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Perhaps the best word for this subject is "touchy."

When asked about black influence in Colorado Springs, many prominent local African-Americans responded with a laugh or a sigh. Many wanted to know why we were interested. Everyone wanted to know how the subject would be approached.

Discussing race is difficult. Especially if you, like me, are white.

But America may very well elect its first black president on Tuesday, and it seemed worthwhile, even necessary, to discuss African-American influence especially political influence in our own community. Does Colorado Springs really provide equal opportunity to black leaders? Does it do enough to nurture the African-American leaders of tomorrow? Does everyone in our community feel welcome in the halls of power?

We asked four leaders in our community to share their own stories, their own feelings on this emotionally charged issue. While they surely don't represent the entire black community, we strove for balance. One college student, one person running for office, one person in elected office, one person with decades working in the community. Two Republicans, two Democrats. Two women, two men.

This story is certainly not meant to be a final word on such a complex subject. It's merely a push to open the door to more discussion, more openness, in our changing world.

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