant funding for emergency situations that arise, along with career development opportunities established through partnerships with Fortune 100 com-

panies. “Eligible students may receive at least two paid internships during their college careers, what we like to call ‘immersive work experiences,’” notes Brown, Tuskegee University alum. “We are taking a holistic approach in our drive to empower and prepare the next generation of students. We’re betting on them, that given the right investment they will go out and do well!” Additionally, with the help of tech partners Cisco and AVC Technologies, the Student Freedom Initiative is also funding campus visits throughout the 2021-22 academic year to Claflin University, Clark Atlanta University, Florida A&M University, Hampton University, Morehouse College, Prairie View A&M University, Tougaloo College, Tuskegee University and Xavier University of Louisiana, providing free technology infrastructure upgrades. The Student Freedom Initiative’s partners work directly with the HBCUs to identify gaps and upgrade existing campus cybersecurity infrastructure, in an effort to help them reach compliance with a federal mandate from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) Federal Student Aid (FSA) Office. To date, more than 22 HBCUs have signed agreements to receive the upgrades funded by $250 million in generous pledges: including a $150 million contribution from Cisco, along with first-round grants from the Walmart Foundation as part of The Center for Racial Equity and additional support from the United Negro College Fund.. Editor’s note: The Student Freedom Initiative (SFI), is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring freedom in professional and life choices for junior and senior students pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees. For more information, visit

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Sam Cary Bar Association Announces Induction of the Honorable Gary M. Jackson into the National Bar Association Fred Gray Hall of Fame

The Sam Cary Bar Association, representing African American attorneys in Colorado, takes great pride in announcing that one its’ most esteemed members, the Honorable Gary M. Jackson, was inducted into the National Bar Association Fred David Gray Hall of Fame (“NBA Hall of Fame”) during a virtual ceremony on July 27. Judge Jackson was honored for his countless professional achievements as a practicing lawyer and judge, his significant contributions to his community and his tireless work on behalf of diversity, equity and inclusion in the legal profession and the Colorado judiciary. There are currently 246 members of the NBA Hall of Fame and only one other Colorado attorney, the late Irving Andrews, was inducted

into this distinguished body. The NBA Hall of Fame, named after famous civil rights attorney, preacher and activist Fred David Gray, who is now 90 years old attended the induction ceremony. Jackson earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Colorado. Early in his legal career, he worked as a deputy district attorney in Denver and an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Colorado. He then entered private practice, and ultimately partnered with Michael DiManna to form the law firm of DiManna & Jackson, where he distinguished himself in criminal defense, personal injury and the representation of lawyers and judges facing charges of misconduct for 37 years. Later in his career, Jackson was hired by the Denver Baseball District as the trial attorney for the acquisition of the land upon which Coors Field (home of the Colorado Rockies) now sits. In January of 2013, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock appointed Jackson to the Denver County Court bench. Judge Jackson recently retired from the Denver County

Court and currently holds senior status. Jackson was a co-founder of the Sam Cary Bar Association, where he has held multiple leadership positions and served in many roles, including chair of the Sam Cary Scholarship Endowment Fund, benefitting African American law students at both Colorado law schools. Jackson has also served on state and federal judicial nominating commissions and has been active in local, state and national bar associations. Other contributions to the legal profession include service on boards of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, American College of Trial Lawyers and American Board of Trial Advocates. He is currently co- chair of the Colorado Bar Association/Colorado Judicial Institute Coalition to address the lack of diversity in the state judiciary. Jackson has served his community in several ways that include board memberships with the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble and the Denver Urban League. He has also served as chairman of the Delta Eta Boule Foundation, which benefits African American young men who have achieved academic success and demonstrated leadership potential. Jackson has received many awards, including Colorado Super Lawyer, the National Bar Association Wiley Branton

Award, the University of Colorado Law School George Norlin and Merle Knous Awards, the George Washington High School Inaugural Hall of Fame, Colorado Judicial Institute and Anthony Greco County Court Judge of the Year, Colorado Law Week Trial Lawyer of the Year, the Center for Legal Inclusiveness Hon. Wiley Daniel Lifetime Achievement Award and the Denver Bar Association/American Board of Trial Advocates Judicial Excellence Awards. Many lawyers practicing in Colorado will represent that they owe much of their success to the dedicated mentoring and wise counsel they have received from Judge Jackson. He knows no equal when it comes to the time and energy he has devoted over many years to the causes and individuals he so deeply cares about. Indeed, Judge Jackson has never been one to sit on the sidelines or serve as a member of organizations in name only. He completely engages with others to achieve positive results for the legal profession and his beloved community. For these reasons and more, the Sam Cary Bar Association extends heartfelt congratulations to one of their own, the Honorable Gary Jackson, on the occasion of his well-deserved induction into the NBA Hall of Fame. .

