“There is common ground in our oppression. Why can’t there be common ground in our liberation?”

~ John Futrell (Panama Soweto), June 9, 2020

Tuesday, June 9 marked the first day of a three-day discussion on racism in America at Dazzle. Director, producer, actor and radio journalist donnie l. betts moderated the discussion, inviting a panel of guest speakers to share their stories. Each speaker detailed their reasons for being present — they shared personal and professional stories of being a person of color in America, building a mosaic that told a story of systematic oppression.
June 9 was the day of George Floyd’s funeral, and the discussion opened in remembrance of him. betts wore a baseball cap with the numbers “1619,” marking the year the first ship of enslaved people was brought to American territory.

Oppression and racism in our country is multifaceted, and each panelist shed light on a different subject. Terrance Roberts, a local home inspector who founded the nonprofit The Prodigal Son Initiative, shared his story of being a victim of police misconduct (he shot a police informant in self-defense, “derailing” his life and losing footing on the work he was doing to reduce gang violence in the Denver community.) Thomas C. Martin was also a victim of police brutality. Such, a local singer-songwriter, expressed fear and unfair expectations for her son. betts’ young grandson, David Betts, shared a story about being called a racial slur by a classmate, and said that kids like him can “understand serious subjects,” such as police brutality.
Doug Goodfeather is a Native American and a veteran of combat. He relates the “intelligent hatred” in systemic racism to the “cunningness” of addiction he sees in his work as a counselor. “Hate is addictive,” Goodfeather said. The systems of racism in America are set up to serve the oppressor, but they are not natural systems, Goodfeather said, because we’re all related. Racism isn’t natural.
“When you have a construct that’s not natural, with natural people, it’s gonna fall apart,” Goodfeather said.

The panelists discussed racism on a stage built for jazz music. This is significant because of the many examples of oppression the history of American music offers. Namely, the flip of music from black musicians by white musicians, turned for a much higher profit and fame (think r&b and “race records,”) and the theft of music by white record executives from the homes of black families in the antebellum period.

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Jessica Rendall

Jessica Rendall

About the author

This synopsis was written by Jessica Rendall who is a music writer in Denver, CO.

Hosted by donnie l. betts

donnie l. betts (lowercase is intentional) is a donnie l. betts (lowercase is intentional) is a founding member of two theatre companies in Denver, Colorado, City Stage Ensemble and Denver Black Arts Company. He attended Yale School of Drama. His theatre performance credits include “The Gospel at Colonus” on Broadway, as well as many regional performances including “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” Deck of Cards. Theatre directing credits include, “House With No Walls”, “Citizen” and “Black With A Capital B, Skeleton Crew for Curious, Crumbs From The Table of Joy, Color Purple, Black Elk Speaks , Porgy and Bess, “Who Killed Jigaboo Jones, Slut Energy Theory”, Denver and Dallas and at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York, donnie is a skilled facilitator of conversations about Race and inclusion in America having facilitated or created programs for History Colorado, area high schools, and others. He
produces “The Why” Women of Power TV series. betts is currently in production on the film
“Beyond Chaos” Is America Possible. A look at America’s democracy told through the lens of an intergenerational America. He is also an Emmy winning director.

Guests Include:

Doug Goodfeather

Doug Good Feather is from Standing Rock South Dakota, resides in Louisville, Colorado. He spent 8 years in the United States Army from 2000-8. He served two tours in Iraq during 2003 and 2004. He is the Executive Director of Healing Hoop Inc. DBA Lakota Way Healing Center. He works on PTSD with Veterans, Suicide Prevention, and as an addiction’s counselor. He is also a stage screen actor, performing artist, and father.

Such

Music is a universal language, and for SUCH, it is the language of her soul. Singing in her father’s
church planted the seeds for a music career that is on the rise and touching the world. Her new album “Wide Nose Full Lips” reached the top 25 on Billboard’s R&B charts and led her to tour extensively in the US and Europe. Such is also an award winning actress, earning accolades for her portrayal of Celie in the Color Purple, has had several TV appearances, and finished in the top 60 of American Idol’s season 11. You can follow her on YouTube and Instagram at @iamsuch / Instagram.com/iamsuch

Lionel Young

Lionel Young is a high energy performer with a bent for the blues. His LIONEL YOUNG BAND, winners of numerous awards for best in and around the Colorado region, have won the 2011 International Blues Challenge (IBC) band competition. Added to his victory at the 2008 IBC in the solo-duo category, that makes Lionel Young the first double champion in the history of the IBC.

Nadeen Ibrahim

Nadeen Ibrahim is a partnership specialist with the US Census Bureau, where she is building community partnerships to ensure every community member understands that the 2020 Census is easy, safe, and important. Her professional portfolio includes being a Muslim community organizer, commissioner to the Denver Immigrant and Refugee Commission, and Congressional District IV Representative to the Colorado State Board of Health. She holds a Master of Public Policy from the University of Oxford and Bachelor of Science in Public Health from CU Denver. She is deeply passionate about community organizing and works to ensure she does her part.

Evan Weissman

Evan is the founding executive director of Warm Cookies of the Revolution, a Civic Health Club that blends innovative arts and culture with crucial civic issues. Prior to founding Warm Cookies of the Revolution, he spent 12 years as a company member of the collaborative Buntport Theater Company, winning over 100 awards as playwright, director, designer, and actor.

Warm Cookies of the Revolution received national recognition and grant awards for the two-year Participatory Budgeting art project called “This Machine Has A Soul” in 2017. He was recently awarded the 2018 Parr Widener Civic Leadership Award from the Denver Foundation. Evan was a Denver Commissioner for Cultural Affairs in 2016-2017 and was Creative in Residence at the Denver Art Museum in 2015. As part of Buntport, they won the 2010 Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

Evan teaches nonviolence at The Colorado College. He was a Kellogg Foundation Leadership for Community Change Fellow with Mi Casa Resource Center for Women, as well as board member of Rose Community Foundation’s Roots and Branches Foundation for emerging Jewish leaders. Evan was the founding organizer of Colorado Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Social and
Economic Justice. In 2002, he was a Jane Addams-Andrew Carnegie Graduate Fellow for Leadership and Philanthropic Studies at Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy. He graduated with Honors from The Colorado College with a BA in Political Science. Evan likes riding his bicycle, playing soccer, and playing with his son Ezra Huck and his wife Kristin.

Terrance Roberts

Roberts spent eight years trying to improve Park Hill and lead other gang members away from the lifestyle.

John Futrell aka Panama

John Futrell aka Panama Soweto is a poet, activist, writer, and arts administer.

Ryan Foo

Ryan Foo is a founder of WeAreDenver and co-CEO and director of operations for the Black Actors Guild.

Jose Guerrero

Jose Guerrero is a poet, activist, and band leader in Los Mocochetes.