Art of Social Justice
Listen & Learn
To help kick off Arts Month 2020, and acknowledge the elevated awareness and importance around topics of racial equity and social justice, the Cultural Office was pleased to collaborate with the Colorado Springs Black Business Network to present a virtual community conversation entitled “The Art of Social Justice” on Thursday, October 1st from 6-7:30PM. The session, which was live streamed on social media for hundreds of viewers, was free and open to the entire community. This event was sponsored in part by the Bee Vradenburg Foundation.
The Art of Social Justice community conversation was moderated by Rodney Gullatte, Jr. and featured a distinguished panel of local artists and arts leaders: Ashley Cornelius, Tony Exum, Jr., Lynne Hastings, and Goddess Tyescha (see biographies below). The powerful conversation was deeply honest and insightful, capitivating attendees with its wisdom and range. More conversations like this can be one part of the strategy for the change that we need to see locally and across our nation. We appreciate you being part of the solution, and look forward to you joining us!
Moderator: Rodney Gullatte
Firma IT Solutions was started by community leader and US Air Force Veteran, Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Chief Information Security Officer, Certified Network Defense Architect, Rodney Gullatte, Jr. When the job market would not cooperate in Key West, FL, he decided to take matters into his own hands and start a business. With a background in Information Technology and Cybersecurity that includes Department of Defense, retail, healthcare, casinos, utility companies and more, Rodney has developed a company that brings enterprise technology solutions to small businesses. Law firms, accounting firms, architect firms, museums, and marinas are just a few of the clients that Firma IT Solutions has transformed. From workstations and servers to cybersecurity and enterprise wireless networks, Firma IT Solutions has a wide scope of services to create data integrity and system security that all small businesses desperately need. The company started in Key West and thrived there four years before Rodney’s wife received military orders to Colorado Springs. As a leader in the Key West community, Firma IT Solutions has grown since Rodney left in August 2015 to come to Colorado Springs. Now Rodney has established himself in Colorado Springs as a member of the Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Springs Chapter of eWomen’s Network, Past-President of BNI Strategic Alliances Chapter, Cybersecurity Consultant for the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center and Board Member of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado.
His latest accomplishments are becoming a the President of the Rotary Club of Colorado Springs, Co-chair of the Southern Colorado Business Partnership, winner of Colorado Springs Business Journal Best in Business 2017 #1 Cybersecurity Company, recipient of the Colorado Springs Business Journal Rising Stars Class of 2018 award and Founder of the Colorado Springs Black Business Network which is a new startup Chamber of Commerce here in Colorado Springs. He’s the winner of Small Business Week 2019 Veteran Business Owner of the Year and is a finalist for Small Business Champion of the Year for Small Business Week 2020. Rodney leverages his multiple affiliations to help grow his sphere of influence to help others succeed. This philosophy of “Givers Gain” has brought him success in business and among the community. He believes that educating the business community about cybersecurity will help create a CyberSafe Community which is a program his company sponsors with our local Fox21 News.
Panelist: Ashley Cornelius
Ashley Cornelius is a LPCC (Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate), and is the RISE Program Assistant at Denver Health. She has her Master’s degree in International Disaster Psychology from DU. She has worked internationally in Liberia, as a psychology teacher at the University of Harper. Domestically she has worked on an adolescent inpatient psychiatric unit for the past 4 years and used poetry therapy and ACT as her therapeutic modalities. Ashley Cornelius is a nationally recognized spoken word poet in Colorado. She won Gold for the Colorado Springs Independent Best of Artist Category 2019. She was the Women of the World Poetry Slam Colorado Springs representative in 2018. She has been featured by the NAACP, TedX Colorado Springs, Voyager Denver, NAMI, Pikes Peak Community College, the Colorado Springs Women’s March, At the Ink Well, The Mercury Cafe and events in Denver and Colorado Springs. Ashley is the Co-Director of Poetry 719 a black-run poetry group in Colorado Springs that amplified the voices of marginalized communities and people of color through art and creative self-expression. Ashley has a background in poetry education and was the Program Director of an arts nonprofit in Denver focused on poetry workshops and curriculum. Ashley is committed to using poetry as a platform to speak up and out for marginalized groups, and be a voice for those who have been silenced.
