Denver Public Library honored four community members at the annual Juanita Gray Community Service Awards ceremony. The event, held virtually this year, is a signature part of the library’s Black History Month celebration.
Annually, Denver Public Library along with the Library Commission honors African American men, women, and youth who have made outstanding contributions to the Denver Metro area through the Juanita Gray Community Service Awards. Juanita Gray was a former library staff member and community advocate. The awards were established in 1988 to honor Gray’s legacy, dedication, and advocacy of the African American community. Each year, the Juanita Gray Awards committee consisting of community and library staff members ask the community for their nominations and selects a winner.
The 2021 Juanita Gray Community Service Award recipients are: Terri Lynn Smith Gentry (top Image on the left), Jason McBride, (fourth image on the left) and Tay Anderson (second image on the left). The Youth Award recipient is Jayla Hemphill (third image on the left).
A third generation Denverite, Terri Lynn Smith Gentry is an interior designer and owner of A Terrific Design; she is also a sales manager at Joy’s Consigned Furnishings. Gentry is a board member of the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center. She conducts museum and walking tours and gives presentations to schools, community groups, government agencies, and businesses.
Hailing from a family of educators, Tay Anderson is an At-Large Director on the Denver Public Schools Board of Education. He has dedicated his life to protect the rights of women, African Americans, Latinx, LGBTQIA, Indigenous, Muslim, and disabled persons. Anderson has participated in public demonstrations and dialogues with school district leaders, state leaders, and members of Congress.
Jayla Hemphill is the 2021 Youth Award recipient. The 2021 Youth Award includes a $1,000 scholarship sponsored by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and Visible. Hemphill is a high school senior and community activist. She was a speaker at the Denver Public Schools Black Lives Matter rally and participated in the Be the Change event. Additionally, she delivered a speech at a gun control rally advocating for gun laws at the Colorado State Capitol. Hemphill is an active member of Students Demand Action and has been instrumental in the effort to recruit teachers of color for employment for her school.
Jason McBride is a champion for our youth. Born and raised in Park Hill, he has worked in the East Denver community since 2010. He hosts an annual school supply drive as well as gives out hot lunches. McBride hopes to show young people in our community there are options in education and expose them to different career choices.
This year’s nominees also included Dr. Joyce Brooks, Sandy Douglas, Bishop Kevin Foreman, Elijah Huff, Ari Lipscomb, Janice McDonald, Jonathan McMillan, LaDios Muhammed, Maedella Stiger, LaDawn Sullivan, Marcus Weaver, and Sondra Young.
“The Denver Public Library is so proud to host this annual event honoring unsung heroes in our city,” said Michelle Jeske, Denver’s City Librarian. “All of this year’s nominees are truly exceptional and we salute their commitment to our community.”
The library is offering several virtual events and programs in honor of Black History Month, they can be found here.