Voices

Alondra Reza/Graduate of Strive Prep-Excel, Freshman at Colorado School of Mines

Opening up Instagram, seeing people’s stories, I am left puzzled. I automatically turn on the TV and I am shocked how a group of white supremacists calling themselves “proud boys” were able to storm into the capitol and leave untouched. I could say this is not what America is, but that is a lie. America is rooted and built on the stripping of land, on the labor of slaves, on racism towards people of color, and the many lives who were sacrificed to build what is known as the wealthiest country.

However, people of color experience completely different unfair treatments simply by living in the United States. On Thursday, it was evident how prevalent white supremacy is. Being born with features and a skin color that does not match the ideal Eurocentric features automatically makes you a subject to racism, discrimination, and stereotypes. It is evident based on how the police have treated minorities and specifically targeted Black men. The Black Lives Matter movement was joined nationally to protest the unfair targeted treatment towards the black community.

Black Lives Matter protestors were protesting against the abusive power figures of authority used over minorities. They fight to be listened to, the fight for basic human rights, and more importantly they are fighting for their lives. How are they greeted? With tear gas, rubber bullets, beatings, violence, and emotional pain. The national guard even showed, and what did Donald Trump tweet, “When the Looting starts, the shooting starts”. On the 6th, “Proud boys”, white supremacists were basically let in by security, selfies were even taken. What were they “protesting”? The fact that their president fairly lost an election and made false claims without evidence.

They lost because that president incentivized their racist and discriminatory behavior. What happened to them? Nothing major. They were not met with rubber bullets, tear gas, and the national guard. If it were any other minority of people of color, they would have been slapped with the label of terrorists. However, their white skin tone covers for how they acted as domestic terrorists. It is widely evident how unfair this country is treating people simply based on their skin color and historical origins. What did our skin tones and origins ever do to automatically make us targets?

Makenna Clark-Johnson/North High Grad,  Lives in Sunnyside, Freshman at University of North Texas  

         What happened at the Capitol on January 6th, 2020, was truly an eye-opening and embarrassing thing to watch for, hopefully, most Americans. As a young college student, I try my best to maintain a certain level of political activism to stay informed on all points being made in today’s political climate. However, what happened on the 6th is one of the most blatant ways our president has used his power to spread hate.

For months and months, many of my peers and people all across America have been protesting in cities to tell the world that Black Lives Matter and that the police brutality and systemic racism need to be put to an end. Those protesters were met with rubber bullets and mace, but then comes the 6th when white American people who stormed the Capitol were met with none of that. They were allowed to roam around the Capitol with their “MAGA” hats and shirts and allowed to break into offices and steal property that belongs to our nation’s lawmakers, all because the president didn’t win the election.

Now I don’t want to sit here and bash everyone who supports Trump because many Trump supporters also can’t rationalize the attack on our Capitol. However, the people who did should know that what they did wasn’t protest. It was an attack on everything America stands for. Right now, is not a time for hate. As Americans, we need to come together and help one another through the tough times we are all facing. We will all get through the wild months, but that starts with being kind to one another and ourselves. 

Avery Fromme, Highland (11/26/20)

