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Two Kansas City activists reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy

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A man wearing a ball cap with "KC" stitched on it is wearing overalls and a checkered shirt. He is gesturing and talking at a microphone inside a radio studio.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Danny Cox talks about his experiences in Kansas City when African Americans were not allowed in some venues.

Musician Danny Cox faced discrimination while touring in Missouri in the 1960s, while public servant Al Brooks marched across the city during the 1968 riots. They've seen firsthand the long arc of the Civil Rights Movement, and how the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is still ongoing in Kansas City.

Alvin Brooks — a former police officer, school board member, and author —was active in the Kansas City riots that took place on April 9, 1968, a week after Dr. Martin Luther's King Jr.'s assassination.

Even though the world is different now than it was in the late '60s, Brooks says there's still work left to be done.

"There was a report that came out by the mayor of Kansas City on August 15, 1968, to study why there was a riot in Kansas City? If you look at that, the same thing that they talk about in 1968 is the same thing in 2022 and 23 that we're talking about in Kansas City and other parts of America," Brooks said. "So progress, yes, but not enough that we find ourselves as a free nation."

Folk musician Danny Cox is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and experienced discrimination in Kansas City firsthand when he visited in 1963, a year before the Civil Rights Act banned racial discrimination in public places. Cox was on tour and was denied entry to the Muehlebach Hotel downtown, but was accepted across the river at a Holiday Inn in Kansas City, Kansas.

"We went from a free state to a slave sate, and oh my god, just how different it was just a couple of miles away," Cox said. "The difference was so apparent."

Cox — who still lives in Kansas City, Kansas, today — continues to write and perform music. He recently wrote a song titled "Black Lives" that was sung by his son Jospeh Cox: "If Black lives really mattered, then tell me why are killing each other?"

Cox says he wrote the song when looking at the murder rate in the Black community.

"We know the relationship between the white community and the Black community but within the black community, we're killing each other," Cox said. "That's a hard thing to say, especially in this time, when you're talking about police brutality, but we got to do something about it."

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As a host and contributor at KCUR, I seek to create a more informed citizenry and richer community. I want to enlighten and inspire our audience by delivering the information they need with accuracy and urgency, clarifying what’s complicated and teasing out the complexities of what seems simple. I work to craft conversations that reveal realities in our midst and model civil discourse in a divided world. Follow me on Twitter @ptsbrian or email me at brian@kcur.org.
As an assistant producer on Up To Date, my goal is to amplify voices of people who serve as pioneers in their respective fields while shedding light on issues that affect underserved communities. I produce daily conversations to uplift and inspire the people of the Kansas City area to make the world a better place. You can reach me at reginalddavid@kcur.org.
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