The story of the Black 14 started in 1969 when a group of black football players at the University of Wyoming decided to wear black armbands to take a stand against racism during a football game with Brigham Young University. At that time, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) believed that African Americans could not ascend into the priesthood. The University of Wyoming football coach kicked the players off of the team prior to the BYU game.
“We had no idea what to do. We were 14 kids that were turned into adults in five minutes,” said John Griffin, a member of the Black 14 and a Catholic who now lives in Denver. “But we quickly came to realize that we should put the past away and find a way to turn tragedy into triumph.
More than 50 years later, Griffin, Catholic Charities of Denver, the LDS Church, the Salvation Army and a number of other organizations have partnered to distribute food in the Denver area. As a part of their Mind, Body and Soul Initiative, the remaining Black 14 members living in states across the country have also brought food and supplies to nearly a dozen under–served communities.
“This isn’t about the Black 14. This is about doing the right thing,” Griffin shared with a crowd gathered around pallets of food being unloaded on Nov. 15, 2022, at the Salvation Army Emergency Services Center in Aurora. “I’m so thankful for the relationships we’ve created over the past three years of working together.”
Catholic Charities of Denver and other area organizations who feed the hungry moved quickly to distribute 45,000 pounds of food to shelters and area food banks as families face uncertainty and tighter budgets amid rising food costs this holiday season.
“I thank God every day for the relationships and partnerships we have across the state,” said Darren Walsh, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Denver. “We are so grateful to work with the amazing Black 14, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Denver Rescue Mission, the Salvation Army and a host of other amazing partners who are strong, equally determined and mission-driven to serve our neighbors across Colorado.”
“The 24 pallets of food and diapers will be shared all throughout Colorado,” said Mark Hahn, director of volunteer and community engagement for Catholic Charities. “It’s an instant shot in the arm of support at a time when it can be really stressful and hard to come up with the daily necessities to help feed your family.”
Griffin, who went on to graduate from the University of Wyoming and hold leadership positions during his career with The Brand Company and United Airlines, shared his gratitude for this opportunity for reconciliation with the LDS Church that enabled him to positively impact the community.
“We could have been negative about it forever,” Griffin said. “But we chose a different route. We chose to give back.”
More than 1,400 cases were included in the 24 pallets of food and diapers and will be distributed to nearly 1,000 families through Catholic Charities’ ministries including The Little Flower Assistance Center in Aurora, Archdiocesan Housing, Samaritan House, Marisol Family locations and Marisol Homes. Other local community partners that will receive food include Christ in the City, Risen Christ Catholic Parish, St. Bernadette Food Outreach, St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Parish, Salvation Army, Denver Rescue Mission, St. Augustine Community Food Pantry in Brighton, Twin Parishes Food Bank, Community Ministry and Struggle of Love Foundation.