The Denver Public Library on Feb. 3 honored three African-American community leaders at the Juanita Gray Community Service Awards and the Blacks in Colorado Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The event was held at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library in Five Points and kicks off the library’s celebration of Black History Month. Special thanks to TaRhonda Thomas of KUSA Channel 9 for emceeing the event.
Honored at the ceremony were:
2018 Juanita Ross Gray Award Recipients
Youth Award Recipient:
Lauryn Lenae Bradley: Lauryn Lenae Bradley is a junior at Rangeview High School and excels not only at academics, but volunteering as well. While maintaining a 3.71 GPA, Lauren is an active member of the National Honor Society and has participated in several community service and volunteer outreach programs, including raising money for Make a Wish foundation. Lauryn has a passion for studying law and is a member of the City of Aurora’s Teen Court. She will graduate in 2019 and has expressed interest in the University of Miami, University of Colorado and Florida A&M University. Lauryn exemplifies the ideals and spirit of Juanita Gray.
Adult Award Recipients:
Beverly Grant: Beverly Grant has shown outstanding leadership to shape, lobby for and create urban agribusiness initiatives in communities around Colorado. In 2015, 5280 Magazine writer Bill Giebler described Ms. Grant as, “Part activist, part community leader and part food fanatic.” Ms. Grant grew up in Denver’s North Park Hill neighborhood which did not provide access to affordable and healthy foods. She once said, “I had this epiphany about starting a farmer’s market.” She began to build relationships with local farmers, neighborhood food co-ops and urban hydroponic gardens, and in 2011, she launched Mo’ Betta Green MarketPlace. By helping to provide access to healthy food, Ms. Grant’s commitment improves many people’s lives.
Purnell LeVant Steen: Purnell LeVant Steen was born in Denver in 1941, and throughout his life has focused on making a difference. Based on his personal experiences with racial segregation, he became involved in American civil disobedience while enrolled at the University of Colorado and served as chairman of the Boulder chapter of Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.). Mr. Steen served in Germany with the prestigious 7th Armed Soldiers Chorus and went on to become a full-time musician in the 1980s. He founded his jazz group, Purnell Steen and LeJazz Machine, which has been a mainstay on the festival and club scene for nearly thirty years. Through it all, he has always found time to serve his community, including working with Carolyn Ash of Colorado Academy to teach students Black History through music and playing Christmas music each weekend for patients at Presbyterian St. Luke’s. His talents and belief in giving back have brought joy to many.
Blacks in Colorado Hall of Fame Inductee
Denise Burgess: In September 2017, Denise Burgess was named Board Chair of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce which marked the first time in the Chamber’s 150 year history that an African-American held the top post. At the Chamber’s annual meeting, Ms. Burgess told the more than 1,000 people gathered, “We are committed to ensuring opportunities are available to everyone in Colorado.” Ms. Burgess’s introduction to business came through her parents, Clyde and Lucille, who started Burgess Heating and Air Conditioning, and in 1994, she joined the family business. Ms. Burgess earned her certificate in construction management from the University of Denver, and when her father died unexpectedly in 2002, she took control and shifted the focus to construction management. The projects the company worked on during her tenure include the City and County of Denver Justice Center, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers’ Southeastern headquarters in Miami and the Westin Hotel at the Denver International Airport. Ms. Burgess also volunteers with many groups across the city. Mayor Michael B. Hancock proclaimed November 1, 2017 as Denise Burgess Day noting she will lead the Chamber in redefining its focus on people, place and prosperity, and on valuing diversity and ensuring Colorado is a state where all residents can build wealth.