2018 African Americans Who Make A Difference
Paralegal and Private Investigator, Cleopatra Jones Investigations
Mental Health Paraprofessional, Devereux Mental Health
Akilah Graham uses her paralegal skills to support the African American, Latino, and Somalian communities with social service, child support, protection orders, record expungements, divorce issues and other legal matters.
As a special education paraprofessional for Devereux Mental Health for youth, she mentors children from foster homes who have been abused and/or neglected.
Over the past five years, Akilah has been a board member of the John L. Thompson Dance Ministries where she performs, mentors the junior group, and contributes directly to the community through fundraising efforts to organizations including Urban Peak, the Denver Rescue Mission, The Crossing, The Gathering Place and St. Francis.
Akilah says she takes an active role because, “Our children today are being raised by Hollywood, single parents, absent fathers, and grandparents – in a fallen world. I had challenges as a teenager and when things got rough and life went in the wrong direction, I had God and a father to hold me accountable, and to stand by me. I can give them another perspective on how to make good choices along with unconditional love.”
Akilah feels the biggest challenges facing the community are educating the next generation to be self-sufficient business owners and financially savvy.
In the future, she would like to start a non-profit organization that will fund paralegal fees for those who lack the resources. She would like to be remembered as a woman who cared deeply for her community, helped the poor and needy, loved children and showed it by her actions.”
Co-founder, Denver Justice Project
Community Outreach Coordinator,
Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition
After surviving a near death experience from brutally beaten by Denver Police officers, Alexander Landau is best known for his activism in law enforcement accountability and working to end all levels of misconduct through direct action, policy reform, legislation and community engagement.
Last year at CCJRC, he pioneered a program with the Denver Detention Center and Denver county jail to register inmates who were able to vote, and more than 300 voted from Denver jails.
Since his racially profilednear death experience, Alex has been on the front lines and uses his narrative of racist violence as a tool for helping others find strength with their own experiences.
He has helped many people navigate through the criminal justice system, organized district attorney forums, and facilitated numerous Know Your Rights training sessions in communities impacted by police violence and misconduct.
Alex says he is active because, “It was therapeutic for me, but also to help my community, my family and for my sanity and safety.”
He feels, “The biggest challenges facing the Black community is a legacy of structural racism that has crippled the mind, body and spirit of Black communities. We need to heal from the historical pains created by colonization and shift the way the rest of the world looks at us, treats us and expect from us while increasing what we expect from ourselves.”
He would like to be remembered as an amazing father, a man of the wilderness, a creative thinker and a helper of human kind.
Community Relations Specialist, Kaiser Permanente Colorado
Angel McKinley-Paige, best known for working to promote health, has served the community at nonprofit agencies including Kaiser Permanente, Center for African American Health, Colorado Access and Inner City Health Center. Her primary function has been to connect underserved populations to health care services and resources and to invest capital into the community.
Angel serves by giving voice to African Americans who are underserved, live in poverty, experience social injustice and are often overlooked. Her service has been providing healthcare resources and no-cost health screenings predominately for African American church congregations, the uninsured and low-income Medicaid members.
“I choose to take an active role in community because it’s my responsibility. I love Black people, our richness and our culture. It’s worth the time and dedication to preserve it and uphold legacy in our community.”
Angel says challenges facing the community are internal issues and need to be in the ongoing fight against systemic injustices, such as failing health, lack of education and brokenness of the family unit. Until we address these, we lack the strength, unity and sustainability to deal with systemic social justice issues. Resolu-tion starts with access and education.
She would like to be an agent of change and work to create programming and resources targeted toward the needs in the African American community.
“My children are my legacy. I loved hard, lived well for my husband, our children, my family, my community and most importantly my God,” she says of her legacy. “To whom much is given, much is required. I’ve been given a lot and much is required. I hope I’m remembered for using what I was blessed with to bless others.”
Barbara Elaine Goree
Retired, Social Service Worker
Barbara Elaine Goree is best known in the Denver community for sharing and caring and providing shelter to homeless people. Her most notable contributions during the past year has been volunteering for community projects, supporting local Black owned businesses in Park Hill and Aurora and helping to decorate and renovate a Black owned building in Park Hill.
Over recent years, Barbara has been very active in her church with teaching cooking, provided transportation for homeless people to have lunch at her church, Scott United Methodist Church.
