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Jenifer Lewis:

Mother of Black Hollywood Comes To Denver…..4

What’s At Stake With Local Politics …...........................8 A New Oklahoma! Brings Color and Conversation…14, 15 Colorful Stories Brought To Life…...............................18


Volume 32 Number 7

October 2018

PUBLISHER Rosalind J. Harris




“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” —Maya Angelou, poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist

As an award-winning publication, we captured that recognition over the last 30 years by telling stories – features, news, investigative, and reviews. We are proud of this feat and look forward to continuing to serve the communities of color by providing stories about US and by US. On October 21, attendees, at the Colorado Black Health Collaborative’s first black and white fundraising gala, will have the opportunity to hear actress Jenifer Lewis reveal her secret struggles with sexual addiction and mental illness. In her new book, “The Mother of Black Hollywood,” she details the road to recovery and emotional healing after having been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at the height of her career. It’s election time again and DUS contributor Thomas Russell Holt shares insight from community and organization leaders, activists and elected officials who gathered together to discuss “local politics in the time of Trump” and what needs to be done to get people out to vote. If you are still questioning what box to check in November, chec k out the “unofficial” ballot sheets by former Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb and Elector Adam Dempsey (1992 Electoral College). On November 3, Denver Urban Spectrum will share five compelling stories through video, printed words and conversation of women who have overcome trials and tribulation at the Colorful Stories...See Me, Hear Me luncheon at the Renaissance Hotel. Read about who they are and h ow their thought-provoking stories will help empower others (page 18). Novelist, screenwriter and film producer J.K. Rowling said, “There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.” These stories, along with Jenifer Lewis’, will take you there. And, remember the words from Maya Angelou who said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” These stor ies, by Jenifer Lewis and the five Colorful Stories Storytellers, will be told, seen and heard; and there is something to be learned from each of them. Enjoy, and happy reading!


CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Thomas Russell Holt Ruby Jones Melovy Melvin Jamil Shabazz ART DIRECTOR Bee Harris

GRAPHIC DESIGNER Jody Gilbert - Kolor Graphix

MARKETING AND SALES CONSULTANT JaeTafari Bernard 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 2018 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 303-292-6543 or visit the Web site at


Old Parkhill Memories Provides Hope For The Future

WWII) lived two doors down. Another German woman, one of the original settlers of Parkhill, lived in her old farm house with a well in front just four doors down from us. Marion Qualls, the first AfricanAmerican detective on the Denver Police Department, lived on the other side of the block and a Russian family lived behind the alley. I could go on and on because we had families from everywhere corner of the world and pot lucks were fun – something I looked forward to. Political actions that changed the treatment of African-Americans have been truly effective. Living all together was very effective in moving us closer to a society that embraces all. None of us tried to change the religion of our neighbors. None of us tried to ignore that we were different. We reveled in our differences. We would brag about it, especially Mr. Seymour. He was the secretary of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters – a Black union. And he had big bragging rights. He would brag that he kept a very neat and tidy yard that he mostly tended to himself. He would, even though he was far from a bragger, about his beautiful home. I know because I spent a lot of my time with his family. And I also cut Mr. Doolan’s grass – getting $5 each time. My friends all have their own stories of the 1950s in Parkhill and they mirror mine. We didn’t know that there were substantial differences between folks, because there were not. I can say regrettably that larger cultural forces pushed us to the side. Our quiet neighborhood was pushed to the

By Mike Sawaya

Growing up in Northeast Parkhill in Denver, the days of the 1950s were much calmer and quieter and certainly more personable than what we have in the second decade of the 21st Century. We burned trash in the incinerator – and that was fun! Being a budding pyromaniac, I took great relish in it. Maybe too much – often starting a camp fire in a little hilly place where Skyland Park was built a few years later. The world was slower but a bit more real. I dug forts in the ground and put roofs of cardboard in lots next to the Holly Shopping Center. We had so many shops in the Holly and Dahlia Shopping Centers that we were in walking distance to shop and to get what we wanted. I know, because I was my mother’s errand boy who would regularly send me to the store. And it was safe to do so. The 1950s were also real in the open and friendly way that folks from everywhere fit together without making a fuss about it. Mr. Doolan, probably the first African-American who built a house east of Colorado Blvd., drove us to school in his 1928 Chevrolet Sedan that he had to crank it to start it. The Seymour’s lived next door and a German family lived across the street. A Japanese family (who had been interned in the Japanese concentration camps during

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


Rosalind J. Harris Publisher

side by unscrupulous realtors who broke the blocks and spread rumors of coming disaster if more minorities were allowed to live in our neighborhood. Some of us stuck it out but many were pushed out as well. From the quiet, peaceful and bright days, we were pushed into a time where everything literally lost its color, turned black and white, and left us all feeling like we had lost parts of our lives. We all went on with our lives, realizing that the larger cultural forces are hard to overcome. Bias pushed its way in and has not let go. Now I am the old guy trying to show folks that humanity is a big blanket that covers all of us. Peace is what we find when we accept each other, help each other and take good care of our own affairs. Solving our bigger problems is certainly going to be hard. I still take solace in my old memories and they do give me hope for the future. . Denver Urban Spectrum Department E-mail Addresses Denver Urban Spectrum

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Jenifer Lewis:

The Mother of Black Hollywood By Ruby Jones

Jenifer Lewis is a legendary

actress, comedian, singer, author, and activist, whose extraordinary contributions to theater, film, and television have warmed the hearts of audiences for nearly four decades. With exceptional talent, intensity, and one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood, Lewis’s career has been nothing short of remarkable. In her newly released memoir, titled “The Mother of Black Hollywood,” Lewis writes about joining the cast of ABC’s hit television series, Black-ish, and recalls her life as an internationally acclaimed entertainer. In addition to the juicy details about her life as a celebrity, Lewis shocks readers with revelations of her secret struggles with sexual addiction and mental illness. She details the road to recovery and emotional healing after having been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at the height of her career, encouraging readers to find the strength to begin their own journey to recovery. October is gearing up to be a busy month for Hollywood’s most beloved matriarch. To the delight of millions of devoted fans Black-ish returns for a new season on Oct. 16. Lewis, who has received the Black Reel Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress for her role as the feisty, no-nonsense mother of Anthony Anderson’s character for two years in a row, can’t wait for viewers to explore the quintessential Johnson family’s next chapter. On Oct. 21, Lewis will be recognized for her courageous contributions to the dialogue surrounding mental health as a special guest at the Colorado Black Health Collaborative’s fundraising gala at Hyatt Regency in Aurora. The event will honor 10 years of health services while celebrating the impact of culturally appropriate health programs delivered to thousands of Colorado residents each year. Lewis, in true diva fashion, promises, “We’re going to have a blast!” “

Writing “The Mother of Black Hollywood” was monumental in Lewis’ road to recovery, as it allowed her to unpack years of baggage and concealed pain. A native of Kinloch, Missouri, Lewis grew up in poverty as the youngest of seven children. The small self-governed town outside of St. Louis was the first in the state to be incorporated by Blacks, but after years of socio-economic deprivation and political corruption, the city is now overgrown and nearly dormant. Lewis’s mother, Dorothy, was a hard working single parent whose ability to be fully engaged and supportive was hindered by the perilous task of dividing her time and attention between her demanding work as a nurse’s aide, and her seven children. Fueled by an insatiable desire for her mother’s attention and admiration, Lewis devoted herself to aspirations of becoming famous. In the second chapter of her memoir, “Shoulders Back, Titties First,” she writes, “I am a born entertainer. Even as a little girl, I dreamed of being a star.” At five years old, Lewis starred in her first public production as a soloist in her church choir; the passionate, over-the top performance thrust her into the lifelong pursuit of success in show business. She spent

her childhood studying the likes of Pearl Bailey, Bette Davis, Moms Mabley and Lucille Ball, and then emulated their unique flair with ostentatious performances at monthly talent shows. Just one day after graduating from Webster University with a degree in Theater Arts, Lewis packed her bags and left for New York City. Eleven days after her arrival, Lewis made her Broadway debut in Eubie! a revue featuring the music of jazz and swing composer, Eubie Blake. After the show closed, Lewis landed a role in Comin’ Uptown, her second Broadway show in just six months. Lewis’ career took off, just as she always knew it would. She proudly recalls her early days in entertainment. “I took the stairs to success,” she remembers, “Not the elevator. That is why I have sustained.” Basking in the incessant praise of audiences, Lewis’ exorbitant confidence was validated by the electric applause after each performance. In the fourth chapter of The Mother of Black Hollywood, she writes, “It’s pretty common to have a heightened sense of self when you are performing: a rush of bliss, and an almost uncontrollable sense of accomplishment, like what runners feel when the endorphins kick in.”

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


Lewis struggled to balance the shift in energy after leaving the stage. Her feelings of despair off-stage were intensified by the absence of her longdistance companion and the love of her life, Miguel. She learned to substitute the thrill of the stage with sex, recalling, “The applause coming over the footlights is like a slow-motion tsunami of adoration, like jumping on a spaceship and riding it back to Pluto. The crash after the show, I assure you, is just as intense. Let’s just say that I had sort of an unconscious habit of using post-show sex to come back to earth.” The exhilarating rush of Hollywood success was peppered with emotional pitfalls resulting from rejection, loneliness and the devastating HIV/AIDS crisis, which savagely swept through the theater community in the 1980s. Lewis lost a great deal of friends in such rapid succession that she barely had time to mourn. In her down time, she grasped for activities and hobbies that would keep her feeling fulfilled, but the extreme shifts between happiness and sadness were hindering Lewis’ ability to function. She writes, “It was becoming more difficult to overlook my extreme, abiding depression or to deny that my clowning and promiscuity were, in fact, inappropriate behavior.” After learning that her best friend, Quitman, had been diagnosed with AIDS, Lewis recalls the advice of her friend, Beverly, who suggested that she seek professional help for her increasing bouts of depression. Lewis took her advice after learning that her former lover, Miguel, had passed away following a massive heart attack. The journey of Lewis’ self-discovery began with a therapist who helped her uncover the pain and abuses hiding behind her superstar smile. By exploring the generational patterns passed down by her mother, she assigned the rage she felt as an adult to her experiences in childhood. Her therapist helped her to understand Continued on page 6

Denver City Voters Have Additional Ballot Questions By Adam Dempsey

If the

November ballot is not full enough with referred state questions, voters in Denver City and County have an additional seven measures all their own. Four are money measures that collectively, should all pass, raise an additional 66 cents of sales tax per $100 expenditures. The two others involve governance. Here are the important six. First, the Denver initiatives measure changes the rules for citizen initiatives going to voters. Although personally I am not fond of government by initiative, such does, have its place in the process and especially when elected officials determine an issue may be too controversial. Therefore the process should continue being manageable and not made harder so a NO vote is recommended. Amendment involves the public financing of elections. The shorthand is this will set new campaign donation limits while also making a specific amount of public funds available to qualifying candidates for city office. Although the Denver City Council has the authority to repeal or revise any citizen initiative, should you favor steps to reduce the influence of money in politics a YES vote is necessary to send that message. The Denver money measures involve a sales tax increase for parks of 25 cents/$100, a YES vote is good; another 25 cents/$100 to support housing, substance abuse treatment and mental health services, a YES vote is good, raising eight cents/$100 for healthy food and food education for youth, a YES vote is good and to raise another eight cents to assist youth under age 25 to better afford college through the Denver College Affordability Fund is an absolute YES. On your ballot is another tax measure to increase property tax rates for flood control work. You’ll see and initial increase of 27 cents/$1,000 of


