Denver Urban Spectrum's 2020 African Americans Who Make A Difference
Editor’s note: Each year during Black History Month, Denver Urban Spectrum honors African Americans who are making a difference in the lives of others. Based on recognition, number of times nominated, impact on and service to the commumity, we have selected 15 recipients (from 50+ nominations) as the 2020 African Americans Who Make a Difference. They told us about their achievements, what motivated them to become active in their community, suggestions to address the challenges facing the community, and how they would like to be remembered. Once you read their profiles you will understand why they were chosen.
Executive Director, Colorado Council of Churches
As the executive director of the Colorado Council of Churches, Adrian Miller is also known as the Soul Food Scholar, celebrating the rich and fascinating history of African American cooks.
Through his work, Miller has sought opportunities to explore the ways that faith can bridge the community’s racial divide including co-hosting a community film series and discussion.
His most significant contributions have been two critically-acclaimed books about African American culinary history: “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine” and “The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas.”
“I got tired of seeing the cooks and cuisines of other cultures celebrated while the very same aspects of African American culture were criticized,” Miller says, “I wanted to sort out fact from fiction, and figure out the true story of how African heritage people survived, adapted, innovated, overcame, and excelled under horrific circumstances.”
Miller is all too aware of the overwhelming challenges the African American community faces on a day to day basis and says his focus “Has been on eliminating racial disparities in access to business financing, education, food justice, and health care. We must engage in developing, legislating, and implementing creative and effective solutions. This goes beyond voting. We need to be in dialogue with leaders at every level of government.”
Miller plans to keep writing books and wants to be remembered as someone who used his God-given gifts to creatively bring people together, shed new light on African American history, and in his own way, make the world a better place.
Lead Security Clerk, City of Aurora Library and Cultural Services
Brett Hughes is the lead security clerk for the City of Aurora Library and Cultural Services, and is known for initiating and running an outreach program at the Aurora Boys Club in 2015 to help young men who were getting kicked out of the library and lacked structure in their lives. The success of the program, which was held every Friday, expanded to the Martin Luther King Jr. Library.
Most recently, Hughes was an honoree and the recipient of the RAK-tivist Award from Sisters Enterprise. Over the last five years, he has fostered relationships with his team and Aurora youth and says, “Watching these young boys turn into fine young men, and playing an active part in their lives has been the greatest honor I have experienced.” Hughes says this was the path he was supposed to take; however, it chose him – he didn’t choose it. “It was a call to action to help the young men in the community and started as a remedy to a problem of youth with behavioral issues.”
In the future, Hughes would like to see the Boys Club grow into a program that provides encouragement and opportunities for all young men. He encourages the community to reach higher and take the steps necessary to continue providing young people with the needed programming and opportunities they deserve.
“I would like to be remembered as a man who stood tall and put my best foot forward in the community by helping people,” he says.
DAWS Enterprises, Inc.
As an influential leader in the gospel industry, Deborah Walker has long been active in the music and entertainment industry. As a producer and director, Walker established her own one-hour syndicated gospel radio show in 1996 and currently hosts “The Gospel Train” on KUVO/KVJZ Radio every Sunday morning.
Walker says over the years, “I was blessed with a great opportunity to work in the music and entertainment industry with some of our great industry leaders including Barry Gordy, Dr. Al Bell, and James Bullard; giving me the opportunity to market, develop and produce promotional material.”
Walker has shared her talent by supporting the Denver community, and providing opportunities to talented artists while assisting and creating gospel stage projects for Juneteenth and the Denver Black Arts Festival.
“I don’t have anything to prove but I have a lot to do in this community and I choose to take an active role as a calling in my life,” says Walker, “But, mostly to continue to promote, perpetuate and preserve great gospel music to its highest pinnacle.”
In the future, Walker would like to bring together the young choirs and gospel talents from the Denver community as well as major gospel artists to bridge the artistry of the African continents together on a one-world forum televised in all major markets to motivate and inspire our youth and children to positively make the world a better place.
“I would like to be remembered as a woman who – through music and video production – stood for world peace through individual inspiration and accomplishments,” says Walker.
Helen Marie Bradshaw
Community Advocate/Collaborative Partner
Helen Bradshaw is a community advocate in the Denver region who is best known for sharing her passion for outreach and nonprofit organizational leadership while making a difference in the community. She focuses on building collaborative partnerships while creating a long-term legacy of integrity.
Bradshaw says, “Over the last year I have contributed to and volunteered with the 100 Men Who Cook event because the organization believed in me and it truly was not hard for me to share with others in the community what they do because the organization truly makes a difference.”