Barbara says she takes an active role, “In order to build a social connection in someone’s life. I believe if you see something, say something or do something.”
She says the challenge facing the African American community is individuals and families affected by poverty. “Families with low self-esteem or lacking social support feel as if they are being judged and stigmatized. People with low income may have to work more than one job. We can solve these problems by helping them not feel intimidated or excluded because people affected by poverty may have fewer opportunities to build the skills they need.
She says, “I have already accomplished what I set out to do at the age of 75 – retiring from Denver Human Services after 30 years and working with families with limited intelligence, ability and emotional difficulties.”
Barbara would like to be remembered for bravery and courage and as someone who was caring and nice, but most of all as someone who lived a fulfilled and happy life as a devoted church member, loving wife and mother.
Charles Doss Jr.
Certified Line Dancer Instructor, Founder
Mr. Charles & The Lets Start Dancing Crew
Recognized and known as the dancing man, Charles Doss is committed to teaching anyone and everyone to get up and move. He cares about health and wellness, and improving the quality of life through dance and bringing lots of energy and excitement.
Over the past year, he has taught dance and performed at Juneteenth, and many community functions and events. He partnered with the Black Health Collaborative, performing at the African American Health 5k Walk and Run.
Charles created a dance for Denver’s City Spirit Month, and the City Spirit Shuffle is taught to city employees and performed every August.
He is active because “I have always believed that we need to move our bodies more in a fun and interactive way while improving our health. I love my community and I want to see people get up and walk, run, dance and enjoy themselves.
“Health and wellness is a big challenge in our community. If we understand that our body is our temple then we can be at peace within ourselves. Dancing keeps your mind working and thinking about that next step,” he says. “Getting out in the community and being more involved can only strengthen our community.”
Future goals are to offer affordable line dance classes all over town and to create greater opportunities for more to participate.
Charles says he would like to be remembered as a person that did his best and tried to make a difference in people’s lives, someone who wanted to give back to the community with the gift God gave him and loved what he did – got the community to dance!
Barber/Co-Owner, Montbello Barbers
President, Montbello Falcons Youth Organization
Chuck Sagere is very active in the community and best known as a friend and supporter to the Montbello-Green Valley neighborhoods. He is a mentor for youth, coach for the Montbello Falcons and has strong relationships with his customers that are expressed as friendly and compassionate.
His most recognized contribution to the African American community over the past five years has been taking over ownership of theMontbello Barbers and supporting the community by providing space for events like Shop Talk Live. He is most proud of being part of the coaching staff of the two-time national championship youth football team, the Montbello Falcons. They won 35 games straight in 2015 and 2016 and consisted of 12 and 13 years old boys.
When asked why he takes an active role, Chuck says, “Following in my Mother’s footsteps Marva Crawford, I love my community. And one must act in order to create change.”
He says, “Getting people to believe they can create positive changes by being active and enjoying what our communities offer is a challenge for the African American community. Loving life in the community we reside in gives us the pride and power we need to create positive change.”
Future plans are to get the community to come together and mentor our youth – our future leaders – to be confident, and self-respecting citizens for the rest of their lives.
Chuck would like to be remembered as a friend to the community – a coach, a mentor and advisor to all.
Director, Black Business Initiative
Jicelyn Johnson is best known as advocate and promoter for Black-owned businesses and wealth building.
During the past year, building the Black Business Initiative, an economic revitalization program for the Black community and by the Black community, has been Jicelyn’s most notable and recognized contribution to the African American community. Additionally, she opened a homeschool co-op for Black families.
Started in 2014, the Black Business Initiative is a resource and safe space for Black entrepreneurs to work on their business in a community setting.
Jicelyn says she is active because, “I have always had a passion to fight injustice. When I learned of the history behind our businesses and the power of the economic attack on our community, I was driven to do something to change our values and change our circumstances.”
She says, “Our challenges are so intertwined, deeply rooted and largely structural and systemic that it is difficult to name which is the largest. But, I would assert that having economic leverage would be the cornerstone needed to build in other areas such as employment, housing, education, justice and media.”
In the future,Jicelyn would like to work towards a greater spirit of collaboration and resources within the Black community in Metro Denver and * across other metropolitan areas internationally to provide support for equity across the diaspora.
“I would first like to be remembered by my family by building generational wealth. I would like to be remembered in my community as a leader who lived with integrity and helped to unite the community,” she says.