Patrick Key

assessed value. With flood insurance either unavailable or very expensive in the six county area construction efforts to manage potential flooding is essential. Coupled with this, the flood control district has lost 44 percent of its taxing authority during the past 26 years. A YES vote to keep water under control is smart. Whatever your choices make sure to vote as it will also maintain your registration as active, to offset any future purge attempts prior to next year’s city elections and 2020.. Editor’s note: Adam Dempsey is an Elector, 1992 Electoral College

City Council District 10 The Man of the People May 2019


Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


Jenifer Lewis

Continued from page 4 that the severe behavior with periods of marked mania and depression was symptoms of a mental illness called Bipolar Disorder. Mania, defined by the American Psychiatric Association as “a distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive or irritable mood and abnormally and persistently increased activity or energy,” was a likely culprit for Lewis’ addiction to sex. To balance the overwhelming feelings and emotions resulting from her mania, Lewis was self-medicating with meaningless intercourse, using men as tools to mask her pain. Therapy allowed Lewis to discuss deeply troubling incidents that she’d repressed over the years. She confronted the pastor of her mother’s church about molesting her when she was a little girl. She confronted her mother for her negligence, forgiving her for not acting in her defense after learning about the pastor’s transgressions. Therapy taught Lewis to protect herself and stop hiding the secrets that would lead to crippling bouts of depression. She learned to speak her truth instead of bottling up her feelings and emotions for some explosive manic moment when she would offend coworkers and friends. Initially, Lewis was resistant to pharmaceutical intervention; saying “I feared medication would take away my personality and restrain my ability to express my emotions.” She worked through the therapeutic process by journaling, attending lectures on positive thinking, exercising and auditioning for new roles. However, after appearing on Johnny Carson’s last Tonight Show, Lewis changed her mind about medication when a manic Robin Williams reminded her of her own behavior. She was tired of the emotional rollercoaster and began taking prescribed medication to manage her disorder. Starting therapy was a turning point in Lewis’ life. She speaks candidly about the positive effects of therapy and the importance of seeking professional help when all behavioral signs point to an abnormality. “I’m so fortunate to have done this work, and unzipped all this pain, and stepped out of the body bag,” she says. By sharing her experiences, she hopes to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness. Mental health is a taboo subject in the Black community, with generational negative predispositions to therapy responsible for the challenges associated with diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. Of the 45 million Black Americans living in the United States, the Substance Abuse and

Mental Health Services Administration reports that approximately 16 percent, or 6.8 million, have a diagnosable mental illness. The need for mental health care continues to increase, as the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health reports that Black people are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. Increased rates of PostTraumatic Stress Disorder, major depression, and suicide can be attributed to increased exposure to violence and the oppressive effects of systemic racism, with many people resorting to self-medication with drugs, alcohol, or sex, in an attempt to silence their inner demons and solve their problems alone. Lewis is among many prominent figures who are using their platform to dispel the notion that mental illness does not affect Black people while advocating for healthcare services and spreading awareness about the need for professional help when things are out of control. She urges people to be mindful of their behavior and stop ignoring the signs. “You know when something is wrong,” she says. “If you know things are unstable. If you know that you are angry, rageful, and resentful all of the time, and in that resentment you’re over the top; you are extreme in behavior, both mania and depression, something is wrong.” Lewis believes the key to success is honesty. “Look in the mirror and repeat over and over again, ‘I love myself,’ and then call a friend. If they don’t listen, call another friend. Ask them to help you help yourself, and then get into some kind of treatment. Try talk therapy, and if you need medication, be patient and get the correct levels of medication so that you can live your life!” Lewis points out that for some Bipolar Disorder never goes away, but that the pain will dissipate if you do the work. “If you snatch a weed, it will grow back. Ladies and gentlemen, you must go to the root! My message to you is to find the strength. If I can do it, so can you.” With studies suggesting a difference in the rate of metabolization among Black people, it is important that healthcare professionals are attentive to the need for appropriate dosages. Lewis urges people to be patient when trying to determine the proper levels of medication with healthcare professionals. “Recovery and healing require patience,” said

Lewis, “Having patience means knowing that it is never too late to get well.” Lewis made a commitment to work hard to align herself and create an environment that is supportive to her personal evolution. “I do the work. I continue to do it. I’m really good with my medicine; I have to remind myself to take it every day. If the warning signs are there, and the mania starts, I take my meds and realign myself,” she said. “It doesn’t make life easy, it makes life easier.” In the process of working through her emotional healing, Lewis discovered the irony in having played a mother in countless roles without having children of her own. She decided to become more active in the lives of children, giving back to her community while nurturing her peace of mind. She joined Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America to serve as a mentor to children in need, and became a “Big Sister” to Charmaine, the youngest of four children whose mother was suffering with the painful and disabling Multiple Sclerosis. When her mother’s condition worsened, and she was unable to care for her children, Lewis assumed responsibility for Charmaine, adopting her and becoming her legal guardian. Lewis’ experiences as a parent called her to question her experiences with her own mother. In a journal entry, Lewis wrote, “Was my mother depressed every day of her life? Is that what I learned? Can I live another way?” Not wanting to replicate her mother’s strictness, Lewis struggled to find balance between being a big sister and an authority figure. “As Charmaine’s parent, I couldn’t always say ‘yes.’ I now had to say ‘no’ sometimes. That was hard for both of us.” A serious devotion to her mental health allowed Lewis to tackle parenting issues with patience and clarity until Charmaine left for college. After six years of appearing as a regular cast member on the top-rated Lifetime show, Strong Medicine, Lewis accepted a role in Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion, before going on to voice the animated 1957 Cadillac “Flo” in the Disney-Pixar animation, Cars, and playing opposite Meryl Streep in the stage production of Mother Courage. The stage has always been a creative outlet for Lewis, who introduced audiences to the intricate details of her fascinating life in one-woman autobiographical comedy and music shows

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


that addressed the topic of bipolar disorder. She shared her Hollywood experiences in The Diva is Dismissed, earning an NAACP Theatre Award, and thrilled audiences in Bipolar, Bath & Beyond, leading to an invitation to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show to speak about her challenges with mental illness. With more than 300 film, television and theatrical appearances, Lewis was considering retirement when she landed the role of a lifetime on Black-ish. The successful series has warmed the hearts of viewers for four seasons, with no plans of slowing down any time soon. More than four million people tune into ABC each Tuesday evening to watch the affluent Johnson family navigate social challenges that address the current socio-political climate. In her current role as the feisty, nononsense matriarch, Lewis explores the intricacies of the modern Black family in relationships with her marvelous television grandchildren, Yara Shahidi, Marcus Scribner, Miles Brown, and Caila (Marsai) Martin; an eccentric daughter-in-law, Rainbow, played by Tracee Ellis Ross; a hilarious son, Dre, played by Anthony Anderson; and onscreen ex-husband, Pops, played by Laurence Fishburne. “I am proud of Ruby. To me she is the exemplification of what ‘mother of Black Hollywood’ means. She represents how far we’ve come,” Lewis writes. She loves filming Black-ish on the set she refers to as refreshingly happy. Lewis continues to use her platform as one of the most respected actresses in Hollywood, advocating for mental health and stressing the importance of maintaining healthy relationships and balance. Her journey was marked with tragedy and hardship, but she persevered and refused to be defeated. “I did my best to be happy instead of thinking I was going to get to the top and then be happy because I made it to the top,” she said. The Mother of Black Hollywood has received outstanding reviews from respected literary critics, but the most meaningful review came from her good friend, the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin, who delivered a message of praise in the days preceding her death. Lewis manages her workload by staying aligned and traveling. She plans to share her globetrotting experiences as she introduces the world to “the Jenifer Lewis of today,” in her next literary masterpiece. “I’m leading with love, she says with a positive outlook on the future, “I do my best, I leave the rest.”. Editor’s Note: For tickets to attend the CBHC 1st Annual Fundraising Gala, visit The Mother of Black Hollywood is available for purchase online and at all major retailers.

Local Politics In The Time of Trump

By Thomas Holt Russell

An Important Meeting...


n a recent Thursday night at the Colorado Democratic Offices in Denver, community organization leaders, activist and elected officials gathered together in the conference room – one of the main topics centered on “Getting Out the Black Vote”. The meeting featured a who’s who of Colorado democrats; Morgan Carroll, the Colorado Democratic Party Chairwoman, political consultant John Bailey, Sen. Angela Williams, and Sen Rhonda Fields among other office candidates and political surrogates. John Bailey, set the tone of the meeting when he stated, “We’re now at the best of times and the worst of times. The worst of times in terms of Trump. But the best of times because we now know more about what’s going on in the world than we ever have. The information, the ability to comprehend, the ability to interpret messaging, has made us a more informed African American. I think it’s important to take advantage of that at this time.”

Photos by Thomas Holt Russell suppression. It was a tool kit for voter advocacy. While the majority of the national political news centers on the Trump administration, local politics continue to grind its wheels persistently and far away from the national spotlight. Local issues such as poverty, education, homelessness, incarceration, and racism and police brutality continue to plague African American communities. Though the national headlines are concentrating on an unprecedented dysfunctional White House, the everyday lives and struggles of millions of Americans continue to be a main concern of local politics. It is the local politics that have the most impact in our day-to-day lives. “Trump asks, ‘What do we have to lose?’ if we vote for him, and we’ve lost so much. So, we need to be engaged and make sure there are people in office who represent our views and can represent us so things can get better, not worse.”

