Local History Thursday: African American Activist Antonio Clark

Antonio Clark has already accomplished much as a young man. He was a standout football player for Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver. He also played cornerback for the Colorado Mesa University football team, and became the first person in his family to graduate from college. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment, though, came as a community organizer in Grand Junction after the death of George Floyd in 2020. He describes this activism in his recent oral history interview with the Social Justice Archive (housed in the 970West Digital Archive at Mesa County Libraries).

In the aftermath of Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police officers on May 25, 2020, protests erupted all over the nation in protest of police brutality. Grand Junction also saw social justice protests and Clark played a key part in that movement.

Both Clark and his friend Jay Freeman had experienced and witnessed racism as students and football players at CMU. In the days immediately following Floyd’s death, they knew they had to do something to challenge the racial climate in Grand Junction and to counter African American treatment at the hands of police. Clark, Freeman, and a contingent of other African Americans decided to block off North Avenue in order to gain notice for their cause, even as other peaceful protests went on just up the street. The next day, they met with longtime activist Shannon Robinson and others to form the group Right & Wrong.

Right & Wrong held several marches and events, including the now locally-famous march on Grand Junction’s City Hall on June 3, 2020. During the protest, Freeman delivered the demands of the local African-American community, asking for changes in education, the creation of a community oversight community, partnering with police to end harassment, and the removal of Walter Walker’s name from the Colorado Mesa University soccer field.

Beginning with the removal of Walker’s name (Walker was the editor of the Daily Sentinel and a local philanthropist, but also the founding member of Grand Junction’s Ku Klux Klan in the 1920’s), these demands are now in the process of being met through task forces formed by the city, local police, community activists and others. Right & Wrong has much to do with that achievement.

Today, Clark works as a journalist for local radio station KREX, but he does not see his activist career as behind him. He would like to return someday to Denver, where he would practice community organizing in Denver’s African-American community and continue his career in journalism. Listen to Clark’s description of his life and activism, and to other interviews in the Social Justice Archive that document this important movement for racial justice.


Posted in 970West, General, Local History.

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