Michelle Tyrene Johnson | KCUR

Michelle Tyrene Johnson

Race, Identity, & Culture Reporter

Michelle is a reporter covering race, culture and identity for KCUR and as part of Sharing America, collaborative reporting project with St. Louis, Missouri, Hartford, Connecticut, and Portland, Oregon.

As a fourth-generation Kansas City, Kansas native and resident, Michelle has been a newspaper reporter, an employment attorney, a diversity and inclusion speaker, a columnist and is a local and national playwright. She is an author of three books about diversity and one book about her grandmother.

Michelle received her degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and her law degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, but bleeds red and blue all day, every day.

 

Ways to Connect

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City parks officials asked for suggestions on how to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. after voters decided in November to reverse the renaming of Paso Boulevard after the slain civil rights leader.

Now the Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners has more than 600 emailed suggestions on what should bear the King name.

Roosevelt Lyons, the board’s deputy director of operations, said the process aims to bring more people in on the decision.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

Alissia Canady is a black woman from Kansas City’s east side. In the crowded primary race for mayor last year — there were 11 candidates — she was the only woman of color.

Canady, who is 40, came in third. But don’t call that outcome a failure.

Quinton Lucas was one of Canady’s opponents in the primary race to be Kansas City’s mayor. Lucas ultimately won the election, and made Canady the chairperson of the very prominent Tax Increment Financing Commission.

Shannon Lockwood / Courtesy of Emily Brown

Emily Brown runs a nonprofit in the Kansas City area. She is a black woman who wears her hair naturally. In 2016, she was invited to speak at a national conference, but one of the board members pulled her aside.

"'You know, I think you’re smart,'" Brown told the story recently on KCUR's Central Standard. "'But I’m concerned, you know, that people in the room may not fully hear you because of your hair. You should consider straightening your hair, you know, before you take this trip.'"

Center School District / Facebook

School districts and churches in Kansas City, Missouri, will no longer have increased power to keep liquor stores and bars out of neighborhoods.

On Thursday, the Kansas City Council unanimously passed an ordinance saying that churches and school districts have the same level of input as homeowners and other property owners when it comes to approvals for new bars and restaurants.

Previously, bars and restaurants selling liquor could not open within 300 feet of a school or church without the consent of those schools or churches.

KCUR 89.3

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.

How do we honor America's most recognized Civil Rights leader, and what does it say about us?

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City, Missouri, is internationally recognized as one of the cradles of  jazz and nationally known for its barbecue and its sports teams. 

But late last year, it earned national headlines as the city that waited until 2019 to name a street after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., only to have voters reverse that decision ten months later.

Adam Hamilton

Key Methodist leaders in the Kansas City area say it will be business as usual for them when it comes to LGBTQ inclusion, after an announcement on Friday that the United Methodist Church would split to allow a new, "traditionalist-minded" denomination for congregations who don't support same-sex marriage or allow LGBTQ clergy.

Adam Hamilton, pastor of the 22,000-member, five-campus Church of the Resurrection, said he predicts only a handful of churches in the Kansas City area will split off from the existing denomination.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

If you’re wondering when the streets of Paseo Boulevard that have Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard signs will become Paseo once more, you may be waiting a while.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

Nicole Jackson came to the first Midwest SoulVeg Fest to get some inspiration on her slow path to being a vegan. She admitted that as a black person who grew up going to events centered on meat, it’s easier said than done.

“Sunday dinner after church, the cookouts, the barbeques, where we are just gathered by food that pulls us together,” said Jackson, who is from Olathe, Kansas.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

Voters in Kansas City on Tuesday approved changing the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard back to Paseo Boulevard after the Kansas City council voted to change the name in January.

Supporters of reversing the name change say the name “Paseo” has historical significance. The Southern Christian Leadership Council pushed the initial measure and said racism was fueling the drive to remove the slain civil rights leader’s name.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

The community around Quindaro Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas, is mostly black.

But Our Lady And St. Rose Catholic Church, at 5th and Quindaro, attracts a diverse mix congregants, often thought of as a rarity at Sunday morning services around the country.

“It’s been what our mission statement says, it’s been a faith-filled, diverse, family community,” says Sister Therese Bangert.

A journey along Quindaro Boulevard in northeast Kansas City, Kansas, takes us through history, demographic shifts, religion, and plans for economic development. Visit a black-owned bookstore in the 1960s, an integrated church and hear about one of the country's first black police chiefs. Plus, teens grapple with whether they have to leave the area to succeed.

This show is a culmination of months of reporting along Quindaro Boulevard as part of KCUR's Here to Listen initiative

Missouri Senate website

Former Missouri state lawmaker and educator Yvonne S. Wilson died Monday. The 90-year-old Democrat from Kansas City was remembered by many as a community advocate, especially for children. 

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

Following a trend across the Johnson County suburbs, the Overland Park City Council passed an ordinance Monday night banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Courtest of Melanie Arroyo

Latinos seek help for mental health issues at half the rate of non-Hispanic whites. Yet when they do, as with other people of color in Kansas City, they can have more difficulty finding providers with a similar cultural background. 