Maya Wheeler, Chair of African American Initiative of Colorado Democrats

There has never been a time in recent history when the total lack of respect and the disdain of people of color have been out in the open. What used to simmer under a fake façade of civility is now boiling over the surface and being stoked by the President of the United States. From calling NFL players “Sons of bitches,” in front of cheering crowds because they protested police brutality and other injustices, to defending white supremacist in Charlottesville by equating them with peaceful protesters by proclaiming there were “very bad people” on both sides. The results of the derision coming from the White House have actually had a positive effect on the African American community: Political involvement is at an all-time high. A groundswell of citizens is getting involved in local and national politics across the country. Black women are running for office in record numbers in Alabama. There are no Black governors in office presently and only four in American history. But Black candidates have won primaries for Governor in three states, Florida, Maryland and Georgia. The Website, Black Women In Politics displays a database of more than 600 African American women that are running for office at the Federal, state and local levels. Colorado reflects this national trend. Eight African Americans are serving the legislature. That is the

Maya Wheeler — Chair, African American Initiative of Colorado Democrats

Since the Trump administration has been in in office, a palpable change in

John Bailey, Political Consultant Ideas and methods were discussed about what needs to be done to get people out to vote and how to do it. Information was given out that outlined the job descriptions of political offices up and down the ballot, a list of key counties that demonstrated the power of the Black vote through numbers, the different ways to register to vote, and self-defense against voter

our political and social landscape in America has taken place. The lack of civility and disrespect for people and institutions has seeped into politics, education, law enforcement, sports and entertainment and even the news outlets. The division in politics has caused a ripple effect throughout the country and the gap between the two sides is widening.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


most in Colorado’s history. With those eight, (six in the house and two in the senate), it has allowed African Americans to have a larger voice. In the last two years, they have been able to secure at least 15 million dollars of additional funding for their communities in the budget. This came about by funding amendments sponsored by the eight Black Caucus members. Jovan Melton, one of the Caucus members and a Colorado State Representative for House District 41, states, “One problem we have is that we see a large (voting) drop-off in non-Presidential years. Not just African Americans but everyone. A lot of people think the President is the most important thing to vote for. But what they don’t realize is, it’s your city council members, it is your state house members, and it’s your school board members that affect you on a daily basis. The president may affect one of your decisions once a year, but we’re the ones that affect your education, transportation, your healthcare— we’re the ones who have a greater impact.” The effects of underrepresentation can cause apathy among African American voters. This cannot be underestimated. Those that are not represented are less engaged in politics. Disengagement helps perpetuate the cycle of injustice and builds mistrust. Ferguson, Missouri is over 67

percent African American, yet, during the times of the riots, the police force was 94 percent white and Blacks only held one of six seats on its city council. Of the seven school board members, only two were Black. This is the direct result of not enough Blacks voting, and the apathetic mindset that preserves this plight. This dilemma is the child of police harassment, economic disinvestment, poverty, discrimination and segregation of the African American Community. Things have improved a little since then. However, the lack of political enfranchisement hangs heavily over its citizens of color. Colorado is in front of the issue. The African American Initiative of Colorado Democrats (AAICD), an organization Chaired by Maya Wheeler, organizes Freedom Stops. The purpose of the Freedom Stops is to visit African American Communities throughput Colorado and exchange insights with those communities and support their local candidates and elected officials. A part of the Freedom Stops is to help people get engaged in politics. “We find that people are registered (to vote). The problem is getting them engaged and actually getting them to turn in their ballots,” Wheeler stated, and added, “We have been registering people as well. We’re trying to engage them early so it’s not a last-minute thing and they don’t know who the candidates are.” According to the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of Black adults believe that having more Black repre-

Senator Angela Williams, Chair, Black Democratic Legislative Caucus

sentation enables Blacks to achieve equality. What can be done in the face of racism, Russian scandals, and thoughts of treason coming from Washington D.C.? We have to fight back with democratic reforms, one after another, to prove that democracy still lives. As Wellington Webb, Denver’s former and first Black Mayor stated, “We are in a war. A civil war is going on right now. They are anti Hispanic, anti-Black, anti-brown and anti-immigrant. They say they don’t want to be penalized for the sins of their grandfather—I don’t want to be penalized for them either.” Apathy has to be fought and confronted. Some groups will try to convince people that their vote does not count. This of course is as much a form of voter suppression as the rules and laws used to enforce identification stipulations designed to take the most vulnerable out of the voting ranks. Media literacy has to be learned. A large number of people rely on social media for their news, and distrust the main news media. In the cyber world, it is essential to learn how to tell the difference between fact and fiction. In the book, “Empire of Illusion” by Chris Hedges, he states, “More than the divide of race, class, or gender, more than rural or urban, believer or nonbeliever, red or blue state, our culture has been carved up into radically distinct, unbridgeable, and antagonistic entities that no longer speak the same language and cannot communicate. This is the divide between a Continued on page 10

Be Heard Your Voice is Your Vote Return Your Ballot by Nov. 6 STRONGER. FAIRER. WEISER. Learn More at Paid for by Phil Weiser for Colorado

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


Local Politics...

Continued from page 9 literate, marginalized minority and those who have been consumed by an illiterate mass culture.” The more we hear lies, the more scandals that are uncovered and the more we hear about the disrespect doled out at the top, the more an annoyed population distracts itself with pseudo-events made up of trivia news (as found on Facebook and YouTube). This points to a civilization on the decline. However, during this meeting with a group of democrats, I witnessed a sign of hope as the citizens of our community gathered, planned and demonstrated what needs to be done to change the course our country has been taking in the last two years.

After the Meeting...

After the meeting, I spoke to Morgan Carroll, the Colorado Democratic Party Chairperson, in her office. She stated the importance of local elections. “It’s going to be the local elections where we make progress. The only way we have checks and balances on Trump right now is through local offices; state governor, attorney general, and state legislature. At the local level, we can give more rights; at the

Morgan Carroll, Colorado Democratic Party Chair

local level we can do more legislation. We can choose to advance education locally, we can choose to work on economic opportunities locally, we can work on post-secondary colleges, and healthcare equity. There’s a local component to every issue. The power of the community is multiplied during local elections.” I was handed a list of democratic beliefs. After reading the list, I wondered why the beliefs were looked upon as partisan. In a perfect world, these beliefs should be obvious and pragmatic: the right to a quality education, creating opportunities to earn a good life and increase income, affordable healthcare, treat everyone equally, self-responsibility, clean air and water, our economy should work for those that work hard, etc. It seems no sensible person, regardless of political persuasion, could argue with these beliefs. But we don’t live in a world of pragmatism and empathy. There is an expected reaction to all of this because the history of African Americans tells us that. As awful as things are presently, our ancestors had it much worse than we would ever have. Their daily experiences are the

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


stuff of our worst nightmares. We have survived lynching, medical experiments, violence, terrorism and of course slavery. However, even with those monumental barriers, we have managed to survive and came through it all. It is possible that we’ll look back at this time and think that Donald Trump was the best thing that could have happened. Because once we do get a political hold of our own communities though local elections, it’s very unlikely that we’ll give it up. Sometimes a forest has to burn in order to grow. Right now, the African American community is going through a controlled burn; building political clout that will avoid a more combustible situation in the near future if not attended to. In Colorado and all over the United States we are lucky to have the offspring of those men and women who will not only lead us away from the present abomination in the White House, but in the process, will help us build a stronger foundation that will last forever.. Editor’s note: Thomas Holt Russell is a teacher, writer, photographer and modern day Luddite. You can follow him on

Rambling Thoughts and Random Views I

By Wellington E. Webb

love Lebron’s commitment to the community. He follows in the footsteps of Muhammad Ali. No, I don’t care for Michael Jordan’s politics. I stand with Colin Kaepernick and his right to freedom of speech as an American. The Nike ad says it all: “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” Before Colin, another outspoken athlete made a change for Major League Baseball. In 1969, center fielder Curt Flood of the Saint Louis Cardinals challenged a trade and pushed for free agency. “After 12 years in the major leagues,” Flood wrote, “I do not feel that I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes.” Flood knew challenging the system would alienate team owners, but he said it was a civil rights issue with the owners’ ability to buy and sell players as “a master and slave relationship.” Although unsuccessful for Flood, his historic challenge paved the way for other athletes and by 1975 free agency allowed athletes to control their careers. NBA superstar Oscar Robertson did the same for the National Basketball Association. In 1970, he filed a lawsuit against the NBA, which was settled in 1976 and resulted in the free agency rules now used in the league. There are so many issues to address, and among the most important is who sits at the table to make decisions. It’s difficult enough that private companies normally have a quota

of how many minorities or women will serve on a board of directors, if any, so it is incredulous that public companies don’t have policies to assure diversity for their board. For example, I have questions regarding the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA). In the history of this public entity, what has been the percentage of minorities and women who have served as executive director, board members and staffers; and what pay grade have those minorities and women received? It seems like good questions to me. The other day someone told me that the new I-70 construction project has no exits for Colorado Boulevard or York Street. Whoever knows if that is the case or not, let me know. As I drove to town from Denver International Airport recently, I envisioned what 56th Avenue would look like with much needed additional lanes for traffic. I was recently asked would I rather have popularity or respect. Without hesitation I said respect but having both respect and popularity is not bad either. Last week, Wilma and I hosted a fundraiser for gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis. Among the people we invited was Denver Post reporter Jon Murray, who unfortunately was turned away at the door by a campaign staffer. I understand that reporters aren’t usually invited to campaign fundraisers. However, because Jon was invited by us, he should have been welcomed. If it’s a Webb function, this won’t happen again. I am voting “yes” on the following proposals on Denver’s ballot. YES on 300-Prosperity Denver (Scholarship fund): Denver Affordability College Fund would raise at least $13.9 million by charging an extra 0.08 percent in sales tax, or about 8 cents on a $100 purchase. The college scholarships would be available for Denver residents younger than 25 who have lived in Denver for at least three years. The scholarships

can be used at accredited nonprofit or public schools in Colorado, and only for students in good standing. YES on 2A-Denver Parks: The new parks tax would add 0.25 percent to the cost of many goods and services, or about 25 cents on a $100 purchase. It would generate $46 million for parks construction and maintenance in 2019. Remember the parks are the backyards for all of our residents, and the legacy we leave our children. YES on 301-Mental Health: Caring 4 Denver a 0.25 percent city sales tax increase, 25 cents on a $100 purchase, would raise $45 million to be spent on suicide prevention; mental health services, opioid and substance abuse services; and affordable housing with services to reduce homelessness, incarceration and hospitalization. Here are my thoughts on state ballot proposals. YES on 110-Transportation (Lets go Colorado): If you are tired of going bumpity bumpity bump in your car by hitting pot-holes then VOTE YES on 110 YES on Amendment T- Take Out Slavery: Take slavery out of our Colorado constitution. NO on Amendments Y and Z: To allow independent commissions to draw electoral district maps for legislators and members of Congress. State Democrats and Republicans

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


say they reached a compromise, but I disagree this amendment is necessary. The leaders of this issue say they want to stop gerrymandering, which on the surface is a good idea. So what is gerrymandered in Colorado? As is the case now, the Colorado House is led by a Democrat, the Colorado Senate is led by a Republican, and there is one Democrat U. S. Senator and one Republican U.S. Senator. Our Congressional districts include four Republicans and three Democrats. So, what are we trying to fix? Someone said this proposal protects diversity, but it does not in Colorado for black voters because the population is dispersed, and only applies to Hispanic populations that are more clustered. So four years from now when the historic eight is the historic four don’t be around for me to say I told you so. NO on Proposition 112: This requires a 2,500 foot setback for all oil and gas production, which would basically make drilling off limits to most of the state. This proposal could eliminate up to 43,000 jobs in the first year alone; and within 12 years, the state could lose $218 billion. Every industry needs safety standards but this goes too far. We can’t destroy an entire industry in our state. Well that’s my rambling thoughts and random views. Now it’s your turn, so get out to vote. .

