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Kansas City Is Getting More Diverse. Will 2020 Be The Year It Gets Serious About Inclusion?

KCUR 89.3
Kansas City's women of color are mobilizing for the next election.

The KCUR news staff presents the State of Kansas City series as a look ahead to 2020 on topics of importance to the region. Find the State of Kansas City report on other topics in the series as they are published each weekday, Jan. 6–Jan. 20. Follow coverage on these topics at KCUR.org and on 89.3 FM throughout the year.

Diversity and inclusion is a nebulous phrase that covers a lot of territory.

In Kansas City in 2019, KCUR covered issues of race, the LGBTQ community and how school districts addressed diversity issues.

In 2020, we look to see if the city comes up with a way to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., after voters rejected renaming Paseo Boulevard. We'll see various advocacy organizations gear up to mobilize voters for an upcoming presidential election, already expected to be contentious.

We will see an increased focus on the disproportionate number of incarcerated people of color for minor offenses. And more organizations are tackling women's issues, such as reproductive rights. 


The Kansas City metro area, crossing two state lines, has more than 2.1 million people. More than one out of every four people in the metro area is a person of color.

In addition to people of color, another community that has a large number of members – the LGBTQ community – which according to national statistics includes about 10% of the population.

Issues of access, equity and fairness affect every business, residential area, and school district in the metro. For example, one of the big issues last year was the resignation of Dennis Carpenter, the Lee's Summit School District’s first black superintendent, amid ongoing tension over diversity training for teachers and staff.


  • The 2020 presidential election and its impact on the marginalized. Several community leaders say that this is the highest concern and priority of the year because of the potential impact on a wide range of social justice issues, including immigration, reproductive rights, and how discrimination is defined legally.
  • Reforming the criminal justice system. People of color in both Missouri and Kansas are disproportionately part of each state’s incarcerated population. Two organizations – Reale Justice Network and One Struggle KC – focus on raising funds for people of color who are incarcerated with low bail amounts.
  • Women power. This is the 100th anniversary of the women’s right to vote. Already this year, we’re seeing an increase in rallies and organizing around women’s rights.
  • Airport hiring. At the end of last year, the Black Chamber of Commerce made claims that Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate, the company hired for the $1.5 billion airport terminal construction project, is not on track to meet the goal of having 15% of the construction work go to subcontractors owned by women and 20% to racial minority-owned firms. Edgemoor denies this claim.
  • Institutional Accountability. Follow up on issues relating to Mattie Rhodes inviting ICE to community meetings and concern about the connection between UMB bank and its involvement with a private detention facility. 


Michele Watley

Founder, Shirley’s Kitchen Cabinet

Credit Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3

Shirley’s Kitchen Cabinet is an advocacy organization named after Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Congress. The events and ways the organization has mobilized black women in the voting process will take on increased visibility in this key election year.

Edgar J. Palacios

Founder, Latinx Education Collaborative

Credit Edgar Palacios

Edgar Palacios says the pressing issues that he will be involved in for the Latino community involve the presidential election and the Latino vote, the 2020 Census count and concern about equity in the area school districts.

Justice Gaston

Founder, Reale Women Justice

Credit Courtesy of Justice Gaston

Justice Gaston's organization Reale Women Justice hosted a women’s rally particularly targeted to women of color and women in the LGBTQ community in which more than 500 people participated. Other events for the year are planned with a focus on black women who are victims of domestic violence and who are disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system.


78. 3 – Percentage of white people living in the metro area

49.5 – Percentage of people in the metro area living in poverty who are white

1 – Percentage of black men and women in Missouri and Kansas combined who are teachers


Feb.12: KCMO Quinton Lucas’ 90-day comment period ends on suggestions from the community on how to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. with a street. 

April 1: This is the day people will start receiving invitations to participate in the 2020 Census. These numbers could effect services, school funding and representation for racial and ethnic groups in Missouri and Kansas.

June: Decisions from the United States Supreme Court are expected to be handed down on whether “sex discrimination” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes gender identity and sexual orientation.

Nov.3: Many believe the next election will disproportiately impact marginaized groups.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson is a reporter at KCUR 89.3 and part of the public radio collaborative Sharing America, covering the intersection of race, identity and culture. This initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, includes reporters in Kansas City, St. Louis, Hartford, Connecticut and Portland, Oregon. She can be contacted at michelle@kcur.org.

Michelle is a reporter covering race, identity and culture and is an assistant talk show producer.
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