Monday, May 20, 2024

Black History Month: Community Spotlights 

This February, we want to honor the incredible contributions, achievements and resilience of Black individuals in our community. 

We decided to take this space to share inspiring stories from individuals across our Front Range communities. Join us as we celebrate Black excellence, shed light on local stories and work towards a more inclusive future. 

Minister Glenda Strong Robinson 

Founder and chair of Dr. MLK, Jr. 2024 Planning Committee 

Glenda Robinson sitting with historical images from her march with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Meet Minister Glenda Strong Robinson, a prominent Boulder minister, and historian for Second Baptist Church and the NAACP Boulder County Branch.  

Glenda joined the Civil Rights Movement in 1966 while she was a college student in Memphis. Because of that experience, she said, “My own life changed immeasurably.”  

 At the height of the movement, she marched during the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Just days after the march, Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.  

A longtime Longmont resident, Glenda works with the Maria Rogers Oral History Library, the Museum of Boulder, and the Longmont Multicultural Action Committee to name a few. She is founder and chair of the Dr. MLK, Jr. Planning Committee of Boulder County.  

Glenda is incredibly involved in her community and was honored three times in 2023 with local, state and national awards. 

“I hope people are inspired by my journey to get involved in their community,” Glenda said. “Be the best you that you can be. Though every person is different, we must use our differences to make a difference.” She quotes Dr. King, who said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” 

While growing up in the Jim Crow South in Tennessee, Glenda was raised in a loving, Christian home of hard-working parents and community leaders. 

Thank you, Glenda, for all you do to bring the community together and keep history alive. 

DeAngelo Bowden 

Fort Collins lead environmental sustainability specialist 

DeAngelo Bowden with sunglasses in front of a green, yellow and red banner

DeAngelo grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina. His strong and proud parents taught him the truth mattered above all else: going to college was the only option, and the only good barbecue was vinegar-based barbecue. His mother is an accountant for Duke Energy, and his father works for the Department of Social Services. These careers certainly helped guide his strong passion for sustainability and equity.   

DeAngelo graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in Sustainable Development. After graduating, he joined AmeriCorps, leading him to FEMA and being selected as the EDI Fellow for the City of Fort Collins. DeAngelo is now the Senior Environmental Specialist for the City of Fort Collins.   

He engages with residents in discussions on meaty topics such as the policies behind oil and gas operations, the health impacts of air quality, and the importance of centering equity and inclusion through environmental justice initiatives. DeAngelo strives to build trust and understanding between government and the people it serves. “I want to set an example for other black individuals who want to be involved in local government. I hope to build relationships with community members and community-based organizations that serve our most marginalized,” DeAngelo said. “We consider an equitable community to be one where a person’s identity or zip code does not negatively impact their ability to thrive. Because local government is uniquely poised to help dismantle the institutional and systemic impacts of racism and oppression, the City of Fort Collins seeks to proactively address barriers that perpetuate inequity.”   

DeAngelo believes inclusivity is critical to maintaining a healthy environment, and equity is the piece that makes it all come together smoothly. Having vibrant and diverse cultures in a community makes us more resilient, ensuring that we bounce back quicker and stronger than ever before. It allows for more innovation and collaboration within a community. “To achieve that “Excellence” that we all strive for,” DeAngelo said, “we must first make sure that everyone can succeed and that everyone is provided the resources to do so.”  

Thank you, DeAngelo, for all you do to improve the collective environment of Fort Collins. We are so grateful you shared your story with our community. 

Zion Council 

Senior member solutions guide, Elevations Credit Union 

Zion Council in front of a red, yellow and green banner

Zion was born and raised in the South, living in Florida most of his life. He moved around the state a lot, living in metropolitan centers such as Miami and Orlando and rural Florida in places such as Lawtey. Zion’s mother, a retired attorney and freelance writer, instilled in him the importance of following his dreams and having the education to execute them. When she faced discrimination and other obstacles barring Zion from receiving the best education possible, she was a fierce advocate, allowing him to grow and flourish personally and in his education. In addition to his mother, Zion’s father was his role model in how he approached life in a calculated, results-oriented manner.  

“My father was a significant proponent of me achieving my dreams and goals by utilizing the education I receive and gaining real-life applicable skills that allow me to take steps toward my goals,” said Zion. 

Knowing that financial literacy is crucial in developing wealth, Zion pursued a career in finance at Elevations Credit Union. He can better understand personal finance because of the conversations and information he is exposed to at work.  

“The most recent milestone I achieved was traveling to Japan last November,” he said. “It has been a lifelong dream, and I did not think I would see Japan so soon. I am grateful beyond words for the concrete proof to a very intimate degree that when I take action and put my mind to accomplish something, it can and will be done.”  

“I strongly believe that we can overcome any obstacle in life with perseverance and a supportive environment,” he said. Zion’s story is a testament to this. He faced many challenges and hardships, but he never gave up. He wants us to be more empathetic towards people of diverse cultures and races and realize that they may face battles or discrimination that we have never considered. 

Thank you for sharing your experiences and story in the making with our community, Zion. 

Michele D. Simpson, JD

University of Colorado faculty member 

Michele Robinson in front of a red, yellow and green banner
  • Faculty affiliate & research associate, Renee Crown Wellness Institute 
  • Associate teaching professor, Creative Minds & Honors Residential Academic Programs 
  • Faculty affiliate, Center for African & African American Studies 

At a young age, Michele Simpson learned the importance of speaking out and finding strength in her family.   

During the Montgomery bus boycott, Michele’s grandmother drove a bus for people who were committed to not sitting at the back. She was also denied the right to register vote many times but fought persisted until she successfully registered.  

Michele is now the host of the radio show Black Talk, created by the Boulder County NAACP and Boulder Public Radio’s KGNU. Her programming makes space for and elevates Black voices and stories of Colorado.   

“As a people, storytelling has provided Black folks the opportunity to create our narratives, tell our truths, heal and express joy,” she says. “Storytelling is a revolutionary act, especially for communities that are spoken about and not to.”  

Michele’s parents left Alabama as part of the Great Migration. She was raised in Brooklyn and Long Island, where inequities still existed “coded and dressed in fancier legislation, policies and practices than in the South but harmful and unjust nonetheless.”  

When faced with obstacles, her ritual consists of looking in a mirror to remind herself of the strength of her lineage. “Throughout my life, I have carried my grandmother with me,” Michele says. “I was taught to not give up, to speak up and to persist.”    

Now an Associate Teaching Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, she was inspired by her teachers and her father, who used to read the dictionary with her. Michele received the Boulder Faculty Assembly’s 2023 Excellence in Teaching Award.  

She emphasizes the importance of saying yes to opportunities with younger generations. “Early on, I knew that as a little Black girl, I would need to hold on to my dreams and believe in them even if no one else did,” Michele said.  

Michele says family and community support has shaped her life. “Anything I’ve done, anyone I am, I attribute to coming from a family and a people who have always loved me even when I wasn’t particularly loveable,” Michele said. She remembers her mother saying, “We know how to do hard things.”  

Thank you for sharing your experiences and work in education and advocacy, Michele. 

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