Owner, GoJo Auto
Co-Founder, Women of Color Automotive Network (WOCAM)
Amanda Gordon is the first Black woman in Colorado to secure an automotive dealers license. Through her business, her most notable contribution to the African American community over the past year has been bringing awareness to the auto industry for people of color. She also provided a $10,000 grant for start-up costs to Trunk Desk, which won the grand prize of the Black Business Initiative Pitch Black “shark tank” business program. Gordon has a staff of 10 that is 80% African American and bridging the financial literacy gap with car purchases. GoJo Auto was a past sponsor of the DUS African Americans Who A Difference Black History Month celebration.
When asked why she takes an active role, Gordon says, “I take an active role because it’s my obligation to give as much as I take from the community.”
As a business owner she feels that ownership of businesses, housing, land, and organizations is a big challenge facing the African American community. She also says representation and education – us by us – will be the great equalizer.
Gordon says, “In the future I would like to accomplish expanding my automotive company so we can reach more opportunity zones in our community and have a greater economic impact.”
She would like to be remembered as one who changed lives around her, so generations to come have a head start and a better understanding of economics than she did early on.
Owner, Reign High Shine Lip Gloss
Owner, Suga Water
A’Sauni McClure is an aspiring and inspiring 9-year-old youth entrepreneur with two businesses. This 4th grader at Iowa Elementary in Aurora is the owner of Reign High Shine Lip Gloss and Suga Water beverages.
She started her lip gloss business at the age of 8, creating a flavor for the month of May in honor of Lupus Awareness month. She held a fundraiser and donated the proceeds to Purple Healer’s Inc. A few months later she started her flavored lemonade business, Suga Water beverages, which are available at two Denver stores.
Over the past year between school and her businesses, McClure spends her time speaking and inspiring youth about starting their own businesses. She is very involved in the community. As a member of her church’s outreach team, she also finds time to feed the homeless and provide clothing.
McClure says she takes an active role because “I want to inspire youth by showing them there are positive things to do.”
She also says, “Gun violence is a big challenge that can be resolved by getting more positive role models involved hands on with addressing these issues.”
Future goals include having her products manufactured and distributed to stores all over the world, her own storefront and youth empowering events. She wants to continue to excel in school and graduate at the top of her class.
McClure says, “I would like to be remembered as a caring person who loved to help out people in need. I want to be an inspiration, a positive role model and motivator for youth.”
International Real Estate Advisor
Golf War Veteran
Retired Police Detective
Barry Overton is best known for helping buyers and sellers with their real estate needs. He says, “I like to make a dream of homeownership a reality for as many families as possible. I have managed to find different programs and companies that assist my clients to maximize their opportunities in the fast-paced real estate market.”
Over the past year Overton served on the cabinet committee for Housing and Urban Development for State Senator James Coleman to advise on specific, urgent issues affecting the community in relation to housing and the real estate market.
He says his purpose in life is simple. Service to others! He served his country in the military. He protected and served his community as a police officer. All his businesses have been service based.
Overton says, “Our biggest challenge is realizing our own greatness. As a people we have endured torture, enslavement, racism, financial and educational oppression, yet still continue to rise. To overcome more than 400 years of this treatment at every level, something special is clearly inside each and every one of us waiting to be unleashed. Once we as a community realize we can accomplish anything, we will create a tidal wave of victory that will become the standard greatness that we operate under. And there is no going back to ‘average living’ after that.”
Overton wants to be remembered as a guy whose grind was as big as his dream! “And while I’m here, I want to create more visionaries that execute a plan to realize their wildest dreams.”
Benilda “Benny” Samuels
Chief Reimagining Officer
Bennie Samuels’ 30-year career has been creating, leading and expanding programs and organizations that open access and opportunity for individuals, families and children living in poverty and for those living farthest from opportunity. She says, “My work has been evident throughout health and human services.”
Over the past five years Samuels has created access to the best maternal health program in the country for young mothers living in poverty. She also led the family planning project that reduced unintended pregnancies in Colorado by 40%. Last year she directed more than $1 million in credit to Black and BIPOC leaders and organizations.
She takes an active role because she can and says, “I am certain that all my community needs is an honest opportunity, and I love my people.”
