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Interdisciplinary Research Institute for the Study of (in)Equality

Interdisciplinary Research Institute for the Study of (In)Equality

IRISE 2.0 Community Scholars 2019-2020

In response to DU IMPACT 2025 and in collaboration with the Grand Challenges Initiative, IRISE has re-envisioned its work around creating solutions to those racial equity gaps in education, health, income, housing, and employment that persist throughout the state and region. Specifically, in a campus-wide effort for DU to have a collective impact on reducing racial disparities in Colorado, IRISE has begun to direct its resources to align and collaborate with others around the state who are interested in investing in solutions to close racial equity gaps in Colorado and the larger Rocky Mountain West.

As part of this work, IRISE is supporting 3 community-based practitioners working in the fields of racial equity in health and/or education. This program, in coordination with other IRISE initiatives,  expands the university's ability to work at the racial and political borderlands between and within historically marginalized communities to effectuate meaningful social inclusion.   

We are pleased to announce our 2019-2020 Community Scholars! 


Hasira "Soul" Ashemu

Hasira "Soul" Ashemu; born and raised in Northeast Denver, an East Angel graduate, receiving his college degree from the HBCU Howard University and later traveling the world where he would spend a decade of his life living in Africa raising his family in Ghana. Married to his African Queen Dawnyle Ashemu, he is known as Baba to four intellectually brilliant, artistic and humorous children; Maaja, Aingkhu, Chayse and Saari (with the oldest two enrolled in college). Hasira is a prolific writer, speaker, facilitator, communications professional who has been using his talents, experience and skills to create and support stimulating, engaging and innovative community initiatives that usher in social change. In addition, he has worked in the non-profit and governmental sectors in the United States and five African nations.

Known as "H-Soul" by his harshest critics and beloved community; Hasira is a Community Organizer dedicated to the pursuit for social, equity, and education justice for society's most vulnerable children; Black, Brown, Indigenous, Special Needs and those living in poverty. Hasira "Soul" Ashemu is the founder and executive director/co-director of two grassroots organizations; #BreakingOurChains and #OurVoiceOurSchools respectively. Both organizations originated in Colorado and have built strong local and national platforms. The quote that pumps revolution through his veins and social justice in and out of his lungs is derived from Assata Shakur, "It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains."

daniel kim

Daniel Kim, PhD

Daniel Kim is a social justice organizer and advocate based in the Denver area. He has served as the Director of Youth Organizing at Padres & Jóvenes Unidos, a grassroots educational justice & immigrant rights organization in Denver, where he led Padres' landmark campaign to End the School-to-Jail Track, taking on the racist push-out and criminalization of youth of color in Colorado's public schools and implementing restorative justice. Daniel was trained as an organizer by the Labor/Community Strategy Center. He has been a movement organizer for more than 18 years, organizing in schools and neighborhoods, on college campuses, and on the buses of Los Angeles to build the power of working-class communities of color to transform society. From 2002-2008 he was a faculty member of the English Department at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He recently served as Chief of Staff for the Division of Student Equity & Opportunity in Denver Public Schools, one of the largest central administration divisions, which houses Special Education, Gifted & Talented Education, School Psychological and Social Work Services, and School Nursing Services. He has two children in Denver Public Schools.

Steven Yazzie

Steven Yazzie

Steven J. Yazzie (Navajo) is a multi-discipline artist working with video, painting, sculpture and installation environments. His professional career spans a long exhibition list of national and international institutions, most notably at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; National Museum of the American Indian, New York, NY; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada; the Museum of Contemporary Native Art, Santa Fe, NM. As a director of video and film production, he brings implicit technical and creative skillsets from the visual arts into new forms of dynamic and meaningful storytelling. As a Native artist and practitioner, and owner of Digital Preserve Production Company, his multidisciplinary art expertise is focused on leveraging Indigenous issues and voices. As an IRISE Community Scholar, he is addressing issues of inequality through the multiple mediums. Among developing connections with the DU IRISE community, he is also working with Drs. Ramona Beltrán and Debora Ortega on the Our Stories, Our Medicine Archive (OSOMA) project to direct video production and aesthetic development of the archive. He is bridging the art/science divide by bringing different eyes to health, education, and social outcomes in Indigenous communities and is teaching the OSOMA team how to use different lenses (literally and figuratively) to explore, excavate, and represent these issues. (photo credit: Mark Woolcott)