Weekly Newsletter 5/23/2017

Weekly Newsletter 5/23/2017

No fine, no jail time. After three long years, the final seven members of the Medicaid 23 listened closely to the brief words of a stoic Cole County judge. To the surprise of the defendants, their allies, and even their lawyers, the judge ruled out a monetary penalty: "Even a fine of one dollar would be excessive."

Riccardo Lucas and Revs. Susan McCann, Wallace Hartsfield, Lloyd Fields, Ester Holzendorf, and Emmet Baker were given what amounts to one year unsupervised probation. Reverend Jessie Fisher's case will be concluded later.

After the sentencing, Reverend Hartsfield led the group in prayer.

Now is the time to reflect on the work that still needs to be done to broaden healthcare access for all people. The Medicaid 23 were arrested while calling on the Missouri Legislature to expand Medicaid to cover 300,000 low-income Missourians who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for Affordable Care Act subsidies. After three years, this problem persists. It is estimated that 700 Missourians will die each year without Medicaid expansion.

What can you do to help?

We encourage you to contact your Missouri representatives in Jefferson City to make your voice heard on this issue. A similar fight over Medicaid expansion is close to victory in Kansas, so we encourage Kansans to also contact your representatives in Topeka. Tell them poverty should not be a death sentence.

 

It is also vital in this moment to urge our U.S. Senators to reject the American Health Care Act. As we work for Medicaid expansion, we must remember the veryexistence of Medicaid is threatened. The AHCA would slash hundreds of billions from healthcare for the poor, along with other immoral consequences.

 

Finally, we invite you to read and share an important interview on CCO's website. We spoke with Phil Glynn, President of Travois in Kansas City, on why his small business provides its workers a living wage, healthcare, higher education assistance, and even childcare, and why he personally thinks you should vote YES on the $15 minimum wage question on Kansas City's August ballot.

Thank you for all you do to create a better world. Have a great week!

Last of the Medicaid 23 Face Sentencing in Jefferson City

Last of the Medicaid 23 Face Sentencing in Jefferson City

By Garrett S. Griffin


Seven clergy and healthcare advocates from Kansas City and St. Louis will journey to Jefferson City today (Thursday, May 18) to be sentenced for trespassing at the state capitol in 2014. They were part of the Medicaid 23, a diverse group of brave activists who sang and prayed in the capitol balcony to urge the Missouri Legislature to expand Medicaid to cover the 300,000 low-income Missourians who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for Affordable Care Act subsidies.

For refusing to leave or allow their voices for poor families stuck in a coverage gap to be silenced, the Medicaid 23 were arrested and in 2016 found guilty of trespassing. Jay Nixon, Missouri governor at the time, offered them pardons. Seven refused the offer.

The seven include CCO Board President Rev. Susan McCann and Rev. Wallace Hartsfield Sr., both of Kansas City. The other five are Rev. Lloyd Fields, Rev. Ester Holzendorf, Rev. Jessie Fisher, and Riccardo Lucas, all of Kansas City, and Rev. Emmet Baker of St. Louis.

“This is about justice,” Reverend Susan McCann said. “Justice for the poor of our state still waiting for their representatives to act. Missouri makes it harder than almost any other state to qualify for Medicaid. While the Legislature delays, Missourians without health insurance die. This is a matter of life and death.”     

Sentencing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today at the Cole County Circuit Court. 

Business Leader For $15: In Conversation with Travois' Phil Glynn

Business Leader For $15: In Conversation with Travois' Phil Glynn

Communities Creating Opportunity spoke with Phil Glynn, President of Travois in Kansas City, Missouri, about how and why his company supports economic dignity for its workers -- and why other companies should do the same.  

 

CCO: Travois spurs housing and economic development in First Nation communities: American Indian, Native Alaskan, and Native Hawaiian. Tell us a bit more about what that looks like and why it's important to you. 

Glynn: We identify change agents working in Native communities. We support them as they lead a community organizing process to build consensus for a new development. This could be a business that creates family-wage jobs, infrastructure that is resilient to a disrupted climate, or housing that helps stabilize families. Once the community is united around an idea, we bring private investors to the table to close project gaps. We are a for-profit, mission-driven family business. Our model helps us move at the speed of the market. Our board, our founders, and our partners across Indian Country keep us anchored to our mission.

 

CCO: Some readers may be curious: Why Kansas City? Why is Travois here rather than elsewhere? 

Glynn: Travois is a family business. From 1995-2006, Travois employees worked in offices around the country. Around 2006, our founders (my in-laws) started looking for locations to centralize to gain efficiencies and bring everyone together. Our CEO Elizabeth Bland Glynn (my wife) and I had put down roots in KC. I grew up here and Elizabeth fell in love with the place after college. I could go through all of the things that make KC a great place to grow a business -- central location, good cost of living, access to passionate and skilled talent. But the truth is, Elizabeth and I had the first grandchild, which forced my in-laws to start spending time here. Once they did they saw what I have seen my entire life. This is a great community with great energy where positive things can happen.

 

CCO: We hear Travois pays its own employees a living wage. What's your philosophy behind that? 

Glynn: We want our employees focused on making a positive impact in the Native communities where we work. Paying a living wage, offering quality benefits, and supporting employees’ ongoing education are all a part of that. If you are worried about paying your bills, if you are unable to attend a child’s school play, or if you are unable to take time to care for a parent who is ill, where will your focus be? We have seen that when we invest in our people that investment pays off in big ways for our clients, investors, and our company.

