by Chet Hardin
On Feb. 2, Rosemary Harris Lytle, president of the Colorado Springs branch of the NAACP and communications director for the state ACLU, will be honored by Citizens Project with its eighth annual Divine Award.
According to Citizen Project executive director Kristy Milligan, Harris Lytle is being honored for her ability to bring together "diverse organizations to ensure sustainable change."
Further, she has distinguished herself, says Milligan, as "an outspoken advocate on the disproportionate rate of incarceration of people of color."
As it's the 20th anniversary of Citizens Project, they will also be giving two special awards, the Divine Organization Award and a Legacy Award.
The organization that they have chosen to honor with the former award is the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado. "With the departure of the Gay and Lesbian Fund, we just want to send a very clear message that we appreciate their contributions in the region," Milligan says.
The Legacy Award will be given to Sharon Berthrong, an education advocate and a civic leader who was run numerous campaigns and ballot initiatives.
Read Berthrong and Harris Lytle's bios below.
Rosemary Harris Lytle has been a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People since she was 16 years old and a writing contest award winner of the Gary (IN) Branch NAACP where she first began advocating for civil rights and social justice. As a college student at Ball State University, she served as the President of the Ball State University Black Student Union while juggling her studies in journalism and a 20- hour a week job as copy editor at the award winning Ball State Daily News
Rosemary was a founder of the Tampa, Florida Association of Black Journalists and later served as President of the Central Florida Association of Black Journalists and Broadcasters. In the early 90s, Rosemary was elected to the National Board of Directors of NABJ, the National Association of Black Journalists.
In 2004, after leaving her job as a column writer for The Gazette in Colorado Springs, she went to the Colorado Springs Branch NAACP her volunteerism led to her election as Branch Secretary, a position she served in for two years. She was elected First Vice President of the Branch and assumed the Presidency in June 2005. Rosemary has also served as co-Press and Publicity Chair for the State Conference and has led the Branch in seven successful Freedom Fund Gala events. Rosemary has attended eight national conventions to ensure that the Colorado Springs Branch had a voice at the national level.
An award-winning journalist and media strategist with more than 20 years’ experience in journalism and communications, Rosemary helped lead the civic journalism movement at America’s daily newspapers. She is the recipient of numerous honors for newspaper writing, including Colorado AP Reporters and Editors awards, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists Award and the Award of Excellence in Column Writing from the American Association of Sunday and Features Editors.
She has also received many awards for her civil rights and social justice work, including the Suzanne Rodgers Diamond Award presented by the Colorado Springs Branch NAACP, the Making Democracy Work Award of the Pikes Peak League of Women Voters, the Micah 6 Social Justice Award of First Congregational United Church of Christ and the NAACP President’s Award for Service.
Rosemary is married to engineering businessperson Frank Lytle and is the mother of Courtney-Rose.
Sharon Bethrong, Citizens Project’s 20th anniversary Legacy Award recipient, has a 40+ year history of advancing the values of democracy, equal rights, separation of church and state and diversity.
Ms. Berthrong has contributed significant wisdom, time and talent to board and volunteer service in the Pikes Peak region including Citizens Project, Executive Women International, Community Development Advisory Board, CU Foundation, S.T.A.Y., UCCS Aging Center, UCCS Letters, Arts and Science Advisory Board, Charter Review Commission, Urban League, City Health Department Committee, Toastmasters, League of Women Voters, Chancellor’s Roundtable, Citizens for Responsible Govermnent and many more.
Sharon helped to found the Karen Possehl Women’s Endowment and Artemis, and has launched many successful campaigns in the community including a Health Department TABOR override, education funding initiatives and candidate campaigns. She is a graduate of Leadership Pikes Peak and the Colorado Springs Leadership Institute and spends her spare time playing alto sax with the New Horizons Band and entertaining her grandson, Benjamin.