Lone Tree Arts Center Presents

Low Down Dirty Blues


Spend a night with Big Mama and her crew!

ontinuing its tradition of producing remarkable professional theater in the South Metro area, the Lone Tree Arts Center presents Low Down Dirty Blues Oct. 18 to 27. Written by Arts Center favorites Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman, the creative team behind the beloved Muscle Shoals: I’ll Take You There, Low Down Dirty Blues most recently enjoyed an acclaimed run at Arizona Theatre Company, in both Phoenix and Tucson. Low Down Dirty Blues is a sizzling musical revue that finds a group of veteran blues musicians – including powerhouse Tony Award nominee (and Arts Center favorite) Felicia P. Fields as Big Mama – assembled for an after-hours Saturday night jam session to swap stories and share their favorite blues tunes from the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Billie Holiday, Etta James, Robert Johnson, and many more. Featuring nearly two-dozen smokin’ songs, such as “Rough and Ready Man,” “Born Under A Bad Sign,” “Shake Your Money Maker,” and “Change is Gonna Come,” Low Down Dirty Blues is filled with passion, soul, humor, and a zest for life. Felicia P. Fields (Big Mama) is best known for her portrayal of Sofia in the Broadway and first national tour of The Color Purple, for which she received a Tony nomination, Theatre World Award, and a Clarence Derwent Award, among others. She was last seen at the Arts Center in Muscle Shoals: I’ll Take You There, and also appeared in Big River. As the evening turns to the wee hours of the morning, the hot rhythms turn into beautiful gospel music with Shake Anderson and Chic Street Man. Calvin Jones on bass and Jameal Williams on keyboard round out the cast. Shake Anderson (Shake) is a multiinstrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and producer. He has worked with artists as varied as Ruben Studdard,

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


Victor Wooten, Bruce Hornsby, B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, Ray Charles, and Stevie Wonder, among others. He also formed the Grammy-winning gospel group New Breed with Israel Houghton. Shake has received several gold and platinum albums for his work on Blue Streak, Dr. Doolittle, Boys on the Side, and Austin Powers. Chic Street Man (Jelly) composed and starred in the off-Broadway hit show Spunk, adapted by George C. Wolfe. He has also appeared at Cleveland Play House, Berkeley Rep, Seattle Rep, Arena Stage, and the Goodman Theater. He collaborated and starred in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ production of It Ain’t Nothin’ But The Blues. Bassist Calvin Jones has performed on Broadway in It Ain’t Nothin’ But The Blues, All Shook Up, A Night With Janis Joplin, and Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk, where he was also a member of the first national tour. He has over forty album releases to his name and has toured an performed with Donald Byrd, Steve Coleman, Eartha Kitt, Dave Koz, Max Roach, and James “Blood” Ulmer, among others. Keyboardist Jameal Williams also plays drums and produces music for various genres of music for artists all over the world. He teaches middle school students in Dallas, Texas, and recently wrote a curriculum for music production and artistry. Set design is by Christopher Waller, sound design is by Allen Noftall, lighting design is by Jen Kiser, and costume design is by Laurie Klapperich. Mister Erock is the stage manager. . Editor’s note: Low Down Dirty Blues opens Thursday, Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. Evening performances at Oct. 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, and 27. Matinee performances are Oct. 20, 21, 24, and 27. Tickets are $36 to 60 and may be purchased by calling 720509-1000, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit

After 75 Years, ‘Oklahoma’ Through a Colorful New Lens By John Moore, Senior Arts Journalist

Chris Coleman is setting the classic musical in an African-American town, and he looks forward to the conversations that spurs.

just saw Oklahoma! — and they thought it was awesome. Some people said, ‘After 10 minutes, it just seemed like that is the story’ — and they went with it.” And some people said it was a revelatory staging. Coleman said Ted

such sharp contrast to the dialogue we’re hearing in the country about race right now,” Coleman said. He does offer one warning: If you are looking for corn, skip this Oklahoma! Try Iowa instead. “When people go back and watch

Chapin, President of the Rodgers & Hammerstein music publishing company, told him it was the most thrilling production he’d ever seen of Oklahoma!, because he had seen it through totally new eyes. But perhaps Coleman’s favorite comment was from a 15-year-old white kid seeing Oklahoma! for the first time. At intermission, he said to Coleman, “You know what? I can’t imagine this story with white people.” That’s just the way the story made sense to him. “So I think it completely depends on who you are,” Coleman said. Seven years later, Coleman wasn’t interested in launching his tenure as the DCPA Theatre Company’s new Artistic Director with a traditional take on Oklahoma! After all, he said, “White folks have had their chance to perform Oklahoma! for 75 years.” The main reason any theatre company revisits a classic, Coleman said, “Is because there’s something in the bones of the piece that has resonated for humans over time. But we’re also always looking for the current resonance. What does it tell us about who we are today?” In 2018, Coleman is revisiting his casting concept in a much more racially charged America. And he looks forward to the conversations that spurs. “What I love most about doing this show now is the idea of hearing a group of African-American performers sing the lyrics, ‘We know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is grand,’ because that is in

that… movie, they think it’s corny because it is,” Coleman said. “But Rodgers and Hammerstein’s stories are so complex. They’re about racism and social tensions. Now don’t get me wrong — there are enormous doses of sunlight available in Oklahoma! But if you honor the story, there is also danger and sexual creepiness and a very twisted sense of Western justice.” There was a huge migration of African-Americans from the Deep South after Reconstruction, particularly to Oklahoma, because land opened up. “And I’m really interested in seeing if we can’t pull off the humility and the texture and the dignity of the real people from that period,” Coleman said. “These are people who’ve picked up their lives and families and come to an unknown place to build a life and a community. “What’s exciting to me now is getting to watch African-Americans figure out ‘What is our community? What are the tensions? What are the hopes and dreams we are moving toward? How do we build something together? How do we join the community of America at a certain moment in history? I think all of that is really interesting. “But even if you’re not interested in that — you still get Oklahoma!”. Editor’s name: John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.


hen Artistic Director Chris Coleman opens Oklahoma! for the DCPA Theatre Company, it will be just the second time a director has employed a primarily AfricanAmerican cast in the 75-year history of the beloved American stage musical. The first was Chris Coleman, for Portland Center Stage in 2011. Coleman was initially seized by a little-known historical fact that never let him go: In 1906, the year before Oklahoma became a state and the same year the famous story is set, there were 50 all-black towns in the Oklahoma Territory and 137,000 African-Americans living there. Here appeared to be one speck of dust on the national map where blacks could be full participants in Manifest Destiny — that uniquely American belief that westward expansion was both justified and inevitable. “There was actually a movement to make Oklahoma an all-black state, and there was great fear among white residents of that happening,” Coleman said. “I had never heard any of that in my history classes. And I got curious about what it would mean if AfricanAmerican artists got the chance to tell this story.” That story is the same hopelessly optimistic and yet psychologically dark yarn audiences have adored since Oklahoma! opened on Broadway back in World War II 1943: Ranch hands and rival suitors Curly and

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creepy Jud woo a farm girl named Laurey, with deadly consequences. But in the end, the farmers and the ranchers band together to celebrate the new state of Oklahoma. Only in Coleman’s production, there are no white people. Back in 2011, he had no idea the impact that it would have on actors and audiences alike. “I vividly remember during one rehearsal looking over at the actors playing Curly and Ado Annie,” Coleman said. “They were sitting on the floor watching a scene and tears were just streaming down their faces — and it wasn’t a sad scene. So I asked them, ‘Why are you crying?’ And one of them said, ‘I just realized I have never sat through a play about black people that wasn’t about being oppressed by an outsider. This was about our community just living their lives, and falling in love, and trying to make something of their lives.’ ” Audiences responded, Coleman said, according to their own experience. “Some people came in and they

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


DCPA Brings All African American Oklahoma! To Life By Kelie Kyser


hen people think of the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’ musical theater standard Oklahoma!, they may deliberate the concept of the American dream. Artistic Director Chris Coleman certainly did when he started working on what would be his debut production for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA). The story set just after the turn of the 20th century, underscores themes of expansion, hope, and new beginnings amid the drama of a budding romance between a cowboy and farm girl. In his rendition, Coleman remained consistent with all elements of the original tale apart from one major detail – the cast. Inspired by the audition of an African American actor, and with Rogers and Hammerstein fresh on the brain, a seed was planted for Coleman to revisit the Oklahoma! script and insert a cast with melanin. In researching the time period, the director learned that even though the story of westward expansion had been told, it hadn’t been fully disclosed to include the year before Oklahoma became a state. There were 50 all Black towns and 137,000 African Americans whose existence had been overlooked. “I didn’t learn that in history class,” Coleman joked. “But it blew me away and the more I dug into it, the more interested I became in that history.” It was then he reconsidered the script and found there really wasn’t much to alter in order to tell the story from a different angle. “It became a [new] way to take on a really important piece of musical theater history that had at its center questions about what it means to be an American and what it means to participate in the American dream,” he stated. What started as a far-fetched idea in the beginning became an inspired endeavor to feature an all African American cast – boldly updating a historic production. In an equally valiant initiative, the DCPA hosted a Community Conversation at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library a week before the play’s public unveiling to peel back the layers of Coleman’s avant-garde concept. Members of the community were

invited to join the Oklahoma! cast after hours in an intimate setting within the library to discuss their journey through the creation of the project. Participants were treated to a preview of the musical and refreshments before engaging in a dynamic conversation about race in America and parallel themes in Oklahoma! Moderated by Emmy Award winning journalist, Tamara Banks, the audience asked questions of the cast, director, and choreographer, Dominique Kelley during the full house session. Additionally, DCPA President and CEO, Janice Sinden, who sat among the cast, explained the organization’s efforts to make the arts accessible and relatable to all populations and especially to those who have typically been overlooked. On the topic of the event she stated, “Community is communal unity. It’s when people come together to learn and listen and have hard conversations. So, we are going to keep doing this. We are working on figuring out ways to include more people from all cultures in the arts. We need to listen and learn what barriers may exist that prevents people from coming to see theater.” At the end of the Community Conversation, participants were treated to tickets to the last dress rehearsal of the stage play. Speaking on the impact the play will have on the general public, cast member, Sheryl McCallum said, “It’s going to knock people’s socks off to see beautiful people presenting a beautiful story with heart and authenticity.”

Cast member Antoine closed the night with “I’m hoping that young children of color will see themselves on stage through this company. I hope it gives them a way to be more con-

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


nected to the arts and be motivated.” Oklahoma! is featured at the DCPA’s Stage Theater through Oct. 14. .