 

CCO: Elaborate on how a living wage pays off for your company. You're a small business, with a staff of about 40. A common sentiment is that a decent wage kills small businesses: you can't afford to hire more workers, you can't properly invest in other areas of the business because you have to devote so much money to labor, and so on. Isn't paying a living wage holding Travois back?

Glynn: From a business point of view, motivated, devoted, creative employees are your most valuable asset. You have to invest in your most important asset if you want to succeed. Looking at people as a cost is a narrow, old-fashioned way of assessing things. Employee compensation is an investment. When you invest in your business you see returns in the form of lower turnover costs, happier customers, and new opportunities.

 

CCO: In August there will be a $15 minimum wage on the Kansas City ballot. Do you support this measure? 

Glynn: Yes. A $15 minimum wage puts more money in workers’ pockets that will circulate in our local economy. Communities grow by attracting talented people and new job creation follows talented people. I want Kansas City to be in a race to the top to be the best place in the region to live and work. Setting a minimum wage at a level that recognizes what it takes to raise a family and live with dignity is critical to that effort.

 

CCO: Just a couple more questions. You mentioned helping employees continue their education? And is it true you help with childcare as well?

Glynn: Travois assists employees with completing degrees that will help them succeed in their careers and their lives. Anything we can do to help our people accomplish their goals will contribute to our goal of being the best company we can be. When we invest in our people they invest in us. When it comes to childcare we have seen firsthand that there is a dearth of affordable, accessible early childhood care and education options. We did not want access to or affordability of child care to be a barrier to anyone working for Travois. We provide and subsidize daycare for the families of employees. We also recruit early learning educators whom we pay a livable wage. We encourage them to bring their children with them to work, which creates strong bonds among our childcare providers, employees, and children.

 

CCO: A company with its own daycare sounds pretty unique. How common is that in Kansas City, any idea?

Glynn: We certainly see it as a differentiator. There are larger organizations that offer daycare, but we are an example that small businesses can make it work too. We want to attract and retain the best people from the Kansas City area and nationwide. One thing we seem to hear from everyone, however, is how difficult it is to find accessible, affordable childcare. We are certainly not the only company that does this, but I think if more did they would find it is an incredible retention advantage.

 

CCO: Thank you for your time, Mr. Glynn.

Weekly Newsletter 5/9/2017

Weekly Newsletter 5/9/2017

Happy Tuesday! We hope you are well. CCO is looking to build our social media following, and we could use your help. If you're on social media, please "like" our Facebook and Twitter pages, and then post a tweet or status encouraging your friends to do the same. There is even an "Invite Your Friends To Like This Page" button on CCO's Facebook page. Thank you for helping CCO grow!

 

Live in Johnson County? Our next JoCo CCO meeting is this Thursday, May 11 at 6 pm. We are gathering in the Debby Sullivan Room at the Health Service Building (11875 S. Sunset Drive, Olathe, KS 66061). We will be discussing early childhood education, a key to positive social change. Please RSVP.

 

See another episode of "The Raising of America." Visitation Church will be viewing another part of the documentary series that examines how social conditions and government policies impact childhood development. This event will take place on Tuesday, May 16 at 7 pm in Visitation's Tighe Hall (5141 Main Street, KCMO, 64112).

The episode, "Wounded Places," looks at how violence and trauma affect children. A panel discussion of experts will follow the film. RSVP today.

 

Help millions of Americans keep their healthcare! CCO opposes the new American Health Care Act that just passed the U.S. House and is working its way toward the U.S. Senate.

The bill slashes subsidies for poor Americans that helped them afford healthcare, defunds Medicaid, allows large businesses to opt out of insuring workers, removes minimum coverage requirements, and allows insurance giants to overcharge the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions (states will be required to help cover these higher prices, but details are still murky). All this while giving a massive tax cut to the wealthy.

This bill is immoral, an affront to human dignity that hurts the most vulnerable. We encourage you to call your Missouri or Kansas senators and tell them to vote NO.

The Walls That Don't Go Away

The Walls That Don't Go Away

By Jackson Laughlin


I’ve been inside jails a few times before, back when I was an intern at the Public Defender’s office. On those days, I spent just a few hours behind the confining cement walls present in most jails and prisons. When I stepped through the heavy metal doorways to go home, I was able to leave those walls behind.

Back then, I always imagined that was also true for people who were released from incarceration. I imagined they too would leave behind the walls that had confined them for the duration of their sentence.

Over the last four months, I’ve heard the voices of people telling me just how wrong I was.

“The worst city in the world to live in as a felon is Kansas City.”

“I’m having a hard time transitioning… I’m just trying to get back on my feet.”

“Once you put a person in prison you destroy the rest of their life, basically.”

Those are the words of men in Kansas City who have been previously incarcerated. Some of them have been out for over ten years. But their mistakes continue to haunt them even now, as they face the stigma of being an “ex-offender.”

“[I was rejected by] this one employer. ‘Once a criminal always a criminal’ is what she told me.”

The man who spoke those words is not alone in his struggle. One study found that 87% of potential employers  and 80% of potential landlords conduct background checks. If you have a criminal record, you are 50% less likely to receive a callback on a job. In 2015, a quarter of recently released Kansans found themselves homeless.

Over the last four months, I worked on a research project at CCO conducting public records requests, reviewing literature, and interviewing previously incarcerated people about what kind of barriers they face after being released. What did I learn? I learned that the walls don’t go away.

