Black Leaders Recommend These Books And More For White Coloradans

June 2, 2020
George Floyd Denver Protest Day 3George Floyd Denver Protest Day 3Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Denver protests over the death of African American George Floyd at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer entered a third day Saturday, May 30, 2020.

On day six of protests in Colorado over the death of George Floyd and police brutality, Colorado Matters asked five black leaders in the state about the books or works of art that have shaped them and that they’d recommend during this moment in America. 

Here’s how they answered.


Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Theo Wilson during Shop Talk Live at Montbello Barbers on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015.

Theo Wilson, poet and actor

Wilson chose “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” by Joy DeGruy, which explores her titular theory about intergenerational trauma in black communities from slavery.

“There's a discussion going on in the country right now about inherited trauma, but it often doesn't look at white inherited trauma,” Wilson said. “Because what happens is the quote-unquote victory in the war for conquest costs you something. And what it cost was the ability to confront the bodies beneath the floor of this empire.

“And every time we say black lives matter, that's a telltale heart knocking at the floorboards of America," he continued. "Every time we say, I need your help, it is interpreted as a war cry because you haven't removed the plank from your eye.”

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Murphy Robinson, executive director of the Denver Department of Public Safety, speaks during the opening of a new mass testing facility for COVID-19 at the Pepsi Center. May 21, 2020.

Murphy Robinson, director of Denver’s Department of Public Safety

Robinson, who officially took over the city department just last month, picked not just one piece of art, but an entire historical collection. Robinson said he’s been to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., four times.

“It highlights the struggle in which we have faced for generations,” he said. 

He also recommends asking people of color a question: What is their life like? 

“What is the experience as a person of color, and start to understand the people around you,” Robinson said. “And I think that'll make all the difference in your own life and how you can be more of an advocate for people like me.” 

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Democratic State Rep. Leslie Herod (left) and Elisabeth Epps (right) after a bill signing in 2019 at the Colorado Capitol.

Elisabeth Epps, of the Colorado Freedom Fund 

The anti-jail activist gave two recommendations, both by author and activist Mikki Kendall: “Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women's Fight for Their Rights” and “Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot.”

Democratic state Rep. Leslie Herod

Herod’s pick is Elisabeth Epps’ Twitter feed.

"You want to know what's going on in the heart of black people today? I think it's important to follow our leaders who are speaking out," Herod said.

She also recommended that readers check out Adrian Miller’s “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine One Plate at a Time.”  

Courtesy of Adrian Miller
Author Adrian Miller, left, in the White House kitchen with presidential kitchen steward Adam Collick in 2015.

Adrian Miller, soul food scholar and executive director of the Colorado Council on Churches 

Miller picked two books. 

The first, “From Sundown to Sunup: The Making of the Black Community" by George Rawick, is a compilation of testimonies from African Americans in the 1930s who were enslaved as children. 

The second is "The History of White People" by Nell Irvin Painter, which Miller said, "really just chronicles this idea of how whiteness is an artificial thing."