Through My Eyes:
The Denver Negro Community
March 1934 January 1968
By Shelley Rhym
The YMCA is a place of hope for some of us. They teach us to live and play
clean, and to take advantage of all the educational opportunities offered us. This
concept is demonstrated by such men as Mr. Flaniganlater Judge Flanigan,
and Mr. Ward, later to be principal of Manual High School. I will nbt attempt to
name everyone taking advantage of the Ys teachings; there are many.
There are othe*r Negroes dedicated to making Denver a healthy place for
minorities. Dr. *Sunny Lawson, Dr. Clarence Holmes, Mr. V. F. Turner
all are involved in what will someday be called civil rights activities.
The white man has the freedom to invade our community whenever and
however he pleases, and for whatever he desires, whether it be moral or im-
moral. More than once a white man drives up to mea ten-year-oldasking
where he can find a nice, clean, colored girl. Not knowing the purpose, I ask
N Why? There is never an answer. He just drives away.
We have restaurants featuring foods the white man knows nothing about
preparing. Mr. Ben Hooper has soup lines for the poor. The Ex-Servicemens
Club, which Mr. Hooper owns, is the hottest jazz spot in the West. Musicians,
black and white, gather there until the wee hours of the morning exchanging
The Negro musician is in great demand and can always get a job displaying
his talents if he is available. He is not restricted to the Negro community. Mr.
George Morrison, Sr., who gives private music lessons, is the leading band
director in Denver. (Paul Whiteman was once a student of Mr. Morrison.) Mr.
Morrisons band is the most requested for dances, society weddings, etc.
In 1935, Mr. Morrison, Mr. Webster Rucker and a dozen others are granted
a charter by the National Federation of Musicians. The number of the charter
is 623. This is the only professional Negro union in Denver with a national
(Membership had grown to 116 musicians in 1960 when the white local No.
20 and No. 623 merged. Since then the Negro membership has decreased to about
30 paid-up members, with no Negro representation on the board of directors or
in the office force. Employment for the Negro union musician in Denver is now
at an all-time low.)
Oppression, deprivation, rejection and the many other indignities imposed
upon the Negro have resulted in the development of a Negro culture as an alter-
native to the majority culture denied him. Poverty has been the Negros way of
life (in most cases). His being deprived of and isolated from the mainstream
of American society have, paradoxically, developed his imagination.
He has derived from the English language a language the white man does,
not understand. He is responsible for Americas popular forms of dancing since
the time of slavery. JEjis jazzmusic is_the only original, creative art form, ex-
cluding Indian arts, mis country canclaim, and is the only U. S. product, with
the exception of the dollar, that is acceptable every place-on-the-globe^
Jazz music is the only crea^ibrToFtEe^Negro for which the white man went to
the black. The white man wholeheartedly appreciated jazz and paid for it accord-
ingly. Black and white have shared in its development. Unfortunately, it has
been exploited more successfully by the white musicianemployed in estab-
lishments that will not hire Negroes. It often has been claimed by the white
community in ignorance of its Negro origin. Jazz has provided a common
language for all races in this country and elsewhere.
The church choir gave me the inspiration to enter the jazz field as a pro-
fession. The church also rejected me for being a jazz musician, in the belief
that jazz represented too many immoral things. Needless to say, this is untrue.
Jazz continues to be encouraged, developed, exploited, and enjoyed all over the
world, but not in the Negro church. To my knowledge, Scott Methodist is the
Through My Eyes: March 1934 January 1Q^P
MAR 3 0 1988
By Shelley Rhym
THE NEGRO COMMUNITY IN DENVER
p. % 19&*
The year, nineteen hundred thirty-four, is an exciting year for the residents
of the Five Points area of Denver.
The month is March. Abel Davis has just opened a new theater and named it
The Roxy. Before this great event, our nearest movie house has been the
Denham Theater located downtown at California and 18th Streets, where we have
a special place in the balcony. Now our community is complete with first-class
Modest but well-kept, the community includes many diverse elements in
addition to the Negroes Caucasians, Mexicans, Jews, some Italians, and what
Orientals (mostly Chinese) there are in Denver. We all have a great deal in
common, struggling through a depression. There is no middle class.
Starting from 23rd Street and traveling northeast on Welton, we have all the
necessary elements for sub-standard existence, from a ball park to shoeshine
parlors to night clubs and cafes.
The new fire-house at 25th and Washington Streets is equipped with the oldest
fire engine in the city, but the all-Negro team is a thing of pride in the neighbor-
hood. George Lewis is the only Negro policeman on the scene.
Our fathers are janitors, shoeshine boys, Pullman porters, railroad cooks,
dishwashers, pimps, gamblers, and a few bold enough to enter the professional
ranks. Our mothers are in domestic service. Some are fortunate to have office
jobs downtown as maids.
The American Woodman is growing into a major, Negro insurance company
(many companies do not insure Negroes) and is hiring Negroes, in number, to
do office workthe only firm to do so. There are three all-Negro taxicab com-
panies in the city.
Our schools are well integrated but all are badly in need of repair. There are
no Negroes employed as educators. Doctors here cater to black and white, as do
the other doctors in town.
We are gullible to many schemes, especially the get-rich ones such as the
numbers racket, the Chinaman and others that drain our families of their nickles
and dimes. The grocer extends credit to many of us, but makes up for it by
charging higher prices for food than are charged in other areas of the city. Loan
companies charge the highest rates permissible by law. Rent is the only thing
cheaper than in other neighborhoods.