Of course, there are those that meet my findings with little sympathy. During my time researching the prevalence of these barriers in Kansas City, I’ve spoken with many people who believe that if someone is convicted of a crime then they should have to suffer through whatever barriers society puts in their way.

The people who make those claims are perhaps unaware of how many of their neighbors have been previously incarcerated. National trends indicate that a third of the population has a criminal record. That’s over 50,000 people in Wyandotte County; over 6,000 of those people have been released in the last five years alone.

These folks are no longer “criminals.” They have served their time, gone through their punishment. More than that, they’re our neighbors. Our friends and family.

Every previously incarcerated person I spoke to told me the same thing. They were trying to “stay focused” on their success. They “didn’t want to break the law” anymore. But according to the National Institute of Justice, 74% of them will be reincarcerated within five years following their incarceration.

Why? Because it’s next to impossible for them to succeed.

When someone is released from prison, they leave with a hundred dollars (often less) and sometimes a relative to stay with or a halfway house to sleep in. They must then find employment and housing in a world where background checks bar them from many opportunities. Often they’ve been incarcerated long enough that they no longer have the knowledge or skills to work at places willing to hire them.

Even if they are hired, many face suspended, revoked, or expired licenses that bar them from driving to work. According to a public records request received on February 13th of this year, there were 15,108 suspended licenses in Wyandotte County alone. If they are able to find a job, they may still be tasked with paying child support, parole fees, probation costs, legal debt, or halfway house fees. One man I spoke to told me that 40% of his paycheck went to the halfway house he lived in.

And those are just the most common barriers to reentry. Kansas City residents who have been incarcerated may also be overcoming psychological barriers, health problems, addiction, familial hardships, safety concerns, issues with public transportation, and nutritional barriers. How can they be expected to shoulder all those burdens when someone refuses to hire them because they think “once a criminal, always a criminal”?

It’s no wonder some of these men turn to back to crime to make a living or even just to get back into prison, where at least they’ll have a bed to sleep in.

Hearing the stories of the men I’ve interviewed has left my head riddled with questions. Why would we treat someone so differently just because of a mistake in their past? Where is our forgiveness? Where is our compassion? Why are the confining walls of incarceration still there, even when the incarceration itself is over?

One of the men I interviewed told me that he is doing “everything in his power” not to go back to prison. Shouldn’t we be doing everything in our power to help him succeed?


Jackson Laughlin is a graduating senior at the University of Kansas with a BA in Applied Behavioral Science and Political Science. Jackson is an intern at CCO and will be attending Harvard Law School in the Fall of 2017.

Weekly Newsletter 5/1/2017

Weekly Newsletter 5/1/2017

Good morning, CCO community. As some of you may have seen on our social media pages this weekend, one of Kansas City's television news stations recently caught our attention when it used the word "thug" to describe a black gunman committing a robbery. Read this article on CCO's website about how "thug" has taken on a racial meaning (it is most often used for black men) and how those who care about racial equity must be mindful of bias in language.

Then come support the following actions and events:

 

Come to Topeka for the rally to expand Medicaid in Kansas! On Tuesday, May 2, at 10:30 am, there will be a rally at the Kansas state capitol building (300 SW 10th Street, Topeka, KS 66612) in support of the expansion of Kansas Medicaid. There will be representatives and clergy there in solidarity with the cause.

The Kansas Legislature was only three votes shy of overriding Governor Brownback's veto of KanCare expansion. We are drawing closer to providing tens of thousands more low-income Kansans with healthcare, so we have to show up and increase the pressure! If you're on Facebook, RSVP!

 

Join our "Burden of a Criminal Record" event. On Tuesday, May 2, from 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm, we will explore the barriers to re-entry faced by previously incarcerated Wyandotte County residents and what can be done to overcome these challenges.

This powerful event will take place in the auditorium of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library (625 Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, KS 66101). Please RSVP.

Read a reflection, "The Walls That Don't Go Away," by the event speaker at CCO's website.

 

Live in Johnson County? The next JoCo CCO meeting will be on Thursday, May 11. Time and location TBD, so watch your email inbox and our Facebook and Twitter pages for updates.

 

See another episode of "The Raising of America"! Visitation Church will be viewing another part of the documentary series that examines how social conditions and government policies impact childhood development. This event will take place on Tuesday, May 16, at 7 pm in Visitation's Tighe Hall (5141 Main Street, KCMO, 64112).

The episode, "Wounded Places," looks at how violence and trauma affect children. A panel discussion of experts will follow the film. Please RSVP today.

 

We look forward to seeing you at these events. Have a great week!

KMBC Doesn't Realize 'Thug' is a Racial Code Word

KMBC Doesn't Realize 'Thug' is a Racial Code Word

By Garrett S. Griffin


On Thursday, KMBC 9 News published a story on a black man who robbed a Jimmy John’s on 39th Street, pulling out a gun and pointing it mere inches from an employee’s head. Within the story itself, the man’s reprehensible actions were reported with the professionalism one would expect from a news organization. He was labeled a “suspect” and a “gunman.”

When KMBC shared the story on Facebook, however, professionalism was abandoned for racially-charged language. “Do you recognize this thug?” the status asked.

What most thinking persons suspect, yet the news station seems oblivious to, is that “thug” has indeed become a modern racial slur. Thug is almost exclusively used, by media and individuals, to describe black male suspects or criminals (or even, at times, peaceful black protesters or nonviolent black drug users). Richard Sherman put it best when he said, “The only reason it bothers me is because it seems like it’s the accepted way of calling somebody the N-word nowadays.” This was after he was labeled a thug despite not engaging in any violent or vulgar language or actions, the precise same label actual rioters in Baltimore received thousands of times on major networks like ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox.

