The Denver Public Library is excited to announce this year’s Juanita Gray Community Service Awards nominees! We are also proud to introduce three inductees into the biannual Blacks in Colorado Hall of Fame for their groundbreaking accomplishments in the state of Colorado. Below are short bios on each nominee and this year’s Blacks in Colorado Hall of Fame inductees.
Join us on Saturday, February 3 at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. as we honor this year’s nominees for their contributions, announce the award recipients, and introduce the newly selected Hall of Fame inductees. Anyone is welcome to join in the celebration. Refreshments and entertainment will be provided. Can’t celebrate in person? Livestream it by joining us virtually via Zoom on the day of the event.
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 Black men, women, and youth who represent Gray’s commitment to the community. This year's nominees showcase black excellence at its very best.
2024 Juanita Gray Community Service Award Nominees:
Sandy Douglas has a deep love for helping people, is a strong advocate for single mothers, and is committed to social justice and equal treatment for all people. She prepares countless hot meals every Tuesday using her own resources, serving them to those most in need. As an active member of the church and community, she is first to volunteer her assistance whenever needed.
Joshalynn founded Phenomenal Women Inc. in 2014 to empower, encourage, and uplift the next generation of women leaders through mentorships, professional development workshops, and resources to overcome challenges and achieve their goals. The organization has also given back to the community by providing care kits to our homeless community. Joshalynn owns a career coaching firm that empowers women to achieve the career of their dreams and she has been recognized with multiple awards, including the 2022 Wellington Webb Leadership and Legacy Award.
Mr. Granville Lee has been an active player in the community. He worked as a probation officer for the City and County of Denver and led the Black Chamber of Commerce in 1983 as their president. Lee’s ambition allowed him to create multiple bond companies and institutions, including Instant Bail Bond Company, Colorado Bail Bond Center, and the National Bail Bonding Institute.
Donna 'Jawana' Norris is a creative spirit who uses her talents of dance, song, and art to share the accomplishments of the Black diaspora with everyone she meets. Her determination to share the stories of Black people with children and her ability to educate and instill pride in heritage is powerful. Jawana has celebrated Black culture with the library and community for the last two decades, impacting Denver’s youth for many generations. Not only does she foster their talents, but reminds them that they are creating history right now.
Dr. Ronald D. Reeves
Dr. Ronald D. Reeves is a distinguished member of the Omega fraternity and is known for his commitment to the community. After just one year, he was appointed as Chi Phi’s Vice Basileus in Denver and became a Colorado State Representative in May 2022. Currently, he holds the position of Executive Director of Sustainable Broomfield and Chief Development Officer for Impact on Education. In the past, he has held several impressive roles, including a coach for the Colorado Special Olympics Nationals Track and Field Team, among many other roles.
Stephanie Rance and her husband, Floyd A.B.Rance III, are innovators in the arts and culture space. Their production company, Run&Shoot Filmworks, placed Denver on the map as a market for major studios and streaming platforms to promote their multicultural films. Their highly successful film series, "The Color of Conversation," amplifies the voices of our most marginalized communities through purposeful conversations and thought-provoking films. Their contributions to diverse representation in the art of film have been recognized with many local and national awards.
Chandra Thomas Whitfield
Chandra Thomas Whitfield is an award-winning multimedia journalist who has dedicated her life to uplifting, acknowledging, and celebrating diverse voices in Colorado and beyond. Her work has been featured in local and national mediums and she co-hosts and produces Colorado Matters, a public affairs show on Colorado Public Radio. She’s covered many significant stories including the historic number of Black women judges appointed by Governor Polis for Essence magazine. Chandra has been a valuable member of the Denver Community.
In the decade since starting at Allen Gardens Residential Living, Anita West-Berry has made a positive impact by incorporating a nurse on the property and adding fitness classes catered to help elders and people with disabilities. Through the help of her many community connections, residents enjoy regular events and support. She also helps feed youth without access to food sources through her participation in programs such as Anchor of Hope Food Pantry and the Childhood Hunger Initiative Power Pack. Anita is a doer and a pillar of the Denver Community.
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 Coloradans 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 who have broken barriers and paved the way for future generations to excel in a variety of fields and occupations. Learn more about the current 78 inductees here.
2024 Blacks in Colorado Hall of Fame Inductees:
Adrian Miller is a Colorado community leader with a diverse range of accomplishments. He has worked in politics, including serving at the Clinton White House and on Gov. Bill Ritter Jr.'s legislative and policy teams. In the faith community, he has led the Colorado Council of Churches for a decade and is a longtime leader at Campbell Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. He recently curated an exhibit at the Museum of Boulder celebrating African American contributions to Colorado. Adrian is also a critically acclaimed food writer and serves on numerous community nonprofit boards of directors.
Retired Division Chief Charles Thomas Smith
Charles T. Smith served in the Denver Police Department for 36 years. Just the fourth Black division chief in the department's history, Charles played a key role in creating metro Denver's Crime Stoppers program. He also established the Store Front Program, a community-based space to engage community members with the police. Academically, he earned his Bachelor's in Physical Education and his Master's in Sociology from the University of Colorado Denver. Charles set a model example through his work to engage the community with the Police Department and has been a pillar in the community
William H. Whitsell (posthumous award)
William H. Whitsell was the first African-American male born in Colorado, in the historic mining town of Central City in 1866. His parents came west to help build the railroad and moved to Denver around 1870. Whitsell passed away at the age of 77. As an adult, he worked as a brick mason, was dedicated to community service, and was an active member of the church. His strong work ethic, commitment to civic duty, and spiritual beliefs have been passed on to generations that have followed.
For more information about the awards, the nominees, and or inductees please contact the Juanita Gray Awards Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.