“We demand the immediate release and review of all body cam, dash cam, and all video…Regardless of how you try to sweep this under the rug, you will not be successful.”
If you had never heard of Pastor Promise Lee, these fiery words seared him into your memory. He was speaking at a press conference on behalf of the family of De’Von Bailey, killed in 2019 by Colorado Springs Police. The case made national headlines, sparking protests and lawsuits.
“I was at a boxing match in New York when I received a text from a long time Colorado Springs resident which read ‘the cops have killed another one of our babies,’” says Lee in a quiet voice. “I flew back the next morning. The family asked me to be involved.”
The Hillside neighborhood has known Lee for decades. He was a community organizer for Colorado governor Roy Romer, and he formed the Hillside Neighborhood Association in 1987. Through that, the community successfully lobbied for building the Hillside Community Center in 1990. In 1997, he held his first services in the Helen Hunt Elementary gym. That congregation grew to become the Relevant Word Christian Cultural Center, mere blocks away from where they started.
Now, his passion is the Southeast Access to Opportunity (SEATO). There, mentors teach basic life skills to about 60 males ages 8-16, most from fatherless households. “We teach basic life skills: how to introduce yourself, shake hands, tie a necktie, be on time, academic success, time management, etc.” A cornerstone of the program is the Triple Threat Boxing Gym, where they’re mentored by members of the Army’s World-Class Athlete Program (WCAP) and the U.S. Olympic team. In SEATO’s first three years, none of his wards have gone to jail.
His work has earned national praise—and a pardon from the Colorado Governor. At the age of 15, an abused and addicted Lee killed a soldier in a drug deal gone bad. Psychologically damaged, it was four years before he could even acknowledge his incarceration.
Once out, he found release for his anger in boxing. The gym owner invited him to church, where he was also the pastor. Lee was transformed that day; he stood up in the pew, interrupting the sermon, and his walk with God began.
Still, Lee says every good deed is “sandwiched with ‘ex-convict,’ ‘ex-killer.’” Only his faith gives him courage to persevere in the face of criticism: “I’ve been pardoned by God. I’m a free man.”