Defined as a “ruffian,” “criminal,” or “violent person,” the word has gone through slight evolutions over the years and been applied to many different social troublemakers, from members of the Italian mob to unionists to civil rights and anti-war activists. Like the N-word, thug was adopted by black hip-hop and rap artists as a way to describe self and culture, and is sometimes used to describe black suspects and criminals by prominent African Americans like Barack Obama and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. And there are exceptions to the rule -- when thug is used for whites. However, none of this makes it acceptable for media outlets to also partake, knowingly or unwittingly, in language that is today typically reserved for people of color. It is indecent and insensitive for any professional organization that serves a diverse community.

It is almost difficult to envision KMBC asking, “Do you recognize this thug?” in reference to a white man. This is because our language, like our society as a whole, has yet to reach a place of racial equity, a place where blacks are viewed and spoken of in ways no worse and no better than whites. Communities Creating Opportunity is dedicated to racial equity and inclusion in all aspects of life, which is why we must watch media portrayals of black criminals closely for signs of bias.

KMBC needs to recall that words can have a great deal of power. They can move us toward that place of racial equity or take us farther away, but they rarely keep us still. The station also must realize avoiding terms that have been tinged with racial meaning is not terribly difficult. As one black Kansas Citian commented on the story: “Thug??? Why not man, suspect, person, criminal, gunman, etc. We all know why he was referred to as a ‘thug.’” Whether or not KMBC realized this word has racial meaning, this seems like a good time to listen to Kansas Citians of color and reflect upon why and how language can hurt its own viewers.

 

Garrett S. Griffin is an activist, political writer, and the author of Racism in Kansas City: A Short History. He is the Communications Coordinator at CCO.

Weekly Newsletter 4/18/2017

Weekly Newsletter 4/18/2017

Good afternoon, CCO community! Did you see the latest article in our series on how faith impacts the social justice perspectives of Kansas Citians? "Islam and America's Unwritten Rules on Race" by Shahid A. Abdus-Salaam is one you won't want to miss. Be watching our blog, Facebook, and Twitter to see all the articles in this series.

We have many events coming up that we hope to see you at:

 

Go from idea to income with our "Start Your Business" Entrepreneurial Workshop! On Saturday, April 22, from 10 am to 2 pm, CCO and EconAvenue will host a free workshop on how to launch the successful business you've always envisioned. We will discuss and share local resources, hear ideas from business experts, and work on changing local culture to provide ongoing support to new business owners like you.

This event will take place at the NBC Community Development Corporation (event host), 735 Walker Avenue, Kansas City, KS 66101. RSVP today.

 

Attend our "Taste of Kansas City" Reception at the American Jazz Museum at 18th and Vine! On Thursday, April 27, from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, come meet the famous White Privilege Conference speakers, including Michael Eric Dyson, Glenn Singleton, Peggy McIntosh, John D. Palmer, Eddie Moore Jr., James W. Loewen, and more.

You will enjoy a tour of the American Jazz and National Negro League museums, KC BBQ, a cash bar, music, book signings, and spoken word artists.

Purchase your ticket(s) here or contact Marquita Taylor at marquita@cco.org to become an official sponsor, which includes several unique benefits. Free transportation by Hobson's Limousines will be provided to the first 100 White Privilege Conference participants to purchase tickets for the reception.

 

Bring your young adult to a Youth Lock-in! CCO is co-hosting a lock-in for young men ages 12-19 on Friday, April 28, from 5 pm to midnight, with a lock-in for young women ages 12-19 the next night, Saturday, April 29, from 5 pm to midnight. Both are free!

As part of the Global Youth Initiative, these will not only be nights of fun and games, but also character-building activities and leadership development. They will take place at the Gregg/Klice Community Center (1600 Buck O'Neil Way, Kansas City, Missouri 64108). RSVP here.

 

Join our "Burden of a Criminal Record" event. On Tuesday, May 2, from 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm, we will explore the barriers to re-entry faced by previously incarcerated Wyandotte County residents and what can be done to overcome these challenges.

This powerful event will take place in the auditorium of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library (625 Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, KS 66101). Please RSVP.

 

Have a great week!

Islam and America's Unwritten Rules on Race

Islam and America's Unwritten Rules on Race

By Shahid A. Abdus-Salaam


"AMERICA" IS TECHNICALLY not a place on a map. Two continents and an isthmus, comprised of twenty-three countries, make up this vast land of North, Central, and South America. But rather than three geographic regions, the United States’ elite saw "America" as a three-tier caste system: masters, poor whites, and blacks or people of color. It was a system of rules, written and otherwise.

Black progression was and is a real struggle in these so-called United States thanks to these rules. Redlining to keep real estate and community development dollars out of certain areas is just one tactic the racist American system used (uses) to keep a certain classification of people in their place. Black Wall Street (Greenwood in Tulsa, OK) faced total devastation during the white riot of 1921. Efforts to rebuild were met with racial and political resistance. Almost a century later, Greenwood has yet to regain a fraction of its former bustle and vibrancy.

1966 ushered in the Black Panther Party, inspired by a black Muslim named Malcolm X. Its agenda was to establish economic and social equality for black people and protect them from Oakland's corrupt and brutal police department. The Black Panther Party didn’t fear local police, politicians, or federal law enforcement. This violated an unwritten rule. As a result they were feared, hated, and vilified by J. Edgar Hoover. Dismantling the Party became Hoover’s obsession. Hoover said, "The unification of black people in this country is the greatest threat to our national security." Just one example of white men fearing black freedom.