In other parts of Denver, from which they commute for their social activ-
ities but where they ?otherwise experience no difficulties in everyday living, a
few Negroes make their homesin the Cherry Creek area (around Second Avenue
and Steele Street), in Englewood, and in west Denver.
Most of us are compelled to attend church on Sunday. Here we are reassured
that life is worth living. The Negro minister is the voice of the community. His
task is to keep peace and tranquility by promising a better life tomorrow (after
death). This theory is generally accepted by the older folk, but my group is not
satisfied with the many indignities imposed upon our parents. We rebel the only
way we knowby fighting each other to prove we are not inferior. After all,
what can ten-year-olds do to change the prejudicial system that governs our
The YMCAwith an all-Negro staffat 28th and Glenarm Streets has
excellent facilities. Most of the young people participate in the many diversified
programs offered. The Negro branch of the YWCA at 25th and Welton Streets
also is doing its share, but its facilities are limited.
the Five Points area. There have been minor construction and remodeling
projects, such as the old bakery at 29th and Welton Streets that is now the Neigh-
borhood Health Center.
The drastic change in Five Points has been from an exciting outlet for the
oppressed to a foundering vessel in an ocean of mistrust and confusion, hoping
for a navigator to steer it to a safe shore. The grocery store located at 27th
and Welton Streets in 1934 closed at the end of 1966. Who will be next? Only the
Five Points businessmen and property owners can rescue the area from financial
disaster, no matter what plans are advanced by the majority community.
Now is the time for these people to bring themselves together to make
plans and demands. Some of them have been in business more than 40 years in
one location. They have the intelligence, but some do not have confidence in one
another. This mistrust is wasting valuable time. This mistrust extends to the
city administration; some believe the city will hamper any expansion they might
attempt. The location of the Five Points area relative to the core city makes it
a potential business giant. Efforts must be made to attract other communities
to shop and spend here.
Our gross national product was more than 725 billion dollars in 1966. Thus,
the belief that Five Points problems are due to a lack of money in circulation
is not based on fact. The Negro has expanded his territory, not only in housing
but also in shopping and spending. His mobility has allowed him to divorce him-
self of the original ghetto and its limited offerings.
Five Points also must be informed of our citys growth and remodeling
plans. There are many government community programs in action today. Some
in which we should take interest are Urban and Skyline Renewal, Model Cities
Program, and the Small Business Administration. At least one of these programs
should give Five Points due consideration.
If we count the city services granted this area for its many tax dollars, we
find it has been short-changed. The fire-house was the last new city building to
be erected in the area, some 35 years ago, except for Gilpin School after World
War II. The Glenarm Recreation Center is now closed. The Police Substation
at 26th and Welton Streets is furnished and maintained by Ben Hooper (last year
he purchased and installed a Police sign; three years ago he paid to have the
In my years of observation of the Negro community, I am convinced that
Denvers white administration has very little interest in the improvement of the
Negro community per se, in contrast to the concern for the general welfare of
EDUCATION FOR EMPLOYMENT
A major problem facing minority persons is employment, which calls for
prior, readily acceptable and available training geared to the needs of the high
school non-graduate. All such individuals are not drop-outs who leave because
of their own options. Some are push-outsfor various reasons, such as financial
duress where book and basic clothing costs are prohibitive, or such as parent or
teacher relationships where motivation is faulty or lacking, or such as subject,
material that lacks validity for the pupils
More courses must be implemented, in our school system, that wili appeal
to and cultivate the productive capabilities of each individual in our society. On
the other hand, deficiencies in formal education should not penalize an individual
for the remainder of his life.
Apprenticeship training programs set up by our trade unions have helped
boost the white populations economic level but have done little for minority
persons. Many white persons holding cards in trade unions lack scholastic ability
and would have failed in endeavors requiring it. To date most trade unions have
refused to accept minority persons into their membership family.
only Negro church in Denver sponsoring a jazz program annually. I have had
the pleasure of participating in jazz programs in several white churches in
Regardless of the anti-jazz attitude of the Negro church, I shall always
have a deep gratitude for the musical inspiration plus the love, patience and
respect taught me there. I consider jazz music as a gift from God that brings
with it one of the few freedoms of our present society. Music has enriched my
life with lasting friendships with all kinds of peopleall colors, all religions,
all social and economic levels. All have their share of good and bad.
The Negro spiritual is a story of beauty, joy and sorrow I shall forever
enjoy and cherish. Poems by Phillis Wheatley have expressions and meanings
only a Negro could capture. I disagree with the belief that the Negro enjoys only
the white mans culture and has not developed his own.
NATIONAL RECOVERY ADMINISTRATION AND THE WAR YEARS
President Roosevelts National Recovery Administration was a great boost
to the American economyand the national debt. The Works Progress Admini-
stration (WPA) and Public Works Administration (PWA) gave some of our
parents employment that paid them $55 a month. The Civilian Conservation Corps
(CCC) took some of our young men off the streets and organized them into a
worthwhile work force. The National Youth Administration (NYA) helped some
of us through school by giving us part-time jobs.
Then along came World War II, which opened many doors of employment
for the Negro in the defense plants and training campsat the lowest level of
pay. Employment opportunities were improved somewhat for the minorities when
the federal government required all industry involved in defense work to hire
Business in the Five Points area during the war was good. Most people were
making more money than ever, and most were spending with a nervous passion.
After the wars end, Congress under President Truman desegrated the armed
forces. We felt the white man had finally developed a humanistic conscience.
