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'Black Klansman' author Ron Stallworth to speak at Pikes Peak Community College, likely won't be seeing CSPD

Gazette - 9/8/2018

Sept. 07--"Black Klansman" author Ron Stallworth will speak and sign books at Pikes Peak Community College on Sept. 20.

The former Colorado Springs police detective, whose story of infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1970s inspired Spike Lee's recent blockbuster movie "BlacKkKlansman," attended the former El Paso Community College, then a two-year college, for a few semesters starting in the fall of 1973 during his tenure with the police department. EPCC became Pikes Peak Community College in 1978.

"It was called 'police science' back then. They were teaching theory, and I was living reality on the streets of Colorado Springs at night," Stallworth said by phone Thursday from Kansas, where he was touring in support of his book and the movie.

Stallworth, 65, lives in El Paso, Texas but will visit PPCC's Centennial Campus, 5675 S. Academy Blvd., to make a public presentation to students and do a question-and-answer session from 11 a.m. to noon, with a book signing from noon to 1 p.m. The events are free, and no tickets are required. For more information, visit ppcc.edu/calendar.

Stallworth earned an associate's degree in 2005 and a bachelor's in criminal justice from Columbia College-Salt Lake in 2007.

"I had promised my late wife that I would complete my studies," he said. "I stopped for a semester or two to care for her while she was sick with cancer, and after she died I went back."

By midday Thursday, 70 people had indicated they would attend the event, and more than 450 showed interest on a Facebook invite generated by the college.

Stallworth was the first black detective in CSPD history. After a 32-year career in law enforcement in Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming and Utah, he published his memoir, "Black Klansman," in 2014. In June, New York-based Flatiron Books published a revised version in anticipation of the film's Aug. 10 release. "BlacKkKlansman" is Showing at Kimball's Peak Three Theatre.

Stallworth told The Gazette in June that he'll ride the media wave surrounding his book and Lee's movie "for as long as I can. But I know who I am. I know who my mother raised me to be. I am not a celebrity."

Stallworth, born in Chicago and raised in El Paso, moved in 1972 with his single mother, Betty, and siblings to the Springs to be close to an aunt.

He joined the police force and became a detective in 1975.

In the fall of 1978, he got a call from the Springs' KKK leader, responding to a letter Stallworth wrote to the P.O. box listed in the group's newspaper ad. Stallworth thought he could snag an informational brochure or something, valuable intel. Instead, the call set in motion an eight-month undercover investigation, through April 1979.

"I found it more challenging to have a false identity, to literally put yourself in situations where your ability to survive is based on your ability to verbalize your intent, to communicate. It was thrilling to me," he said.

As the voice over the phone, Stallworth could con the likes of Fred Wilkens, Colorado'sKKK "grand dragon," and the national organization's then Grand Dragon, David Duke.

He enlisted a white partner to represent "Ron Stallworth" at meetings.

The investigation revealed the Klan's connection with other hate groups. But Stallworth says his chief felt the situation was getting too hot. Following orders, Stallworth destroyed documents -- saving for future proof a David Duke-signed certificate proclaiming Ron Stallworth a "Knight" and the red card identifying Ron Stallworth "in Good Standing for the Year 1979."

"As a black police officer, you live in two worlds," he said. "The black community does not want to accept you, or they reject you, criticize you, find fault with you, because you have chosen to wear a uniform and badge of what they consider an oppressive, occupying force. The white community -- and in my case, some of the white officers at that time -- they rejected me because they felt I was too black to be amongst them.

"You're too black for the white community and too blue for the black community."

Stallworth said he has no plans to visit CSPD while in town, but would if they reached out to him.

A year after the investigation, Stallworth left Colorado Springs, continued his career and finished it in Utah, where he helped establish a gang task force. He retired from law enforcement in 2006.

"[H]atred has never gone away," Stallworth writes in his revised memoir, "but has been reinvigorated in the dark corners of the internet, Twitter trolls, alt-right publications, and a nativist president in Trump."

Stallworth said he's very happy with how Lee's movie turned out, but it was indeed a fictionalization of his memoir. "It's a combination of the two."


(c)2018 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

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