President/Founder, Unity in Disasters, Inc.
Joe Gilliom is best known as goodwill ambassador from Georgia.
During the past year, his most notable contribution to African American communities was providing relief supplies to more than 150 churches for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in Houston, Texas. From 2014 to 2016, Unity in Disasters provided food and supplies to an estimated 5,414 families and relief supplies for more than 3,000 flood survivors in the Houston African American Community. The Mayor of Houston presented Gilliom with a proclamation making December 14, 2017 Unity in Disasters Day.
Joe says he takes an active role because, “While going through the bible study guide from the book “Purpose Driven Life” in 2006, helping victims of disasters became my calling that turned into my passion. As a result of the ministry, finding ways to help during non-disasters was birthed such as in-kind donations from our network of donors.”
Joe says the challenge facing the African-American community is not having a seat at the table during planning and think tanks. He says the solution is to insist that elected officials help to be placed on the invite list.
Joe would like to open at least one Unity in Disasters chapter in 10 states across the U.S. He would like to help more than 4,000 families annually with food and supplies within those states. In the past nineyears he has received more than $1,000,000 of in-kind donations with the one chapter.
Joe says, “I would like to be remembered as a person who cared more about helping people in need than making money and paying huge salaries.”
Leonard “Graffiti” Johnson
Visual Designer, Social Influencer, Podcast Personality
Leonard “Graffiti” Johnson is a known for his visual design work, social influence and host of the “Life is Dope” Podcast.
This year, “Graffiti” was awarded the National Association of Black Journalism 2017 Social Influencer of the Year award for his ability to gather peers, challenge them to unite, speak out and open their hearts and minds to the perspectives and opinions of others to collectively create active change in communities.
Over the past few years, he has received several “Graphic Designer of the Year” awards and numerous certificates from nonprofit organizations for charitable contributions for design services.
Graffiti says, “I choose to be active and give back because it is my obligation as a young Black male. I was raised by a single mother in Montbello and fought every day not to become a product of the negative side of my environment. If I do not use my God given artistic and social talents to help unite and better my community, then I am only contributing to the problems.”
He feels the biggest challenges facing the African-American community are financial illiteracy, lack of Black ownership, lack of trust and respect amongst our peers, fear of change, and disconnect between the elders and the youth. These challenges can be resolved by creating conversation and open dialogue without judgement, ridicule or aggressive behaviors.
In the future he would like to build and maintain media companies that will provide jobs and services for the urban community.
He would like to be remembered as a man of genuine love, honesty and passion; a solid father, husband and friend. And someone who has positively inspired everyone he has come in contact with.
Leslie L. Juniel
Senior Program Manager, Equity Initiatives Culture, Denver Public Schools Equity and Leadership Team
Leslie Juniel is best known for being committed, reliable and willing to support the endeavors of others. While she has led several large-scale events, lending her support to the efforts of others is what she says she is most proud of. Over the last 20 years, her primary focus has been on educating and empowering young people to make smart choices and decisions, and to be their best selves.
For the past year, Leslie has been leading efforts to improve the experiences of African-American students, staff and families in DPS.
Leslie says, “I never do things for recognition. I am driven to make contributions to my community because it’s the right thing to do. For the last five years my primary focus has been advocating for students to ensure they have access to the resources and supports they need.”
Leslie says, “Self-identify, which includes knowing our history and where we come from, is a big challenge for African-Americans. This foundational understanding is the precursor to all of our lived experiences. We build self-identify by first doing our own work, and then teaching our children about themselves and empowering them to be proud and confident.
In the near future, Leslie would like to do work that challenges and disrupts systems that rely on racism, prejudice, injustice, intolerance and inequity in ways that make high achievement and excellence the expectation, and a reality, for every student to exist and survive. I want to inspire young people to be proud and confident in whom they are, to be life-long learners and to know the power of their voice!
Leslie says, “I will be blessed to leave a legacy of having inspired and challenged myself, my family and the community, and as someone who did not squander the gifts and talents given to me by God, and who never settled or became complacent falsely believing I had arrived!”
Reverend Dr. Michael A. Williams
Pastor, Professional Musician, Professor, Producerand Performer
Dr. Michael Williams is best known as serving the Denver Community through music performances and Biblical teaching.