Although economic conditions improved for every one during the war, the
white man had the advantage of being chosen first for jobs and advancement.
This allowed him to move away from Five Points into newly middle-class
EXPANSION SINCE 1945
In 1945 the Negro began to expand his territory by moving east; by 1946
up to York Street; by 1955, to Colorado Boulevard. Today, Negroes are living
as far east as Stapleton International Airport and beyond.
Mr. Hooper (some persons refer to him as the mayor of Five Points) was
concerned because Denver had no Negro police officers. (There were 12 in 1930,
none in 1940). When Mayor Ben Stapleton was making his bid for re-election in
1947, he asked Mr. Hooper to support him. Mr. Hoopers condition was that
Mayor Stapleton hire two Negro police officers to work in the Five Points area.
Mayor Stapletons argument was that there were no qualified Negroes for the
job. The community was able to convince two Negro World War II veterans, Mr.
Verna Hudley and Mr. James A. Moore, to apply. They were hired,and both are
with the police force today.
Mr. Hooper was born in Denver only four blocks from his place of business
at 22nd and Welton Streets; he lives only five blocks away now, at 25th and Downing
Streets. There were approximately 250 Negroes in Denver when he was born
(1894). He had great confidence in Five Points and his business. Between 1945
and 1947 he invested more than a quarter of a million dollars enlarging his hotel
and erecting the Casino Ballroom. This was the last major building project in
can have a real meaning in the community. Communications between police and
citizens must be improved:
a. Police must have more training in human relations. They must have
knowledge and understanding of existing conditions and attitudes of the
neighborhoods they serve, particularly in minority areas.
b. Police should assume the role of protector, not aggressor.
c. The jurisdiction of the vice squad should be clarified. Too often these
men are guilty of injurious individual interpretations.
d. Citizens must be educated as to the duties of the police force and the
responsibility of the citizens to the police.
e. Better understanding must be achieved through joint efforts of citizens
and police in community projects.
Perhaps improvement could be made through the use of periodical testing
of all members of the force for changes in attitudes toward minority persons.
It seems obvious that psychological testing should be utilized before any man
becomes a policeman.
The police must be involved in constructive projects that will serve as
deterrents to crime. As a group or as individuals, policemen may sponsor or
help in age-group undertakings which serve to develop and stabilize law-abid-
Denver wants and deserves a better police department. This was proved
by the vote for the police pay raise February 7, 1967, in the hope of attracting
more qualified men. The cry from the department is for more community
cooperation and respect. Some Denver communities should demand the same
consideration from the police department. If we were to survey attitudes of our
police personnel, Im sure we would find that the majority of these men would
cooperate in making ours the best department in America.
Police-Community Relations is working diligently to establish rapport with
pupils in the grade and junior schools and with their parents. This idea should
be extended throughout the police department and to the public as well.
It is impossible for the manager of safety to know all the existing circum-
stances in the many areas of our city. It is the responsibility of each community
to make him aware of its grievances through a selected voice.
In connection with minority problems relative to the law, Denver has several
agencies set up to give legal counsel to the poor. They are: the Public Defender,
a city service; Neighborhood Law Center, funded by the Office of Economic Op-
portunity; Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Denver, funded by United Fund; and
Legal Services for the Poor, co-sponsored by the Denver Bar Association and
the Denver Commission on Community Relations.
The white male with money still is contributing greatly to the crime element
in Five Points, mainly through prostitution. In 1934, prostitution was legal, and
concentrated in the lower downtown section. Today it still is legal for the
wealthy white male. If caught, he can testify against the female and be released
with no record of his wrong-doing. The female must pay, and, because of the
police record, continue to pay for the remainder of her life. The rich white
American continues to do as he pleases without much opposition from law en-
Police arrest records are used to slam shut the doors of employment for
many minority persons who are otherwise qualified and some of whom have
high school-diplomas or even some college training. Unfortunately, it appears
that undue and unequal effort is given to apprehending malefactors or suspicious
persons in minority neighborhoods. Too often, it appears that policemen seem
The Denver Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with a blue ribbon com-
mittee from the Denver business community, is planning a comprehensive job-
training and job-placement program for disadvantaged persons. The success of
this venture depends upon union cooperation.
Colorado State Employment Service offers little assistance to the unskilled,
the high school drop-out, or to persons with police records whether the offenders
are black or white. The present director of the State Employment office has a
song hes been singing since 1939: We send the best qualified applicant for the
job. To some this seems to be a fair attitude.
But written tests cannot measure all of a mans capabilities. For many, tests
dont measure their existing intelligence. Some individuals are afraid of tests
and dont make good showings. Some of these persons listed as unqualified are
qualifiable and should be given more consideration. There are some with police
records, etc. Many minority applicants have poverty handicaps and often are not
the best qualified. However, some meet the standards and are capable of doing a
The good to emerge from this condition is the coordinated efforts made by
Hispano and Negro organizations to change the system presently practised by
State Employment. Many believe as I do, that a new director is needed before
successful programs can be implemented. The combined minorities represent
approximately one-fourth of Denvers population and could act as a bargaining
agent with private industry.
Mayor Quigg Newton, in 1947, was responsible for providing more employ-
ment opportunities for minority per sons in city government. With a few exceptions
they still are holding lower salaried positions. This also is true of minority
employment in our state agencies.