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CBWPA Presents the 43rd Annual Tribute to Black Women Luncheon & Awards Ceremony Colorado Black Women for Political Action (CBWPA) is a non-partisan, non-profit organization impacting the community since 1977. 1977, Colorado Black Women for Political Action (CBWPA), the brainchild of former State Senator Gloria Tanner, was founded by 13 women who wanted to encourage AfricanAmerican participation in the political process and serve as a political advocate for the African-American community. Today, the organization’s steadfast commitment to the vision of its founders is evident through its programs and services. Its members seek, daily, to infuse Colorado politics with the strength and perspective of the Black woman. For more than 40 years, volunteer-run CBWPA has been honoring Black women and teens from all walks of life. This year the organization is honoring Black women who are Holding Up Democracy!! These are Black women leaders who are champions of democracy and have demonstrated authentic and meaningful work in a community actively engaged in the electoral process. This year’s 2021 Tribute to Black Women honoreeswill be honored in the

following categories: Art: Adri Norris; Community: Topazz McBride; Education: Antoinette Foster; Politics: Judge Jill Dorancy; Public Health: Dr. Sheila Davis; Youth: Aniya Beasley; and Legend: Cleo Parker-Robinson. Special remarks will be provided from Rep Maxine Waters, Rep Ayanna Presley, and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Mistress of ceremonies for the event will be female comedian and actor, Janea Burris. The 43rd Annual Tribute to Black Women Luncheon & awards ceremony will be held at the Hyatt Regency, 13200 E. 14th Place, in Aurora from noon to 2 p.m. Doors open at 11 a.m. Some adjustments have been made due to COVID. Opportunities available for business owners, vendors, and organizations include the 2021 Black Marketplace and a virtual silent auction..  Editor’s note: For more information, visit or email For questions about the event, email Gequinn Mattox at

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COVER TO COVER “The Forgotten First: Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Marion Motley, Bill Willis, and the Breaking of the NFL Color Barrier” by Keyshawn Johnson and Bob Glauber; c.2021, Grand Central Publishing; $28.00 / $35.00 Canada, 335 pages This weekend, your team is going to win. You can see it already, the way they’ve been playing so far this season, and you’re sure they can take it all the way to February. For now, though, this weekend’s a must-see and everybody looks good; as in “The Forgotten First” by Keyshawn Johnson and Bob Glauber, some even play on the shoulders of giants. If you’re a baseball fan, you surely know the story of how

Jackie Robinson became the first Black ball player in the major leagues. What you might not know is that four Black men integrated pro football a year before Robinson’s history-making at-bat.

Abandoned by his mother and raised by a paternal uncle because his father had other interests, Kenny Washington, who signed with the Los Angeles Rams on March 21, 1946, was first drawn to baseball but the truth was, he could play any sport. Having battled rickets as a young boy, he suffered deformities in both his legs, but that didn’t matter – Johnson and Glauber report that Washington was fast. So was Woody Strode, who signed up with the Rams not long after Washington. Strode’s mother was Native American; his father was Black, and though Strode had a modeling career as a young man (he’d once posed nude for a Nazi artist) and he’d served in the

