Westword Apologizes for "Armed and Dangerous" Cover | Westword

Westword Apologizes for "Armed and Dangerous" Cover

Youth violence is an important story. Our illustration failed this story and our community. We apologize, and have a plan to ensure it never happens again.
The replacement image on our youth violence story.
The replacement image on our youth violence story. Getty Images
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Every week, the Letters to the Editor column in the print edition of Westword features comments about recent stories. This time, we're sharing them online, too, because these letter writers have an important message: Westword failed our community.

They're absolutely right. Keep reading for two of the letters sent to Westword regarding the cover of our March 28 issue (there were many more comments across social media), as well as our response.


We cannot begin to express our extreme anger and disappointment that the “Armed and Dangerous” cover was published by your team, and how we feel this cover is a disgusting perpetuation of a narrative that promotes the slaying by law enforcement of Black children in and outside of our community. This cover perpetuates the narrative that Black children are dangerous and should be feared by our community, which is exactly the type of thinking that led to the demise of Elijah McClain and a plethora of other young Black people who were murdered by police.

We are heartbroken that we feel the need to include below a non-exhaustive list of names of Black children who were murdered at the hands of law enforcement:

Kadarius Smith, 17 years old, killed March 21, 2024
Terrell Miller, 4 years old, killed March 16, 2024
Vernard Tony Jr., 13 years old, killed October 28, 2023
Dhal Pothwi, 17 years old, killed September 6, 2023
Lueth Mo, 15 years old, killed September 6, 2023
Delaneo Martin, 17 years old, killed March 18, 2023
Nasanto Antonio Crenshaw, 17 years old, killed August 21, 2022
Brett Rosenau,15 years old, killed July 7, 2022
Cedric Lofton, 17 years old, killed September 24, 2021
Fanta Bility, 8 years old, killed August 27, 2021
La’mello Parker, 3 months old, killed May 3, 2021
Angelo Crooms, 16 years old, killed November 13, 2020
Kwame Jones, 17 years old, killed January 5, 2020
Isaiah Lewis, 17 years old, killed April 29, 2019
Michael Elam Jr., 17 years old, killed February 16, 2019.

We are urging you to please consider the negative impact that this cover has on the community that you live in, specifically your Black and Brown audience and neighbors. As avid consumers and promoters of the Westword brand, we hope you understand how heartbreaking to us it is that this cover was created, approved and published by your team. We sincerely hope you take the time to reevaluate this and understand the mistake you have made.
- Khalil Sellers and Raina Madrid, Denver


I am here to advocate for our BIPOC community in Denver. The recent cover image is harmful, racist, anti-Black and just plain wrong. We are no longer in the Dark Ages. We now are aware and educated on the damage such propaganda and images have on public perception. It is like advertising specifically for Black people for anti-psychotics during the ’60s, when the Black community was targeted, gaslighted and oppressed by being overdiagnosed and institutionalized with schizophrenia for having “delusions of the system oppressing them.”

I am highly disappointed in Westword’s racist image directly on the front cover. It’s gross. The damage is done. But amends are still helpful to the BIPOC community. We all make mistakes; it is what we do moving forward that matters.
I challenge Westword to do better and be better.
- Abbie Kelley, Denver

We hear you, and we will do better. Our intention with “Armed and Dangerous” was to offer a deep dive into the crime stats, going below the surface to report on how challenges facing youth today could account for the rise in youth violence. From the comments we’ve received, our reporter captured the situation accurately. But our cover did not, and for that we apologize wholeheartedly to the BIPOC community, and the community at large.

Our concept was to use a figure of a young boy not tied to any specific race, but the final version clearly did not accomplish that. This illustration was an ignorant miss from the start, and I deeply regret allowing it to proceed. Again, we apologize for a major mistake that created harm and hurt.

So, moving forward, we are taking the unprecedented step of replacing that image in the online version of the story, which we think is important to keep available online. We are also improving our internal systems by having more voices included in the approval process, to make sure that our covers (and all illustrations, for that matter) accurately and fairly depict the stories.

And finally, through stronger outreach efforts, we will bring more diverse voices to
Westword. If you are interested in contributing as a freelance artist or writer, or simply adding to the conversation, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].

In the meantime, the Colorado Black Round Table is hosting a Youth Violence Prevention Collaboration Meeting from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 20, at the Zion Senior Center, 5151 East 33rd Avenue.For more information, contact John Bailey at [email protected].
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