Voice: The Rev. Leon Kelly

The Rev. Leon Kelly is an anti-gang activist in Denver.

“…Blacks are feeling powerless. The lack of community breeds lack of success. If there’s no strength in the community that leads to failure.”

Rev. Leon Kelly, executive director of the Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives.

Marc Piscotty

Rev. Leon Kelly, executive director of the Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives.

“Churches and schools were major parts of our foundation. We knew everybody who lived on our block. We had reverence for Mom and Dad and family. Now there’s a lack of reverence. Moms have become surrogate dads for the kids…Twenty years ago, even gangsters had respect for the ‘hood’ and their grandparents. Now the attitude is, ‘I don’t care.’

“For decades, Curtis Park and Five Points were the undisputed heart of Denver’s black community. But today, those neighborhoods have been replaced by upscale homes and condos owned by whites.

“In east Denver, the predominantly black neighborhood bordered by Bruce Randolph Avenue and 26th Avenue to the north and south, and Downing Street and Colorado Boulevard to the west and east, has no major grocery stores, no shopping centers, no nothing. When we had those things it helped develop the glue that held the community together.

“Blacks are feeling powerless. The lack of community breeds lack of success. If there’s no strength in the community that leads to failure.

“We kids had no say whether we wanted to go to church. Some of my peers would say, ‘I’m not going to make my kids go to church.’ Now we see the repercussions of those liberties.

“Many of today’s black youth don’t know their cultural roots or even the relatively recent history of the Civil Rights movement. Prior to the 1960s, we as a people were trying to figure out who we were. We went from Niggers, to Negros, to Coloreds to Blacks, to African Americans. James Brown came along in the late 1960s and came up with, ‘Say it Loud: I’m Black and I’m Proud.’ We finally felt we had an identity.

“A lot of our kids now are left to figure out who we are again.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *