Martin Luther King Jr. | KCUR

Martin Luther King Jr.

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.

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. 

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

Segment 1: The Chiefs are the 2020 AFC Champions.

The "loudest stadium in the world" went wild last night after their team defeated the Tennesse Titans and earned a spot in the Feb. 2 Super Bowl game against the San Fransisco 49ers. Our sportscaster guests both picked the Chiefs to win that matchup, but there's still a great deal to consider before the red and gold confetti flies.

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.

Segment 1: Kansas City does have something named for Martin Luther King, Junior.

A month after Martin Luther King's name was voted off of a major boulevard, a cleaning effort is underway at a long-neglected park named after the civil rights icon. The park's been dedicated to King since 1978.

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.

Avery Gott / KCUR 89.3

Voters throughout Kansas City, Missouri, are being asked to decide whether to reverse a city council decision from earlier this year and change the name of what is now Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard back to Paseo Boulevard.

Segment 1: Voters will next month determine the fate of the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard name.

Residents displeased with the process of renaming The Paseo petitioned to restore its original name, leaving a heated debate to be settled by voters on November 5. The Rev. Vernon Howard Jr., an advocate for renaming the boulevard after the civil rights leader, says "this issue is also about race," but the group that collected more than 2,000 signatures says they reflect people of all backgrounds who want their voices heard.

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.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR

Kansas City, Missouri, residents opposed to the city council's vote to rename Paseo Boulevard to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. have no plans to slow down.

A member of the Blue Hills Neighborhood Association, Cheryl Barnes is part of a petition drive to reverse the January decision.

“We think that they didn’t do it properly. We think they rushed it through,” Barnes says. “We think there was not enough citizen input. And we think it’s just not a good way to destroy a very significant part of Kansas City’s history.”

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR

City workers put up the first street sign in Kansas City honoring Dr. Martin Luther King today. The ceremonial installation made concrete the city council’s decision to rename Paseo Boulevard to honor the civil rights leader.

The sign is at the corner of 34th Street and the renamed street, still called by many “the Paseo.”

More than 100 people attended the ceremony. Although speakers referred to the controversy of whether Paseo was the best street to rename, it didn’t appear to interfere with the celebratory yet solemn event.

Michael Rubenstein / damiensneed.com

Segment 1: Kansas City mayoral candidates face future voters in student-hosted debate. 

Last December students at Kansas City East High School asked mayoral hopefuls about issues concerning violence, policing, and economic development in their communities. Now that the race is in full swing, we revisited our conversation with three of the student organizers of that debate to hear how they spent a semester organizing the event and their impressions of the candidates.

Erica Hunzinger / KCUR 89.3

One of Kansas City, Missouri's major thoroughfares will undergo a significant name change from Paseo Boulevard to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Crestview Elementary third grader Hana Ismail is reading two books she picked out from her classroom library that feature Pakistani protagonists.

“Four Feet, Two Sandals,” by Karen Lynn Williams and illustrated by Khadra Mohammed, tells the story of two girls who meet in a refugee camp. “Malala’s Magic Pencil,” by Malala Yousafzai, is about the young Nobel laureate, with illustrations by Kerascoët.

“I get to pick out all my favorite books,” Hana said. “They’re really fun to read for me, and they give me more information about everything.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Most children are taught that Martin Luther King Jr. created change through peaceful protest, but that narrative oversimplifies the civil rights leader’s legacy.

In schools that make racial equity a priority, educators are starting to change how they teach about King.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

A city council committee unanimously passed a measure to rename Paseo Boulevard after Martin Luther King, Jr.

At Wednesday's meeting of the planning, zoning and economic development committee, most of the eight people who spoke supported the name change.

Black and white image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. surrounded by people.
U.S. National Archives

Segment 1: 50 years after its start, Martin Luther King Jr.'s movement for economic justice has been revitalized.