Today, efforts are made to nullify the Black Lives Matter movement. If all lives mattered there would be no need for Black Lives Matter. This movement is the result of black people being murdered in cold blood. In 2016, police killed no less than 250 black people without retribution. The perpetrators investigate themselves and always find no wrongdoing. Yet when Colin Kaepernick peacefully exercises his right to free speech, he's deemed a menace to society. He broke the rules. This reaction mirrors white extremist reaction to Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X in the sixties. The racist never wants his vile behavior brought to light. Any mention or protest of his crimes are met with retaliation, no matter what the constitution says (that document and the unwritten rules of America are not one and the same today). Is this equality?

During the 60s and 70s when I was growing up, we were taught to enjoy our prosperity. Eating at Woolworths, a seat anywhere on the bus, and the right to vote was the high life. As an adult, my perspective completely changed, as I realized the economic and social challenges black people still faced. Then I found Islam.

Converting to Islam raised the stakes exponentially for me. My conversion didn’t come with any delusions society would be more gracious. America has always seen Muslims as "the Other" as well, also subjected to oppressive unwritten rules, and thus my burden was doubled. Yet studying the Qur'an and the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) reminded me of something vital to race relations, a Hadith (saying of the Prophet) reading:

O people, our Lord is one and our father Adam is one. There is no virtue of an Arab over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab over an Arab, and neither white skin over black skin nor black skin over white skin, except by righteousness.

Those words, coupled with reading Malcolm X's Hajj (journey to Mecca) experience in his autobiography, reinforced in my mind that there is no superior race. Islam makes this clear. Many religions call for love and equality between races. The fact that some religious Americans needed national laws to tell them how to conduct themselves with those of different races and faiths doesn't speak highly of their interpretation of their religion. Where they failed in their challenge, can we succeed in ours? Can we now use the wisdom of Islam and other faiths to address America's unwritten rules?

As-Salaam Alaikum.

 

Shahid A. Abdus-Salaam is the senior advisor for a commercial lending group in greater Kansas City and is involved with One Struggle KC and other social justice groups.

Weekly Newsletter 4/11/2017

Weekly Newsletter 4/11/2017

Happy Tuesday, CCO community! Over the next couple weeks we will be publishing a series of articles on faith and social justice on our new website. We asked Kansas Citians of diverse faiths to reflect on how their spiritual beliefs impact their views on (or experience with) CCO's key issues: health access, economic dignity, racial equity, violence prevention, and early childhood education.

Read the first article, "Positive Early Childhood Development is a Christian Duty" by Mary Spence, here. Be sure to watch our blog, Facebook, and Twitter to see all our articles.

 

We are building a diverse coalition of Johnson County residents who care about social justice! No county is totally free of social ills like poverty and lack of access to proper healthcare. Fortunately, there are always residents committed to addressing injustice and inequality.

Join us at the Oak Park Library (9500 Bluejacket, Overland Park, KS 66214) on Thursday, April 13, from 6 pm to 8 pm. We will identify urgent issues in Johnson County, with a focus on low life expectancy zip codes. RSVP here.

 

Come see "The Raising of America" film at Visitation! On Monday, April 17, from 7 pm to 8:30 pm, Visitation Church will host a viewing of the groundbreaking documentary that explores how social conditions affect childhood development. A discussion will follow.

It will take place in Tighe Hall at Visitation, 5141 Main Street, Kansas City, MO 64112. Please RSVP here.

 

Go from idea to income with our "Start Your Business" Entrepreneurial Workshop! On Saturday, April 22, from 10 am to 2 pm, CCO and EconAvenue will host a free workshop on how to launch the successful business you've always envisioned.

We will discuss and share local resources, hear ideas from business experts, and work on changing local culture to provide ongoing support to new business owners like you. Speakers include Dell Gines of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

This event will take place at the NBC Community Development Corporation, 735 Walker Avenue, Kansas City, KS 66101. RSVP today.

 

Attend our "Taste of Kansas City" Pre-White Privilege Conference Reception at the American Jazz Museum at 18th and Vine! On Thursday, April 27, from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, come meet the nationally renowned White Privilege Conference speakers, including Michael Eric Dyson, Glen Singleton, and more.

You will enjoy a tour of the American Jazz and National Negro League museums, KC BBQ, a cash bar, music, and spoken word artists.

Purchase your ticket(s) here, or contact Marquita Taylor at marquita@cco.org to become an official sponsor, which includes several unique benefits. Free transportation by Hobson's Limousines will be provided to the first 100 White Privilege Conference participants to purchase tickets for the reception.

 

Thank you, and have a blessed week!

Positive Early Childhood Education is a Christian Duty

Positive Early Childhood Education is a Christian Duty

By Mary Spence


FOR MANY YEARS I viewed early childhood education as solely an educational issue, but as the years passed and my experience with children grew I began to realize it is also a social justice issue. 

What impact does early childhood have on our livelihood and the strength of our communities? Providing children with a strong start allows them to develop into good students and strong, productive adults who will contribute in a meaningful way to our society. High-quality early education programs not only prepare children academically, but socially as well. This is where children learn kindness, compassion, creativity, critical thinking skills, and self-control. 

Research tells us that children who experience high-quality early education are less likely to need special education services, drop out of school or become expelled, or be involved with drugs or serious crime; they are better able to compete in the job market. Early investment in children pays off with a stronger nation and a stable democracy.