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021


Keyshawn Johnson

Bob Glauber

Photo by Chris Scaglione

Army Air Corps, his life always circled back to football. When he was a child, Marion Motley grew to be so much larger than his peers that when he was at football practice, other kids’ parents begged for him to wear more padding so that collisions with him “wouldn’t hurt quite so much.” Much later, Motley played for the Cleveland Browns, along with Bill Willis, who almost didn’t take up football because he didn’t think he could play as well as his brother, Claude. Within mere months, these four men broke the color barrier in pro football. And, say the authors, “That history is not told enough...” Another thing that’s not told enough is: what happened before these four men signed on with their respective teams, and how their first year proceeded. It’s infuriating, it’s astounding, and it’s all laid out here inside “The Forgotten First.” And yet, getting to it might not be so easy.. Writer’s note: Keyshawn Johnson and Bob Glauber are a former proballer and an NFL columnist, respectively, and the tale they tell speaks to the heart of the fan with deep knowledge of mid-twentiethcentury football teams, players, coaches, and college ball. It's a wide story that encompasses decades and dozens of peripheral people who had a hand in integrating the sport generations ago, from secondary education on up. Then it brings readers full-circle to reveal the inside of the game as it is today. And all this will be irresistible if you're a fan. If you're not a history-minded, livefor-football-season, paint-your-face fan, you may be in well over your head with this book. If you're obsessive about the game, though, "The Forgotten First" is a big win.

Park Hill Golf Course Continued from page 7 Rather, Denver residents would be allowed to voice their opinions in a city-wide vote to remove a conservation easement. Essentially, the property would remain a park. However, some exceptions exist for developments such as recreational facilities. The bill features the following language: “Construction of any commercial or residential building on land designated as a city park or protected by a city-owned conservation easement and any partial or complete termination, release, extinguishment or abandonment of a city-owned conservation easement are prohibited without the approval of a majority of the registered electors voting in a regularly scheduled or special municipal election.” Initiative 302, sponsored by Westside Investment Partners, who purchased the land in 2019, and its partners as the Holleran Group seeks removal of the easement in order to move forward with a mixeduse development project that would include a grocery store, affordable, as well as market rate housing and to address the issue of displacement of residents from the Park Hill community. Much like SOS, Westside and Holleran collected and submitted the required signatures and were granted approval for the ballot in late July, 2021. Although the language of the two measures is similar, Westside and Holleran are looking to re-define the definition of “conservation easement.” Their language would basically suggest that conservation easements would only apply if a certain certificate would be issued for the property. This would serve to exempt Park Hill. So, if the measure passes the city would harden its laws pertaining to conservation ease-

ments somehow but will not apply to Park Hill. It would all but nullify ballot 301 and the requirement for a city-wide vote. Nevertheless, the law would reportedly remain on the books. It remains unclear as to whether this would open an entire Pandora’s Box with other properties and future development in the city as both measures are linked to just the Park Hill property. If initiative 301 were to prevail, the entire city will be able

to vote on Park Hill’s conservation easement. If initiative 302 passes, the city will have a new law in the books for citywide conservation easements. But nothing will change about Park Hill. “There is no need to think in terms of winners and losers. We can have a grocery store and solve the problem of a food desert, affordable housing that can help with displacement, and a large park where our kids can play. Let’s work together to make something really special

A Touch of Afric Africa, a, USA

here for future generations,” Harris says. In the end, both sides appear to believe that whatever development eventually occurs on Park Hill golf course land, it should be in alignment with the values and needs of the community. “We believe that the people that surround this project are our most important asset and that we should work with communities to find a synergy between people and property,” Harris said. .


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Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021


Death and Accountability at the Denver Zoo Op-ed by Helen Rigmaiden


uly 18, marked the 10th anniversary of the death of Alonzo Ashley who was killed during a struggle with police officers at the Denver Zoo. I was involved in advocating for answers surrounding his death from that day. The death was ruled a homicide by the Denver Coroner’s office. He did not die due to natural causes, nor did he die because of drugs. The coroner’s report was so gruesome that the family members recommended that his mother, Gail Waters, not read it. She has not to this day.


