2022 was an exciting year not just for the new Colorado Springs Black Chamber of Commerce but for our region and the great state of Colorado as well.
The Black Chamber had its start 30 years ago, when Colorado Springs was a city without an organization that cared about the prosperity of Black businesses. USAF Col. James Stewart (Ret.) saw that problem and created a solution, launching the Black Chamber in 1992. We celebrate and honor the 30th anniversary of this organization with a fresh new look, mission, vision, leadership, branding, website, social media, bylaws, strategy — and the will to bring this community together in a way that hasn’t been done before.
Leading this bold new initiative are Dr. Kenya Lee, Natasha Hutson, Amy Red Cloud, Juaquin Mobley and Kendall Godley. These are some of the most brilliant minds in the great state of Colorado. In 2023, we are excited about a new strategic plan and adding more transformational leaders to the Black Chamber board of directors. Leadership is important for the future of our City of Champions.
If I have to pick a word to describe 2022, for me it would be “trust.” I’ve had the pleasure to be involved in productive dialogue regarding trust that was facilitated by the El Pomar Foundation and the Center for Creative Leadership. As leaders, the higher the stakes of the work we do, the more we must rely on trust. Over time it will become clearer who you can trust and who you cannot — and the sooner you figure this out, the better you can avoid problems that are created when trust is broken. With all the well-intentioned work that I do in this community, this is the biggest lesson that I had to learn this year — I’m glad I learned it now because the stakes are even higher in 2023.
Another leadership lesson I had to learn this past year is that everyone who smiles at you doesn’t want you to succeed. They may even go so far as to gossip and try to portray you as someone you are not. You must keep your guard up and surround yourself with trusted people who can see your blind spots, so you stay protected. Keep doing good work for the right reasons and those people who are trying to derail you will never be successful. I’m grateful for the people looking out for me and much more aware of those who are not.
The change in leadership of the Colorado Springs Black Chamber has been a great catalyst for this community to succeed. Another organization blessed with new leadership is the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC. Johnna Reeder Kleymeyer, the first woman as CEO of that organization, is no stranger to politics, strategy, collaboration and economic development. As a member of the Chamber & EDC’s board of directors, I got a front row seat to watch her transform this organization and its relationship with the local community and the state of Colorado. The positive impact of this work on the community cannot be denied. With talented staff and board of directors, I’m proud of the work that was done in 2022 and excited for 2023.
Our local political scene is going to have a major shift in 2023 with new City Council members and a new mayor. It’s important for those reading my words go out and vote this upcoming election in April. If you are feeling bold, please run for these open seats. If you don’t run, I can guarantee that you won’t win. Make that vote happen, get involved and be the difference you want to see.
I’m excited for the Colorado Springs Business Journal and their transformation to Sixty35 Media. The partnership with the Colorado Springs Black Chamber and Sixty35 Media will be a great one for the years to come.
As this community continues to prosper we will have some challenges. We must meet these challenges with love and continue to support each other. We must continue to fight injustice at every turn and never let up. We will win together or fail together. Failure is not an option — so let’s keep working towards the best Olympic City USA we can be.
Rodney Gullatte Jr. is the president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Black Chamber of Commerce.