With his assassination in 1968, the momentum behind the then recently-launched Poor People's Campaign waned. Today, we learned about the national push to resurrect this movement and the 40-day plan for protests at statehouses across the country, including those in Topeka, Kansas, and Jefferson City, Missouri. 

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Finding the best way to memorialize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Kansas City.

Many in Kansas City agree there should be something here to memorialize the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The question is, what? Following suggestions The Paseo be renamed (or 39th Street or 63rd) Mayor Sly James appointed an advisory group to recommend how best to proceed. Today, we spoke with the co-chair of that panel, which recommended attaching Dr. King's name to a yet-to-be-built terminal at the airport.

Joe Carson / Courtesy of Bob Hughes Jr.

Updated 5:45 p.m., Friday: After weeks of discussing which street to name after Martin Luther King Jr., an advisory group is recommending not renaming a street at all — but the Kansas City International Airport.

Mayor Sly James clarified at a press conference Monday, if the idea is approved by City Council, the new single-terminal would be renamed, not the entire Kansas City International Airport. But, he said that doesn’t make the proposed gesture any less significant.

Segment 1: What should we consider when naming a street after Martin Luther King, Jr.?

Kansas City is one of the few cities in the country that doesn't have an MLK Boulevard. A discussion on the movement to rename The Paseo after Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jacqee Gafford / Facebook

The widows may have bonded so strongly because their husbands had been murdered within five years of each other. Or perhaps they were drawn together by the weight of tending to their husbands’ legacies.

Whatever speculation yields, only Coretta Scott King, Myrlie Evers and Betty Shabazz knew why they became and remained friends long after their children were grown.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

On April 9, 1968, five days after the killing of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., civil unrest in response to long-standing racial tension broke out in Kansas City. But what really happened 50 years ago? Last week, KCUR hosted the panel "Reaction or Riot?: Understanding 1968 in Kansas City" for community members to share their own experiences and recollections. Today, we revisited that conversation about the ways our city has — and hasn't — changed in the last half century.

Segment 1: Community members recall memories of switching schools after riots following Martin Luther King Jr's assassination.

 After the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, two local catholic high schools, one serving a primarily white community and the other serving a primarily black community, held a year-long student exchange program. Today, we speak with a few individuals who participated in the exchange as students and discuss the profound effect it had on their lives.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

There seem to be two competing groups in Kansas City when it comes to deciding how to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A petition drive, backed by Democratic U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, seeks to rename The Paseo, an iconic Kansas City boulevard, after the slain civil rights leader.

Joe Carson / Courtesy of Bob Hughes Jr.

On Jan. 19, 1968, Chester Owens Jr., and several other Kansas City leaders posed for a photo with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a TWA lounge. King was passing through due to a speech at Kansas State University. The men had been summoned, “really just there to make him comfortable,” as Owens put it on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Joe Carson

Segment 1: Local stories of Martin Luther King Jr.'s visit to Kansas in 1968.

Martin Luther King Jr. stopped by Kansas in January of 1968 to speak with a number of leaders from throughout Wyandotte County. Today, we hear from a couple of leaders about what that day was like and how meeting the civil rights activist influenced their lives.

  • Robert Hughes
  • Chester Owens Jr.

Segment 2, beginning at 34:49: Why we behave the way we do.

Labudde Special Collections, Miller Nichols Library/UMKC

It started with high school students.

On Tuesday, April 9, 1968, five days after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, and the day of his funeral, the Kansas City, Kansas school district canceled classes.

But in Kansas City, Missouri, the school board and police department felt it would be safer to have students in class and off the streets.

Michael Ali was a student at the mostly-black Central High School.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: New mayor and CEO of Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, says he's tapped into family's "longstanding commitment to the community." 

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Nearly 900 streets in the U.S. are named for Martin Luther King Jr. But there's not one in Kansas City.

Several prominent, local black political and religious leaders want to change that by renaming The Paseo to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, but say they've been met with bureaucratic resistance. So, they want to take the fight to the ballot box.

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