In the past five years Bradshaw’s broad and diverse advocacy work includes serving as an advocate for the CSU Extension Outreach and Stem Program; Susan G. Komen for African American women with breast cancer; Discovery School; Metro Caring; Black Arts Festival; Colorado Beautillion-Cotillion, Inc.; and Daddy Bruce Thanksgiving Giveaway. She was also an integral participant with Together Colorado, and worked in support of removing slavery from Colorado’s Constitution.
Bradshaw says she takes an active role because, “When I help to make a difference and it matters and brings joys to others, it is a true blessing for me.”
“Leaving too much money on the table is the biggest challenge facing the African American community,” says Bradshaw, “To resolve this, we need to develop collaborative partnerships and do a lot more homework to secure more grants and proposals.” Hoping to bring together the resources of several of Colorado’s Black-owned businesses, Bradshaw wants to extend opportunities to collaboratively increase impact and enhance the community.
Bradshaw says she would like to be remembered as that person who puts one and two together and makes 10!
Founder, Phenomenal Women Inc.
As the founder of Phenomenal Women Inc., a nonprofit organization that specializes in empowering, encouraging, and uplifting women to reach their full potential, Joshalynn Green is an active participant in mentorship opportunities, community service, and positive events.
Over the past year, Phenomenal Women Inc.’s 12-week “Invest in You” program for young ladies ages 10 to16, helped cultivate leadership skills through a variety of workshops and mentorship, earning Green’s team a Community Arts Leader and Impact Award.
“I believe it’s important to serve my community and support the next generation of leaders because it teaches people of all ages and backgrounds compassion and understanding. As someone who grew up in a broken home, my childhood struggles motivated me to have a service-driven attitude,” Green says. She is committed to her organization and would like to someday offer full-ride scholarships to students in addition to opening up a facility to support single moms.
When it comes to challenges in the African-American community, Green says “I feel it is mental health and believe the best way it can be resolved is through education, discussions, and supporting those who may be dealing with it.” Green says she would like to extend her commitment to the African American community as well as all women by “Providing free classes that teach women about professional development, healthy relationships, self-defense, and mental health awareness!”
She says, “I want to be remembered for my dedication and passion to serving the community, while supporting our future leaders and helping to support all women through important moments in their life.”
Owner, Seb’s Recreation Center
Known for his generosity and genuine personality, Keithan Holiday is the owner and fitness instructor at Seb’s Recreation Center, which caters to people with disabilities.
Inspired by his disabled son, Sēbian who had a dream to open up a recreation center for people with disabilities, Holiday opened its doors in January 2018.
Over the past five years, Holiday says “I have been encouraging my son Sēbian and other disabled individuals to live with no limitations.” Holiday is also known for working with the elderly and disabled community, and inspiring all to be healthy to increase the possibility of playing with their great-grandchildren. He chose to take an active role in the community because of Sēbian’s condition who Holiday says “Had a big heart for all and reinforced my heart and abilities to help others in the populations most often forgotten about or ignored – our elderly and disabled.” Sadly, on June 19, 2018, Sēbian passed away at the age of 16 years old, leaving Holiday to operate the recreation center in his memory.
Holiday believes the biggest challenges facing the African American community are not having a clear understanding of how much our vote matters and believes that every vote does count. He is troubled by misrepresentations in the media of who our role models should be, but believes that these misrepresentations and instances where our community’s best are overlooked can be resolved with education and through discussions with family, friends and peers.
Future goals for Holiday include making Seb’s Recreation self-sufficient and continuing to empower individuals. He says he would like to be remembered simply “As a person that supported his community and was willing to help those in need.”
Family Nurse Practitioner
Director of Aurora Community Partnership
Family Nurse Practitioner Maisha Fields is best known as a nurse, advocate, and humanitarian. She serves as an advisor to political and community leaders regarding common sense gun control, criminal justice, trauma, and public health. Recently, Fields represented the African American community on a national basis during the 2019 Presidential campaign as Political Director for former Governor John Hickenlooper.
As co-founder and owner of the Dayton Street Opportunity Center of Aurora, Fields is tasked with community services that meet a wide range of needs. “We provided funeral services for Black mothers whose children were murdered due to gun violence, housing vouchers, scholarships and countless community birthday parties,” she says.
Over the last 15 years, Fields has trained more than 500 students and strengthened recruitment, retention and graduation rates of African American students at several schools and colleges.
Fields assumed an active role in the community after the tragic death of her brother, Javad Marshall Fields, known as “Jay.” On June 20, 2005, Javad and his fiancée, Vivian, were gunned down and killed while driving just days before he was set to testify in the prosecution of his best friend’s murder. The Fields family continues to grieve Javad’s absence, using their pain to fuel their continuous efforts to make a difference.
Fields’ future plans include changing the Victims Bill of rights to ensure Black Families have access to victim’s compensation after the murder of their children; advocating at the state level for common sense gun laws; developing a workforce training center; and becoming the Surgeon General of the United States.
