Have You Met?

The lady has staying power! Barbara Shannon-Banister has worked for the City of Aurora in the Community Relations Division for 25 years. With her generous spirit, she’s also found time to create several non-profit organizations that aid many who are part of the underserved in our community.

In the late 80’s, Barbara co-founded the Metro Community Provider Network (MCPN), which provides excellent medical care at no cost to families who have limited or no access to health care.

In 1994, Barbara Shannon-Banister started “Grand Design, Inc.” a 501 (c) (3) non-profit which is dedicated to preserving and keeping alive, primarily the performing arts of African Americans by coordinating various educational projects and performances.

Mrs. Shannon-Banister was responsible for bringing the Aurora Branch of the NAACP to Colorado, and she is now starting a program with a friend that will provide hats to church women who may not own or be able to afford hats. Barbara has also been involved with the DCPA’s annual event: “Women With Hattitude” which raises money for the “Women’s Voices Fund.”

In addition to all of her ground-breaking charitable work, Barbara has traveled throughout six different continents and says: “There isn’t another place I’d rather live than Colorado.”

Barbara has been a fervent crusader and champion for the African American community. Her commitment – and voice - has always been given to the poor and disadvantaged.

On the ‘Metro Community Provider Network’ website, there is a photo of Barbara Shannon-Banister with a quote from her saying: “Nobody’s chomping at the bit to help people who need help.” This fascinating, to be cherished, women has given issues like this her full attention and has blazed trails to speak for the voiceless, and - one person at a time - help them to build a better life.

Barbara, what non-profits are you involved with at this time? MCPN - Metropolitan Community Provider Network (of which I am a co-founder); Aurora Community Mental Health Center; Grand Design, Inc.; The Urban League Of Metro Denver; The Aurora Branch of the NAACP (which I started); Black Employees for a Better Aurora (BEFABA); National Association of Human Right Workers; & Project Heritage.

What is a charitable event you really look forward to attending each year? “The Green Tie Event” sponsored by MCPN.

Tell us about the program you and your friend are starting to make hats available to church women who may not own hats? My friend C Jay Smith and I would like to make hats available to ladies who don't own hats, who don't realize the joy of wearing a chapeau to church. Many of us have so many hats, if we wore one each Sunday, we still would not have worn all our hats, and no one has come up with a way for us to share and or exchange hats. There is something Biblically, in Corinthians 1:5, to be said for why southern women always wore hats to church; besides that being the only place women could really dress up in the segregated south. And besides...when you're going to worship the King, shouldn't you look like a queen?

What is your fondest childhood memory? Going to my grandmother’s and aunt’s house to spend the weekend, and there was a bakery near by where they baked hot glazed donuts at a certain time on Saturday evening. I remember going to the bakery and buying the donuts and sitting on the steps and eating a dozen hot glazed donuts. It was the safest, coziest feeling eating those donuts. (laugh)

What was your life like when you lived in New Orleans? I had a very good life in New Orleans. We were a middle class family; my Father was a business many and my Mother a teacher. I grew up in a Christian home and was pointed towards the arts at an early age. I am told I sang my first solo, “The Holy City” when I was about four years old. We took vacations outside the south, and that's when I realized, segregation did not exist for all people.

Have you been back to New Orleans since the Katrina Disaster? What is life like there now? No, I have not been back. My family there says, not to come back just yet because there is nothing to do...extended services do not exist - just bare necessities. Only three of our displaced family units have returned to NO - the rest are still scattered around the states.

How does the future for New Orleans look to you? My niece’s daughter who is a teacher in NO, only returned to fulfill her requirement of a few more years until retirement. She is looking to relocate as soon as that is accomplished. She and her family lived in Houston for over a year. Naturally, New Orleans cannot be the same as it was. I think it will come back as a major tourist attraction - but that will be a slow progression.

What do you think is the greatest problem we have in this country today? Health Care for the underserved.

The statistics show that women make up a disproportionate share of the poor in this world, what can be done about this? Make sure all professions, skills, trades, jobs are open to women. Make sure women can command the same wage for the same occupation as men.

What can we do to instill the best values in our young people today? We need to set a better example. We need to make sure they are not exposed to the jaded value systems on TV, in politics, in the church. We've got to stand up for what is right for us and for them. We are directly responsible for how our young view the world.

What do you consider your proudest accomplishment? Being named “Woman of the Year” by the Aurora Chamber of Commerce in 1984.

How does going out and wearing a hat and gloves make you feel? It makes me feel dressed up. It makes me feel like a lady...not a woman...but a lady.

You believe every woman should wear a “beautiful headdress” now and again? Why? What can this do for their self esteem? I had two standard white poodles, one male and one female. When I would get them back from the groomer, I think they knew they looked good and smelled good; and they acted proud and haughty. All humans, I think possess an inner beauty...but not all of us possess an outer beauty by society's measurements. Some of us need more adornment than others to feel beautiful. That's what the headdress does for ladies - it can make us all equal. The focus is on the adornment, giving us pride, status and promoting high self-esteem.

What do you like to do for fun? I like to travel, and I like to dance.

What never fails to make you laugh? A good comedy show like Frasier.

What do you love most about Colorado? I love the weather, I love the snow, I love the arts, I love the open spaces. There is no other place on earth I would rather be.

What would be a dream come true for you? I want my performing arts company (Grand Design, Inc.) to become a million dollar non-profit with a performing arts building in Aurora.

On your voicemail message, it sounds like you speak several languages, what are they? I know a little French and a little Spanish. In my diverse community, and the position I hold in my day job, I want other to know that I try hard to understand other languages as others try hard to understand English.

What advice do you wish you were given years ago that you would like to share with a young person today? “Lean not to your own understanding - be led by God.” (I was taught this, but I did not listen.) Accept mentoring and advice from those who have traveled the road.

Do you have a motto or some “words to live by? ”Luke 12:48” - The short version: Much is given and much is required.

What mark do you hope to leave on this world? That all I've done - and will do - will make a difference in the lives of the “least” of us, and the “most” of us will follow suit and do the same. I hope my light will continue to shine, long after I have departed this dimension.