The economic system of less money for minorities would be acceptable to
meif I could be given the same treatment when I buy food and clothing for
my familyif I were allowed a sizeable discount on all my purchasesif my
taxes also were reduced. Then I would consider it a fair shake. Wouldnt it be
less complicated, though, to give me employment equality, thereby making it
possible for me to receive equal pay and assume equal responsibility in this
So far, most government schemes for elevating the minorities level of
employment have failed to show positive results for minority persons as a group.
It would be unjust to say Denvers police force was all bad prior to the recent
change, which has yet to be evaluated. There was much room for improvement,
particularly among the command personnel. When a white officer could refuse
to ride on patrol duty with a Negro officer, and the command officer, without
displaying any concern, assigned the former to go with another white officer,
something was obviously wrong. When 23 Negro officers served a force year
after year without receiving any noticeable promotions (one technician and four
detectives), or without reasonable hope that they might attain promotion, some-
thing was wrong.
Maybe a new testing system is needed. Its difficult to conceive that the
intelligence of the Negro officers does not warrant at least one sergeants
rating. The sheriffs office awards even less to the Negro in promotions. To
accuse these Denver departments of token consideration of their Negro personnel
would be an exaggeration compared to the situation in cities of similar size.
Attitudes in the department must change before Police-Community Relations
Grade School in Section A was the only school in Denver with a 50 percent Negro
enrollment. Today, all schools in the Negro community show more than 50 per
cent. Manual High School is more than 75 percent Negro, but was less than 30
percent in 1934 when it was serving the then-white community beyond High Street.
There also were more white residents in the Negro community at that time.
Staff members of Metro Denvers Fair Housing Center, which was established
in 1966 under auspices of the religious community to implement Colorados Fair
Housing Act, believe they can change the present racial imbalance by encouraging
and placing Negro families in all areas of the city. If Fair Housing is successful
in relocating 100 Negro families a year, it will not lower the Negro percentage
in the east Denver schools, unless the Negro families are replaced by white. Also,
all Negroes moving into our city must be placed in white communities, and all
whites moving into the city must be placed in Negro neighborhoods. It would take
many years to accomplish a racial balance by this system.
The white man will not readily accept the inadequacy of a Negro neighborhood,
and the Negro continues to concentrate his housing choices in the east Denver
area. If this condition continues, our black children will be complete strangers
to white children and vice versa when they leave school and encounter the many
complexities of our society. Mrs. Rachel Noel, lone Negro member of the Denver
School Board and a staff member of Denvers Commission on Community Re-
lations, is deeply concerned with this problem and has encouraged the busing of
pupils to other neighborhoods to alleviate the conditions until other methods can
be devised. Integration and acculturation of the races are essential in establishing
the true cultural identity of this nation.
It is an established fact that most racial and ethnic groups tend to live in
their ghettos. This is true of all living beings. Scientists have studied this trend
for centuries, and have compiled many books on the subject. I dont think the trend
will change in my life-time or my childrens. The Jewish and other white people
control their ghettos politically and economically. They also have the same
control over the minority communities without living in them. Now is the time for
the minorities to unify for real accomplishment.
The NAACP recently established new branch offices in the three sections.
They are: Section A, the Central Branch, Mr. Gene Howell, president; Section B,
the Mile High Branch, Mr. Q. T. Allen, president; and Section C, the Park Hill
Branch, Mr. Sylvester Franklin, president. These groups represent vigor in the
area, under the legal leadership of attorney Irving Andrews.
CORE has but one office in Denver, but has proved itself a fighter of problems
for all races. These organizations in Denver need a much broader base of finan-
cial and action support from the total community.
The Hispano and Negro problems are similar in many respects. Membership
in NAACP and CORE is open to all races, from all areas of Denver. The Hispano
community could gain by participating in these organizations.
Society has changed its laws considerably since 1934, to give its citizenry
equal opportunity. Unfortunately, laws dont always change'attitudes. We must
have agencies such as the Fair Housing Center, the Colorado Civil Rights Com-
mission, the Commission on Community Relations, and the Equal Employment
Mr. James Reynolds, director of the Civil Rights Commission, and his
tireless staff are dedicated to the rights of all Colorado citizens. They can help
only if we make them aware of our individual problems. Mr. Minor i Yasui, director
of Denvers Commission on Community Relations, which is an arm of the mayors
office, and his staff assist community organizations when requested. The federal
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, from its regional office in Albuquer-
que, periodically sends four- or five-man task forces into Denver to handle
Mr. Bill Toby, formerly of the Urban League, and Mr. Ralph George of
Denvers Opportunities Industrialization Center are among the Negroes dedicated
to believe that members of minorities are most likely to be criminals. The
result of this attitude frequently is indiscriminate arrests, which add to the
misery and hopelessness of minority persons.
Many times, guiltless persons from minority neighborhoods are arrested
on suspicion, jailed and held for investigation, only to be released later
without charges having been filed against them. Such arrest records must be
listed on job applications, and constitute an unwarranted disqualification of
Persons convicted of crime, duly imprisoned and subsequently free to seek
employment, face another kind of difficulty. Usually the ex-convict is rejected
for employment, and he may turn to crime for existence.
Both of the preceding factors increase the crime rate: the unwarranted
arrest and the crime resulting from the unemployment of the ex-convict.
Many Negroes living beyond York Street in east Denver tend to separate
themselves from the original ghetto of Five Points. After observing their
expansion for 30 years, I find their area difficult to separate socially from the
original ghetto. I do consider the area as being divided into three sections,
A, B, and C, as follow:
ABounded on the west by Lawrence Street, on the north by 38th Avenue,
on the east by York Street, and on the south by 18th Avenue to Park
Avenue to 23rd Street.