J a c k s o n


honda Jackson is a beautiful woman with a warm demeanor and a heart of gold, but there is a painful secret hiding behind her radiant smile. After years of working as a corporate professional and exploring her passion for theatre as an actress, Jackson experienced a life-changing health crisis. Lupus, a systemic autoimmune disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack its own tissues and organs, robbed Jackson of her strength, mobility, and the independence that she’d worked so hard to achieve. In the early 1990s, Jackson balanced a full-time corporate job with an acting career while raising a young son, but in 1994 the demanding schedule began to take a physical toll and she developed muscle soreness and constant fatigue. One morning, despite her best efforts, she could not sit up in bed. Her doctor thought she had the flu, but the discomfort persisted. Jackson continued with her daily activities until one day she could not ignore the severity of her symptoms anymore, “I was at an audition, and I was just so fatigued. I knew I shouldn’t be there. That was the first time I felt that my health was out of control,” she says. In the next weeks, she still felt ill. She returned to the doctor and was diagnosed with viral pneumonia before tragically suffering a miscarriage. Her doctor suspected lupus and sent her to a rheumatologist who confirmed the diagnosis. Initially, Jackson had no idea how debilitating the disease could be. Today, she is an advocate for health equity, spreading awareness about the effects of the disease and bringing attention to its glob-

al socio-economic impact. Roughly 1.5 million Americans are living with lupus, and there are over 16,000 new cases per year, yet many people are unfamiliar with the invisible disability that is most prevalent among women of color from ages 15 to 45. The debilitating symptoms include fatigue, fever, joint pain, shortness of breath, and a tell-tale butterflyshaped rash on the face or rashes elsewhere on the body. Known as “the great imitator,” it mimics several other illnesses and no two cases are the same, making it incredibly difficult to diagnose. One out of every 185 people in the United States has lupus, but despite the staggering increase in cases, there has been minimal advancement in lupus research. Only one medication, Benlysta, has been approved specifically for treatment in the last 60 years. To increase understanding and support for people living with the chronic disease, Jackson penned a stage play titled, Crying Wolf: Stories of the Lupus Warriors, which presents several perspectives on what life with lupus is really like. Jackson lived virtually symptomfree for nearly 10 years. In 1996, she gave birth to a second son, and was able to work and live a relatively normal life. The disease intensified in 2010, during a particularly stressful period at work. “Autoimmune diseases are very sensitive to stress. I don’t think I realized how much stress I was under, I was just going with the flow and trying to get through it,” Jackson remembers. Her doctor prescribed Prednisone, a synthetic corticosteroid for suppressing the immune system and inflammation, but the side effects made her miserable. During the worsening health crisis, Jackson’s employer went out of business; she lost her health benefits and was faced with outrageous medical expenses. She attempted to find work, but with a low energy level in interviews, she did not receive a single job offer. Jackson applied for disability benefits and received financial assistance from The Lupus Foundation of Colorado, an organization that provides financial assistance to improve the quality of life for people affected by lupus. With the financial strain reduced, she was still physically and emotionally overwhelmed. “I was devastated,” she said, recalling the life-changing effects of her illness. “I couldn’t do anything I was accustomed to, or that I used to enjoy. Lupus affected my balance; I would fall all the time. I couldn’t even walk around the block.” Lupus first attacked Jackson’s muscular system. She was diagnosed with

polymyositis, an inflammatory disease that weakens skeletal muscles and makes physical tasks difficult, if not impossible. Her oldest son, Devin, moved back home from college to help around the house while her youngest son, Cole, attended high school. “They had to help me with things like getting off the toilet and getting dressed. It was very demoralizing, but it was my reality.” Eventually, Jackson found a new physician, who prescribed treatments that helped her regain limited mobility, but polymyositis still prevents her from using her arms to perform various functions. In addition to the effects on her mobility, Jackson suffers from a seizure disorder, interstitial lung disease, and a worsening skin condition. With a lung capacity of less than 70 percent, Jackson participates in chair yoga to maintain physical activity and peace of mind to alleviate the anxiety of always wondering what changes she will experience next. Jackson used journaling to cope with the effects of her illness. Her stage play, Crying Wolf: Stories of the Lupus Warriors premiered in February 2018, with touching vignettes and monologues that give a glimpse into life with the disease. The title, Crying Wolf, bears ironic significance, as the word “lupus” means “wolf” in Latin. “I named it Crying Wolf like the fable of the boy who cried wolf, because lupus is an unrecognizable disability. I don’t look like there is anything wrong, but I live with a plethora of issues.” Many lupus patients are unable to work full time due to complications of the unpredictable illness, resulting in health disparities and inadequate insurance coverage. One in four people living with lupus receives disability payments, adding an economic strain that Jackson feels could be avoided if employers were willing to provide accommodations in the workplace. “If employers understood lupus they might be more empathetic,” she says. “I can be a productive member of society, I just have to do it a different way.” She suggests flexible work schedules and increased opportunities to work from home as a way to combat unemployment. Jackson attributes her positive attitude to her faith and the loving support system provided by her family. She enjoys life with her new husband, Bo, whose unwavering love, assistance, and ability to lift her spirits has been instrumental in protecting her quality of life. In her role as the Community Outreach and Education Coordinator of the Lupus Foundation of Colorado, she works to raise awareness, urging

Denver Urban Spectrum — – September 2018




By Ruby family members and friends of lupus patients to learn more about the disorder and respect the limitations it creates. In addition to making financial contributions to support lupus research, she suggests that people consider the severity of the disease with patience and compassion. She encourages lupus patients to share their stories so that people know what they are going through, “It’s important to be transparent. It’s nothing to be ashamed of,” she says. Jackson is a strong and courageous warrior who is fighting to give a voice to the silent disease. Despite all that she has been through, she is a beacon of hope for others who must navigate life with lupus, remaining hopeful that one day researchers will find a cure..

Editorial Correction...

In the last issue of Denver Urban Spectrum (September 2018), Anika Phason was incorrectly identified as being abused in the Colorful Story profile on her mother, Ollie Marie Phason. The correct daughter’s name is Nikia. We sincerely apologize for any inconveniece this may have caused.


See me Hear me

stories of tribulation, courage, and triumph

y Jones

Rhonda F i e l d s


enator Rhonda Fields is an inspirational community leader and well-respected politician. After the tragic loss of her only son, she could have given up on the system that failed to keep him safe. Instead, she launched a political career that has allowed her to work as an agent of change in her community. Fields is an advocate for women, families, children and public safety. For over a decade, she has remained committed to improving the criminal justice system, working to protect the rights of victims and championing efforts to ensure a safe and productive environment for Colorado residents. She has served on numerous boards that support social and political advancement, in addition to working as the Founder and President of the Fields Wolfe Memorial Fund. Throughout her political career, she

has earned numerous awards in recognition of the vast contributions she has made to her community. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Fields moved to Colorado Springs after high school, when her father was stationed at Fort Carson. She attended the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and a master’s degree in Psychology, Counseling, and Guidance, before being hired as a faculty member and working as an Academic Advisor and Counselor in the Office of Student Affairs. After getting married in 1974; Fields had two children, a daughter, Maisha Fields, and a son, Javad Marshall Fields. After leaving UNC, she worked at the University of Denver for one year before pursuing a career in the private sector as a human resource professional and later a flight attendant for United Airlines. Fields divorced after 13 years of marriage, and continued to raise her children as a hard-working, middle-class single mother. She never imagined that she would experience the tragedy that changed her life. On July 4, 2004, Marshall-Fields, who had just completed his junior year in college, hosted an outdoor Fourth of July picnic and rap battle at Lowry Park in Aurora with his friend, Gregory Vann. A confrontation at the end of the event resulted in one of the attendees, Sir Mario Owens, pulling out a gun. When Vann asked, “Why did you bring a gun to my party?” Owens shot him in the chest, shooting two more times as he fell to the ground. After witnessing the incident, Marshall-Fields cooperated fully with investigators. He identified the driver, as well as Robert Ray and Owens as the shooters. Owens fled the state, but on July 13, Ray was arrested as an accessory to the shooting. He was released on bail and given a trial date of July 24, 2015, after spending just one week in custody. Marshall-Fields did his best to cope with the death of his best friend, completing his senior year and graduating from Colorado State University with a bachelor’s degree in Speech Communications and Rhetoric. He had a bright future, which he planned to spend with his fiancée, Vivian Wolfe. Fields looked forward to watching him become a husband and father, a dream that would never be realized. Arapahoe County prosecutors filed a motion to seal the addresses of Marshall-Fields and other witnesses, but six months passed before the motion was considered. None of the witnesses were offered state-funded

witness protection services, and with no safety provisions in place, witness information was released to an associate of Owens and Ray. Ray orchestrated a plan to eliminate the testimony of the case’s key witness. On June 20, 2005, four days before Marshall-Fields was set to testify against Ray for the murder of his best friend, he and his fiancée, Wolfe, were murdered by Owens in cold blood. “His life and future were taken away,” says Fields, who received an outpouring of love and support from her family, who helped her get through the dark days following his death. In response to the community’s outrage, investigators worked quickly to arrest Ray, filing first-degree murder charges in Vann’s killing. Ray was found guilty as an accessory to murder in Vann’s killing, and Owens was found guilty of first-degree murder. Both men were found guilty of firstdegree murder for their roles in the murders of Marshall-Fields and Wolfe. They were sentenced to death and are currently awaiting execution. Fields’ testimony was instrumental in solving the cases; she sat through five trials with quiet strength, resilience, and justice, empowered by the people closest to her. “I took the support that I got from others and started to be an advocate for crime victims,” she says. Fields was appointed to the Colorado Commission on Criminal Juvenile Justice in 2007. She worked on public safety and criminal justice bills and testified before the Colorado legislation on a bill that would improve the state’s witness protection programs, as well as the Javad Marshall Fields & Vivian Wolfe Witness Protection Act, which was designed to increase safety for witnesses in criminal cases. Incumbent state Representative Karen Middleton admired Fields’ vigor and intensity during her testimonies and recruited her to run for office in her place. Fields was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives for the City of Aurora in 2010 and re-elected in 2012 and 2014. In 2012, she was appointed Speaker Pro Tempore, making history as the first Black woman to hold the position in the state legislature. In 2016, Fields was elected to the Colorado State Senate. Her election held great cultural and historical significance and served as a socio-economic asset for the state of Colorado. “I ran on a simple platform: to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities,” she says. She is working to strengthen role of citizen in criminal justice, saying “We need to

Denver Urban Spectrum — – September 2018


break the cycle of silence as it relates to crime. We are in this community together; we need o keep an eye out for each other.” Fields is committed to education and supports initiatives that reduce bullying in schools. She has introduced new laws that help grow Colorado’s economy, protect the environment, veterans, women’s rights and human rights of the underserved or homeless, and encourages citizens to create change by actively challenging inequity. “Each of us has to take ownership for inequity, lend voice to it, and change the course of direction. We must be the change we want to see.” Fields emphasizes the importance of voting to affect change, “We can’t throw our hands up and say, ‘My vote doesn’t matter.’ We have to roll up our sleeves and get involved.” She instructs young voters to “Stay woke!” saying, “Young people need to educate themselves and seek knowledge to form their own opinions.” Emphasizing the importance of reading in addition to getting current news from the media, she urges people to research, “You have to read some of the case laws and understand the policies. Ask yourself is this a good policy for the state? Is it good for young people?” After honoring her four-year commitment as a senator, Fields will be eligible to run for a higher congressional office in 2020. She continues to miss her son each day, saying “There’s a deep scar and emptiness in my heart that will never be filled.” Despite a painful past, Fields leads with compassion and dignity, using her platform to create a better future for Colorado residents. .

Editor’s note: These stories and others will be shared at Denver Urban Spectrum’s Colorful Stories...See Me, Hear Me luncheon on November 3, 2018 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel on Quebec Street in Denver. For more information, sponsorship opportunities, or tickets, call 303-292-6446, email or visit

Denver Urban Spectrum presents

Colorful Stories…See Me, Hear Me” Luncheon Presents Stories of Tribulation, Courage and Triumph

On Nov. 3, Denver Urban

Spectrum will present stories of tribulation, courage and triumph through video, conversation and written profiles. These colorful stories will highlight individuals who have overcome obstacles ranging from racism to adversity and tragedy. Carlotta Walls LaNier was the youngest of the Little Rock Nine, a group of AfricanAmerican students, who were the first

By Melovy Melvin Black students ever to attend classes at Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. She was the first Black female to graduate from Central High School. Her story will focus on Institutional Racism. On June 9, 1993, Marie Phason’s 6year-old son Broderick Bell was hit by a random gunshot, kicking off what came to be known as Denver’s “Summer of Violence.” Bell survived, but many others did not during the summers that followed. Her story will focus on Public Safety.