But what else does it mean? No one in our world can make it alone. We all need support in some way. Think of those who supported you along the way. While living in a country of wealth, we do not often see firsthand the great number of children and families who are struggling. Children need their parents, but parents need their jobs. Families need care for their children so they can work, free from worry, and be more successful.

Working with children most of my adult life taught me that God is near. God speaks to us through the voices of children. The question is are we really listening? Are we providing for our children as God would want? Are we teaching them the skills they need to become good, successful adults, who will carry God’s word forward? The future of our nation depends on the healthy start we give our children. A strong start for our children leads not only to better learning, earning, and physical and mental health, but also to a safer, better educated, and more prosperous nation.  The environment in which we raise our children can and will have an impact on their ability to learn and grow into the best adults they can be.

Jesus said, “Bring the little children to me." I believe it is our duty as Christians and as citizens to care for all our children and families. The kindness, support, and investment we give now will impact generations to come.

 

Mary Spence is the Co-Chair of the Raising of America Kansas City Coalition.

Weekly Newsletter 4/5/2017

Weekly Newsletter 4/5/2017

You did it! Yesterday, Kansas City voted YES on Question 4, enacting a new sales tax that will raise $8.6 million a year for economic development in the long-neglected neighborhoods of the central city! It passed with 52% of the vote.

This monumental victory only came about because of people like you, who care about human dignity and social justice, who stepped up to spread the word and get to the polls. Thank you for taking action.

CCO is looking forward to many events this month, and we hope you will join us.

 

Join the Johnson County chapter of CCO! No county is completely free of poverty, lack of proper healthcare, racial inequities, and other social problems. Fortunately, there are always people committed to addressing these issues no matter where they live.

Join us at the Oak Park Library (9500 Bluejacket, Overland Park, KS 66214) on Thursday, April 13, from 6 pm to 8 pm. We will identify urgent issues in Johnson County, with a focus on low life expectancy zip codes. RSVP here.

 

Come view "The Raising of America" film at Visitation! On Monday, April 17, from 7 pm to 8:30 pm, Visitation Church will host a viewing of the groundbreaking documentary that explores how social conditions affect childhood development.

It will take place in Tighe Hall at Visitation, 5141 Main Street, Kansas City, MO 64112. Please RSVP here.

 

Join us for our Entrepreneurial Workshop! On Saturday, April 22, from 10 am to 2 pm, CCO will host a free workshop to identify and make available local resources, share effective ideas from emerging entrepreneurship, and work on changing local culture to provide ongoing support to entrepreneurs. Speakers include Dell Gines of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and EconAvenue.

This event will take place at the Haven Center, 735 Walker Avenue, Kansas City, KS 66101. RSVP today.

 

Attend our White Privilege Conference 2017 Reception at the American Jazz Museum at 18th and Vine! On Thursday, April 27, from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, come meet the nationally renowned White Privilege Conference speakers, including Michael Eric Dyson, Glen Singleton, and more.

You will enjoy a tour of the American Jazz and National Negro League museums, KC BBQ, a cash bar, music, and spoken word artists.

Purchase your ticket(s) here, or contact Marquita Taylor at marquita@cco.org to become an official sponsor, which includes several unique benefits. Free transportation by Hobson's Limousines will be provided to the first 100 White Privilege Conference participants to purchase tickets for the reception.

 

Thank you, and we can't wait to see you at these events!

Weekly Newsletter 3/28/2017

Weekly Newsletter 3/28/2017

Happy Tuesday, CCO community! There are a wide variety of exciting events on the horizon, so pull out your calendars. 

 

On Thursday, March 30join us to celebrate outgoing CCO Executive Director Eva Kathleen Schulte. For the past 12 years, Eva faithfully served CCO and the people of the region on some of the most consequential social justice and equity issues.

Join the CCO Board of Directors, staff, and volunteer leaders at a special reception to be held on Thursday, March 30, 2017, from 5:30 pm to 7 pm in the first floor atrium of the KC Health Department building (2400 Troost). We will formally thank Eva for her years of service. Let us know you're coming!

 

Tuesday, April 4 is election day in Kansas City, Missouri! A week from today registered voters of KCMO will have the opportunity to vote on Question 4, a one-eighth cent sales tax that would raise $8.6 million per year for economic development in some of the central city's poorest areas. CCO endorses this initiative.

The funds will go toward housing, restaurants, shops, public plazas, light infrastructure, street lighting, blight removal, gunfire sensing technology, and more. Investment like this is vital to creating jobs, renewing neighborhoods, and reducing crime. So vote YES on Question 4 on April 4Find your voting place here. We are #OneCityKC!

 

Thursday, April 27 to Sunday, April 30 is the White Privilege Conference at the downtown Marriot. The conference examines problems and solutions related to white privilege and racial oppression. Its stated goals are "Organizing. Strategizing. Taking action. Deconstructing the Culture of White Supremacy and Privilege: Creating Peace, Equity, and Opportunity in the Heartland." 

Speakers include Michael Eric Dyson, Glen Singleton, Peggy McIntosh, and many others. See the White Privilege Conference website for details and registration.

 

On Friday, April 28-Saturday, April 29, CCO is co-sponsoring a youth leadership event, and we need your help! We are looking for volunteers passionate about working with young people and committed to being positive role models. 

The event is the Global Youth Initiative Lock-In at the Gregg/Klice Community Center in Kansas City. There is a lock-in for young men ages 12-19 on Friday, April 28, 2017, from 5 pm to midnight, followed by a lock-in for young women ages 12-19 on Saturday, April 29, 2017, from 5 pm to midnight. Events include games and character building activities.