Fields would like to be remembered as a conduit of the souls taken to soon and too young due to gun violence; and as a loving mother, daughter and servant to the Most High God.
President/CEO, McGlothin Davis, Inc.
Mary Davis is the president, founder and CEO of McGlothin Davis, Inc., a 25-year old management consulting and home care (World of Wellness Home Care) business who annually contributes numerous community service hours to Denver area residents and organizations. She serves as a volunteer career coach and mentor to numerous women who are in early stages of their careers.
Over the past year, as a member of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc., Davis provided entrepreneurship training to aspiring business owners and led elder care training at the Center for African American Health. She says that she takes an active role because, “I have been fortunate to develop expertise that can help others who need support to develop their confidence and skills required to make the most of their God-given talents.”
Davis feels that the African American community is not fully aware of its potential and capability to impact the quality of lives of fellow men and women, as well as our youth and says, “There is a need for ongoing involvement in community-based education and actions that can make community-wide changes that result in sustained difference in the lives of others.”
Her future plans include continuing to partner with individuals in a way that improves the well-being and capabilities of African Americans and other people of color. Davis would like to be remembered as a servant leader who made a difference in the lives of others and allowed individuals to leave the kind of legacy of which they can be proud.
Founder, Pageant Director
Be You, My African American Miss LLC
Regina English is the founder and director of Be You, a nonprofit organization that mentors youth in education, public speaking, community service, team building, and healthy relationships. She also holds the state title Mrs. Colorado Ambassador 2019.
English takes pride in creating a space for African American youth to thrive and display their talents while learning to be comfortable in their skin through pageantry, coaching, life skills, team building, education, community service and mentorship.
Over the past five years, Be You has provided leadership, mentorship and training for youth and has doubled the numbers every year since its inception in 2014. English says she chooses to take an active role in the community, “Because the mental health of our youth is very important. We have the highest teen suicide rate in the nation and it is my passion to give youth a positive outlet to plug into where they can just be themselves and be accepted as they are.”
In addition to mental health, English says police brutality and racism are challenges for the community and comments, “These challenges can be resolved by the Black community coming together and demanding the changes we want to see; and by taking care of our mental health knowing that it is okay to not be okay – and saying it.” She would like to be remembered as a community leader and an ambassador for youth who created a space for them to thrive and not have to be perfect - but be accepted, flaws and all.
Businessman, Founder/Chief Executive Officer
Project Greer Street
As the founder and CEO of Project Greer Street, Ronald Sally, a former executive with the Denver Nuggets/Colorado Avalanche and CAA ICON, says “For almost a decade, Project Greer Street has had phenomenal success and effectuated a paradigm-shift related to academic achievement and career aspirations for African American males in high school and college.”
Students who have completed the program have earned more than $5 million in scholarships and grants while earning admission to more than 50 colleges and universities including Harvard, Yale, Northwestern University, Georgia Tech Institute of Technology, Princeton, Stanford , Ithaca College, Morehouse , Pepperdine University, Emory University, and many others.
Sally was inspired by the message, “Be the change that you want to see,” from his parents and grandparents. He says, “Personal engagement in developing and implementing solutions to challenges, combined with tremendous work ethic, has always been my choice for making a difference.”
Determining all of the challenges facing the African American community is difficult, but Sally says that accessing affordable and quality health care; identifying and utilizing all available educational resources; maximizing employment, personal growth, and career development; and competing effectively in a rapidly evolving marketplace are all important.
He says, “I would like to be remembered as someone who was hard-working, generous, honorable, and passionate about leaving certain circumstances in a better condition than what I found them.”
Substance Abuse Prevention Counselor
Cherry Creek Schools
Shelby Thomas is a licensed social worker and substance abuse prevention counselor with Cherry Creek Schools who focuses on “Providing middle schoolers with education, related to substance use/abuse, developing resilience, cultivating self-esteem, and refining peer refusal skills.
“As a social worker, it is my mission to provide support to children and families of all backgrounds.” She does, however, take a different approach when it comes to African American and other minority students. Thomas says she does her best to honor each student’s racial experience however it shows up for them, “As minorities in the school district, I want to make sure that their perspectives are heard and validated, so I always want to save space for that in the conversation.”
Thomas knows from experience as an African American woman just how important this kind of representation is. She strives to solve the mental health challenges she has seen in the community and says, “That includes lack of access to affordable and culturally relevant therapy, and a long-standing and deep-seated stigmatization surrounding seeking mental health support.”
She continues, “One way to address these issues is to promote policies that cover individual and family therapy and to spread as much information as possible about affordable and online options. Another way is by making mental health a regular part of the conversation with resources and discussions would help start to shift the narrative.”
Thomas would like to be remembered as someone who was grateful, loved her family and God, and did everything with love, joy, and gratitude.