“Although everyone can probably agree that there have been moments this year that the world felt like a flaming piece of dog you-know-what, I would argue you can’t truly appreciate all the good things in life without some bad days to remind you how great you have it. In hindsight, when I look back on 2020 I can see that I have so much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season. First and foremost, I am a healthy 26 year old living in a city filled with great friends, 300 days of sunshine, and on clear days I can see the Rocky Mountains in the distance. This year I am reminded that health is never a thing to take for granted, and should always be at the top of the list. Along with that, I live in close proximity to some breathtaking nature that I can go explore. I am able to truly appreciate that this year with airplanes being a less than ideal option. In fact, just this past weekend I was lucky enough to take a road trip through southern Colorado with my wonderful boyfriend to celebrate my birthday. We wandered through a funky place called Crestone, saw the largest sand dunes in North America at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, and soaked in hot springs overlooking the San Juan River in Pagosa Springs. I am so thankful for the quality time, being outdoors, all the while not even having to get on a plane, and being able to stay socially distanced from others.Furthermore, I have an unquestionable amount of gratitude for my family. In particular my parents, who worked hard to give me a life filled with opportunities, happy memories, and unconditional love and support. I’m also especially thankful for my two older sisters, who. taught me everything one’s parents might leave out, and for being my go to people to this day. Sadly, this will mark the first ever Thanksgiving I will be spending apart from them. While this has been eye opening, I can’t help but feel extremely fortunate to have spent twenty five Thanksgivings straight with them, and to have such a great family that they are worth missing.I could go on forever with stuff I am thankful for; things like music, a good night’s sleep, puppies, and so on. However, I’m sure most of you have Turkey’s to prep, and other things to do. So, I’m going to tie things up by expressing gratitude for some things that have become almost invisible to me because I don’t have to worry about them. To name a few, I am thankful for clean drinking water, food to eat, a roof over my head, and for Vicky Collins texting me relentlessly the last few days to write a gratitude post because when I finally got around to it I loved the chance to reflect on all the things I have to be grateful for.”

Sue Salinger, Northfield (11/25/20)

“As we enter the darkest season of 2020, the time of year when days become short and nights long, I find myself thankful for how brightly some things continue to shine. I’m endlessly grateful for the turning of the seasons, and the earth’s senseless and thoughtless abundance, for the marvelous way sun and soil and rain (when it comes) bring the plant from the seed, and the fruit from the plant. Everything we need to thrive is already here: we are part of a vast planetary system, and many of our traditions teach that we are made of, are exactly, earth herself, breathing and thinking, walking around. In a time of sudden and quickening need, I am thankful for community members who show up again and again, in spite of risk, to shop, distribute food to all who need it, who volunteer to plant and weed and harvest, who drive those who can’t to appointments. As the numbers of people in need grow unimaginably, so too the heart of our community expands to include all of us. I’m grateful for friends and family, and though we’ve been through many days and nights of years together, we have never been through this season. I’m grateful to colleagues in Denver’s food systems work who battle the fatigue brought about by rising, and rising again, to face and meet the dreadful impacts this year has wrought on so very many families, knowing that this winter will be another steep hill to climb. The generosity of the philanthropic community to ensure our neighbors have the bare and basic necessities of living – food and shelter – has been an antidote to our cultural fever of greed and selfishness. Don’t be fooled by the darkness. As my friend Rabbi David Seidenberg says, “This is the darkness in which the seed starts to grow.”


Christina Pittaluga Black Actor’s Guild (11/24/20)

“2020 has been an overwhelming year to say the least. Through all of the drama and quarantining I have had a few moments that reminded me to be grateful. Earlier this year the Black Actors Guild released a photo series that I was the Creative Director for. It was received well in Denver and seen all over the city from the cover of Westword to being projected on a building downtown! I was also lucky enough to be the assistant director for the show Hype Man produced by the Black Actors Guild. It was a learning opportunity and an example of what the future of theatre could look like during a pandemic. The subject manner of both the photo series and the theatre show we put on were relevant and important. They started conversations that were needed. I’m so glad I was still able to make art that I’m proud of. During a year of uncertainty it is easy to feel lost but I was blessed to have multiple opportunities that reminded me to keep creating! Moral of the story for me is to make sure you do things that make you smile during this time!”


Jeremy Jojola, Berkeley (11/23/20)

