From talking to people who actually knew her, reading her memoirs and watching an exquisitely crafted PBS documentary, I feel like I now know the late, great Fannie Mae Duncan as well as one can know the departed. More importantly, I’ve come to love and admire her.
What a remarkable human being she was! Without question, a force of nature.
Who else but an absolute vanguard could go from being the granddaughter of slaves to a self-made millionaire? Who else would do so when social norms insisted that, based strictly on gender and skin color, she would not be an entrepreneur?
Who else would have the moxie to look the chief of police in the eye and tell him, when he insisted that she ban white patrons from her iconic jazz club, “I check ’em for age. Nobody tol’ me I had to check ’em for color”?
I mention all of this because Fannie Mae is as much a model for me right now as she was the inspiration for our cover story. She broke the bonds of social expectations and rewrote her own narrative. And that sounds kind of familiar.
You see, not that long ago — a few months, really — I was working as a reporter and section editor at the state’s oldest daily newspaper. Once I thought it would be my journalistic home until I retired.
Then John Weiss tapped me to serve as the founding editor of this newspaper. My task was to create a great community newspaper and website of, by, and for the 80,000 diverse and vibrant residents of Southeast Colorado Springs.
The thing is, Southeast has been, until now, a news desert — a community with very limited access to the local news and information that feed community-building, pride and an informed citizenry. About the only coverage this amazing community has received had been superficial, quick stories about crime, poverty, gangs — the bad stuff that negatively shapes its reputation and also impacts its self-perception. Its narrative, if you will.
There were virtually no stories, I was informed, about the amazing entrepreneurs, students, athletes, teachers, musicians and veterans who are reinventing and reinvigorating this area. My assignment was to change that.
This is a neighborhood on the verge of a renaissance.
There are amazing organizations like the RISE Coalition, the Council of Neighbors and Organizations, the Thrive Network and the Solid Rock Community Development Corp. working from the inside to coalesce the neighborhood’s social service and nonprofits; to train leaders and entrepreneurs; and to redevelop blighted properties and encourage community reinvestment.
There is a recent, million-plus dollar initiative spearheaded by State Sen. Pete Lee and State Rep. Tony Exum to stem the prison pipeline by supporting grassroots efforts to transform public safety.
And most importantly, there is a community that is standing behind and enthusiastically embracing these efforts. (As an aside, when I say “embracing” I am being literal. I have never received more hugs from complete strangers and new friends than I have in Southeast.)
Suffice it to say, we are thrilled to be a part of it all.
But in order to succeed, we need your help. We are a newspaper that is of, for and by you, Southeast. Share your opinions, your stories, your triumphs, your tragedies.
We know there is more to this area than what the social norm, or the area’s traditional media outlets, acknowledge … let’s trumpet it from the rooftops! Speak up, Southeast: Our ears and hearts are open.
Contact Southeast Express Editor and General Manager Regan Foster at (719) 578-2802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In order to succeed, we need your help.
We are a newspaper that is of, for and by you, Southeast. Share your opinions, your stories, your triumphs, your tragedies.