Over the past five years, Dr. Williams has been organizing and pastoring a new church called the Ministry Christian Fellowship which hosts classes, a variety of fests and services to empower the African American community to attain theirGod given ability, identity and destiny through the power of God and His word.
When asked why he takes an active role, he says, “I felt called by God to make a difference in the lives of others by utilizing the gifts that He has given me to teach, encourage and uplift those in need.”
Dr. Williams believes the biggest challenges facing the African American community are feelings of lack of identity, inferiority and insignificance. He says, “This can only be resolved through empowerment, encouragement, edification and education.”
In the future, he plans to create and cultivate a career in coaching others to become their best in their God-given calling.
Dr. Williams says he would like to be remembered “As one who enjoyed serving others through music, ministryand motivation.
Program Officer, The Colorado Health Foundation
Vice President, Mile High Bulldog Youth Association
In her career with the City, Monique Johnson works in housing and community development and support of programs and services to assist with community and economic growth for low to moderate income residents of Denver.
Over the past five years, her most recognized contribution tocommunity has been working with African American boys in both Denver and Aurora through her non-profit organization by keeping them engaged and involved in positive activities with the activities they love.
Monique says, “There is no choice to taking an active role. My village/community has been essential in raising me and supporting me in raising my family. Our culture is so rich we have to educate and support our village on our history to help create history. So many lessons have been taught to me I feel it is my duty to do the same.”
She says, “The African American youth are facing many challenges. They are turning to gangs, not meeting their full potential and becoming more disconnected from their history. They are losing their voice. We as a community need to own and develop our own programs and if they fail we need to keep trying.”
Future plans include reorganizing her non-profit to focus more on the health of the whole child educating African American youth on cultural history to understand how they too can contribute to our culture in a positive and effective manner.
Monique would like to be remembered as an African American who simply cared about people, who not only believed in the power of a village/community but was a village for many.
Nadine Roberts Cornish
Caregiver Coach & Consultant
Nadine Cornish is best known in Denver as a pioneer forcaregiving related issues, a dedicated volunteer to the Alzheimer’s Association and the Colorado Black Health Collaborative (CBHC). She is the founder of The Caregivers’ Guardian, and coordinator of caregiving symposiums for area churches.
During the pastyear she authored Tears In My Gumbo, The Caregiver’s Recipe for Resilience and launched a national campaign to raise awareness about the caregiving pandemic called, “Care-ocity” and co-founded with CBHC, the inaugural women’s health and empowerment event, Sistas Soaring.
Over the past five years, Nadine has been providing education and consulting services to family caregivers; educating and raising awareness about dementia; and working with the CBHC on eliminating health disparities.
Nadine says, “Being inactive is not an option. The path was laid for me by my ancestors and my amazing grandfather, Edmond St. Cyr. I have a responsibility to insure that I do my part and lead by example for those who will follow, for those who are watching.”
“In the future, I’d like to educate and raise awareness around the world about the challenges faced by caregivers, the need for everyone to support the caregiver and for everyone to know the joy in the caregiving journey because sooner or later, we are all caregivers,” she says.
She would like to be remembered as a woman who lived her life on purpose, with intention and passion. “I sought to identify a need and created avenues to meet those needs. And that I sparked a flame and illuminated light and love with every encounter.”
Dr. Rhonda M. Coleman
Licensed Acupuncturist, WaterMama Acupuncture
Dr. Rhonda Coleman is a holistic health and well wellness education professional at the Healing Garden where she heal patients with acupuncture, herbs and massage.
Her most notable contribution to the African American community over the last year has been the creation of a center for holistic health care and education, for us and by us, with a collective of professionals of color serving people of color and the greater Denver community.
During her five years of living in Denver, Rhonda’s practice is only two years old and her nonprofit has been active less than one year.
She says, “I am a purpose-driven individual. I believe that I have been called to serve my community as a healer and educator, so my action is in obedience to that calling.”
Rhonda says the biggest challenge facing the African American community is health – physical, emotional, mental and financial. “To resolve the issues related to our total health, we must change our lifestyles and our understanding of and around the topic. If we understand what it means to be healthy and what we need to do to be healthy, the improvements in ourselves will lead to family, community and social impacts on a grand scale.”
In the future, Rhonda would like to see the model of The Healing Garden expand in other cities and communities across the U.S. She would like to change the statistics around the state of Blackness in this country.