Even though the Denver Police officers murdered Alonzo, I immediately put blame on the Denver Zoo. In the words of Jonny Thomson of Big Think (blog) he describes it best: “When our bodies are deprived of water, they take water from other organs ultimately leading to organ failure and brain shrinkage. Dehydration is considered one of the most painful and protracted deaths a human can experience.”(13 August 2021)

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This was the state Alonzo was in when the Zoo security guard came into contact with him. His organs had already begun to shut down as a result of severe heat stroke. He was displaying all the classic signs – exhaustion, confusion, headache, dizziness and his skin had probably turned a color that was not first noticeable. In first aid textbooks, it states that a person who is experiencing heat stroke will turn red. So what color was Alonzo Ashley that day? What color will you turn if you are having a heat stroke? This critical clue in diagnosing heat stroke was only recently addressed in the summer of 2020 by a young UK, second year medical student, Malone Mukwende. He was in partnership with his professors and staff members, Margot Turner and Peter Tamony, who are working on the Diversity and Medical Education Project at St. George’s University of London. Mukwende felt alienated with the way clinical skills are currently being taught due to the lack of discussion around clinical signs on darker skin. The medical school staff agreed that this was “a very important issue and an essential part of decolonizing the curriculum.” (St. George’s University, 18 June 2020) And, this was my initial concern when I heard of Alonzo’s death. What color was he? I had been in touch with Craig Piper, the CEO of Denver Zoo at the time of Alonzo’s death. Days after the murder he went on CBS4 and said the Zoo would be setting up resources for the “community” to get help with grieving. He also said that the Zoo would be setting up special programs for the “community” to include jobs and job training. I was intrigued by his promise so I decided to wait one year and see what they would come up with. I checked the Zoo website every month to see if anything new was available for the “community.” After a year had passed, I contacted Piper to follow up. He was

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021


no longer the CEO and I was handed off to Andrew Rowan, Government Affairs and Special Projects Manager. He said the Zoo would not be adding any new programs for the “community” because they already offer many programs for everyone. My concern then turned to the training that was provided to the Zoo staff and volunteers regarding emergency healthcare when a member of the communities of color experienced a crisis such as heat stroke. He sent me the pages from their training curriculum. It was basic eighth grade Red Cross training. Under the topic of Recognizing and Caring for HeatRelated Illnesses it listed the signs of heat stroke: extremely high body temperature, RED skin that can be either dry or moist, changes in consciousness, vomiting, rapid, weak pulse, rapid shallow breathing, confusion and seizures. No one at the zoo who came in contact with Alonzo was thinking he was having a heat stroke. When DPD arrived on the scene, they did not think to call paramedics and they did not recognize a citizen in heat related trouble. They saw a Black man acting erratically and had to take him down. No one had an inclination for one moment that this Zoo guest was having a heat related crisis. On that day the temperature was 96 degrees. The asphalt temperature was 120 degrees. The DPD decided to tase Alonzo because he would not obey their commands. After they tased him, they hog-tied him belly down on the hot asphalt, and within minutes Alonzo Ashley was dead. He was murdered by eight Denver police officers who were never charged or held accountable. But, why didn’t the Zoo security guard who first came in contact with Alonzo call his supervisor? Why did no one in the long line of personnel think that he needed paramedics? This is my challenge to the Denver Zoo ten years later.

In July, I learned that the Zoo had hired Dr. Dwinita Mosby-Tyler and her firm, Equity Project, LLC in 2018. I also discovered on Facebook that Lendell Ashley, Alonzo’s brother, was circulating a petition to Denver Mayor Michael Handcock to erect a memorial drinking fountain in Alonzo’s memory. For nine years the family was told “no.” I was furious and after asking Lendell if he needed help getting this drinking fountain, he said yes. In July, I contacted the Zoo again to ask what the status was for a memorial drinking fountain for Alonzo. I slowed my pressure on the Zoo because of the family’s involvement with litigation. The new person in charge was not up to speed on what had happened in the past, so I sent him all my past correspondence with the Zoo staff. I also explained to him that the Black community was more organized than ever and if they could not commit to a memorial drinking fountain in Alonzo’s memory we would be visiting the Zoo to express our outrage and that we are not safe going to the Denver Zoo because of the color of our skin. I wanted assurance that the Zoo would know what color a guest of color is likely to turn when in a healthcare crisis. I was asked by Jake Kubie, my new Zoo contact at the Zoo, if I was willing to work with others in the community. I said yes of course. He put me in touch with Dr. Dwinita Mosby-Tyler who informed me immediately that the Zoo had approved my request for a drinking fountain. And in fact, they would be doing a dedication in late September of 2021. I was taken aback. What happened? Dr. Mosby-Tyler had been working with the Zoo staff for the past two years and she had completed her assessment in the summer of 2021. The Zoo was now ready to make things right for the family of Alonzo Ashley. Gail