B Bounded on the west by York Street, on the north by 38th Avenue, on
the east by Colorado Boulevard, and on the south by 23rd Avenue.
C Bounded on the west by Colorado Boulevard, on the north by 38th Avenue,
on the east by Quebec Street, and on the south by 23rd Avenue.
Section C has a sub-section north of 32nd Avenue with a population that is
approximately 80 percent Negro. This area is referred to as Northeast Park Hill,
a beautiful, well-constructed community with physical elements of middle-class
living. Unfortunately, many residents do not earn middle-class money. The city
services are poor; school classrooms, as well as some of the housing, are over-
crowded; there is no public transportation after 7 p.m., and the boundary of
Council District 9 makes it difficult for these residents to have proper represen-
tation in City Council.
District 9, which claims Northeast Park Hill, covers two other communities,
Globeville and part of north Denver. Boundary lines for this district could be
changed on the west from Federal Boulevard to the Platte River, and on the south
from 32nd Avenue to 23rd Avenue, to give better representation to residents with
problems in common.
Many Negro leaders in the community are aware of these conditions and have
organized the community through the Northeast Park Hill Civic Association. Mr.
Warren Alexander, Mr. Fred Norman, Mr. John Bates, and the Rev. Acen Phillips
are a few names of talented Negroes that have constructed a solid community
organizational plan. Their concept begins with the individual resident, and moves
to block organization and representation, to combined block representation, to
the association which functions as workshop and voice for the total neighborhood.
To me, this idea is sound, because it deals with the individual. Community
organization of this type also is needed in Sections A and B.
I am constantly informed that a community must have a crisis before com-
munity organization can be successful. If this is true, the Negro community is
In 1934, the schools in the Negro community were well integrated. Whittier
were involved in wholesome activities at the centers rather than roaming the
streets and getting into trouble.
This report is not for the purpose of condemning Denver Opportunity, but
rather to show some of its weaknesses. The philosophy is good, but the program
administration has yet to become effective. Most staff members are sensitive to
the needs in the community and cooperative with those they seek to serve. The
idea of action centers responsive to the natures of the target areas in which they
are located is sound, but their success is dependent upon a large degree of neigh-
borhood autonomy; at the present such local autonomy is lacking.
Denvers Recreation Department puts more emphasis on provision of a
number of year-round golf courses that cater to middle-aged, middle-class
citizenry than on facilitiesadequate and year-roundfor youth and the disad-
vantaged. All the recreation centers suffer from a low budget and none is equipped
to serve youths between 16 and 20.
Private agencies, including churches, likewise fail to show concern and to
provide for this same age group. Perhaps the enlargement of Juvenile Hall, the
draft, and riot casualties will alleviate the congestion youths are creating on our
Essentially, government projects set up to aid the indigent in Denver have
failed to dent the many problems plaguing minority persons. Rigid qualifications
and guide lines continue to eliminate the disadvantaged persons from the policy-
making level of the programs. Too often, middle-class, book-learned persons
with vague or no knowledge of minority problems are hired as administrators.
Although technical knowledge is a necessary ingredient for any project to be
successful, it must be used with compassion and understanding in dealing with
Disadvantaged persons must be granted the opportunity to plan and implement
projects to which they will give continued confidence and support. Technical
persons must accept the role of assistants and advisors rather than controllers.
Hostility will continue to mount among the minorities in Denver as long as the
present system is not corrected.
The East Denver Neighborhood Health Center is one of the few Great Society-
inspired projects to show positive results in service to the poor. Also, the Head
Start program seems to have a solid footing in Denver. Time will measure its
value to the community.
Some Negroes have been fortunate enough to hurdle the ugly wall of prejudice
that has blighted our society. Some have been educated; some have battled for
decent employment and won; some come back to the ugly wall to help their
brothers escape its blighting effects. Many others hurdle the wall and ascend to
a dark cloud of complacency floating in a sky of self-praise.
Most of these Negroes are very critical of their brother. Their theme is:
I made it; why cant he? This thought is usually followed by: Hes lazy
lacks motivation ignorantwants something for nothing, etc. If these cloud
travelers are not aware of the many barriers most minority persons encounter
daily, now is the time for them to descend to firm ground, so that closer obser-
vations and evaluations can be made. The Negro who withdraws from his needy
brother is guilty of bigotry, and is as much a threat to equality as the white
It is understandable why these persons divorce themselves from the Negro
problems. The person not suffering the problems resulting from prejudice is
usually too comfortable to concern himself with the anguish of the less-fortunate.
Moreover, our white society has been very thorough in publicizing white supe-
riority, from Santa Claus to text books. Being absorbed in this propaganda for
more than 300 years has given some of us (black and white) a belief that black is
to finding decent employment for minorities.
The Negro minister must join the fight for equality; his participation is
greatly needed. He represents the middle-class with its advantage of education
and/or financial security, and yet today wields a heavy club of moral approval
or condemnation. His professional role puts on him the imperative of his Master
and Mentorto live and work among the poor and historically hopeless in the
slums and the gutters.
The average school grade level in the Denver Negro community is 11.1
years, far above the national average. We have the know-how; lets get together!
THE GREAT SOCIETY
The late President John F. Kennedy was aware of the many problems facing
the minorities of this country. His successor implemented Kennedys intentions
in the War on Poverty and the attempt to achieve a Great Society.