She feels that obstacles to “health, healing and wellness are the biggest threats to the African American community. We need to redefine who we are, our stories, our habits, our rituals. We need to shift and straighten our mindset, moving from plantation to freedom. We need to rebuild our communities – know our neighbors’ names, support our kids and take care of one another.”
In the future she’d like to serve as an anchor and support system for the new generation of social justice and community leaders.
She would like to be remembered as an anchor for others, as someone who lived free and authentically, as a friend, sistah and supporter.
Senior Project Manager, Dish Network
CEO, Distinction Group Project Management Company
CEO, Harlem of the West Hookah
Brandon Bruce is the vice president of the Denver alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Inc., co-chair of the Denver African American Philanthropists, board chair for Giving Back 303, and past president of the Denver Urban League Young Professionals.
Bruce was recently awarded the National Urban League Young Professionals (DULYP) YP Honors, one of the most prestigious awards in the nation recognizing community service by young professionals.
Through his service with DULYP, Bruce collaborated with Odell Brewing in Five Points to create a signature brew resulting in more than $10,000 in donations for the national organization.
He chooses to be active due to his rearing in the Church of God in Christ Baptist Church and his strong faith in God. Bruce says he is guided by Scripture Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
He says accessing financial education and the freedom it creates is the most significant challenge to African Americans. “I believe that as a whole, African Americans could be better positioned in this country if we understood better how to use money as a tool to create, replicate and sustain general wealth.”
Bruce would like to grow Giving Back 303 to be a successful international African American-led disaster relief nonprofit, own a tobacco and nicotine-free hookah franchise, and become a multimillion dollar contributing philanthropist.
Bruce says, “I would like to be remembered as a progressing but not perfect man of God, who was the leader, philanthropist, lawyer, and business owner who answered the call to uplift his community for the betterment of others for generations to come.”
Chad J. Nash, Ph.D.
Owner, The Real Estate Doctor, LLC
Owner & CEO, The Re-Doc Group
Owner & CEO, Re: Works CRM Platform
Chad Nash is known as a lifelong educator with leadership positions within Denver Public Schools and as a native of Far Northeast Denver (Montbello).
He was the #1 ranked producing African American residential real estate agent within greater metro Denver in 2020 and 2021 with a brokerage real estate team of 30 agents of color.
During 2021, Nash served as vice chair of the Inclusion and Diversity and Equity Committee of the South Metro Denver Realtor Association. He has been teaching the Pathways to Ownership Program that prepares Black and Brown Americans for homeownership. His Doing Real Estate for GOOD Charitable Giving Program donated more than $50,000 to organizations serving Black, Brown and low-income communities.
Nash takes an active role because strong leaders and mentors took time to help him and his peers was to change their life trajectories and accomplish many goals, so he sees it as his duty to serve the youth and community in the same manner.
Nash strongly feels the largest disparities between African American communities and other communities are property ownership rates and strategic financial literacy. He believes these can be resolved with more education around real estate, estate planning and investing in money management. Work also needs to be accomplished on a macro-level to devise and advise policies on affordability and ensuring that the Black community has access to ownership and home ownership programs.
Future goals include building the largest, minority-owned/operated real estate brokerage in Colorado; establishing a Far Northeast land trust to protect the neighborhoods from gentrification and increase affordable housing; and establishing a foundation focusing on educational attainment, healthy lifestyles and property ownership.
Nash says “I simply want to be remembered as a man who loved his community and all its members, and to leave a lasting legacy of impact.”
Secretary, NAACP Aurora Branch
TT Coaching With Results
Chartashia Miller has been the NAACP adult branch secretary in Aurora since November 2015. She has worked tirelessly to encourage NAACP membership and the general public to register to vote in local and national elections. She is an avid supporter of the organization’s vision to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without racial discrimination.
Miller’s community involvement includes serving as an adviser of the Aurora Youth Commission, City of Aurora MLK Jr. Commemoration committee member, 2019 Ambassador of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, and board chair for the Struggle of Love Foundation. Since 2018, Miller’s business has provided toiletries during an annual Thanksgiving food drive.
Miller has been recognized for her community service and work, recently receiving the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award and the City of Aurora Community Spirit Award.
Miller feels two big challenges face the African American community. “At this point it is the pandemic. With many different variants being added at an accelerated pace, we must get vaccinated, we must get educated on how to stay safe, and wear our mask,” she says. Homelessness is the other challenge, she says, because housing costs have gone up so much, making housing unaffordable for anyone with the basic income level. The solution is to let more voices be heard, and for people to get involved and vote.
