By Chanel Ward
Dr. Justina L. Ford pioneered, as the first female, African-American physician in Colorado and on February 21st, a mural dedicated in her honor was unveiled at the corner of 27th and Welton Street in Denver, CO. Award-winning artist, Max Sansing depicted the legacy of Dr. Ford through a warm use of colors and a softness in the portrait that really embodies the spirit of Dr. Ford, spanning across the entire south side of the U.S. Bank building in the Historic Five Points neighborhood.
“I think unfortunately, oftentimes we forget about the people whose shoulders we stand on to bring us to this moment. If you think about Dr. Justina Ford, she had several strikes against her; one, she was a woman, two, she was Black, and third, she chose an unusual profession for someone who was a woman and Black at the time.”
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock
Dr. Ford not only broke barriers and shattered ceilings, she exceeded in her field, delivering over 7,000 babies over a half-century, not only concentrating on pregnancy and childbirth [obstetrics] but also practiced pediatrics and gynecology, all of which she did out of her home, that is now the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center. Originally located on 2335 Arapahoe St., Dr. Justina Ford’s home of 40 years now remains on 3091 California St. where it was saved from demolition in 1984. Her home will forever be dedicated to remembering the legacy of the first Black female doctor in Colorado, by the family’s lives she touched and now passersby of the mural dedicated to her honor in the Five Points neighborhood.
Kevin Paterson, CEO for Connect for Health Colorado, began the ceremony with opening remarks and introduced Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and District 9 Councilwoman CdeBaca.
“I think unfortunately, oftentimes we forget about the people whose shoulders we stand on to bring us to this moment,” said Mayor Hancock. “If you think about Dr. Justina Ford, she had several strikes against her; one, she was a woman, two, she was Black and third, she chose an unusual profession for someone who was a woman and Black at the time.”
The Mayor presented the Gold Coin, Denver’s highest honor, to Daphne Rice-Allen, the Chair of the Black-American West Museum and Heritage Center. “We wanted to celebrate the gems, the diamonds, the jewels, the pearls of our community, folks who have paid the price for all of us,” the Mayor added, before calling on Rice-Allen to receive the Coin.
Councilwoman CdeBaca, whose district the mural now calls home, spoke to the crowd saying, “Welcome to a beautiful day in District 9, I see a lot of Black and Brown faces amongst us, and amongst our own, we say that everyday is Black History Month.”
“Today it’s super important for us, more than ever, to be reclaiming our history and legacy in places in communities where we laid the foundation for what they have become,” added CdeBaca.
CEO of Lambe PR, Sylvia Lambe played a crucial role in organizing the event. “I lent my PR Services to the Black American West Museum where I started off actually as a volunteer at the museum and then I started going to some of the board meetings and recognizing that the museum had lots of potential,” said Lambe.
“That was last Black History Month, and since then I’ve helped them raise money; a $150,000 grant they got last year was encouraging people to vote. So, not only using traditional media, using social media as well and when this event came up, I thought it was a great opportunity to recognize her [Dr. Ford] living legacies — the embodiment.” Lambe added, “I did a call to action media campaign and from the back of that, my phone has been ringing off the hook and now my spreadsheet is about 50 strong, all of the people that were delivered by Dr. Justina Ford or were former patients of Dr. Justina Ford.”
And her call to action was a success, because over twenty Ford babies and or patients of Dr. Ford were present for the official photograph in front of the mural.
“Each of them are going to get a digital copy of the photo so they have it for posterity,” said Lambe.
“I’m looking to do a documentary after this in order to memorialize their stories for oral history and it’s Dr. Justina Ford’s 150th birthday in January, so I’m hoping that documentary will be a recognition of her, and a dedication, and a present to her,” Lambe explained on what’s to come.
The mural was commissioned by Connect for Health Colorado who also hosted the dedication, partnered with the Black American West Museum and US Bank.
If you are someone you know was delivered by, or was a patient of Dr. Ford, please reach out to Sylvia Lambe at Sylvia@LambePR.com, or call her directly at (720) 276-3880.
Chanel Ward is an Independent Reporter for The Weekly Issue/El Semanario.
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