“2020 has been the most rewarding and luckiest year of my life. Sure, I had a few bad days. Probably dozens. No, wait….everyday has been damn hard. After covering several hate and white supremacy groups in Colorado, I received a barrage of death threats and a visit by neo-Nazis to my home earlier this year. That’s on top of the constant stew of insults like “fake news” and other platitudes that come to my inbox and social media messages amid the current distain for journalists these days. Add in the pandemic, getting furloughed, being worried about my job and seeing my journalism colleagues lose their positions, 2020 has sometimes felt like one long Friday the 13th.Amid all of that, I’ve been trying to come to terms my father, who was diagnosed with stage-four brain cancer, won’t be around forever. I worry about the virus and if I’ll eventually get sick or go to a funeral of someone I know. As I type the above sentences and read them out in my mind, I can’t express my sincere gratitude to the luckiest year of my life, 2020. Time with my father over the phone is so valuable. I hope to see him this Christmas. It’ll be the most important Christmas of all Christmases. He’ll also meet his granddaughter for the first time. She’s currently crawling around at my feet, curious about everything with enthusiasm and happiness. My daughter came into this world in January of 2020 on a cold clear day. She arrived with big dark brown eyes and healthy as can be. 2020 has been one hell of a tough year, but every day, even on the most difficult of days, her life gives me life. Her smile is the sunlight and dissolves the most horrible of feelings.I feel hope when I look into her eyes. It can be easy to sulk in the darkness of this year, but for me there is so much light and her name is Ellie. 2020 has been a wonderful year—I’ve learned so much especially what to be thankful for.”



Kim Sporrer, RiNo (11/22/20)

“Does everything that’s happening in 2020 make it feel like it’s hard to have an attitude of gratitude? It certainly does! A friend of mine said it sometimes feels like you can’t gripe to others about your issues because everyone is having issues! I am so grateful for my good health, my dear family, my treasured friends, my wonderful cat Zoie (our bond has really strengthened this year!), an amazing job that I love, my great loft in RiNo, and more. I was asked to be the godmother for a treasured friend’s son born in May. I am blessed and lucky.For me, the year 2020 has brought me great clarity and the ability to focus on what’s most important to me and my life, to the people around me, and to my work. In some ways, it is a gift. I’ve seen some wonderful acts of kindness, courage, and humanity, of people lifting others when the going gets tough. People are spending more quality time with those in their households than ever before. Neighbors pouring gifts and offers of help to people who are desperately asking for their needs on Facebook and NextDoor. People howling at 8 p.m. and doing other acts of kindness to support healthcare workers. Even though I didn’t get to go to any games at Coors Field, I did get to enjoy watching half a season of baseball games on TV! And, I’ve learned new skills, partially out of necessity but also out of curiosity and desire to grow and thrive in these weird times. Sure, it’s been a tough year. In May, I lost my Godmother, and in September I lost my Aunt Linda, neither to COVID. We’ve had to completely change the way we do business at my work and do everything virtually. I’ve been basically isolated and haven’t seen hardly any of my friends or people in my organization since March. Travel plans to visit London and Paris in June, including a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the Chicago Cubs play in London, were canceled. I haven’t seen my family, and now seeing them for Christmas is in jeopardy due to new COVID restrictions and outbreaks. I’ve seen people losing their jobs and a bunch of my favorite businesses and restaurants struggling and closing, including Vesta Dipping Grill and some great spots in RiNo and Five Points like Dunbar Kitchen and Tap House and Bar Helix.As another friend always says, this too shall pass. With courage, hope, good health, and fortitude, even though we are isolated, we are all in this together. I’m grateful. Stay safe and be well.”


Vicky Collins, Berkeley (11/21/20)

“2020 has been a tough year for my family. Since last Thanksgiving we have lost an entire generation. My children lost all their grandparents in six months. It wasn’t covid. It was old age. But it was still intense. For my in-laws we weren’t able to gather and celebrate their lives. We couldn’t be at their side. My husband, Darrell, passed away in December 2016, and as I look back on that time the overwhelming feeling I have is gratitude, for our lives together and also for the women I call sisters. Not just my biological ones, but the sisters I choose. These women friends have been the shoulders on which I lean. I am grateful for my sisters and step-sisters who came together to ride out the deaths in our family. Everyone did what they needed to do to help us all get through. I am grateful for my best friend, who goes back to high school days. She knows me like no other. Oh, we’ve had our challenges, but we’ve always pushed through them. There is no other option. The relationship is too important. There are my various tribes. My squad and freelance colleagues. Their regular fellowship has sustained me. They have made me think deeply, laugh until I pee, and get me out of my comfort zone. They are smart and opinionated and have the biggest hearts. In times of trouble, they organize and take care of one another. There are other sisters scattered about who have individually enriched my life. These sisters are farmers, influencers, travelers, mothers and daughters of those mothers. They are women who I would jump on a plane to see. And there are those who gave me refuge during the worst possible times. The ones you can never repay except by reminding them of how much they mean to you. Covid-19 has made these sisters even more meaningful to me. During the initial shock we all helped each other process over Zoom. In time, we started cautiously including each other back into our bubbles. Opening up our lives to those who are most essential. Now more than ever we need sisters in our lives.