“I want to leave a legacy of love, compassion, respect, and real forgiving,” she says, and wants to be remembered as someone who always had time, as well as for her smile, integrity, compassion, a daily life of prayer, and the quote: “I am enough!”
DeBorah A. Powell
DeBorah’s Designs Made With Love
DeBorah Powell is best known as a fashion designer and community volunteer. Over the past year she served as an ambassador for the 100 Men Who Cook fundraising event, and volunteered and assisted with the Colorado Beautillion Cotillion Inc. Additionally, her volunteer service over the last five years has included fundraising and planning for grassroots organizations such as The Music and Leadership Institute, Boy’s Day, Urban Spectrum Youth Foundation, Hope Center, Sisters in Service, the Retired Enlisted Association, and Struggle of Love Foundation.
“I strongly believe that taking an active role in one’s community is the most important service I can provide, not only by giving back and paying it forward, but also to help see my community move forward.”
Powell feels the biggest challenges facing the African American community is working together as a people to help one another achieve goals. We can resolve this by working together in our families, communities and places of employment.
Future goals include supporting other grassroots groups who are truly working hard and making a difference in our community.
Powell says “I would like to be remembered as someone who inspired others to give of themselves to the world, and also as a pioneer who helped to provide a better future for our children.”
President and CEO
Burgess Services, Inc.
Denise Burgess is best known for her community development with the Denver Urban Renewal Authority, as well as being a part of almost all major projects in downtown Denver. This has made Burgess Services a powerful resource for Denver’s urban development.
Over the last five years her accomplishments include the development of the City and County of Denver Justice Center and the Westin Hotel at Denver International Airport. Burgess Services was awarded a $39.6 million mechanical contract at the airport – the largest contract ever awarded to a Black-owned business.
Burgess says, “As an African American woman in a male-dominated industry, I have been exposed to women leaders who take on leadership roles that may present challenges and they were successful at it. This motivated me to step to the platform and use the voice that was given to me to encourage other women to do the same.”
She feels the biggest challenge facing the African American community is workforce readiness. “We are all taught that we have to attend a university. However, there are also great opportunities in the trades. There are opportunities both as an owner and as a professional service employee. Long-term community sustainability starts with livable wage jobs today. The construction industry offers that.”
In the future she would like to develop construction certification courses that would lead to immediate employment.
Burgess would like to be remembered as a forward-thinking first mover in Colorado. “I want young Black women to remember that we have options to be included in whatever industry we want.”
Elerie Archer, MBA, BSN, RN
Nurse Aide Instructor/Program Coordinator
Cherry Creek Innovative Campus
Elerie Archer is best known as the convener of resources and for creating innovative health and wellness solutions that address the healthcare disparities and inequities that affect the Black community. She has hosted and sponsored health and wellness fairs, workshops and educational seminars that promote mental health awareness and knowledge for creating a healthier lifestyle.
During the past year she promoted community resources for COVID-19 vaccinations, ensuring that our communities had access and knowledge from healthcare providers that look like our African American community.
Archer says “As a registered nurse, educator and servant leader, I choose to take an active role as this is my calling, passion and duty to help others.”
She feels some of the biggest challenges facing the African American community are education and health disparities, attainment of progressive policies and wealth literacy, and lack of opportunities for youth ages 16 to 25. In her opinion, the best way to resolve these challenges is with the meaningful, collective impact of African American organizations converging toward a uniformity of common goals.
In the future, “I would like to plan, build and implement the Black Neighborhood Innovation Centers of Excellence (B-Nice), a one-stop shop that would house all our community needs and resources under a unified roof.”
She would like to be remembered as a Black woman who was a good daughter, sister, mother, friend, and a devoted healthcare provider, educator and philanthropist who gave unselfishly and was compassionate about her community.
Kamau Martinez a.k.a. DJ KTone
Founder & CEO, KTone Cares Foundation
Kamau Martinz, is best known throughout the metro Denver area as DJ KTone and for his contributions to the music scene as well as his cultural and philanthropic work. He established KTone Cares Foundation in May 2021 during the pandemic and launched four successful block parties in the Park Hill neighborhood over the summer. In collaboration with ECMC (Educational Credit Management Corporation) The College Place – Colorado, he presented a successful FAFSA (Financial Aid – Federal Student Aid) resource fair for high school students and their parents. KTone’s most notable contribution has been presenting the DJ KTone annual Book Award where he has provided approximately 20 monetary scholarships to high school seniors.
