When Rosalind “Bee” Harris launched the Denver Urban Spectrum 33 years ago, she couldn’t begin to imagine the impact her newspaper would have on the community or her own life. Today, Bee and the paper are still going strong, finding ever new ways to lift stories of people of color and providing them with a platform for change-making and building and conveying passions and dreams.
For Bee, journalism was a mechanism to fill a gap—the lack of positive stories about Black and Brown people in Metro Denver. But she quickly realized another huge gap—equitable opportunities for journalists of colors. At that realization, her wheels, as they always do, got to turning.
Bee founded the Urban Spectrum Youth Foundation more than 20 years ago to provide youth aged 13 through 17 an opportunity to learn about the elements of journalism. Through a seven-week summer journalism camp, participants would learn the ins and outs of the business and produce a newspaper as their culminating activity. “My involvement and the purpose of the Urban Spectrum Youth Foundation was laying the groundwork for the many participants to find their passion and fulfill their dreams,” Bee says. “Several of them have gone on to develop a career in journalism and work as media professionals. I will always treasure the relationships established and how many of them have become successful.”
Highlighting strong women
Bee has always used the Urban Spectrum to highlight the stories of strong women. A stand-out, of the hundreds of profiles in the archives, is a story of a woman who, in 1999, was subjected to domestic violence. She was shot by her husband, and rendered paralyzed for life as a result. “Having a platform such as the Spectrum means you are obligated to raise awareness about issues, like domestic violence, that greatly impact our community,” Bee says.
Another story near and dear to Bee is of Essie Garrett, African American ultra-marathon runner who raised millions of dollars for multiple causes yet died penniless and alone. Her story, “Reflections of a Superhero in Our Midst,” is one of an extraordinary woman that few other publications shared. “All women deserve to be seen and heard,” Bee says.
Leading community outreach
The impact of the Urban Spectrum has reached far beyond words on the printed page. When she is not publishing the stories of others and helping the youth discover their passions through journalism, Bee is taking the lead in community outreach projects. One key example is when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and surrounding areas in 2005. As a response, Bee quickly mobilized her extensive network and the influence of the Spectrum to support the many individuals and families who were relocated to Denver in the wake of the devastation. An array of support was provided from financial to spiritual to housing and food through an all-day fund-raising event called “Spectrum of Hope.”
While the world is enduring the many challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Bee has once again designed a mechanism to provide support and tapped her vast networks to help the community push through. Through a new platform, “Urban Spectrum Now,” she presented a virtual panel discussion featuring African American experts across the spectrum of fields, each addressing COVID-19 from their perspectives. The first one-hour segment aired in early May 2020 and is available on YouTube.
Age is no impediment for Bee Harris
Mother to two sons and grandmother to two young men, Bee finally got a girl! Her great-granddaughter, Desiree, was born this year, the day before Mother’s Day. This occurrence, in no way, means she’ll be slowing down, though. She says she can’t wait to get her feet back on the ground and running, once the COVID-19 crisis is over. “I’ve got several projects I want to realize before my time on this earth is fully up,” she shares. After all, she doesn’t see age as an impediment to achieving even the most challenging of goals. Her inspiration? None other than Daddy Bruce Randolph, another of Colorado’s key figures who started a restaurant at the age of 63 and organized Thanksgiving dinner giveaways each year, feeding thousands in need well into his 90s. In her own words, “If you have the strength in your body, the capability of your mind, and force in your heart, go for it! Whatever “it” is. It may be your destiny, and nothing can stop what God has planned for you.”
Angelle Fouther and Daryn Fouther
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