Panelist: Tony Exum, Jr.
National recording artist Thomas “Tony” Exum Jr. is a contemporary jazz, R&B and funk saxophonist, songwriter and performer with a sultry and soulful sound. In 2019, Tony released his single “My Name’s Tony” receiving national airplay, charting on the Smooth Jazz Network top 100 chart for several weeks. In addition, the My Name’s Tony Spring/Summer 14 city tour, included performances at the San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival in San Diego, California, Spaghettini’s in Long Beach, California, The Soiled Dove Underground in Denver Colorado, Jazz in The Park in Prattville, Alabama and the Winter Park Jazz Festival in Winter Park Colorado to name a few.
Beyond work as a recording artist Tony has embarked on a career in radio hosting on Colorado Springs FM Station Jazz 93.5 FM with over 20 hours per week of on-air time. In addition, Tony entered a business venture in late 2019 with Kas’tell Vodka as their Global Brand Ambassador.
Panelist: Lynne Hastings
Lynne has been a part of the Colorado Springs Arts community as an actor, producer, board member and supporter for nearly 25 years. A Sierra H.S. graduate, Lynne attended Colorado State University and graduated from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC. Lynne has been recognized as Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress in the Gazette’s Best Of series. She was also recognized for her work by the Pikes Peak Arts Council in 2012 with their Best Actress award. Past performances include: A Raisin in the Sun, Happy Days, A Christmas Carol, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Seven Guitars, and Doubt at Theatreworks; Hairspray, Intimate Apparel and Little Shop of Horrors at the Fine Arts Center; and Afterlife: A Ghost Story, Motherhood Out Loud and Julius Caesar at SET.
Lynne is proud to be a part of IDEA Stages – “Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access on Stages” – an urgent new Colorado theatre initiative with a mission to “galvanize theatermakers to take demonstrable action toward inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility.”. She recently mentored a young artist for their Outspoken Youth program. This is the start of change and accountability in the Colorado theatre community, and she hopes to see more groups like IDEAS created in the Colorado arts community in support of the “We See You White American Theatre” movement. Find out more about these programs at www.ideastages.org and www.weseeyouwat.com. Lynne is also proud to be a member of the Arts Vision 2030 Cultural Planning Committee for the Pikes Peak region.
Lynne is the happy wife of actor, David Hastings, and the proud mom of Trevor and Maya.
Panelist: Goddess Tyescha
Goddess Tyescha is a community influencer who strives toward justice, in order to empower people that have been historically disenfranchised by the current structures in society. She has over 15 years of experience in local communities with youth and young adults. Originally from Harlem, New York, Tyescha has worked in Harlem and the South Bronx on campaigns with local youth focusing on Education Reform (School to Prison Pipeline and Social Justice GED), Environmental Justice (water quality and food access) and Immigration (the original Dream Act). During this time, she decided to become a formal teacher in social studies with a huge belief that “a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots” (Marcus Garvey). In addition that an educated public can make better decisions for the future. Graduating in 2013 from Fordham University with a dual Masters in Education (Social Studies 7-12 and Special Education K-12) she proceeded to build groups in High Schools to empower young people. Her last position as a formal teacher was at Liberty High School (D20) where she instructed Social Studies and Psychology. She is a proud parent, partner and friend. Working for Inside Out to create safe space for LGBTQ+ youth and building capacity with compassion and grace to eradicate racism, homophobia and the oppression of people. Goddess Tyescha has worked with NAACP, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, The Black Women’s Alliance, and multiple organizations in New York combating homelessness. Currently she is board President of The Empowerment Solidarity Network, member of the NAACP and associated with many community and arts groups (Hotcomb Poets) here in Colorado Springs.