The Denver Public Library honored African American community leaders at the annual Juanita Gray Community Service Awards and biennial Blacks in Colorado Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, virtually, Saturday, February 5, 1:30 p.m. These men and women have made outstanding contributions to the Denver Metro area and exemplify the ideals and spirit represented by each award.
Who was Juanita Gray?
Juanita Ross Gray worked at the Ford-Warren Branch in the late 1960s and 1970s. Her community outreach efforts were highly regarded until her untimely death in 1987. For the last 33 years, DPL has honored Mrs. Gray’s legacy each year by nominating current leaders in the community who embody the same trailblazing spirit. Past award recipients can be found here. The Juanita Gray Community Service Award honors African American men, women, and youth who represent Gray’s commitment to the community. This year's nominees showcase black excellence at its very best.
2022 Juanita Gray Nominees:
A Denver native Larry is a man who loves his city. At age six Larry knew he had a passion for cars, and after graduating from Manual High School and attending Nebraska Wesleyan University, Larry soon returned to Colorado to pursue his love for cars. In 1986, Larry launched his first auto shop in Northeast Denver. In 1993, Larry launched an auto shop that would come to be known as Courtesy Auto Service. Larry and Courtesy Auto are much more than a small business through looking out for the community in various ways - providing employment, shelter, mentoring, and meals to those who need them. Larry has been a pillar of the community, a community hero, and humanitarian of the Five Points Neighborhood.
Jeff is a guerrilla storyteller, a pioneering Hip-Hop and spoken word artist and arts educator, he was named one of Westword’s 100 Colorado Creatives. He is also the writer of the critically acclaimed “Who Killed Jigaboo Jones?”, “Honorable Disorder”, and also “Fish Fries and Poetry'', an installment of the immersive theatrical performance ''Recipe". His latest project is entitled "Message to the Mayor", a first hand account of the traumatic displacements of people experiencing homelessness during a global pandemic in Denver, and those on the frontlines. “From Allies to Abolitionists, anti racist advocacy through the art of Storytelling”, earned the title “Best Artivists” in Westword’s 2021 “Best of Denver” issue. His production company Emancipation Theater is a performance art social enterprise dedicated to gathering the community to share stories and inspire action.
Viola B. Garlington
Viola is the wife of the late Roand “Roy” Garlington. She is the mother of three children, has five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. She worked in the healthcare field for over 40 years, 22 of which as the Administrator of Stovall Care Center which was in the heart of the African American community. Viola has served the Denver community as a volunteer for over five decades and has been active in many social and civic organizations serving in leadership capacities. She has served in appointed positions including the U.S. Selective Service Review Board, the Colorado Regulatory Board of Nursing Home Administrators, and Denver’s Golf Advisory Board. Viola has been honored with many prestigious awards including the Colorado Black Women for Political Action, the Denver Public Library’s Juanita Gray Community Service Award (1994), “Woman of the Year” by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and the Juliette Low Girl Scout Award (its highest honor). Her biggest accomplishment is that she carried the Olympic Torch through Denver with her Top Teens running beside her in 2002.
Marcellina is a grandmother, a mother, and a retired Montessori educator from Denver Public Schools. She returned to part-time work as the director of Montessori Education at Family Star Montessori School in Denver in 2020. Marcellina’s passion for Montessori education led her to co-found a community-based Montessori school: Mother Earth Montessori in her native land, Uganda. Marcellina currently leads a Denver Advisory Group of concerned citizens to launch an A.M.I. Mother Earth Montessori primary school in Gulu, Uganda. The school will ensure children get a quality education in Uganda. Marcellina and her husband Albert are elders who are very well respected in Gulu, Uganda.
Brandon was born and raised in Denver, Colorado he is an alumni of Thomas Jefferson High School and the University of Oklahoma. Brandon is the co-founder of several non-profit organizations including: Warriors for High Quality Schools; Warrior Nation; The Nation Youth Football League; and The Robert F. Smith STEAM Academy. Brandon is currently the Community Site Coordinator for Denver Metro Community Impact (DMCI). He is responsible for organizing community organizations, leaders and youth to address issues concerning youth violence prevention, substance abuse prevention and suicide prevention.
Jason is the Owner/Founder of Book King Publishing, Inc. and CEO of Inner Self and Wisdom, LLC. He is the author of Soul Searching Poetry, Crowns and Shattered Dreams, and Sufferless: Meditations for Transforming Trauma into Healing. He is The Association of Black Psychologists: Community Service Award and the Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado: Wellington and Wilma Legacy Award recipient. He runs a private mental health practice as a therapist, author, and healer.
Origin of the Blacks In Colorado Hall of Fame
This award is bestowed upon a Coloradan who has been the first African American to accomplish a professional goal or to have been a pioneer in their field while actively supporting the African American community. The first ceremony, held in 1973 inducted forty-one distinguished individuals as part of a cooperative venture for Black Heritage Month between the Denver Public Library and Denver Public Schools. In 1985, the Ford-Warren Branch Library celebrated its 10th Anniversary. Part of the celebratory activities was a special induction of four additional black Coloradoans into the Hall of Fame. Since then, the award has been paired with the Juanita Gray Community Service Award and held biennially honoring community members that have broken barriers and paved the way for future generations to excel in a variety of fields and occupations. Learn more about the current 77 inductees here.
2022 Blacks in Colorado Hall of Fame Inductees:
Zipporah Parks Hammond (posthumous award)
A lifelong Colorado resident, Zipporah Parks Hammond was the first Black person to earn a nursing degree from the University of Colorado School of Nursing. Throughout her life, Hammond broke down barriers and elevated the status of women. Additionally, Hammond was the only Black nursing student in the U.S. Nurse Corps in Colorado during World War II, the first minority Director of Medical Records, a philanthropist, wife and mother, historian of Black history in Denver, and Denver Public Library volunteer. Hammond passed away in 2011 at the age of 87, leaving a legacy of significant contributions to Denver and Colorado.
Judge Gary M. Jackson
The Honorable Judge Gary M. Jackson was instrumental in leading the diversification of the legal community on a community-wide basis. In 1971, Jackson co-founded the Sam Cary Bar Association in order to “..create a self-help group to instill professionalism and serve as a vehicle for the exchange of ideas among African-American lawyers.” In 1986, Judge Jackson co-founded the Sam Cary Scholarship Endowment fund which has awarded over $325,000 in scholarships to Black law students. Jackson personally mentored, guided, and brokered many attorneys' positions at legal firms, public entities, and appointments to the bench. Now retired, Judge Jackson remains active in the legal community and with many community organizations.
Rev. Leon Kelly
Reverend Leon Kelly Jr. serves as Executive Director of Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives, the oldest anti gang program based in the Denver Metropolitan Area. Reverend Kelly has been a member of the California Gang Investigators Association for over 25 years and developed a program in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Corrections called “Flippin’ the Script”. Reverend Kelly is highly regarded for this work with gang activity and intervention. He provides gang education to schools, non-profits, law enforcement, and civic groups on how to suppress gang related violence and recruitment. He holds degrees from the University of Colorado, Colorado Christian College, Family Bible Institute and the Denver Urban Institute. Reverend Kelly continues to serve as a positive, influential leader and role model to at-risk youth in our community.