Denver playwright and actress Rhonda Jackson was diagnosed with Lupus in 1994. There’s no cure for Lupus, an auto-immune disease, and she had to learn to live with it. Dedicated to educating the community about Lupus, her story will focus on Health Disparities. Rhonda Fields entered politics following her work as a victims’ rights advocate, seeking justice in the wake of the murders of her son, Javad Fields, and his fiancée, Vivian Wolfe. The couple was murdered on June 20, 2005, less than a week before Javad planned to testify as a key witness in a murder trial. Fields was appointed to the Colorado Commission on Criminal Juvenile Justice in 2007, elected to the Colorado State House three times, and in 2016, she was elected to the Colorado State Senate. Her story will focus on Political Engagement. On November 3, 2008, 80-year old mother, grandmother and great grandmother Ruth Boyd was beaten to death in her home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her murder was never solved. She is the mother of Denver Urban Spectrum publisher, Rosalind J. Harris. Their story will focus on Elder Abuse.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


“After seeing Crying Wolf…Stories of the Lupus Warriors, a play written by Rhonda Jackson, I felt her story needed to be told. Finding comfort in this production, I realized there were other women who have gone through trials and tribulation and wanted to share how they overcame them,” says Denver Urban Spectrum publisher Rosalind “Bee” Harris having gone through tragedy with the death of her mother. “My hope is that these stories will inspire and empower other women who have suffered from some form of tragedy and realize that they are not alone and help is available.” These stories and others will be presented on Saturday, Nov. 3, at a luncheon, Colorful Stories...See Me, Hear Me, at the Renaissance Hotel in Denver. At this powerful event, Denver Urban Spectrum will share a message about overcoming tribulation with courage and personal conviction, and bring light to issues that still need a better response and solutions from our community. Attendees will learn up close and personal how these women persevered through video and a panel discussion; and those who want to can share their story. Experts in each field will speak about today’s climate of institutional racism, public safety, health disparities, political engagement and elder abuse. Emmy award-winning journalist, talk show host and documentary filmmaker Tamara Banks will emcee the luncheon and moderate the storyteller panel. First Lady of Denver Mary Louise Lee will serve as the honorary chair. A portion of proceeds will benefit nonprofit organizations in each area chosen by its storyteller.. Editor’s note: Sponsorship opportunities are available by calling 303-292-6446. For tickets and more information, visit A portion of the proceeds will benefit the following organizations: Hallet Elementary Academy, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Arts-in-Education Academy, It Takes A Village/Phenomenal Women, Lupus Colorado, Fields Wolfe Memorial Fund, The Ruth Boyd Elder Abuse Fund, the BE BRILLIANT Initiative, and the Bringing Back the Arts Foundation.

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Denver Urban Spectrum — – January 2010


Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


Healthy Habits for Kids By Kim Farmer


or the past few decades, the percentage of obese children in the US has been slowly creeping up and today nearly 20 percent of children between the ages six and nine are obese. Unfortunately, the childhood obesity epidemic is not only an American phenomenon but it is also a global problem. Just like in adults, obesity is not a benign disorder in children. Obesity in childhood has both immediate and long term impact on social, physical and emotional health. Obese children are at a very high risk for chronic health disorders that have a direct impact on health factors like sleep apnea, asthma, type 2 diabetes, joint problems, and also increased risk of heart disease. Further, obese children are more likely to be bullied/teased and more likely to suffer from depression, social isolation, and low self-esteem. The best defense against childhood obesity is to make changes in life at an early stage. Bad habits are most difficult to break after they are already established as adults. So if you want your child to have healthy habits, here are some tips: Role model: The first thing that parents need to understand is that they are the child’s role model and they should practice these good habits as well. For example, if you smoke cigarettes and/or drink alcohol then your child is also more likely to develop these habits. While you do not have to be perfect all the time, at least adopt good eating habits and remain physically active. If you do this regularly your kids will notice your effort. Remember that children do what we do, not necessarily what we say. Make it a family event: If you plan any activities, make it a family affair. When you do things together, everyone will participate and have fun. When you eat together as a family, chances are that everyone will eat the right type of healthy food. To encourage healthy foods, get the child involved in planning and cooking the meal. When you go shopping, teach

your children how to read labels and what foods to avoid. Have a positive outlook: In general, if you have a negative outlook or attitude towards life, then your child will also sense it. So keep a positive attitude and do not discourage your child if he or she does not do something right, or makes an error. Celebrate both success and failures with a positive tone. Remember, when you make you make the activity fun, the child is more likely to be compliant and have a positive self-image. Set realistic goals: Even though you want your child to be healthy, it is important that they be children and have fun. Of course their entire childhood should not be devoted to eating fruit and veggies and working hard. Introduce small changes in the child’s life and over time this will make a big difference. You are not trying to make the child healthy for one day or one month; the goal is to teach good habits that last a lifetime. Limit screen time: One of the major causes of an unhealthy lifestyle in children is spending way too much time on the PC and/or the smartphone. These habits not only lead to a sedentary lifestyle but also encourage consumption of junk foods. A sedentary lifestyle is known to increase the risk of heart disease and other serious illnesses. Physically active: One of the best ways to improve the health of your child is to encourage some type of physical activity; it really doesn’t matter which one. Let the child do something he or she likes and that way they will continue doing the activity long term. Almost any outdoor activity not only helps with physical development but it also improves social skills like playing together, learning to lose and

still have fun, and getting fresh air. Limit rewards: Do not reward the child for everything that he or she does. Reward the child for good behavior and a positive lifestyle by helping them set small, manageable goals. A good example is eating five servings of fruits and veggies every day, or getting at least 30 minutes of consistent exercise daily. Encourage veggies and fruits: Most children have a hard time eating enough veggies and fruits so it can be difficult to get them to like them. Gradually introduce them and let the child explore the taste of the fruits/veggies and let them decide which ones they like. There is no rule that we must always eat the same fruits and veggies in the same way. There are plenty of ways to eat (and sneak!) them into your child’s meals by adding them to sandwiches, soups, pasta dishes and of course salads. Cut down on sugar: One of the worst foods that a child can eat is too much sugar. Extra sugar has been linked to childhood obesity, behavior problems, and many chronic disorders. So cut the sugar down to a minimum by allowing sugary snacks only on occasion. Add variety to the foods: To get your child interested in healthy eating, serve a variety of foods that include poultry, seafood, eggs, low-fat dairy, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Schedule meal times: It is important to get your child to eat at scheduled meal times and not continuously graze on snacks all day. Only allow snacks at a certain time and limit the amount. In addition, make sure the snack doesn’t contain a lot of added sugar. Fruits and veggies make great snacks and you can pair them with a protein source (i.e. apples or celery

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


and peanut butter, whole grain crackers with cheese, strawberries dipped in yogurt). Limit fast foods: Kids loves fast foods because they taste good and they are quick, but eating such foods regularly only leads to obesity. So limit the number of times your child can eat fast foods. Make it a treat and make sure you do not stock your home and fridge with a lot of processed foods. Drink ample water: While there are many cola beverages and hundreds of juices on the market, there is no beverage better than water. This natural beverage quenches thirst, is free of artificial chemicals and has no calories. So encourage your child to drink plenty of water throughout the day, and even more if he or she plays sports. One of the best ways to ensure that your child remains healthy is to stay on top of their lifestyles. Encouraging healthy eating habits takes time but the rewards last a lifetime. And the biggest advantage is that the child will need to have fewer visits to the doctor which means less time away from school, and the healthy habits will become second nature for them. . Editor’s note: Kim Farmer of Mile High Fitness & Wellness offers in-home personal training and corporate wellness solutions. For more information, visit or email

CoAGG Presents Panel Conference On Slavery, Genocide And Reparations

“Why don’t scholars of

By Jamil Shabazz

Genocide and Slavery talk to one another? A conversation on genocide and slavery could yield important truths about ‘man’s inhumanity to man,’ both in the past, and in ways that might prevent this in the future,”

mused Program Committee Co-Chair Prof. Arthur Gilbert, during a recent planning meeting. In a society burgeoning with acceptance for new additions to the lexicon, there are a few words that remain taboo; and ultimately unspoken. Three of those words – genocide, slavery, and reparations – will be the focal point of an upcoming conference at Metropolitan State University. In November, the Coalition Against Global Genocide (CoAGG) will seek to explore inhumane truths for the preservation of human lives everywhere. In cooperation with faculty from Metropolitan State University and the University of Denver, the CoAGG will hold a panel conference on Genocide,

Slavery and Reparations on Nov. 14, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at St. Cajetan’s. The conference will be split in two 75 minute sessions, and will also include lunch and a video presentation between the sessions. The morning roundtable session, “Awareness and Prevention,” will address questions such as as 1.) What can be done when we see early acts of genocide or slavery stripping victims of names, cultural traditions, and other forms of identity in a way that allows crimes against humanity? and 2.) How can we raise awareness of these acts of genocide and slavery before they are used to justify economic gains for one part of society at the expense of another?

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


The afternoon roundtable session, “Reconciliation and Reparation,” will address questions such as: 1.) What can be done once genocide or slavery become successful in stripping victims of social identities in order to justify economic gains for one part of society at the expense of another? and 2.) Must reparations be only in the form of financial compensation for illicit economic gains, or might reparations include social and emotional responses to restore the injuries associated with social death? “Slavery and genocide often go together. The point isn’t to decide which is worse, but to understand the commonalities that allow both to happen,” says Tim Kubik, co-chair of CoAGG program committee. “When Hannah Arendt coined the phrase “Man’s inhumanity to man” she was commenting on genocide, not slavery, but one rarely finds the one without the other. Though often separated along racial lines in the Americas, slavery is connected with the economic exploitation of human beings, which presumes those human beings must be kept alive to be exploited. By contrast, while economic gains are often at the root of genocide, these come from eliminating a population, not exploiting it,” he says. “Our aim in convening this roundtable/conference is not to make moral judgments about whether the experience of genocide or slavery was worse. Understood as global phenomena, the genesis of slavery and genocide rely on common acts of dehumanization. A conversation on genocide and slavery could yield important truths about “Man’s inhumanity to man,” both in the past, and in ways that might prevent this in the future.”. Editor’s note: Those interested in participating as a guest speaker or panelist, email Timothy Kubik at For sponsorship opportunities, email Roz Duman at For more information and conference updates, visit

Bessie Coleman Fly Girl Wins National Scholarship


Ashlynn Salazar, a member of the Bessie Coleman Fly Girls/Boys program, under the leadership of Jacqueline Withers, has been awarded The Continuing the Legacy in Aviation scholarship from Southwest Airlines. This scholarship will allow Ashlynn to tour the Southwest Pilot and Flight Attendant Training Center in Dallas, Texas, October 11-13. Additionally, she will meet Southwest Airlines leaders, fly in the flight simulator, visit Network Operations Control, Emergency Command Center, attend the Ft. Worth Alliance Airshow, and learn the history of the documented Original Tuskegee Airmen and more. Salazar, a student at Aurora Quest K-8, is a very bright and articulate young lady, who in addition to participating with Bessie Colman is a member of the school swim team, competitive dance team and serves as president of the National Society of Black Engineers Jr., Denver Chapter. Her dream is to become a Rescue Helicopter Pilot, as well as pursuing a career as a Biomedical Engineer. The Bessie Coleman Fly Girls was founded by Jacqueline Withers in 2003. Withers, is an artist and was inspired after painting a mural of the Tuskegee Airmen Bessie Coleman, the first African American female to earn her pilot’s license in the United States in 1922.