If you are interested in having a positive impact on young adults and making this event a success, contact Ave Stokes at avrell@cco.org or 816-663-9794.

 

Thank you, and have a blessed week!

Who Belongs in Kansas City?

Who Belongs in Kansas City?

By Garrett S. Griffin


THREE WEEKS AFTER the election, I found myself sitting between two men: a black man on my right, a white man on my left.

We sat together at the Shoal Creek Police Station in north Kansas City. The black man and I were under arrest for participating in a peaceful act of civil disobedience in support of a higher minimum wage and union rights for Kansas City workers. We’d known each other for a few hours. The white man was a drunk stranger, I believe hauled in for domestic violence.

My companion and I were forced to listen for an extended time to this man’s thoughts, some incoherent, others insensitive, a few overtly racist. We tried to counter some of this, but the man was in no condition to be reasoned with.

Civil disobedience “won’t do anything,” he said, a smug smile on his lips as he readied the punchline. “All you’re doing is disrupting the crack flow in the inner city.”

He explained that Somalis are foolish because they choose to drive taxis instead of finding better work, and how poor Americans in general need to work harder (as hard as he) and get off welfare.

He spoke of how native Africans are poor “because they’re just so stupid,” and how if I ever started a business I should take on my black comrade as a partner because “he looks like he could use a helping hand, if you know what I mean.”

This angered me, but as a white man my indignation was only against attacks on others; it’s not the hotter anger of one who is personally demeaned and defamed. I wondered what my companion was feeling at that moment. When I was able to put aside for a second my embarrassment that a fellow white person, intoxicated or not, would say such things in the presence of a black man, or at all, I saw my companion was stone-faced, eyes observing something far away, something I couldn’t see.

Perhaps it was memories. He’d seen and heard such things before. Perhaps he was simply trying to quell the anger toward this slander against where he lived, his work ethic, his ancestors from another continent, who he was.

I didn’t speak to him about it after our release. But I imagine he didn’t feel like he belonged.

Like the nation as a whole, Kansas City struggles to be a place where all people feel like they belong. That our city should be such a home is not the unrealistic demand of “sensitive, entitled snowflakes” who “get offended by everything.” It is the basic ideal of the American experiment, that all people are created equal, worthy of the same dignity, respect, and human rights. In a decent American society, that lived up to its principles, every person would feel like he or she belonged.

Clearly, this is not yet the case. The Southern Poverty Law Center recorded nearly 900 hate incidents in the ten days following Donald Trump’s election. Trump supporters were emboldened, validated, and set about verbally and physically attacking the people Trump demeaned and vilified. Women were grabbed by the genitals, homosexuals beaten, hijabs ripped off Muslim girls, blacks called "niggers," Jews called “kikes,” Hispanics mocked and told to leave the country. Vandalism featured swastikas, nooses, and racial slurs.

Whites and Trump supporters were victims also, to a small degree. 23 incidents, or 2.6%, were anti-Trump, and some included physical violence. All hate crimes are wrong and must be condemned, and all hate crimes make someone feel like he or she does not belong. But we cannot pretend all groups experience hate crimes equally. As The Star noted on January 6, only 10.5% of all hate crimes in 2015 were directed against whites (a typical percentage), even though the U.S. is still nearly 70% white. We also must not pretend hate crimes against one group cannot be a reaction to hate crimes against another. Such things do not always come from the same place.

What was the Kansas City experience? A black Kansas Citian found a swastika and noose spray-painted on his car. Alongside “Hail President Trump,” racial slurs, misogynistic slurs, and swastikas were left inside the Kansas City Public Library downtown. A Muslim business owner received threatening phone calls, and “white power!” was shouted at him in person. A student drew a Klansman saying “Kill all blacks!” at Piper High School. A gay man was beat, had a gun put to his head, and had “fag” spray-painted on his car. "Alt-Right" advertisements appeared saying "America was 90% white in 1950. It is now 60%. Make America Great Again." A white man shot three people, killing one, while hunting down Arabs -- he yelled "Get out of my country!" (The victim's grieving wife, in a public statement, asked, "Do we belong here? Is this the same country we dreamed of?") Further, a group of teenagers assaulted a white man they thought was a Trump supporter. Anti-white statements like “Kill Whitey” were scribbled on walls of a UMKC building.

Even before election day, things were getting bad. In 2015, religious hate crimes in KC rose 60%, most against Muslims, while general hate crimes rose 35%.

While there has been a great amount of progress in Kansas City since its Jim Crow era, since the heyday of its anti-immigrant and anti-religious minority hysteria, since its very beginning as a slave society in the early 1800s, there is still much work to do to make this city a place where everyone feels like they belong. But how can this be accomplished?

One way is to ensure local and national laws protect the freedom and equality of all people. Many will ask: if the law does not offer all the same respect, why should the individual? We must push for moral and fair public policy. That must be Kansas City’s response to proposals like mass deportations, the registration of Muslims, the repeal of same-sex marriage, the return of stop-and-frisk, and so on.

