Here To Listen | KCUR

Here To Listen

KCUR’s Here to Listen sends reporters to spend a few months getting to know a particular town, suburb, city or neighborhood in our listening area. They engage with community members, develop story ideas and sources, and report back in a week-long series on KCUR 89.3 and at kcur.org.

This map shows where we've been (click on a marker to read stories about that place) and all of our Here To Listen stories — so far — are below. Want to suggest a place?

Courtesy of the family

Boston Daniels was chief of the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department for only one year.

But he is remembered not only as the city’s first black police chief, but for distinguishing himself as a cop who worked his way up through the ranks over 25 years.

“It is safe to say there has never been another police chief quite like Boston Daniels,” the Kansas City Kansan wrote in an editorial on May 17, 1971, marking Daniels' retirement.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Growing up in Northeast Kansas City, Kansas, LaNya Meade, 14, remembers her mom saying she didn’t want LaNya to get stuck here.

“And so I always thought like, okay, I need to work my hardest and be the best so that I could make it out,” she says.

It’s a familiar refrain for many teens in the area around Quindaro Boulevard. But it’s a refrain many residents, young and old, are hoping to change.

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

Courtesy of the McFields

On the northeast corner of 5th and Quindaro Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas, sits a vacant and weathered building where 45 years ago, a black-owned bookstore became a clearinghouse for black literature, history and music as well as a vibrant gathering place to discuss the culture and politics of the day.

Brandon Parigo / KCUR 89.3

Bernard Crawford grew up on Quindaro during the 1970s. He remembers thriving businesses: bakeries, grocery stores and theaters. He left for school but has come back to be what he calls a "light” on Quindaro, to help it be a safe and welcoming place. A sign on the wall says, "No swearing allowed."

He’s got fruit snacks and lollipops for the kids.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

The Latino community in Belton, Missouri, once a military and farming community, is growing.

Today, almost 10 percent of Belton’s 24,000 residents are Latino, with that number rising to about 18 percent in the Belton School District. And they have mixed reports about how included they feel in the community. Some believe non-Latinos are uncomfortable with demographic changes.

As a fairly quiet Kansas City suburb, Belton often flies under the radar. But, with a growing Latino population and a vibrant commercial center, Belton residents are defining their community on their terms. In this hourlong segment, we collaborate with KCUR's community engagement project Here to Listen to talk about Belton's military history, its burgeoning local economy, and its changing demographics.

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

Twenty years ago, the stretch of Belton along U.S. Highway 71, now Interstate 49, looked a lot different than it does now. Only a few major retailers had set up shop in the city, with most bypassing Belton. That forced people who lived in the city to leave the county or even the state to shop at most big box or other stores.

Courtesy of Chris Stewart

The skies across metropolitan Kansas City roared with the flight acrobatics of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy’s Blue Angels at the annual air shows at Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base between Grandview and Belton, Missouri.

The sonic spectacles could draw more than a half a million people from around the region.

The base closed 25 years ago this year. But many of the enlistees and officers stayed in the Belton area, investing the town with an identity as a community of miltary retirees.

KCUR spoke to a group of the retirees at Belton's Carnegie Village Senior Living Community about their time on base.

Courtesy of J. Anthony Snorgrass

A poet and playwright is working to preserve the legacy of an iconic leader in the black community of Liberty, Missouri.

The poet and playwright is Shelton Ponder, a lifelong Liberty resident who graduated from Liberty High School in 1961.

A visit to the town of Liberty, Missouri and its outlying areas to hear about a growing Mormon community, a legendary teacher in the city’s formerly segregated schools and William Jewell College’s evolving role in the town.

Guests: 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Just off the historic Town Square in Liberty, Missouri, there is a spot that every year draws thousands of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It’s a replica of the jail where the Prophet Joseph Smith and a handful of his followers were imprisoned for several months through the winter of 1838 – 1839.