ULMD Announces First Half of New Leadership Plan

Local entrepreneur—Wil Alston to serve as new President/CEO

The Urban League of Metropolitan Denver’s (ULMD) Board of Directors announced that it has unanimously chosen Wil Alston as the organization’s next president/ CEO. Alston, who currently doubles as an entrepreneur and as the director of marketing for the Five Points-based Civil Technology, Inc. will succeed former president/CEO,

Sean Bradley. The announcement is the first part of the 72-year-old advocacy organization’s two-phases of onboarding new leadership. Alston will begin his new role on

Oct. 1. The second phase of the onboarding plan, scheduled for rollout in late-October, will be the announcement of service programs targeted to address systemic issues in the Denver community and an expanded board of directors. The selection of Alston caps a five-month national search process that was facilitated by the Urban League’s Board of Directors. An initial pool of nine applicants was narrowed to a group of three candidates that were interviewed by the ULMD Board search committee, and then a final round of meetings produced Alston as the candidate of choice. Alston, 57, is a native of Washington, DC and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Regis College in Denver. He has held senior level positions with Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, and has led or held senior level positions with several local nonprofits including: Five Points Business District, University of Denver’s Spirituals Project, and the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce. Currently Alston provides marketing, strategic planning, event coordination, and strategic communication consulting to a variety of public and private organizations through his almost twentyyear-old firm, The Wil Alston Group. He is a longtime resident of Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood where he resides with his wife of 24 years, Roz.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


Ground Rules

Must See............llll It’s Worth A Look.....lll See At Your Own Risk.ll Don’t Bother.....................l

Editor’s note: Samantha Ofole-Prince is an award-winning writer and contributor to many national publications and is’s Senior Critic-at-Large. Khaleel Herbert is a journalism student at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Laurence Washington is the creator of Like on Facebook, follow on Twitter


move the story forward. You should not spoil your own story halfway through the second act and the interview interludes give away the climatic end. James Silva is supposed to be the cornerstone of a new Ethan Hunt-like franchise. Problem is that Silva is a completely disagreeable and unlikable character. His not only abrasive to the people on his own team he has this gimmicky “on the spectrum” habit that makes him snap a rubber band on his writ whenever his mind races out

The Happytime Murders



Mile 22

l Jon Rutledge

his film suffers from a lack of understanding on how action films work to engage the audience. Timing issues and heavy-handed storytelling coupled with poor casting choices cause this movie a lot of self-inflicted problems. It’s not all bad there are a few top-notch scenes but it’s too long of a walk to get to them. It has the director’s (Peter Berge) feel to the gritty nature of the film but it loses its way along its route to the end. James Silva (Mark Wahlberg) is a leader of a black ops team. His mission is to get the package, Li Noor (Iko Uwais) a defecting police operative, to the military airport 22 miles away. There is a corrupt security officer, Axel (Sam Medina) of the random South East Asian town they are in. Axel is throwing all his military resources at them to ensure that Li Noor does not make it to the plane. On paper, this looks like a great film however they are trying to tell several different sides of the same story and it’s not effective. One story is events as they are happening, another is an after-action interview. The problem is that they don’t blend them together well. Using the interview to break up the action was distracting and did nothing to

of control. It is way overused we not only see it constantly when he is on screen they also add it in as a sound effect when we hear him snap off camera. There are endless barking monologs that Wahlberg performs perfectly but are still uninteresting to watch after the first few of them. His fight scenes did not have the same elegance as his counterpart. In contracts to Silva, Li Noor was incredibly engaging, mysterious, skilled and way more enjoyable to watch on screen. He barely spoke but completely engaging because of his impressive skill. His fight scenes were outstanding and what this movie was sold on. Also, how do you have Ronda Rousey in a film and her not singlehandedly take down a room of three bad guys with her hands? She is such a powerhouse she needs more physical work, she was great and looked good at executing the military tactics, but it was a missed opportunity. Lauren Cohan had way more physical stuff and she did awesomely, it looked great and the tension in the fight felt real. This was packaged as a gauntlet type film; plucky heroes fight their way every inch of the 22 mile journey. It turned out to be grumpy people grousing at one another along the way. Mile 22 felt like 22 thousand miles.

ll Khaleel Herbert

APD officer turned private-eye detective Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) gets more than he bargained for when takes Sandra White’s (Dorien Davies) case. In a world where puppets and humans live amongst each other, puppets from the famous ‘90s sitcom, The Happytime Gang, get slaughtered one by one. The crime begins when Phil goes to a local porn shop to get clues for Sandra’s case. He runs into Bumblypants (Kevin Clash), who only wants a carrot dildo and some porn DVDs. When Phil goes to the back of the store to collect files for evidence, Bumblypants, the owner, and a squid and a cow getting freaky in the back (don’t ask) are killed. Puppet fuzz is everywhere. The LAPD get involved, reuniting Phil with his old partner, Detective Edwards (Melissa McCarthy). They squabble over a case they worked on together in the past that went horribly wrong. But Lieutenant Banning (Leslie David Baker) wants them to work together to crack. Phil and Edwards go on crazy misadventures to bring the puppet murderer to justice. Try imagining The Happytime Murders as a classic Humphrey Bogart detective flick mixed with the comic stylings of Saturday Night Live and the sexuality of Fifty Shades of Grey in a Muppet-like world. That’s pretty difficult to explain and even weirder to watch. Although there’s a solid story, it’s weird to see puppets cuss, do drugs and have sex like real people. It’s like you’re sucked into a Twilight Zone state where you almost forget these characters are puppets, but you know they’re not human, like the sex scene with Phil and Sandra in his office.

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


McCarthy taps into her Diana and Mullins tough-girl vibes from The Heat and Identity Thief, but the puppets steal the show. They just do. McCarthy does get wild when she snorts some candy cocaine and has a few one-liners here and there. Maybe The Happytime Murders is also one big spoof of puppet shows and movies we grew up watching. Brian Henson, who has directed The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island and a few episodes of Muppets Tonight, has apparently worked with puppets before. But this film truly lives up to its slogan, “No Sesame. All Street.” The Happytime Murders is not for everyone (and definitely not for children). You need a dirty mind and/or a fetish for puppet sex to truly enjoy this film.


Peppermint lll Khaleel Herbert

eppermint begins with Riley North (Jennifer Garner) as the typical working mom who adores and cares for her daughter and husband (Cailey Fleming and Jeff Hephner), although she wants to punch the lights out of her boss and snobby mom.

When her daughter’s birthday goes sour, the trio ventures to the Christmas carnival for frolic, fun and ice cream. Like Job, Riley’s world is flipped when her family is murdered drive by-style by a Mexican drug cartel led by Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba who sort of resembles John Travolta’s Ryder in Taking of Pelham 123). Riley was injured, but alive. When she identifies the murderers and testifies, the justice system lets them walk free. Enraged, Riley goes on a five-year hiatus. When she returns to Los Angeles, she’s back with heavy artillery and her radar on Diego. Garner taps into her action days of Daredevil, Elektra and Alias. But this time, she’s unhinged and uncensored. She’s a bad mutha clucka who isn’t afraid to blow up Piñata shops, scare alcoholic dads and make snobby moms (Pell James) pee themselves. Like Denzel Washington’s Equalizer 2, Man on Fire and Magnificent Seven, she shows no mercy on her path to seeking justice. Sure, Peppermint may be a rehash of vigilante movies like Charlize Theron’s Atomic Blonde and Angelina Jolie’s Salt and others, but who cares? What stories are truly original anymore? It’s all about the uniqueness in the genre. While Crazy Rich Asians and Mission Impossible 24 (or however many of those bastards are out now) dominate the box office, Peppermint is a numbing thrill-ride that shows a powerful female kicking booty with nothing to lose. This smashes The Rock’s Skyscraper because the ending doesn’t insult the audience and Garner is raw protecting the weak on her vengeful road. Like Salt, the ending leaves audiences yearning for a sequel. Maybe Riley doesn’t have OCD, but she’s a woman who isn’t afraid to break her nails or get her hair messed serving up justice and a can of whoop-ass. The name isn’t catchy. Why not simply call this Riley North or Gun Angel? It may not be number one at the box office or get the highest score on Rotten Tomatoes, but it’s not a rom-com like Crazy Rich Asians or has weird sexual antics like The Happytime Murders for Christ sake! You can’t go wrong with Jennifer Garner.

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White Boy Rick Director Yann Demange Hooked on Father Son Interactions


By Samantha Ofole-Prince

t’s a true story of the youngest FBI informant in history and for British director Yann Demange, who earned global accolades for his debut film ’71, what attracted him to the script was the multi-generational father and son story. “I saw that as a chance to take this true story and tackle the themes of the struggle for the American Dream in the face of poverty and the opportunity through a family trying to succeed against dire odds. That’s what excited me, even more than the informant story,” he shares. Set in 1980s Detroit at the height of the crack epidemic, it tells the story of Rick Wershe Jr., a 15-year boy who was initially recruited by the FBI as an undercover drug informant and ended up becoming a neighborhood drug dealer. Brilliantly portrayed by newcomer Richie Merritt, the film chronicles three critical years in the life of a babyfaced, street-savvy teen Rick Wershe Jr. as he rises from teenage to infamous drug dealer before ultimately becoming a pawn to some of Detroit’s most powerful and corrupt politicians. The film opens in 1984 as Rick Wershe Jr. and his father, Richard Sr., a self-styled business hustler and gun dealer, played by Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey, are at a gun show. Fast forward a couple of scenes later and we meet his older sister, Dawn (Bel Powley), a rebel with a drug addiction and learn that Rick’s mother left the family years earlier in a bitter divorce. Demange briefly introduces this world of domestic dysfunction and the crack cocaine epidemic that plagued Detroit during that era, before jumping in to the nitty gritty of Rick’s recruitment as a confidential undercover informant. Although he is not involved in drugs at the time, Rick knows many of the players in his racially mixed neighborhood and his initial assignment, which he reluctantly accepts, is to infiltrate the Curry Crew who dominate East Detroit’s drug scene. He befriends the youngest Curry brother, Rudell “Boo” Curry (RJ Cyler), and soon enters the Curry’s dangerous world of fast cars, after-hours nightlife, mink coats, gold jewelry and, when necessary, violence and moves up within his organization. With Rick’s relationship with his own father beginning to deteriorate,

Curry becomes like a father figure to his young protégé and Rick rises rapidly in the area’s drug scene earning his own street nickname, White Boy Rick, all the while still under the guidance and encouragement of law enforcement until his downward spiral and ultimate incarceration. It’s an ambitious miscarriage of justice tale for Demange who visited the real Rick Wershe in prison and spoke with him on the phone on a regular basis. “The development phase was a long process because I had never done a true story, so it was imperative for me to see the real Rick in jail. That was

part of my decision process, to figure out whether I could actually do this because initially there wasn’t a clear narrative – there were many ways to tell the story of Rick Wershe but, as I said, I wanted to focus on the family. And then there was the ethical questions – am I doing the right thing by this man? Am I exploiting a life story just to project the themes that influence me onto a film? It took about three years and it was a real process of not taking liberties with his life and distilling it down to the facts and its emotional core,” Demange explains. The film also features Jennifer Jason Leigh (Hateful Eight) and Rory Cochrane (Black Mass) as the FBI agents who begin working with Rick as a confidential informant, and Brian Tyree Henry (FX’s Atlanta) as narcotics Detective Jackson. Bruce Dern (Nebraska) plays Rick’s grandfather, rapper YG and Jonathan Majors round off the cast as local dealers. There’s humility and humor in the film, which does not take a moral stance, but certainly exposes the mandatory sentencing and drug laws that decimated the African American community in particular, but also the poor and disenfranchised in general..

