Lamm Opened Doors To The Black Community
I recently read an article in Colorado Politics about the Black community being angry with former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm. It lacked many key elements, which I need to explain to give historic perspective.
I served with Lamm in the state legislature and I joined other Black lawmakers in protesting his first inauguration in 1975. We were upset that Lamm had not appointed an African American to his cabinet. Dan Muse, King Trimble, and I, along with others in the Black community, helped raise $2,500 for an ad in the Rocky Mountain News, written by a Black media professional, outlining the Black community’s concerns. We spoke with Lt. George Brown, the first Black lieutenant governor, and Lamm and warned them if Lamm didn’t appoint one of the many qualified Black professionals to his cabinet, we’d walk out of his inauguration ceremony. He didn’t heed our advice, and we walked out. The TV cameras and newspaper photographers captured us leaving: me and Wilma, Arie Taylor, Regis Groff, Paul Sandoval, Rich Castro, Leo Lucero, Odell Barry, Dan Muse, Bill Roberts and Elvin Caldwell.
Many people supported us; my grandmother, who was the reason I entered politics, thought we were a little over the edge.
But Lamm made up for it in the future. During his time as governor, for the first time in Colorado’s history, he broke the color line and appointed many African Americans to his cabinetand key board positions.
Among those he appointed were Rudy Livingston, director of personnel; Dan Muse, member of Public Utilities Commission; Dave Smith, the first African American appointed to the Real Estate Commission; Dick Doby, the first African American appointed as banking commissioner; Lucille West and Margie Cook, the first Black nurses appointed to the Colorado Nursing Board; Charles Mitchell, the Colorado Health Board; and William Coker, to Colorado Housing Board.
In 1981, Lamm appointed me as the Director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. He also supported me in the 1991 mayoral race.
Black voters recognized Lamm cared about the community, and the Black community supported his re-election. But the Black community is like any other group – it is not monolithic.
My history lesson is to show Lamm’s administration was inclusive and opened doors at the state Capitol that previously were closed to the Black community. We need to remember that fact.
Wellington E. Webb
Editor’s note: The Honorable Wellington E. Webb served as Denver’s Mayor from 1991-2003.
Decency and Fairness Needed In Law Enforcement Officers
My friend Paul Pazen was just sworn in as the new Denver Chief of Police. He is a Denver native and an outstanding and talented man. I wish him well, as I am sure we all do.
I was in the first class to start in kindergarten at Northeast Parkhill’s Smith School in 1954 and continued to Smiley Jr. High School. In 1961, we had a combined 5th and 6th grade class with a fabulous teacher named Mrs. Childers. She loved all the kids and made us all feel important. One day when we were planning a field trip to the auditorium she had a slip of the tongue and said that we were getting seats in N….r Heaven. My African-American next door neighbor, a fifth grade student, was in the class. Mrs. Childers immediately recognized the gravity of her indiscretion and took this student out into the hallway to apologize to her. She came back in the room to let us know that she had explained to our classmate, my friend, that the term is an old one that is extremely derogatory to African-American students and that she was mortified that she had said it. She was near tears herself.
How easy it is for any of us, no matter what our intentions, to slip into behavior that degrades others who may be different than the dominant culture.
An important fact to tell you is that Mrs. Childers was the wife of then Denver Chief of Police Childers. She took us on a special field trip to the downtown Police headquarters building that is now part of the downtown cultural complex of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Chief Childers’ term was marred by the scandal of more than 20 policemen who were caught in a burglary ring. He lost his job over it.
The issues raised in the incident of racial comment in the year 1961 that I speak about, are still with us, as rank and vicious as they always were. Policemen all around the country have slipped into behavior that makes assumptions based on skin color. Just as my dear teacher Mrs. Childers needed to take care to act in a fair and just way, police and other officials in our present day need to do the same. It may be too much to ask that all the cultural assumptions, biases and prejudices disappear from everyone’s heart now and completely, but is it not too much to ask for decency and equanimity?
My friend Chief Paul Pazen grew up with the specter of prejudice against Latino-Americans. I know he is sensitive to all issue of bias and prejudice. Let us hope, and say our prayers, that we can keep decency and fairness always in the actions of our law enforcement officers and our government officials. Lord knows I sure do. I have never gotten over what Mrs. Childers’ inadvertent actions did to my friend, and that was 58 years ago.
I wish is that it will never happen again. My experience tells me that it will. My heart tells me that we need to be always vigilant for our own actions, and always be ready to confront injustice wherever we find it.
On Denver Black Economics
Reasons Black Coloradans have no real business presence in the state: the existence of a dominating system of white governance that maintains a system of relative economic apartheid. This is a pattern found globally when Whites live in close proximity to people of color. Whites cannot tolerate “racial” equality tending to be aggressive towards people of color. Blacks in American have been conditioned to self-destruct. That conditioning is constantly reinforced through “Education,” the media and through maintaining of concentration like inner city communities.
The obvious denying of business opportunity in terms of loans to black people, bring up another problem: Blacks do no own and control their own financial institutions. Leadership (Black) that is way too conservative when it comes to promoting the interest of oppressed people. Leadership that is either powerless to enact change, lacking in vision or have simply sold out! Churches that don’t work together as one organization, brainstorming to destroy the “slave mentality,” but instead preach pie in the sky theology that does not empower anyone except perhaps the preachers because it is safe and that is what they were taught on the plantations. The way I see it is that these are just a few of the problems crippling blacks in America.
Martin Luther King taught passive resistance to gain civil rights. That tactic will not gain blacks admission into the economic mainstream. Blacks will have to do something they naturally did before being brought to America –p starting now! They must work together on all fronts. Form coalitions that address ills not being address. Build their own educational institutions as well as other necessary institutions going into the future. Teach blacks who have vast wealth that have a responsibility not just to themselves but more importantly to the group. This backward slide into the abyss must be halted.