Unfortunately, some of the white administrators in Denver of the Great Society
programs have succeeded in separating the Hispano and Negro populations of the
city rather than unifying them. Denvers War on Poverty program to date has
provided a huge ring for a massive battle-royal between the Negroes and the
Hispanos, with the white middle class acting as instigator, timekeeper and referee.
The War on Poverty program is designed for the poor, regardless of race.
Persons in the predicament of poverty must unify their efforts before concrete
benefits can be achieved.
The philosophy of Denver Opportunitys 1967 Youth Employment and Activities
(YEA) for Summer program was unique. The purpose was to give young adults
(roughly 16 to 25 years of age) from disadvantaged neighborhoods an opportunity
to formulate and administer (with experienced assistance) activities that would
appeal to their peer group.
My involvement with YEA was that of coordinator of the five young adult
centers, located in outlined target areas and in Northeast Park Hill. Programs
included job development, job placement, recreation and training. Each center
was a separate entity serving the needs and interests of its neighborhood.
Mrs. Betsy McGee, Denver Opportunitys youth program specialist, and I
had worked for months with disadvantaged young adults on ideas for YEA, and
also had involved many adults. It was our dream to see these centers develop
into year-round programs free of government direction.
YEA did not receive funds until June 27, 1967, although we had anticipated
funds to arrive June 1. The program was hampered by red tape from the start.
Center directors couldnt purchase a bar of soap without making a requisition,
having it approved by the executive director or the director of programs, and
going to the fiscal office for a check. Adding to our disappointment, the director
of programs informed us that he didnt trust his mother with money. This attitude
made it extremely difficult to implement immediate activities. Being dedicated
to the program, directors spent from their pockets and waited for reimbursement.
Payment for contract services such as bands was grossly neglected, up to five
weeks. Toward the end of the program, center directors agreed to pay bands out
of donations collected in advance at the door.
YEA for Summer was terminated September 7, although summer weather
continued and there were enough funds to carry the center program through the
month of September. At least three of the centers could have become self-support-
ing had there been a degree of concern from the top administrators of Denver
Some good things emerged from the YEA program. We know that young adults
guided by experienced, sensitive adults can assume responsibility and do effective
jobs. Many persons in each community were willing to help these young persons
once they initiated constructive programs. Another positive aspect is that many
youths and young adults were placed in summer employment and with others
for peace in Vietnam, the war on poverty and the struggle for racial equality
here at home.
Many youths, black and white, are not accepting the Establishments methods
of accomplishing freedom and justice for all. Their lives, without representation,
are being pre-destined daily with the passing of new regulations and with demands
on their time, life and devotion.
A segment of the Establishment tries to blame youthful attitudes on parents,
charging the fault to a breakdown in parent-child relations. This has a degree
of merit; however, it is understandable in light of the increasing difficulty for a
parent to compete with the many temptations offered his child in our gadget
society. Moreover, the parent is laden with financial problems plus increasing
government regulations on his daily procedures. And simple family parlor
games have been superseded by diversified age-group activities.
Many youths from middle-class majority families are leaving the mate-
rialistic atmosphere of their homes to take a common place in the gutter, in
resentment against the morals of a society that approves war and rejects love.
These are the flower children, the hippies to whom some refer as dirty
drug addicts. To accuse them all of being immoral is to be uninformed and
The hippies believe: Everyone is entitled to his own thing, whatever
it may be, as long as it doesnt interfere with someone elses thing. They have
produced a psychedelic art form that could emerge as one of the few new
expressions of this generation. Unfortunately, society is slow to accept any art
innovation, perhaps more so if its source is generally rejected. The hippies
advocate individuality without leadership. Their living habits make them vulner-
able to legal action and more laws. Presently they show no positive action toward
the alleviation of their problems.
Nevertheless, the hippies from the majority community (few Hispanos
and Negroes are associated with this movement) embody a message of rebellion
that will be difficult to quell at least for the duration of the war in Vietnam. If
the hippie movement continues its present pattern, I regret to think that it will
only mean more confused youths behind bars and in mental hospitals, more
unsolved personal and family problems, all complicated by the distortion or lack
of facts in news media accounts. x ecttr ca^
In contrast, most black and Hispano youths have lived in poverty and have no
desire to accept the hippie doctrine in registering their rebellion. Lacking
confidence, they are not affiliated with any self-help groups and choose to
gather in small help-yourself gangs. The members range in age from 13 to
20. Their activities vary with the attitude of the strongest speaker. All are aware
of the injustices wrought by the Establishment and many have adopted the hate
whitey concept. Their anger is kindled; behind them are generations of depri-
vation, exploitation, inconsideration and hopelessness.
These young people are have nots with limited education and no lucrative
skills, seeking recognition of their existence. Some are social rejects, unable or
unwilling to adjust to school, home, church, and the white mans control. Some
will commit felonies, knowing it will keep them out of military service and
Vietnam. All are products of societys gross negligence and must be given com-
passionate consideration. Impulsive police action, summer pacification programs
and shallow concern about employment problems will only nourish their hostility.
All minority youth have suffered the agonies of brainwashing and negotiation
by self- or Establishment-appointed adult leaders who lack rapport with those
they would lead. Hence, there are no satisfactory results of the negotiations,
and circumstances are not improved for these youths.
(Most persons over 40 will not accept ideas formulated by young adults as
being sound, and will reject innovations proposed by youths. On the other hand,
most young adults 16 to 25 have little or no confidence in the integrity of the adult
inferior. The black man disproves this belief constantly with his many accom-
plishments and many white men disprove it with their failures. Soon the bigot
will have no black myths with which to feed his ego. I myself consider white
superiority only as white control.
