Regina Guy-English, the vice president of the Harrison School District 2 school board, is not afraid to speak up for what she knows is right. So it was easy for her to join a panel called “A Place for Us: A Black Led Community Conversation” on Aug. 1 at Acacia Park. Guy-English, who is also involved with a number of nonprofit and community organizations including Be You, RISE, and the African American Youth leadership Conference, was invited by event organizers Amy Moore and Lelieth Thompson.
“I said, ‘sure, anything to move the community forward,’” she said.
For her, the panel was a natural extension of the national discussion that has been happening since the death of George Floyd.
“We all see what is happening,” she said, “not only in our respective cities but in our nation as well. If we don’t start at home, making sure that the systems in place are realistic for everyone, holistically, then where do you start?”
Guy-English pointed out that Southeast Colorado Springs illustrates a number of the systemic issues that activists across the country are trying to change.
“Southeast Colorado Springs has kind of been just a little, small, city that has stood alone for years, as if the South side of the city isn’t good enough,” she said. “My whole issue is how can you say that we live in a city that thrives, if every part of the city isn’t thriving? For example, why build up the North side of town but not the South side of town?”
The Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority, whose mission is “to encourage private investment and reinvestment which restores targeted areas with strong community benefits while strengthening the tax base of the whole city” has projects in almost every part of the community — except Southeast Colorado Springs.
“That’s where the systemic issues come into play,” Guy-English said. “How come the Southeast side of town isn’t good enough to have a hospital built there? Our voices will not be silenced.”
Guy-English is committed to using her position in the community to push for positive change.
“Whatever I can do to impact change in a meaningful way — not only in my district but in my city,” she said. “So what does that look like? It looks different for all of us, but for me I’m going to position myself to impact change directly, whether that’s running for office, sitting on different boards and commissions, because there has to be a perspective that’s balanced. If there’s just a perspective of all one race, that’s an uninformed and unbalanced style of decision-making.”
Guy-English ran, unsuccessfully, for an at-large City Council seat in 2019.
“If we say we want things to change,” she said, “then that’s going to be uncomfortable for people who have been content for all these years with what the city has said is ‘the norm.’
“When I was running for City Council so many people came to me and, like, ‘Well your name is out there but it’s not really out there and you just don’t have enough money.’ For me, that’s all a part of that systemic racism as well, because it shouldn’t be about name recognition or the almighty dollar or even experience if you want to say that. Look what experience is doing in the seats.
“The playing field most definitely needs to be levelled,” she continued. “Why wouldn’t you want decision-making from a different perspective? And what makes decisions that a predominantly white City Council is making, the right decision to make? I think a lot of their decisions are very biased. I feel like it’s time for a new seating arrangement. A new season, new voices, a different style of leadership that’s more informed.”
Guy-English is also using her position on the D2 board to push for change.
“We are doing some great and phenomenal things for our students, but we still have a long way to go in terms of things like diversity, inclusion and equity,” she said. “There’s a lot of bias and undealt-with things that now will have to be dealt with, because now there is obviously a whole new seating arrangement on our board. We’re going to be making some changes that benefit all students.”
Much of the board’s focus recently has been on dealing with the complications caused by COVID-19.
“We’re bringing our students back to school as safely as possible in these times we’re living in, with a pandemic,” she said.
She is also looking to make some curriculum changes. According to the district’s February Ethnicity Report, the most recent availble, the 11,347-student population was 52.36 percent Hispanic, 23.41 percent white and 13.41 percent Black or African American.
“One thing I would like to see the district do is implement some more of our history, of Black and brown and indigenous people, in our curriculum,” Guy-English said. “There is history that we all know has been erased, as if certain things did not happen. A well-rounded student is an informed student on all histories. ... As long as I am a board member for Harrison School District 2 I am going to push until it happens.”