Jerry Bell, Berkeley (11/20/20)

“Let’s face it 2020 has been one tough year. People have lost jobs as Covid-19 spreads. Our interactions are relegated to Zoom calls and an occasional phone call. We run out of things to watch on Netflix.Through all of this we see heroes stepping up to feed the hungry and care for the sick, often at a significant risk to their own health. So when it come to gratitude, we are thankful to the doctors and nurses who care for our Covid-19 patients in an overworked and sometimes less than ideal setting where supplies of PPE run short or where patients die without their loved ones present.We thank and express gratitude to the firefighters who risk life and limb as they fight gigantic fires fueled by drought and climate change. They do the hard work to save homes and tame the flames. We have gratitude that our friends and neighbors wear masks and do their best to help stop the spread of COVID 19.We have gratitude that record numbers of our fellow Americans cared enough about our country to vote in November.We may have our disagreements but in a free society it’s okay to disagree.Count me grateful that I live in America and call Denver my home. Denver is a vibrant, multi-cultural city where all are embraced and welcomed. I’m grateful that this year has given us a chance to look at ourselves and the things that matter to us most. It’s about love, peace, family and friendships. It’s knowing whatever travails we face we can stare them down and prevail.”


Kwon Atlas, Five Points (11/19/20)

“I am grateful to live in Five Points with such an amazing community. Raising my son here, I’ve been able to socialize him with people from all walks of life. He is a big hit at Welton Street Cafe, where he loves the cornbread. We enjoy walking to the local parks and stores. Life here is upbeat and busy like the music that defined the area during the 20th century. I am excited that the music hasn’t stopped, metaphorically, even during COVID-19, Five Points is still humming along.”


Trupti Suthar, Sunnyside (11/18/20)

“What am I grateful for? A simple question posed to me by Vicky Collins to include in her series. I tend to overanalyze, which is actually my superpower and sometimes serves me well. But my life has been so, so busy lately (which I am grateful for actually) that I didn’t have the time to indulge in this self-torture. Instead as things came to me in a word-cloud format, I decided that is the best way to narrative this. I’m grateful for the resiliency of the immigrant experience moving here from India at the age of 8 in 1976. I continue to dig deep into that well especially during times of adversity such as the current pandemic and political climate and throughout the many challenges I’ve faced.I’m grateful for my mom who at 79 is my biggest ally and inspiration. Age has taught me that it’s ok to want to grow up to be your mom. I’m grateful for this understanding.I am grateful to have had the ability to leave my corporate job because it no longer aligned with my values and instead pursue more soul-satisfying enterprises such as volunteering.I’m grateful to be living in Northwest Denver where I’ve found an amazing community with a rich and complicated history and the right balance of urban and urbane. I found a place whose reflection was familiar to me. I see duality, contrast, old, new, wealthy, struggling and most importantly the resiliency of the people who call it home. This became especially apparent during the pandemic. This pandemic forced everyone to rethink, reevaluate and reinvent. Sometimes on a daily or weekly basis. Organizations started promoting “Take-out Tuesdays” in an effort to help struggling restaurants. The restaurants while struggling to make ends meet were giving back to those who may be hungry. The community rallied around businesses who asked for help. The pandemic isn’t over and there are rough and dark roads ahead, but I am grateful to this community for showing me that when we come together for one another we will persevere.For all this I am forever truly grateful! Oh, and my dog! I am so, so grateful for my dear Zeke!”