 Segment 1: Fresh cocktails for a new season.
As summer winds down, two mixologists join us to share their favorite autumnal cocktails.

  • Brock Schulte, bar director at The Monarch Bar
  • Jill Cockson, owner of Swordfish Tom's

Segment 2: The best Italian food in Kansas City.
Our food critics recommend their favorite Italian dishes across the city, from classics like spaghetti and meatballs, to experimental plates of carrot pesto or bone marrow.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

One in five Americans deals with a mental health issue. However for people of color, being a person of color itself takes a toll on mental health.

Studies show that discrimination and microagressions can negatively effect the health of blacks, Hispanics, Indigenous people and Asians. 

ADWRITER / FLICKR-CC

When snow falls, the steep slope at 57th and Brookside, known for decades as Suicide Hill, is a favorite place for metro area kids to go sledding, but one neighborhood resident wants to change the name.

Alyvia Elliott lives at the bottom of that hill. She lost her husband to suicide in April. 

Segment 1: Kansas City Classics

Among the new and noteworthy restaurants populating Kansas City, let’s not forget those that came first and have stuck around for a while. We talk about the classic restaurants of Kansas City, which have set the standard for diners across the metro.

Segment 1: Kansas City, Missouri's mayor reflects on his time in office. 

Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Sly James leaves office July 31. He discusses his eight-year legacy before he hands over the job to the next mayor.

  • Sly James, mayor, Kansas City, Missouri 

Segment 2, beginning at 37:13: The legacy of a Kansas City theater director, actor, and entertainer.

Segment 1: The changing culture of language-learning in professional baseball.

About 25 percent of Major League Baseball players were from Spanish-speaking countries on Opening Day in March. What role do professional baseball teams play in incorporating language-learning into their players' transitions to living and playing in the United States?

Seg. 1: Anti-Trans Violence | Seg. 2: Craftivism

Jul 22, 2019

Segment 1: The nationwide trend of violence against transgender women of color.

A man was recently charged with the murder of Brooklyn Lindsey, a black transgender woman who was found dead in Kansas City in June. Anti-trans violence is on the rise nationwide, and we talk about why.

  • Sarah McBride, national press secretary, Human Rights Campaign 

Segment 2, beginning at 20:17: How a movement combines art and activism.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

For many in the transgender community, use of their birth name to refer to them after they have transitioned is a no-no, a sign of disrespect.

But Merrique Jenson, a transgender woman working in the LGBTQ community, knows she is in a unique situation. She started her transition in October, but she is best known, both in Kansas City and nationally, as Randall Jenson.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

Supporters from across the state gathered Sunday for events aimed at gathering signatures to halt Missouri’s law banning abortion after eight weeks of gestation. 

The law, which makes no exceptions for rape or incest, is set to take effect on Aug. 28.

In Kansas City, the event at Sidekicks Saloon, which was sponsored by the ACLU-Missouri, drew dozens of supporters and organizers. Community organizer Al Cousineau said the goal was to gather 100,000 signatures statewide.

Segment 1: Mapping Micheladas.  

The mexican specialty mixing beer with tomato juice has been growing in popularity in Kansas City. We speak with the creator of the Michelada Map about where they are consumed the most in the United States.

Segment 2, beginning at 9:54: Food critics and Mexican food.

Seg. 1: Grocery Stores | Seg. 2: Ryan Wilks

Jun 13, 2019

Segment 1: How are grocery stores changing?

Leon's Thriftway recently closed down in Kansas City, marking the end of an era for a black-owned business that had served its community for 50 years. The closing of Leon's reflects a sea of changes for a grocery industry that now has to keep up with the Amazons and WalMarts of the world. So how are grocery stores trying to keep up with the times? And how has the consumer relationship to grocery stores changed? In this segment, we tackle these questions and discuss the future of grocery stores.

Segment 1: Metro areas experience hotter summers, and Kansas City is no exception.

An urban heat island is a city that gets signigicantly warmer than its surrounding area, just by virtue of having a lot of buildings and a lot of people in one place. Downtown Kansas City is one place that feels the effects of urban heat, especially in the summer. We talk with local Kansas Citians who have studied this phenomenon and how to combat its effects. 

Segment 1: Why does Kansas City look like swiss cheese?

If you look at a map of Kansas City, you'll find little holes of independent towns, such as Platte Woods and North Kansas City. We speak with representatives from some of these non-annexed communities to talk about how these tiny towns fit into the fabric of the bigger city.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

Updated, 11:15 a.m. Thursday: On Wednesday, the Kansas City council's finance and governance committee recommended that the the street name restoration measure, which would restore the Paseo name, be placed on the November 5 ballot. The full city council is expected to vote on the measure in two weeks.

The original post continues below.

Micheal Logan remembers a time when blacks in Kansas City, Missouri, weren’t allowed to go south of 27th Street.

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