Colorado Springs has received its share of accolades: best place to live for veterans, most desirable place to live, fastest-growing city, city with the fastest-growing Millennial population.
We’ve won honors for being the best place for human capital, as well as the fourth most business-friendly city in the country.
And the attention — coupled with beautiful views and a terrific quality of life — is bringing in new residents in huge numbers.
But in recent weeks, we’ve heard about points of darkness on the city’s glowing reputation. One of those accounts appeared in last week’s young professional profile in the Business Journal.
We spoke with Maria Bay, a native of Peru, an American citizen and owner of Casa Bay Photography. She talked about living all over the world, and what she loved about Colorado Springs. And then she talked about the times she wanted to leave.
“…My parents come and visit me for a month every year no matter where I’m living, and when they’re visiting, I speak Spanish,” she told editor Bryan Grossman. “I’ve been told to go away and leave the country — twice. … This lady told her son, ‘This is why we need Trump, so we can stop these people from coming to our country.’
“For the first three months here, I wanted to leave. It was scary,” she said. “It seemed aggressive…”
Bay went on to say that building relationships and seeing kindness from others “quiets the loudness of the people who decide to be angry. I just sometimes wish, as an immigrant and as a woman, that the people who are kind would be loud too.”
Clearly, there’s work to be done. And it needs to be done by every single one of us. As the city grows and attracts businesses from other cities and states, we’ll become more diverse. And that’s a good thing. We need diverse perspectives, fresh ideas, a healthy mix of backgrounds. We need more understanding, more relationships with people who look or think differently. We need to leave our bubbles and recognize that other people have vastly different experiences — and we can learn from them.
Bay owns a business and she contributes to the local economy and to the community. And despite a few vocal jerks, she loves the mountains, the city and everything it has to offer.
She’s not alone. Colorado is home to 85,809 minority-owned small businesses. Of those, 12,300 are black-owned and 51,100 are owned by Hispanics, according to the Small Business Administration. The U.S. Census Bureau says nationally, the payroll for minority-owned businesses totaled $254 billion in 2015.
It’s clear: People of color are active; they are engaged; they are working hard to create their own businesses and to succeed. The very least we can do is to set aside our insular past, acknowledge their place in our city and, as Bay said, be kind.
But we also need to be loud. I’m sure there were other people around when Bay was told to leave the country — and they didn’t speak out.
Last week, we held a ceremony for the Fannie Mae Duncan statue that will grace the entrance to the Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts. We wanted to honor and celebrate her groundbreaking efforts as a local business owner to integrate the city.
We owe it to her memory — and to the people of color who are friends, co-workers and neighbors — to be kind. And to be kind loudly.