The story is that Smith and his flock, having migrated from New York, clashed violently with militia in the Midwest.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

The Royal Theater, once called The Fox Theater, opened in Atchison, Kansas, in 1912 as a vaudeville theater. It later showed films on the silent screen, complete with an in house piano player. They added talkies when they came along in the 1920s.

Rebekah Hange / KCUR 89.8

When Dr. Philip L. Stevens, the family doctor in Tonganoxie, Kansas, passed away in 2015, his family decided his office was worth preserving. After 60 years in practice in the small town 35 miles west of Kansas City, he'd delivered generations of babies and cared for just about everybody in town.

Doc Stevens was beloved in Tonganoxie. He was considered a pillar of the community. 

Leaving his examining table, medical instruments and scale just as they'd been for decades, Doc Steven's family created a mini-museum after his death.

Rebekah Hange / KCUR 89.3

Last September, the ground shifted under the small town of Tonganoxie, Kansas, about 35 miles due west of Kansas City.

When word got out that Tyson Foods, Inc. was ready to announce it would soon break ground just outside town on a $320 million poultry complex — a processing plant, hatchery and feed mill — opponents organized immediately.

LAURA ZIEGLER / KCUR 89.3

Roger Thomas wants you to move to his hometown, Orrick, Missouri, in order to save a small town that's only getting smaller. But can he convice you to see what he sees in Orrick?

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Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

The same group of elderly white men meet every morning at 6 a.m. at Fubbler’s Cove diner on Front Street in Orrick, Missouri. And pretty much every day they discuss the usual stuff: the weather, the crops, etc.

On a recent warm spring day, I dropped in to ask for their opinions on how they think national politics affects them.

“You probably don’t want to hear,” said one, who asked that I not use his name.

These guys disagree all the time – about everything from the new mayor to the food.  But it doesn’t get in the way of their daily coffee and conversation.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Between natural disasters, the transformation of farming, and the widespread decline of rural America, the small town of Orrick, Missouri has dwindled to a few square blocks.

KCUR's Central Standard has been visiting the edges of our listening area, to learn about communities we don't hear from quite as often. Join us for this trip 30 miles northeast of Kansas City to Orrick, where the town, lead by a new mayor, is all about re-invention.

Guests:

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Things are running pretty smoothly the first Monday of the month of May during the city council meeting in Orrick, Missouri.

Roger Thomas is the mayor of the town, population 799,  just northeast of Kansas City.

Topping the agenda is addressing the water collecting behind Nathan Claypole’s  house. Next, there's a unanimous vote to spring for a new computer for Dale Bosely with public works. 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

A stone’s throw from the childhood home of pilot Amelia Earhart in Atchison, Kansas, is Benedictine College. Benedictine monks started the college in 1857 to provide a Catholic education to the children of pioneers and to celebrate Mass with German and Irish settlers.

Today, about 40 monks live at the abbey on a hill overlooking the college and the Missouri River. They live much the same way Benedictine monks have lived since St. Benedict of Nursia established the order in sixth century.

Matthew Long-Middleton / KCUR 89.3

At one point in history, Atchison, Kansas was positioned to be one of the main connecting points for the railways between Missouri and Kansas. It's said there were more millionaires there than anywhere in the world. Can Atchison hold onto its grand past but carve out a new identity for young residents?

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Matthew Long-Middleton / KCUR 89.3

At one point in history, Atchison, Kansas was positioned to be one of the main connecting points for the railways between Missouri and Kansas. The town played an important role in the Civil War, and had many significant residents. But what's going on there today?

KCUR's Central Standard takes a road trip to Atchison. Come along with us.

Guests:

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Atchison, Kansas, population 11,000, has some of the same challenges facing other small towns around the country - they've had a hard time keeping businesses, retaining jobs and attracting young people.

But one thing that feels different here is their economic struggles feel linked to the town's rich history as a 19th century gateway to the west.