COLORADO SPRINGS — In celebration of Black History Month, Colorado Springs is honoring nine influential African Americans who helped shape the community.
Downtown Ventures, the charitable nonprofit arm of the Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs, worked with the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum to launch the Cultural Corridor.
The program displays historic images on light pole banners along Pikes Peak Avenue between Cascade and Nevada avenues.
Percy Pellerin's mother Nina is among the African Americans honored in the Culture Corridor.
"It's as if she's been an angel hovering over my life. There's just a brief window where I can see her timeless face when I pass underneath that banner," said Percy.
He didn't have the best relationship with his mother who was a strong woman.
"Her tough attitude made her a hard woman to get along with, especially for a husband of that day. Husbands didn't expect their wives' strong personalities like that," said Percy. "She had gotten divorced and I was the most important thing in her life. She doted on me excessively."
Percy can now look up and see his mother along Pikes Peak Avenue.
"She was the first African American to teach school in town, and the first African American student to play baseball on a high school team," said Percy.
His aunt Lulu Stroud Pollard is also being honored in the Cultural Corridor. She was the first Black person employed by Fort Carson’s Civilian Personnel Office. At the end of her career, she became the first full-time Equal Opportunity Officer for the Military Traffic Command in Washington, D.C.
Lulu and her husband Leonard formed the Negro Historical Association of Colorado Springs to collect and preserve photographs, stories, and artifacts documenting Black History.
"Just about everyone in the family was accomplished. Jack was the head of a division at Rockwell International that plotted the course for the Apollo spaceship. Bobby was the first Black student at the Fine Arts Center and Rosa was the first black social studies major at Denver University," said Percy.
The Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs the Cultural Corridor is a years-long initiative to recognize historic Black leaders.
"These are people who helped shape our community and city. It's important to honor them for getting us to where we are today," said Laurel Prud'homme.
The program aligns with the goals from the Experience Downtown Master Plan including that of being “a place for inspiration, honoring the history and facing the future.” The initiative also is designed to enhance the pedestrian and visitor experience and is purposely placed near the historic corner of Pikes Peak and Cascade avenues, where the city was first founded.
"One of the things we wanted to do is represent diversity with the people on the banners. We have the first black teacher, military veterans, first black mayor," said Prud'homme.
Banners with a QR code will direct viewers to information about each of the people included in the campaign. Find more information about the program here.