African-Americans may not hold many of the highly visible leadership roles in Colorado Springs, but many hardworking black community members are contributing.
Below is a small sampling of prominent local African-Americans, along with their thoughts on the state of black political and community influence in Colorado Springs. We concentrated on those active in secular political and community organizations for this story; however, it's important to note that black power is historically, and in many places continues to be, rooted in black churches. Many of today's leaders first found their voice in a house of worship and continue to draw strength from pastors and the church community.
Berry, a Democrat, is running for County Commissioner District 3. A Leadership Pikes Peak graduate, she sits on the committee for the Women's Community Leadership Initiative, and volunteers for Partners in Housing's giving circle. She is a former board member with Pikes Peak Community Action Agency, and is currently involved with Girl Scouts, Urban League of the Pikes Peak Region and Harbor House.
On black influence locally: "There is none ... I think oftentimes, minorities are recruited because they're that token ... I think the good ol' boy system is alive and well here."
Brown owns a management consulting firm and teaches at the University of Phoenix. She's on the Black Chamber of Commerce and Pikes Peak Mental Health boards, and is involved with the Southeast YMCA, African-American Youth Leadership Conference and El Pomar Emerging Leaders Development Program. She works with the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs on diversity issues, and she has participated in the Colorado Springs Leadership Institute, Leadership Pikes Peak and the Pikes Peak Regional Business Partnership. She's also a youth mentor.
On black influence locally: "All who are willing can and do participate in the process of getting things moving in Colorado Springs ... I don't believe that we are restricted in terms of being at the table, but we have to take the initiative to do that."
Rosemary Harris Lytle
Formerly a columnist for the Gazette, Lytle is president of the Colorado Springs Branch of the NAACP and a diversity trainer and consultant. She received the 2008 Making Democracy Work Award from the League of Women Voters of the Pikes Peak Region, and she's a member of the Governor's Colorado Pay Equity Commission, chair of the speaker's bureau for Colorado Unity (a statewide equal-opportunity coalition) and a community representative for Colorado College's cultural attractions fund.
On black influence locally: "Colorado Springs is a unique place that has been blessed with an African-American community that is well-educated, that is, for the most part, middle income and connected to civic life in a range of ways that are assets to this city. What we haven't yet seen are ways to leverage that blessing so that it pays off for all of us."
Howard recently became the city's first African-American police commander. He serves on the Briargate YMCA board and works with the city's Workforce Management Council, Urban League of the Pikes Peak Region and the police department's diversity and crisis intervention oversight boards. He also has been involved with Leadership Pikes Peak, the Center for Creative Leadership, Peak Vista Community Health Centers, the American Red Cross-Pikes Peak Chapter and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday committee.
On black influence locally: "I would like to see more blacks come out, kind of like the Hispanics have come out ... That's not to say that we don't have the talent in the community. I think we do."
In 2007, Howard retired as command sergeant major of Fort Carson after 31 years of service, and became director of military support at El Pomar Foundation. He is board president of Citizen Soldier Connection and the Pikes Peak Chapter of the Association of the United States Army, a board member of the American Red Cross-Pikes Peak Chapter and the Southeast YMCA, and recently joined the military affairs committee of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce.
On black influence locally: "In my opinion, more involvement of minorities, period, in all sectors of civil service, is needed, especially here in Colorado Springs ... I kind of view myself as a role model to reach out and encourage other African-Americans to get involved."
Powell is the vice president/administrator of Memorial Hospital North. She was recently appointed to the board of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, and is a board member of INROADS, an international organization devoted to cultivating diversity in leadership. She's also a member of the Pikes Peak Community College Advisory Council, Chi Eta Phi, the Black Leadership Forum committee and the Diversity Forum. She recently graduated from the Colorado Springs Leadership Institute and is a past member of the Pikes Peak Hospice board.
On black influence locally: "I think it's very important to have African-American leadership influence in Colorado Springs to serve as mentors and role models in the community. It think it's happening in some ways, but it could be more."
In the 1970s, Simpson became the first African-American elected to the Colorado Springs School District 11 Board of Education and the first to serve as board president. A retired Air Force senior master sergeant, he later worked for area public schools and was a department head for El Paso County Community Services. Among other contributions, he was the first African-American director of the Pikes Peak Community Action Agency and also was involved with Peak Vista Community Health Centers. The Norvell Simpson Community Center at Hillside Community Center was named in his honor.
On black influence locally: "There have been individuals who have contributed significantly to this community, and people are not aware of the contributions made by African-Americans to this community."
Tucker is founder and publisher of the African-American Voice and the Colorado Guide to Diversity. He served in the National Guard and retired as a teacher and successful girls basketball coach for Harrison High School. He has dedicated himself to fighting racism in the region through his work with attorneys, judges, media and other decision-makers. He's a strong critic of powerful African-American individuals and churches that he feels aren't doing enough to cultivate the local black community. Tucker also pushed the state Legislature to recognize the Juneteenth holiday.
On black influence locally: "There's nowhere in this community for people of color to turn to for help ... the whole city is backward when it comes to dealing with people of color."
Wisdom, president and CEO of the Urban League of the Pikes Peak Region, is involved in the El Pomar Emerging Leaders program, the Strategic Task Force/Black Leadership Forum, Martin Luther King Jr. holiday committee, the Association for Fundraising Professionals and the Colorado Springs Diversity Forum. She previously had executive roles with Girl Scouts-Wagon Wheel Council, Pikes Peak Community Action Agency, Greccio Housing and Pikes Peak United Way.
On black influence locally: "Basically, there are several African-American leaders in the community who work to improve the quality of life for all the citizens in the Pikes Peak region. All we ask is to always be included. ... We want our voices to be heard."
In 1994, Young became the city's first African-American city clerk. She will become president of the Colorado Municipal Clerks Association in November. Young is involved with the Urban League of the Pikes Peak Region, Shivers Concert Series, Pikes Peak Minority Business Foundation Advisory Board, African-American Youth Leadership Conference and the United Way of the Pikes Peak Region accountability committee.
On black influence locally: "We have some representation in terms of education teachers and principals, some board members one African-American on City Council, but no representation at the county level. We don't have any African-American influence on the state level from Colorado Springs. And, I guess I could say, it's not for a lack of trying ... but maybe it's a lack of mentorship."