He says “I grew up in the same environment like a lot of the youth today, and because of my blessings, I feel it is my responsibility to give back to the community.”
DJ KTone believes one of the biggest challenges facing the African American community is the stigma associated with mental health, especially how it impacts Black men. He says, “I believe the resolution is open and honest dialogue to provide a safe environment to bring the issue to the forefront.”
Future plans include growing his foundation so he can continue to provide opportunities for the African American community as well as those that are unequally impacted, economically and socially.
DJ KTone says, “I’d like to be remembered as someone who actually came from it, saw a need, took action, and made a difference for the community and the culture.”
Dr. Marjorie B. Lee Lewis
Mental Health and Wellness Professional
Dr. Marjorie B. Lee Lewis is best known in the Denver community as a mental health professional who trains, supervises and develops others.
Over the past year she has supervised and facilitated the credentialing of African and African American mental and behavioral health professionals. Over the past five years she has facilitated and supervised the creation of at least five African American-owned and operated behavioral health services facilities. When asked why she takes an active role, Lewis says, “I have been blessed with powerful credentials and I know they are to be used as tools to unpack the awareness and insight of as many of my people as I can reach. Since I am just one person, it just makes sense to help create other professionals committed to the same work.”
She feels the biggest challenges facing the African American community is the lack of capacity to see ourselves for who we are. “We will be much improved when we can see ourselves as a connected community, a unique culture with unique contributions to this country. As long as we emulate the ways of the status quo, without fully understanding a) who we are, b) our role in the evolution of the United States of America as a truly exceptional nation, and c) our unlimited potential, oppression will be the biggest challenge facing our African-American community.”
She looks forward to becoming a best-selling author and a nationally recognized behavioral economist.
Lewis says, “I would like to be remembered as a locksmith, unlocking the barriers to our universal peace of mind so our capacities live up to our greatest potentials as infinite and eternal beings.”
Mekialaya White is best known in the Denver community as being a voice for the voiceless in her storytelling. As a journalist she says “I get to illuminate the stories of communities all across Denver and help spark change.”
She is a great listener and comforts people in their most vulnerable and thrilling moments in life. She says, “It’s powerful and I am honored.”
White has written and produced several stories highlighting African Americans in the Denver metro area – everything from Denver’s mayor to a football player who overcame adversity as a kid from Montbello and the executive director of the Kwanzaa committee, working to preserve the holiday after COVID split people apart.
After 10 years in the industry and being a recognized African American female news professional, she says representation matters, “and using my profession to shine light on topics that matter to the community. It matters for little boys and girls to see that they can achieve their dreams to.”
As a child, she was told by a teacher that she was a student who talked too much in school. White’s response is, “I’ve always been a people lover and it does my heart good to use my voice to help others.”
Future plans include mentoring a new generation of leaders and helping them to discover their full potential in the field journalism.
White says she would like to be remembered as kind, compassionate, passionate, loving, strong, and intentional.
General Manager and Program Director
104.7 the DROP
Nikki Swarn is a conduit for change in the leadership roles that African American women play in media and entertainment. She is responsible for establishing a new public radio format that features an all African American air staff.
Swarn’s contributions include supporting the LGBTQ+ community, the unhoused and those struggling with mental health. She creates radio programs that focus on community issues and develops community engagement events ranging from food and toy drives to educational opportunities. Swarn says, “As a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, service to our community remains at the heart of everything I do.”
She takes an active role because she has always considered herself a servant leader. “It is important to support my community with grace and gratitude,” she says.
Swarn says the biggest challenges facing the African-American community are holding onto our heritage and remaining connected to the past while moving into the space of innovation. “We must continue to recognize future leaders and provide them the space and opportunities to flourish with support and love … it is critical.”
She would like to be remembered as a generous spirit who was proud to serve her community and always willing to share her journey and her wisdom, exemplified a brand of leadership that was caring composed, confident, and fun with an unwavering commitment towards the success of her colleagues and coworkers, and as someone who loved her family and friends fiercely and always wore a smile (with dimples).