White control continues its dynasty over the Negro community. The white
man owns the major businesses such as banking, food, automobiles, clothing and
hard goods. He owns the companies that hold the mortgages on most of our homes
and on the automobile and furnishings that go with them. Oh yes! Most of our
jobs and promotions are controlled by him. All these facts add up to economic
control which determines the way of life in a community.
To discourage white businesses in the Negro community would cause financial
disaster; however, Negro corporations must be encouraged. Negro-owned
companies must develop, manufacture, and sell products in public demand. One
thousand dollars to many of us is a large sum of money, yet we would think
nothing of spending this amount for a new combination TV-record player, an
automobile, or maybe a new patio for the back yard.
Why couldnt we invest one thousand dollars in a major business? One thou-
sand Negroes investing one thousand dollars each (in stocks or bonds) would
add up to one million dollars, which would be a good beginning. One thousand
Negroes represent less than two percent of Denvers Negro population. This
number of Negroes with confidence and trust in a joint financial venture would
be difficult to find; therefore, the white economic control will continue to grow.
In many of our eastern cities, groups of citizens have formed co-op food
and dry goods stores to combat the rising costs inflicted by the large, established
companies. 1934 would have been a difficult year in which to establish major
Negro businesses in Denver. This is not true in 1968, because of the difference
in the general economy and because we have several Negroes trained in economics
and financial management.
Negroes must realize this is a materialistic society controlled by the al-
mighty dollar; the more dollars controlled, the more consideration granted. Black
economic power could demand black political representation, which could serve
as equalizer to our tilted scales of equality. Only then can black and white in-
gredients be balanced in the melting pot that nurtures this nation.
As long as it exists, our materialistic society will create supply and demand.
We invent, manufacture, advertise and sell more products than any other country.
We all want some of these things, whether we are rich or poor. Persons who
are refused decent employment because of race or lack of education or training
will often resort to crime to get what they need and want.
The Negro in 1934, in order to survive the depression, had to continue to
suffer the many injustices imposed upon him in a white mans society. NOW,
THE YOUNG WILL NOT. Freedom bells are ringing all over the world, via
media we never dreamed possible in 1934. The United States does not hesitate
to send men, black or white, anywhere on the face of this earth to kill and be
killed in the name of freedom. The white mans hypocrisy must come to an end
before a solid foundation can be built to withstand the heavy burdens of a free
THE YOUTH REBELLION
The youth of today face the greatest burden this nation has ever known. Each
breath of polluted air they take is accompanied by more and more complex social,
economic and world affairs. It is our youths who must resolve our quasi-quest
This story, written with great appreciation for Denver and all its citizens
regardless of race or other differences, is incomplete.
Race relations in Denver are among the best in the country in terms of con-
tinuing communication between groups and individuals, both officially and unof-
fically. We in Denver, black and white, tend to take for granted an extremely
important fact: we do deal, directly and often, race-to-race. This is not so in
many cities across the nation.
However, although the Mile-High City is blessed with physical beauty and
good race relations, it is threatened by roots of bigotry deeply imbedded in the
soil of its social character. These roots have infiltrated the citys main arteries
of existence, carrying a venom that has destroyed the dignity and hope of many
minority persons. The venom spreads through education, employment, law en-
forcement, housing, business, religious observances, and all other elements that
make up our society. The evil roots must be destroyed and the .venom of bigotry
eliminated to allow all our citizens to enjoy freedom and affluence.
Denver is now in the second generation of protest against the white system.
The first generation (1940-1955) fought overt segregation such as balcony only
seating for Negroes in our theaters downtown, the lack of Negro educators and
police officers, the limitations on jobs for minority persons in city and state
government, and the denial of accommodations inhotels, cafes and clubs. Although
Manual High School was well integrated during thel940s, all social events were
segregated. This practice did not change until minority pupils outnumbered whites.
The current generation is engaged in a greater task of destroying covert
segregation that is protected by pretense, disguise, or denial that it exists, or by
the granting of token consideration. The 1960shave produced the militant minority
that is proving itself worthy of equality by competing with the Establishment. The
majority of Americans scorn the message of the Stokely Carmichaels and the
H. Rap Browns and, on the local level, the Corky Gonzaleses and the Loren
Watsons. However, these men are merely giving fair warning of more violent
things to come from the age group presently 5 to 13 years old-the third gen-
eration of protesters if present conditions prevail. Yes, protesters are younger
each year, the generations covering only a few years.
The black mans plea for equality has failed to reach the white power structure
on 17th Street and in suburbiathat has the control. Community organizations
to promote racial equality have involved persons interested in solving the pro-
blems but have not involved those causing the problems.
The business communitys support of Colorado Department of State Employ-
ment which has failed to send minority persons for decent jobs (most Denver
businesses have encouraged this practice)police ignorance and the lack of black
command officersthe waste of human lives and 30 billion dollars a year in
Vietnam with only token consideration for the war on poverty here at home: these
and many other evils of the white system are forcing the black man into drastic
action to achieve basic human rights.
Some black youths are convinced that the only message whitey will hear
is violence and will register their protest accordingly. There will be outbreaks
of violence this summer and in summers to come. Efforts of the total community
to bring about equality will determine the magnitude of these outbreaks.