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Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018



Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. Presents 2018 Blue & White Scholarship Gala

The Colorado Alumni Chapters of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. in conjunction with Blue PHIRE Foundation will host the 2018 Blue & White Scholarship Gala on Saturday, Oct. 13. Dr. Jandel Allen-Davis M.D., president and CEO of Craig Hospital will be the keynote speaker sharing her inspirational message on the importance of higher education, Theme: Under Utilized Resources, Personal and Financial Growth through Higher Education. Goal of the event is to establish a scholarship fund to award the educational achievements of high school graduates in Colorado who will be advancing to higher education. The Blue and White Gala will be held on Oct. 13, from 7 to 11:30 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Aurora, 13696 E. Iliff Place, in Aurora. For tickets and more information, visit or call 720-862-7717 Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. (ΦΒΣ) is a social/service collegiate and professional fraternity founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C. on January 9, 1914, by three young AfricanAmerican male students. Blue PHIRE Foundation is a nonprofit 501(C)(3) organization founded in 2017 to promote health, integrity and raise education levels in the Denver Metropolitan area.

League of Women Voters Denver Presents: Need Help Understanding

the November Ballot Issues?

Ballots filled with many issues will arrive in Denver mailboxes in the middle of October. The League of Women Voters of Denver will present an explanation of

those issues just in time for their arrival. The Vice President of Voter Service for Colorado will explain the 13 State issues, while the local Denver issues will be presented by the League members who researched those issues for our always sought-after Ballot Issues Pamphlet, “Savvy Voters Make a Difference.” The public is invited on Monday, Oct. 15 at 5:30 p.m. for coffee and networking; and 6 p.m. for the presentation at the Montview Presbyterian Church, 1980 Dahlia St. in the McCollum Room.

CBWPA Presents 40th Annual Tribute to Black Women Luncheon

Maggie Anderson, one of the nation’s leading subject matter experts on building wealth within the Black community will be the keynote speaker at CBWPA’s 40th annual luncheon with a goal to empower the community to reclaim part of the American Dream. Maggie Anderson, a first-generation American daughter of Cuban immigrants has a BA in Political Science from Emory University and earned a Juris Doctor (JD) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Chicago; where President Barack Obama was her law professor and mentor. She and her family made history and dominated headlines as the global media covered their year-long stand living exclusively off of businesses, professionals, and products from the Black community. CBWPA has been instrumental in getting people of color and allies elected; getting five out of six women elected during the last election cycle. The 40th annual luncheon will be held on Sat., Oct. 13 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel Stapleton, 3801 Quebec St. in Denver. Luncheon tickets, sponsorships, vendor spaces and ads are available to purchase online at


Schedule Extended In Search For New Superintendent

The Board of Education announced it will extend the timeline in the district’s search for a new superintendent, including the deadline to receive applications and the schedule of public meetings to gather input from the community. The board announced that it plans to extend the national search process for a new district superintendent by a little more than a month The board emphasized that the planned community engagement previously announced will still follow the same three-phase process: •Phase 1 will happen through Oct. 15 and culminate with the preferred application due date. •Phase 2 will occur between Oct. 15 and Nov. 26, during which time, candidate interviews will take place. •Phase 3 follows with two milestone dates: on Nov. 26, the finalist(s) will be announced and on Dec. 10, the candidate will be announced. The board will hire an external facilitator, Dimension Strategies, to support large community meetings. The firm is a locally-owned, minorityand women-owned business. For more information and search updates, visit

RTD Board of Directors Approves Fare Policy Changes for 2019

A recent decision will implement low-income program, higher discount for youth next year. The Regional Transportation District’s Board of Directors approved changes to fares and pass programs that will take effect starting early next year, including the introduction of a low-income program, an increased discount for riders between six and 19 years old, and changes to fares. The recommended package of fare policy changes – first approved by the board’s financial administration and

audit committee – is forecasted to reach fare revenue target levels over the next three years. It delivers all the elements of a proposal that reflects feedback from thousands of people about three proposed options and RTD’s fare review process, scheduled to take place every three years. This comprehensive review of the agency’s fares and passes began at the request of RTD’s 15-member board, which authorized the examination in 2015 in response to public requests during the prior fare review. Changes would be implemented starting in January, with a low-income program estimated to begin in July. A Title VI equity analysis of all changes has been completed, and no concerns were found per the board-adopted Disparate Impact and Disproportionate Burden Policy. With its approval, the board has authorized the following changes to fares and passes: •Introduce a low-income fare program, providing a 40 percent discount to households at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. •Increase the discount offered to riders between six and 19 years old to 70 percent. (Children five and younger will still ride free with a fare-paying adult.) •Introduce a 3-hour pass, replacing a 3-hour one-way transfer. •Continue offering EcoPass, Neighborhood EcoPass and CollegePass, which will be priced based upon trips taken. •Retain 10-Ride ticket books and MyRide smart cards with discounts. •Retain day and monthly passes and FlexPass. •Discontinue ValuPass (those interested instead could purchase 12 monthly passes). •Increase Local fare to $3, Regional fare to $5.25 and fare to Denver International Airport $10.50. The board’s decision was informed by public comments gathered through a variety of means.

720-272-5844 Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


“I Am The Change:” The Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. Hosts 41st Annual Symposium Town Hall & Awards Luncheon Highlighting Action, Activism & Civic Engagement Honorees Include Georgia Gubernatorial Candidate Stacey Abrams, Flint, MI Mayor Dr. Karen W. Weaver, Designer & Entrepreneur Tina Knowles and New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver


At fifty-three days out from one of the most hotly contested midterm elections on record, The Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. (BWA) hosted its 41st Annual Symposium Town Hall and Awards Luncheon, underscoring the importance of action and activism and encouraging civic engagement. A town hall this morning challenged more than 800 participants to be catalysts for change – change for themselves, their families, and communities. The forum featured a panel of journalists, politicos, and educators who reminded attendees that maintaining a democracy is every citizen’s responsibility. Panelists included: moderator Sheinelle Jones, a NBC News co-anchor and MSNBC host; Michael Steele, Maryland Lieutenant Governor from 2003-2007 and former chair of the Republican National Committee; CNN political commentators Symone Sanders and Tara Setmayer; Sharon Epperson, CNBC senior personal finance correspondent; Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, president and CEO, Global Policy Solutions, LLC, Cornell Belcher, progressive pollster and political strategist and founder and president, bril

liant corners Research & Strategies, and Dr. Glenda Glover, president, Tennessee State University and International President, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. “History has its eyes on us, to borrow a phrase, and it’s not just about what our elected officials do in terms of steering the course of this country. It’s what we do,” said President Gwainevere Catchings Hess, The Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. “Inspiring women to live their best lives requires that we remind them that they not only have a stake in this society but a moral imperative to try to leave this world better than they found it.” During the annual awards luncheon, a standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,700 elected officials, journalists, corporate and community leaders and members of BWA’s 21 National Collaborating Organizations honored eight women as the personification of action, activism and civic engagement. Recipients of this year’s BWA awards included: Stacey Abrams – The Democratic Party’s nominee in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election. A lawyer, author, and businesswoman, she is the first Black woman to be a major party’s gubernatorial candidate in the United States.

Dr. Helene D. Gayle – President and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, one of the nation’s leading community foundations. The Trust works with donors, nonprofits, community leaders and residents to lead and inspire philanthropic efforts that improve the quality of life in the Chicago area. Dr. Gayle serves on public company and non-profit boards including Colgate-Palmolive Company, The Coca-Cola Company, the Rockefeller Foundation, Brookings Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, New America and the ONE Campaign. Tina Knowles-Lawson – Entrepreneur, designer and managing partner of the House of Deréon and Miss Tina fashion brands. KnowlesLawson is also an author, philanthropist, and the mother of Grammy award-winning recording artists Beyoncé and Solange. Tanya L. Lombard – As the head of Multicultural Engagement and Strategic Alliances, AT&T, Lombard’s responsibilities focus on creating, promoting, and managing AT&T’s brandmessaging to minority communities

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


through the development and stewardship of strategic community-based relations and projects. The Honorable Sheila Y. Oliver – Lieutenant Governor, State of New Jersey. A former member and Speaker of the New Jersey State Assembly, Oliver is one of only three AfricanAmerican women to hold statewide office. Dr. Sandye Poitier Johnson – A renowned educator and retired principal widely credited with raising the academic standards and stature of the Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change in Harlem and helping it earn the prestigious designation as an International Baccalaureate World School. The Honorable Karen W. Weaver – Mayor, City of Flint, Michigan. As mayor, Dr. Weaver declared a state of emergency in connection with the discovery of unsafe levels of lead in the water residents used for cooking, drinking, and bathing. She became a prominent figure as the resulting crisis and ongoing recovery captured national attention. Eugena King – An Indianapolis, IN resident and matriculating freshman at Gustavus Adolphus College, a liberal arts college in St. Peter, MN. King was honored as the recipient of BWA’s Bright Futures Award and scholarship. “What happens next in America is not anyone’s guess, it’s everyone’s business,” BWA President Hess told the gathering. “As Black women, Black communities, we can vote, make our voices heard and hold elected officials accountable for addressing our interests, or we can stay home, sit on the sidelines and watch the train pass us by. Voting may not change everything, but it enables us to keep the change we seek within our grasp.”. Editor’s note: Founded in 1977 in Washington, D.C., The Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. is a nonprofit 501(C)3 organization that generates awareness and support for issues that secure, protect and advance the rights of Black women and their families. BWA is comprised of 22 collaborating organizations — sororities, civic, service and faith-based – representing millions of women worldwide.

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African Bar and Grill Serving: Jollof Rice, African Beer and, Specialty Dishes from Africa

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720-949-0784 or 303-375-7835

Lost Your Joy? Jazz by Yaz

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

Denver Urban Spectrum — – October 2018


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United Church of Montbello! Come as you are and get connected to your best self through great fellowship and the love of Jesus Christ! Sunday Worship: 8:00am (Traditional) and 10:30am (Gospel) 4VOEBZ4DIPPMBNr8FEOFTEBZ#JCMF4UVEZQN

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Denver Urban Spectrum October 2018  

As an award-winning publication, we captured that recognition over the last 30 years by telling stories – features, news, investigative, and...

Denver Urban Spectrum October 2018  

As an award-winning publication, we captured that recognition over the last 30 years by telling stories – features, news, investigative, and...