Waters was about to get her prayers answered. What happened next is a result of the important work Dr. Dwinita Mosby-Tyler had accomplished. She received an email saying: “We’re happy to let you know that the Denver Zoo will be moving forward with the drinking fountain dedication ASAP and will expand on that to include a cooling station. At this point, we’re considering a misting station and comfort space as part of the cooling station. On the training side, we are committed to training our staff on how to identify heat stroke in guests of color. Thanks again and please share the news about our commitment to dedicating a cooling station, water fountain, etc., this year, most likely this fall, to Helen (Rigmaiden). Please let her know we will be training our staff on identifying heat stroke in our guests of color.” Marie Revenew,VP, External Relations, Denver Zoological Foundation. I am still processing this entire past 10 years. So many others were involved from day one and I want to acknowledge Alex Landau of the Denver Justice Project, Pastor (Big T) Hughes, and the “community” who came out every year to support Lendell Ashley and Gail Waters who were trying to get justice for her 29-year-old son, Alonzo Ashley. There are many more – and me and the family thank you. In the case of Alonzo Ashley, the accountability the Denver Zoo has laid hold of is not taken lightly. This will be the first time in Colorado history that a victim of police violence, resulting in death, will receive a memorial in a highly visible location at the Denver Zoo. The dedication will take place October 1, 2021. As a believer in Black Lives Matter, this is what we are hoping for in our communities. This is now the template for others to use when they must step-up and take responsibility for damages done to Black citizens through no fault of their own. .

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Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021



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Continued from page 3 became known as the Indian Ocean to India itself. Armed with cannon and cruel greed, the Spanish and Portuguese fleets began to plunder these foreign lands. To justify the horrific atrocities committed against the people found in these new lands, the Spanish and Portuguese professed to be the messengers of Christian love and charity. So noble was their cause deemed to be, that in 1494, Pope Alexander VI divided the world in two, giving one half to Spain and the other to Portugal. But soon, the English, French and Dutch challenged the Spanish and Portuguese for these “new lands” filled with riches. Then Europeans began to slaughter each other as well as the unlucky indigenous inhabitants. Armed with religiosity as well as cannon, European imperialists began to differentiate between Christians and “heathens,” bringing the latter to heel in the name of God’s mandate and the progress of civilization. As they had done to each other in Europe for centuries before, the imperialists then began to do to the rest of the world. They created “others” and declared them to be undeserving of the bounty of their own lands. In support of this world view, the Eurasian land mass was divided into two parts, distinguishing Asia, with its non-white population, from Europe and its mostly white population. This notion of Europe and Asia as separate continents has existed for centuries, with geographers declaring that there were seven major land masses called continents, and that each continent was divided from the others by a body of water. But the briefest examination of a world map reveals that there is

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021


no water separating Europe from Asia. The socio-political construction of Europe and Asia as separate land masses was created merely to “other” the non-white Asians. Europeans and Asians, Christians and heathens, white people and Black people are all social constructs built to support a social order of global inequality that advantages white people to the detriment of people of color. If we are ever to bring an end to white supremacy, we must diagnose the socio-economic and political condition of the world today and determine the causes of racism and the “othering” of the world’s various populations. Critical Race Theory is one way to perform this diagnosis. It can demonstrate that there is a cultural thread that runs from the medieval superstitions of Europe to the 1836 Constitution of the Republic of Texas, which not only protected the right of its white citizens to own slaves, but also prohibited people deemed to be Indians and Africans from living freely within its borders. Critical Race Theory also can demonstrate the cultural thread running from the slaughter of Africans and other people of color during the “age of exploration” to the present-day efforts of white supremacists to disenfranchise people of color in America and block their path to the voting booth. We are now at the dawning of a new phase of a centuries old culture war, and we must arm ourselves with the knowledge of how we arrived at this point, because if we do not, the war will be lost.. Editor’s note: Oscar H. Blayton is a former Marine Corps combat pilot and human rights activist who practices law in Virginia. His earlier commentaries may be found at


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Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2021


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Profile for Denver Urban Spectrum

Denver Urban Spectrum - October 2021 - Nina Turner Comes to Denver for Emerge Colorado Open House  

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