African Americans | KCUR

African Americans

Segment 1: Lenexa, Kansas, is reconsidering its rules around homeless shelters.

Zoning restrictions in Lenexa caused a stir this winter because they precluded the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church from operating a homeless shelter on their campus, which is an old school. A temporary solution was reached, but now the city is taking another look at how it regulates shelters. With possible changes on the horizon, advocates for those experiencing homelessness share their thoughts on the process and its outcomes.

Multicultural Business Coalition of Kansas City

Kansas City is becoming more welcoming for black women who want to start their own businesses.

Adrienne Haynes, the managing partner at the business law firm SEED Law, says there’s more diversity in the entrepreneurial community today than in 2015, when she created the Multicultural Business Coalition with a few other organizations. Half of her clients are black women.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

The United States Census has started outreach to minority communities and hidden populations in Kansas City less than two weeks before the official launch of the once-a-decade count.

“By now they should have developed a system: how can we get into the communities that don’t want to (talk to the census workers?),” said Wasim Khan, a commissioner for Kenya on the Kansas City Ethnic Enrichment Commission. “So culturally, we are very unsensitive.”

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.'"

J.E. Miller / Courtesy of Missouri Valley Room, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri.

Segment 1: Kansas lawmakers are debating a bill to end hair discrimination.

The idea behind the CROWN Act is to ban employers and schools from expecting people of color to adopt "white hair norms" in the workplace and the classroom. 

Segment 1: Why the Shawnee Mission School Board authorized controversial teacher contract.

Failed contract negotiations between teachers and administrators in the Shawnee Mission School District resulted in the district's Board of Education unilaterally approving a three-year contract. Members of the school board explained some of the complexities of the situation and discussed what options remain for teachers.

Missouri’s Legislative Black Caucus on Monday highlighted legislation they’ve filed to honor and remember the work done by African American Missourians. 

State Rep. Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis, spoke about the “perseverance and triumphs” of African Americans to begin the celebrations of Black History Month at a press conference at the Capitol. 

“When I think about black history in this country and in this state, ‘celebrate’ is not the first word that comes to mind,” he said. 

Segment 1: The link between sports and social justice is stronger than some people think.

The fight to end discrimination against black folks is ongoing, and Harry Edwards, who has spent the majority of his life as an activist and leader in the world of sports, says there are no final victories in such a dynamic struggle. From Muhammad Ali to Colin Kaepernick, he has played a role in some of the greatest stories in athletics and activism. 

Courtesy of the Hartsfield family

Rev. Wallace S. Hartsfield Sr., a spiritual and civil rights leader in Kansas City for more than 40 years, died Thursday. He was 90.

Hartsfield served as senior pastor of Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, one of Kansas City’s largest black churches, from 1962 to 1968 and again from 1972 until his retirement on Dec. 31, 2007.

Segment 1: How to make greeting cards more diverse.

Cards are about relationships. So if none of the greeting cards on the shelf represent the person you're reaching out to, or the occasion you're celebrating, it won't feel quite right. Though recent decisions by Hallmark caused controversy, a few months ago they were making moves to make more communities feel "seen" in the greeting card aisle.

Waiel Turner, 20, was not planning on going to college. He thought about entering the U.S. Air Force or becoming a police officer for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. 

Enrolling at Harris-Stowe State University was strictly happenstance.

In 2017, he accompanied a friend to the campus in midtown St. Louis where she was registering for classes. An admissions counselor told Turner he should enroll. Two days later, Turner became a college student. 

Turner said it is the family environment that makes Harris-Stowe home for him. Like many historically black colleges and universities, Harris-Stowe is struggling to keep its tight-knit family of students and staff together in the face of shaky finances and relative lack of state resources. 

Segment 1: Environmentalism and the outdoors have long been seen as safe spaces for white people.

The concerns of climate change action organizations are wide-ranging and well-founded, but membership is largely white and adult. Learn the benefits and challenges of adding young people of color to these groups, apart from just making them more reflective of the communities they serve. The founder of an Atlanta group and the head of a Kansas City organization explained how they are bringing diversity and youth to the environmental ranks.

The number of black farmers in the U.S. is shrinking — down to less than 2% of total farmers — and many are losing their land.

Members of the Kansas Black Farmers Association are working with the state in hopes of reversing that trend.

Segment 1: 2019 report shows black Kansas Citians are still separate and unequal.

By comparing things like poverty and homeownership rates by race, a report from the Urban League of Greater Kansas City found black people are only 73% as equal as whites in Kansas City. The report is released every few years, and is used to educate community members and elected oficials about progress in economics, education and social justice. 