Jessica Bombino Elliott, Sunnyside (11/17/20)

“Being a healthcare worker during a worldwide pandemic is an interesting experience, to say the least. I distinctly remember, about 2 weeks into shutdowns, commiserating with colleagues and saying “we’re ready for this to be over now”. Nine months later, it feels worse than it was then. When Vicky asked me to contribute to this feature, and to discuss what I’m thankful for (other than the obvious family and friends and health), I really had to think. I’m an ICU Physical Therapist, and after 10 years in this profession, I’ve never felt such sadness and grief as I do now. Once I sat down to really think about it, of course, there is so much I am thankful for.I’m thankful to have job security in a time when so many people and small businesses are struggling with loss of income, for an amazing supervisor that has graciously allowed me to change my schedule a half dozen times since March (as schools have closed, summer camps have shut down, schools have re-opened with different hours, only to shut down again) and for phenomenal colleagues who are equally emotionally drained, fatigued and fighting burnout in a real way, but show up every day with coffee and crass humor to help each other get through.Saying “I’m thankful for my health” has become a faux pas these days, but this is truly what I’m most thankful for. Health and independence can be fleeting. Holding my babies (don’t tell them I called them babies) tight at night, listening to their gleeful laughter and silly made up jokes (and sometimes their fighting, whining and screaming at each other) is something I try not to take for granted. Too many people are losing their ability to walk, talk and think like themselves due to critical illness or injury – they’re isolated from their families and friends due to visitor restrictions as they try to find their way back. I’m thankful to be able to hold my family.I’m grateful for our amazing teachers who are working extra long hours, dealing with stressed and confused parents, all with great patience and grace; for a community that, overall, is really trying to control this pandemic. People are wearing their masks when they go out, our local businesses are doing a phenomenal job of following all guidelines and then some (we haven’t gone out much – but I’m looking at you, TaDa and Runner’s Roost!).In desperation to find ways to connect with each other locally, it has inspired ways to connect with long distance family and friends, like “Sunday Sippers” with the in-laws, FaceTime dates with my sisters, and long runs “with” friends over AirPods. All things that we could have been doing all along, but never occurred to us until we all became isolated.”In the end, I guess my answer to the question “What am I thankful for?” is still family and friends and health. Sorry, Vicky!


Gregg Pratt, North Denver (11/16/20)

“I am incredibly grateful for the generosity and support of our North Denver community. While, Bienvenidos Food Bank has been a Northside grassroots organization since 1976, we’ve never been more connected or supported than this year. From the start of Covid-19 the people of this community stood with us to make sure that no family or person went hungry. I’ve been moved by the outreach I have received from neighbors, public officials, businesses, churches and community organizations. So many of you have checked in to see how we are doing, what you can do or share a kind note of encouragement or a donation. Many people don’t know that most of our volunteers are also food bank clients – as we’ve always valued the notion of neighbors helping neighbors. 2020 has proven without question the power of that idea. This community is filled with the most incredible people for which I couldn’t be more Thankful.”


David Sabados, Berkeley (11/15/20)

“Creating community journalism takes a community. I’m thankful to everyone who helped make The Denver North Star a success this last year.• Advertisers who choose to spend their marketing dollars in the local paper. • Members who send a yearly contribution and helped keep us publishing this summer when so many businesses were shut.• Columnists who share their time and talent writing every month.• The community members who take the time to send story ideas, encouragement, and even handwritten thank you cards.• Our small, dedicated staff who keeps the trains running on time behind the scenes.• And most importantly all of our readers.I’m thankful that in a time when people can feel isolated and disconnected that I have the opportunity to have this role in our community — a role that I hope helps keep us connected and informed.”


Judith Weaver, Whittier (11/14/20)

“2020 has been tumultuous on many levels. Maintaining positivity is a goal and nurturing has kept me on course. So grateful for foster kitties for keeping me entertained and garden for substance. Sharing the results with friends and family gives me joy and fulfillment.”


Wendy Golden, Berkeley (11/13/20)


“This year, gratitude came in small packages.This year has been full of stress and uncertainty. There have been many big topics of importance of which to keep informed…or shield ourselves from. So many decisions and sacrifices to make, but there have still been things to be grateful for no matter how small.I’ve found in most cases peace of mind came in the simplest of things. I’ve been grateful for the unconditional love of my cat, Skittles. Her purrs, and cuddles when I needed them most. A hot cup of coffee with someone in my family “pod.” A new, warm sweater I bought online on a cold night. Time to create art, read a book, talk to a friend, meditate on what’s next, or take a walk.These things may have seemed unimportant in past years when income, travel, and big events seems to take priority. However, this year they were everything. Perhaps going forward, they will seem most important and my gratitude for these small things will be all I need to feel full and complete.”