She would love to be remembered as a pioneer * in the return of our ancestral healing practices and someone who helped to uplift the Black community by promoting a culture of health. (271)
Chief Executive Director, STAR Girlz Empowerment, Inc.
Shalonda Haggerty mentors, empowers and transforms the lives of female youth and over the last years has been providing a low cost after school empowerment program that supports the needs of young ladies emotionally, personally, mentally, physically and academically.
Shalonda says “My passion is to see youth and families overcome obstacles that try to detour them from shining in their most vulnerable stage of development. By giving from the heart, I am able to be a positive role model, and assist in changing mindsets, revealing capabilities and stimulating visions and dreams.”
She feels the biggest challenge for African Americans is we have moved away from the value of family. Our youth are growing up through the teachings of self, peers, and social media. They are crying out for stability and structure. They are seeking healing from trauma, abuse, and other issues that are causing a rise in mental health problems. Education is unimportant and they are in survival mode. We can fix these issues by supporting one another through investing time, skills, and money into the present and future success of our youth, family, and community.
In the not so distant future she says, “I would love to accomplish three things. 1) Being accepted and completing a doctorate program as a behavioral analysis 2) Open up a teen enrichment center that offers group and transitional housing to female youth who are victims of human trafficking, homelessness, or runaways 3) An opportunity to spend a day with Oprah Winfrey.”
Shalonda says, “I would like to be remembered by the “family” legacy and the impact I leave my children and those who come after I am long gone.”
Founder and Managing Director, Femi Care Project
Tanya Diabagate founded the Femi Care Project (FCP) in 2014. The Femi Care Project provides personal feminine care products and resources to women who are low-income and living in transition.
In September 2017, FCP hosted the Gathering of Her event and distributed new underwear and toiletries to more than 85 low-in-come and homeless women. In 2016, FCP held The Women of Valor fundraiser and provided personal care support for female homeless veterans.
Tanya says, “I am a spiritual woman and I believe we all have a responsibility and purpose to aid those who are in need. I understand the feeling of exile of not having a voice and feeling invisible. I am in the business of restoring dignity by empowering women to be heard and seen.”
“There are many factors impacting the Black community,” Tanya says. “We need to educate our people on what unity is and how we all can benefit from it today and tomorrow. We are living in the times of segregated nuances within the Black community. Self-preservation and insatiable consumerism is working to destroy our Black communities. It is time to build a unified culture by reaching across the generational and social economic.”
Future plans include public speaking engagements, serving on, boards, panels and focus groups to educate and empower women. The Femi Care Project gives me a platform me to reach across color lines because being homeless or living in transition is not a Black thing but a human thing. “I want the Femi Care Project to be a house hold name.” Tanya says, “I would like to leave a legacy of servitude done right. Tanya completed her assignment…Well done…”
Tasha L. Jones
Director of Marketing, Forest City
Tasha Jones is best known as being a consummate go-giver and connector. “I’m drawn to helping people, non-profits, and businesses build relationships within the Denver community,” she says.
During the past year, she has placed increasing emphasis on introducing communities of color to housing opportunities in Denver’s 80238 zip code via community partnerships; providing MBEs with an overview of office space locations and redevelopment opportunities; and inviting high school students to participate in mock demonstrations.
From 2009-2016, Tasha mentored a young, African-American girl named Shayna Tillmon through The Challenge Foundation program. During their seven-year journey, she helped Shayna navigate the dichotomy experiences of growing up in North Aurora and attending school at St. Mary’s Academy in Greenwood Village. The ultimate end goal was a path toward college, which she has achieved.
Tasha says she takes an active role because, “I’m passionate about lifting people up along their journeys and I regard myself as a consummate connector. Always concerning myself with how I can help people get that much closer to their dream job, navigating their career path, continuing their education, or engaging in the community.”
Opportunities for professional advancement and inclusion are the biggest challenges facing the African American communities. African-American business leaders and community advocates should seize the opportunity to support each other in introducing opportunities for advancement, and not just keeping this exposure to growth opportunities to themselves. She believes in sharing these networking and professional development strategies.
About herfuture she says, “After the Stapleton redevelopment is complete, and my role at Forest City expires, “I’d like to work for another local corporation that has a vested interest in community engagement and civic leadership.”
About herlegacy she says, “Tasha says, “I’d like to be remembered for how I listened and for my efforts to help people move in the direction of their dreams.”