Retired, Regional Nutrition Director
Stella Nash is retired after working as the Regional Nutrition Director at the Mountain Plains Regional Office, and is best known for providing nutrition education, health and wellness materials, resources and information through exhibits, workshops, or presentations at health fairs, schools, churches and community events. Over the past year, Nash says her most notable contribution to the African American community has been her outreach to various senior groups and individuals. She has spent countless hours informing the community – via mail, email, TV and word of mouth – of the American technology-based, Senior Planet organization, which is free to anyone over the age of 60, resulting in many sign ups to take free classes.
With only five African American registered dieticians in Colorado, Nash was named Outstanding Dietitian of the year in 2016 by the Colorado Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics based on her contribution to the community as well as the state.
Nash says the biggest challenges facing the community are health and wellness deficits that encompass physical, social, mental, emotional, spiritual and financial issues. She says, “These challenges should be resolved through cooperative, collaborative and coordinated efforts through education and literacy – and the next big challenge is using technology.” Nash says she takes an active role in the community for two reasons: 1) If not me, who? And if not now, when? And, 2) To whom much is given, much is required.
Nash says she would like to be remembered, “As someone who tried to share as much as I could, and as a servant leader. “
Board Director, Denver Public School
In his short 21 years, Tay Anderson has been making waves. He was recently elected to the Denver School Board, making him the youngest Black elected official in Colorado history.
Anderson is best known for his activism in education and as a relentless advocate for Black Lives Matter.
He says that being elected to the School Board is notable, “But more than that is standing up for the African American community and showing other Black children they can give back to their community.”
During his senior year in 2017 at Manual High School, Anderson says he decided to run for the School Board because, “We needed more leaders that look like our students and understand their struggles. We need them to see their leaders are actively fighting for them and not against them.”
Anderson feels that police brutality is the biggest challenge facing the Black community. “We see people take oaths to serve our communities and then we see our brothers and sisters being gunned down by those who are supposed to protect and serve. We need to figure out how we can build trust in our communities with community conversation to create concrete solutions.”
In the future, Anderson plans to continue serving his community in other roles, “I want to be remembered as a man who constantly defied the odds and always had God, family, and community at the forefront; and, also, as someone who didn’t try to escape the hood, but as someone who strived to give back to the hood.”
Pastor, New Covenant Christian Church/Alpha Omega Ministries
Rev. Terrence Hughes, pastor of New Covenant Christian/Alpha Omega Ministries, is best known in the Denver community for serving unhoused neighbors, standing up for the least, and for acting as an advocate for the African American community. He was selected as a delegate to represent Colorado’s Poor Peoples Campaign at the National Poor Peoples Campaign “Moral Action Congress” in Washington D.C. in June 2019.
Over the last five years, Rev. Hughes most notable contribution was leading a Global Hunger Strike for Justice for Michael Marshall, a homeless mentally ill Black man who was killed by Denver deputies while in custody; while calling for, and participating in, the reform process of the Denver Detention Center.”
Hughes says he chooses to take an active role because “I believe it is my duty as a pastor, representing my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to be socially vigilant by speaking truth to power to represent the underrepresented in our society.” He feels that a lack of African American teachers, lack of economic opportunities, and mass incarceration are the communities’ biggest challenges, and believes that by implementing a strong recruitment programs for teachers, ensuring the enforcement of federal contracting laws, and evaluating prosecutors charging and plea-bargaining practices, these issues can begin to be resolved.
Hughes is running for Colorado House District 7 and says, “I want to help our community legislatively by listening to our community members and proactively crafting laws to meet our growing needs before a crisis.” He would like to be remembered as a drum major for justice, and caretaker of God’s people.
Rediscovery Through Wellness
“I am best known for my victim advocacy work,” says Topazz McBride, owner of a private psychotherapy practice that offers free services including trauma response, counseling to mothers, support for victims of the housing system, and group therapy sessions to adolescent girls of color.
“My role has also revealed a series of illegal foreclosures affecting vulnerable homeowners of color,” says McBride. Over the past year, McBride has organized and executed a victim advocacy program while negotiating appropriate housing alternatives for a 74-year old Black woman suffering from PTSD who was given a 30 day notice to vacate her home after 24 years.
For the past five years, McBride has been consistent with her commitment to victim advocacy and activist work.
McBride takes an active role because she says, “I believe in and live by the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, 365 days a year. I recognize the value in advocating for our own and I am cognizant of the obstacles strategically designed to keep African Americans oppressed, including micro-aggressions that stir up our Post Traumatic Slave Disorder symptoms. I am therefore, obligated with intentionality to defy and uproot adversity and anything hindering our legacies and healthy existence, to the best of my capacity.”
McBride wants her legacy to be remembered as “A source of vision that empowered other Black women to strive to embrace their true and authentic self with respect and no apologies; and as someone who exemplified the change she inspired.”