Amanda Sandoval, Denver City Council District 1 (11/12/20)

“2020 has been full of ups and downs. From staying at home during an unprecedented pandemic, feeling separated from the northside community I love due to COVID, learning to work remotely, the loss of thousands of lives, a presidential election cycle like no other, and much more. I will admit at times it has been hard to find hope but there has been glimmers of it sprinkled throughout, it just has taken a bit more work to acknowledge them.

This year and this Thanksgiving, I am especially thankful for the health and wellbeing of my family and friends. It can be easy to go day in and day out on autopilot, but subtle and everyday
reminders such as laughter, a beautiful sunset, the harvest of our summer gardens, and the smile of those I love, help me stay level and keep moving forward. 

In a year where food insecurity and financial stress have been exacerbated in our society, seeing my neighbors and friends come together to donate their time and resources to organizations serving our community has been inspiring. I am reminded of the words of Anne Lamott, “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.” Those words have come to be more than just an inspiration to myself and Denver, but a lived experience.


Jacinda Nettik Brown, Berkeley 11/11/20

“Even in a pandemic there are so many things I’m grateful for this year. 1. “Quartanteam”: My quarantine team consists of my husband, our two kids, our wonder dog, Franklin the golden retriever, and our neighbors across the street with similar-aged kids. After going pandemic life alone as a family of four with a dog for six weeks we combined with our neighbors….http://bucketlistcommunitycafe.com/…/parts-of-a…/


Ryan Brackley, Berkeley (11/10/20)

“I moved to Grand View/Berkeley in the Fall of 2019 and was just getting settled when the COVID pandemic hit. I was excited to move into the neighborhood – I was looking forward to exploring the nearby parks, coffee shops and restaurants with my new wife and her three girls who were longtime residents of the community. As a city kid, born and raised in New York City, I enjoyed the walkability of the neighborhood and the strong sense of community. I expected all of that to change when COVID hit. I remember so clearly when Governor Polis issued the first statewide stay at home order and feeling the overwhelming sense fear and uncertainty in our home and the community. I was afraid of how it would affect everything – the educations of our combined family of five children, my new solo law practice and the great quality of life that I was just starting to enjoy in North Denver. That overwhelming sense of doom did not last long. Hope and resilience joined the fear and uncertainty and we learned as a family and as community to adapt to our new reality. Our love of traveling became long walks in the neighborhood – enjoying local architecture, finding new spots and commiserating with our neighbors. School drop offs and pick ups became learning the new math and brushing up on 5th grade astronomy. Dinners out became walking to take out windows and finding a nearby bench to sit and eat. Workouts at the gym became runs with the dog around the local lakes and parks. Hanging out at coffee shops and bars became long walks around the neighborhood with thermal cups. Political views were expressed with yard signs and banners – my favorite being a nod to the foreverness of the Wu Tang Clan. Living in North Denver proved to us that resilience and hope wins out over fear and uncertainty and that no matter what’s still ahead of us in the times of COVID – we will always adapt and figure out a way to support each other, to stay strong and to thrive as a community.”


Hayley and Tina Clark-Johnson, Sunnyside (11/9/20)

“Our kids were a part of the 2020 graduating class that were so negatively impacted by Covid 19. Yet, they both went off to college in the Fall with their heads held high. Ready to go on to the next phase of their young lives with much strength and ambition. We are so grateful for that. Also, Hayley and I (along with our business partners Tina Anderson and Tasha Hunsaker) are extremely grateful that our business is thriving in this otherwise very challenging time for many people. In past years being an American manufacturer could be to say the least difficult. Now because of our commitment, our brand, American Dog, and our strong partnership with Brute Force Training, we’ve been able to keep over 100 families (and growing) employed this year. Our program allows people to work from home, in a safe environment, and still earn a living. We are very proud of the opportunity that we all have been able to create together and extremely thankful.”