Alfonzo Porter, Denver Urban Spectrum editor-in-chief, has died
“He was a compassionate brother and he wanted to see what’s best for our community.”
Alfonzo Porter wrote for the Denver Urban Spectrum‘s very first issue in April, 1987, but it’d be more than 30 years before he’d return to the publication. Back then, he was finishing a bachelor’s degree at Metro State University of Denver. When he became editor-in-chief for Urban Spectrum in 2018, he was teaching the next generation of journalists at his alma mater.
“It’s gone full circle for him,” founder and publisher Rosalind “Bee” Harris told us, adding that the things Porter held dear made him a perfect as a professor, a newsman and a community advocate. “He was about social justice, he was about racial equality, he supported the African American community. He wanted this to be a better place. He wanted this to be a better world, and that’s what he was striving for. He never said no.”
He unexpectedly died at his home on March 12. He was 60 years old.
Porter was deeply embedded in Denver’s civic life.
He left Denver after graduating from MSU and earned a Master’s in education policy from Ohio State University. Before he returned to Colorado, he worked as a school administrator in Maryland and founded a publishing company, Vertex Learning LLC, which specializes in educational materials.
Once back in Denver, it didn’t take long for Porter’s influence to spread across town. As he taught and oversaw monthly issues of Urban Spectrum, he got involved with the Colorado Black Round Table, a collection of residents and business owners pushing for social equity, and the Coalition Against Global Genocide, which works to address systemic violence and disenfranchisement at the local and international levels.
John Bailey, founder and “lead convener” of the Black Round Table, said he met Porter at an event and quickly realized he was someone to keep close.
“We became really close friends,” he said. “He was a good bother and he was a compassionate brother and he wanted to see what’s best for our community.”
Bailey described Porter as “a very smart teddy bear” who brought all of himself to every occasion. Bailey often tapped Porter to moderate and speak in panel discussions about community issues. Porter’s journalistic mind, Bailey said, made him a perfect addition.
“He had that insight. He knew what questions to ask,” he said. “He was concerned about his students down at Metro. He was concerned about the people in the community where he lived.”
Bailey and Porter were active in discussions about social equity in Colorado’s cannabis industry, an outgrowth of Porter’s Blizzy Magazine, which he founded in 2020 as a publication for Black cannabis consumers.
Roz Dillard worked with Porter at the Coalition Against Global Genocide. Like Bailey, she recognized Porter as someone she needed in her orbit. Together, they worked to highlight rising hate crimes against Asian Denverites during the pandemic and educate people across the nation about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
“As an African American, he was very, very involved with making sure his people were treated well,” she told us. “But the beauty of Alfonzo was that was not his only priority. His priority was justice for all people, and we talked about this so many times.”
Friends, colleagues and students have been sharing stories of love and remembrance.
Porter’s Facebook page is filled with tributes.
“He was an amazing teacher and all around great guy,” one person wrote.
“You were more than our teacher, more than a mentor, you were our friend! You were my friend and I’m going to miss you dearly,” wrote another.
“I have profound gratitude for all the lessons you taught me,” someone else posted.
Dudley Thurmond was one of the many who called Porter a mentor. The pair met soon after Porter returned to Denver, when Thurmond wanted to become an author and public speaker. Porter decided to recruit him into his speakers bureau.
“It just evolved into a friendship and a hands-on mentorship,” Thurmond said. “We really took to each other.”
With Porter’s help, Thurmond did become an author, publishing “The Recipe for Resilience: How to Overcome Life’s Obstacles” through Porter’s Vertex publishing house. Thurmond said he saw that resilience in Porter, and expects it was central to the values he brought to all of his relationships.
“Every time I wanted to quit in speaking, he was always the one that’d call me and say, ‘Stick it out,'” he remembered. “Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Stay persistent. Carry yourself accordingly. Speak and write what you’re passionate about.”
Bee Harris, Denver Urban Spectrum’s publisher, said she’s heard from former students since news broke of Porter’s death.
“I really didn’t understand the depth of his reach with the community, because there have been a couple of students who called the office in tears,” she told us.
Harris added she’s not sure if and when her publication will replace Porter as editor. Urban Spectrum’s operations are going through a transition, and, for now, they’re waiting to see how things pan out.