Denver must take immediate action toward correcting the many injustices
suffered by the black man. Action must produce positive results that will assure
our third generation of potential protesters full equality and thereby eliminate .
the role of protesters. /
It is my conviction, based on my own observations, that one of the most ef-
fective channels through which these younger, unorganized, problematical soul
brothers can be reached and helped is the organized young adult groups. The
latter are close enough in age (20 to 25) to the youths for a good working rapport
and mutual acceptance to exist, but also are stable and responsible enough to
provide the positive direction and constructive guidance the youths are so con-
One group of young adults, inspired by the YEA for Summer program, has
continued their activities this winter, using their own personal funds. Under the
direction of Chuck Campbell and John Henry, the Au Naturel Club, located at 3401
Franklin Street, is producing saleable crafts and encouraging the development of
paying artistry. They also are conducting a regular recreation program.
Some of the other organized minority young adult groups in Denver are Sun-
diata, the Black Panthers, the Magi Adventurers, and the Park Hill branch of
NAACP, all offering positive resistance to our hypocritical society. Although
small in number and resources, they are determined to free themselves of the
totality of the white mans control.
Implements for the struggle vary with each group. Some are teaching history
of the black man which has received little or no attention in our school system.
Some are producing marketable commodities. Others are engaged in verbal con-
frontation with the Establishment.
Self-help, self-respect, responsibility, and integrity are the tools these young
adults have chosen to demolish the wall of injustice encircling them. They have
established a competitive attitude on the part of the black community in Denver
which is healthy. Contrary to the bigots opinion, these groups have the will, the
intellect and the savvy to devise the non-violent methods necessary to attain
respect from the white community and the doubting portion of the black community.
However, the young adults must keep their efforts combined and not play the Im
the leader game of their predecessors.
It is the responsibility of the total community to give financial support to
responsible minority young adults for expansion of facilities and implementation
of realistic programs necessary to deal with the problems. This financial aid
must be given without strings attached. Our materialistic society has exploited
its youngsteadily increasing in numbersmore than ever without granting
them any autonomy.
On the other hand, it would be unwise, in the huge task of trying to cope with
the youth rebellion, for young adult groups to ignore the valuable resources and
experience of adults. Ever since I can remember, there always have been black
and white people making honest, selfless efforts to bring about racial equality.
Their efforts have fallen short for lack of cooperation from the total community.
One age or ethnic group alone cannot solve the many problems in our society.
To believe so is another form of bigotry, however unwitting.
Presently, the organized young adult groups are dedicated to bringing about
equal opportunity and respect from the majority in a peaceful and competitive
way. If this concept is not accepted and supported by the total community, inevit-
ably other methods will be deployed.
Through no choice of their own, minority personsinvolvement in the Estab-
lishments policy-making is infinitesimal; this exonerates them from guilt of the
Establishments many injustices. The bigot and the uncletom must relinquish
their misused control to indigenous residents of the ghettos who are willing
and qualified to assume responsibility.
Over the centuries in America, the white man, with the aid of a few brain-
washed minority persons, has created a monstrosity, and now must be involved
in its destruction. Otherwise, the angry elements will destroy the total community.
OCT 3 1
THROUGH MY EYES might be termed the Denver version of the recently released
report of the Presidents Commission on Civil Disorders.
Shelley Rhym, through whose eyes you are invited to look at the Ne^ro com-
munity of Denver and its relationships with the citys majority population, has
lived and worked in the Rocky Mountain capital since 1934. The story begins when
he was a ten-year-old boy fighting with his peers in a shared effort to prove we
are not inferior.
He attended Whittier Elementary School, Manual High School, Southern Uni-
versity in Baton Rouge, La., and, after military service, the University ofDenver.
During World War II he served in the military police and in the 372nd Infantry
Regiment, the only U.S. Army unit composed entirely of Negroes (including com-
In the late 1940s, already an accomplished jazz musician, he packed up his
drums and took the integrated Shelley Rhym Orchestra on a tour of the Rocky
Mountain states and Mexico. Subsequently he worked in jazz groups in the Eastern
states over a two-year period. Part of the time in recent years he has rftanaged
a private club, featuring live jazz, in downtown Denver. j
Rhyms other employment, pursued always to a night-time jazz accompani-
ment, has included varied responsibilities for the Bureau of the Censusj and the
Denver Election Commission. He has been a consultant to the Denver Commission
on Community Relations, the University of Colorado Bureau of Community Serv-
ices, and the Denver Core City Ministries. He was coordinator for 1967 summer
programs in young adult centers operated by Denver Opportunity, the citys War
on Poverty agency.
Recently, Ryhm was named to the board of directors of the Metro .Denver
Fair Housing Center. He now is employed as a field worker for the resident par-
ticipation program in the Denver Model Cities Program. He is adult advisor for
the Magi Adventurers mentioned in his narrative.
Father of five, grandfather of two, friend to many members of the family of
man, Shelley Rhym worked for months on his description of Denver as aiji inter-
racial reality, tinderbox, and base for a better life for all. v' j
The reader may agree or not with this view of how it really isbiit he is
urged to believe that the problems are real and that they can be solved by persons
working together. j
The text printed herein was completed in February 1968, and is as it was submitted to
the Denver Post for publication, the agreement being that reprint rights would be freely
1 granted to the author and his designated representatives. The Denver Post holds the
am ^copyright on the article as a part of its issue of March 20, 1968.
Washed 'itional copies of this article are available at 50<Â£ each or $5.00 a dozen from Core
in its des^1118^655 ^1 Galapago Street, Denver 80204.