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Black residents of Kansas City are still "separate and unequal," according to the latest report from the Urban League of Greater Kansas City.

The 2019 State of Black Kansas City, from the Urban League in collaboration with local law, policy, health and education experts, measures the racial gap in areas such as economics, criminal justice and education. Based on statistical analyses of factors such as the median net worth for black versus white households and the rate of homeownership, the report found the equality index for black Kansas Citians is only 73% of their white counterparts.

Segment 1: Congressman for Missouri's 5th district shares his stance on the current  impeachment inquiry.

Representative Emanuel Cleaver said constituents in Missouri's 5th District have mixed feelings on impeaching the president. Cleaver has been cautious in his calls for impeachment, but is now certain a crime was committed. Learn why he said, "It's not so much a political crime as it is a civil crime." 

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

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. 

Segment 1: Making greeting cards more diverse.

Cards are about relationships. So if none of the greeting cards on the shelf represent the person you're reaching out to, or the occasion you're celebrating, it won't feel quite right. Hallmark's trying to make more communities feel "seen" in the greeting card aisle.

  • Monic Houpe, product director, Hallmark
  • Christy Moreno, editorial director, Hallmark

Segment 2: Why Kansas and Missouri astronomers are fighting to save dark skies.

Segment 1: Lawmakers from urban districts want their counterparts from rural Missouri to come witness the devestation guns create in their cities.

Members of Missouri's Legislative Black Caucus expressed frustration with Gov. Mike Parson for his unwillingness to take up gun violence in next month's special session. They say they're not shocked, but disheartened, by the lack of urgency to address the issue.

Segment 1: CEO of the Health Forward Foundation stepping down but says "I won't be disappearing, I will continue to be a troublemaker in some way."

Library of Congress

Though Langston Hughes began his writing career nearly a century ago, Anthony Bolden says Hughes continues to speak to the current social and political climate — better than most contemporary writers do.

"In many ways, the current group of writers, that is to say creative writers and scholars, have yet to offer meaningful critiques or explanations for why we’re experiencing some of the things that are happening, or to demonstrate a clear understanding of the critical problems that we face," Bolden says.

Trae Q.L. Venerable

Trae Q.L. Venerable is a lot of things: a horseman, a houndsman, a writer and an educator, for sure. But foremost, he’s a real-life cowboy who doesn’t fit the image found in most western movies or in country music.

The Kansas City writer is African American and a mix of Choctaw, Cherokee and Black Foot as well as a fourth generation cowboy. He thought he'd do well to write books that honor those previous generations as well as future generations of cowboys of color.

Records of the War Department General and Special. Staffs.

One day in September of 1918, First Lieutenant George Robb's job was to take a French town called Sechault from the Germans who'd claimed it. At the time, he was commanding a group of African-American soldiers of the 369th Infantry called the Harlem Hellfighters.

Robb was wounded in what became a machine-gun fight that day, as were many of the men he fought beside. Some of them, including Robb, were recommended for the Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor in action against an enemy, and typically presented by the president of the United States.

Copyright Nina Chanel Abney / Courtesy of Rubell Family Collection, Miami

In the middle of June, Patricia MacHolmes travelled from Chicago to Kansas City for the baseball, the wine, the food and the museums — in particular, the "30 Americans" exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins.

As she walked around the exhibition on a Wednesday afternoon, MacHolmes said she was taken by how 90 pieces of art tell a story about African Americans.

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.

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

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

"Mentoring should be transformational," says Henry Wash, "like a metamorphosis."

It certainly has been for Wash, who runs the nonprofit High Aspirations, a mentorship program that focuses on African American males between 8 and 18 years of age.

Wash has benefitted from two of Kansas City's most generous mentors, who passed down lessons he still uses in his work.

Segment 1: Kansas City urban core program fills vital role of mentorship.

Kansas City's Henry Wash gives much credit to his mentor Henry Bloch for seeing him as a social entrepreneur and inspiring his nonprofit organization High Aspirations. Wash discussed the significant problems black boys face, the importance of them having consistent guidance, and the opening of his new facility. 

As the GOP-controlled Legislature seeks to undo a new state legislative redistricting system, some are pointing to the plan’s potential negative impact on majority-black House and Senate districts.

While those arguments aren’t prompting African American Democrats to vote to get rid of what’s known as Clean Missouri, that doesn’t mean black political leaders are universally embracing the new system. Some believe the language in the new redistricting process won’t prevent a scenario where the percentage of black residents in House and Senate districts get reduced — making it easier for white candidates to win.

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