This is done through people’s movements, when ordinary people come together to force the government to yield to their demands. Progress always comes on the backs of troublemakers: those who organize, agitate, petition, protest, march, strike, sit-in, and engage in civil disobedience. When the powerful realize the trouble will not stop -- only grow -- until demands are met, they surrender. If enough people unite, they can shut down a city, a state, or an entire country. From Kansas City’s Valentine’s Day strike of 1918, in which 15,000 workers brought the city to a halt, to India’s 2016 strike of 180 million workers that did the same to a nation, the people have the power to take whatever they want — by simply leaving their workplaces and flooding the streets. This will occur in Kansas City whenever injustice rears its ugly head. We saw it at the inauguration day march from Union Station to City Hall, the Women’s March in Kansas City, and the protest at MCI against the immigration ban.

A second way is to help change the way others think. Make no mistake, the activism described above can make bystanders think differently. But in general, Kansas Citians must encourage each other to hold one another to the same standards -- that is, you must offer the same rights, respect, kindness, and dignity to others that you expect. That simple maxim, which almost all profess to believe in, could transform society if actually followed.

Under such a rule, one would think registering Muslims as ludicrous as registering Christians. Immigration bans would be a thing of the past, because ethical societies don’t punish the many for the crimes of the few. Tearing apart families by deporting good men and women who came to the U.S. illegally to escape poverty and violence would be unthinkable, because no one would want that done to their family. Homosexuality would be accepted as a natural human trait, like heterosexuality, with marriage rights protected for all. Discriminatory policing against black folk would be under constant attack by all white Americans, who would not want to be subjected to such mistreatment. All men would likewise be up in arms against the constant sexual harassment against women, light sentences for rapists, and other trademarks of rape culture. Hate crimes and everyday racist comments, no matter who against, would be found only in the history books.

That would be a much better society, a Kansas City where all people lived without fear and with a sense of belonging. Such a society is ours to create.

When my black comrade and I were released, we sat in a warm van with many others who were trickling out of the police station.

“You think we made a difference?” he asked, to no one in particular.

I thought of all the ordinary troublemakers before us who had protested and been arrested: those who fought for decent wages and the 40 hour workweek, the end of child labor, equal rights for women, people of color, religious minorities, and LGBT people, and the end of bloody wars like Vietnam. Those men and women rose up against exploitation, injustice, and bigotry. Surely they asked themselves the same question, and surely there was only one correct answer.

 

Garrett S. Griffin is an activist, political writer, and the author of Racism in Kansas City: A Short History. He is the communications coordinator at CCO.

Weekly Newsletter 3/21/2017

Weekly Newsletter 3/21/2017

It's long past time Kansas City invested in its poorest neighborhoods, and YOU can make it happen. On April 4, residents of Kansas City, Missouri, will vote on a 1/8 cent sales tax that will garner about $8.5 million per year to benefit the central city (specifically 9th to Gregory, and Paseo to Indiana).

This measure is Question 4 on the ballot, the "Central City Economic Development Sales Tax," also called the One City initiative. (See the entire ballot here.)

The funds will be used for economic development such as restaurants, stores, public plazas, housing, street lighting, gunfire detection technology, and so on. Development will create jobs, reduce crime, and renew blighted neighborhoods.

If you are a KCMO resident, we are asking you to vote YES on Question 4 on April 4. If you are a registered voter, find your polling location here

Not a KCMO resident or missed the registration deadline? You can still help! We need to spread the word far and wide. Share CCO's social media posts on Question 4, such as these on Twitter and Facebook. Use email, phone calls, social media, and in-person conversations to tell friends and family in KCMO to get to the polls on April 4 and vote Yes on Question 4.

These disadvantaged neighborhoods, left to rot after white flight and today dominated by people of color, have waited long enough to get the same government attention more prosperous -- and less diverse -- areas of the city have long enjoyed. We must finally recognize that we are One City, and find a new spirit of solidarity with and service to all Kansas Citians.

Thank you for your support of this effort, and have a great week!

Thank You For Joining the NightLIFE March!

Thank You For Joining the NightLIFE March!

We here at Communities Creating Opportunity would like to thank you for joining us last week to show our presence and concern for life within our city.

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens heard the voices of those who will be directly affected by government policy.

As we reflect on our NightLIFE peace march, a deeper understanding arises: that suffering and violence have existed for far too long beyond the invisible wall of prosperity within our city. The time to act has long passed, but today marks a new beginning, as we have refused to let the moment pass while idly standing aside.

For those who signed up during the march, we will be contacting you on how you can support the ongoing work of reducing violence in our communities, as well as future NightLIFE walks. Please also note that CCO will be offering community organizing training in April (date to be determined soon).

Join us as we continue our efforts toward the preservation of life and the vitality of hope. If you didn't fill out a card at the event, sign up here to stay informed and get involved in CCO's violence interruption and prevention efforts. Or contact Ave Stokes at avrell@cco.org.

We will no longer simply ask for change...we will act for change!

Weekly Newsletter 3/14/2017

Weekly Newsletter 3/14/2017

Wow. Last week was a whirlwind of activity here at CCO and in Kansas City!

We journeyed to the 26th floor of City Hall to urge the city council to pass a higher minimum wage for Kansas City before the Missouri Legislature passes its bill to forbid cities from doing just that. This effort ended in a huge victory: the council approved an $8.50 per hour wage by September 2017 and $13 by 2023. The fight is not over, as the Legislature could still attempt to strike down Kansas City's higher wage retroactively, but it's a start.

Incidentally, CCO published its first blog post this week, on the wage victory. Read all the details on the vote, including who voted for and who voted against, on CCO's website.

Then Missouri Governor Eric Greitens joined CCO in a NightLIFE Peace March from Metropolitan AME Zion Church down Prospect Avenue. We heard from Kendra Jackson and Natasha Flemons, two anti-violence activists who lost sons to gun violence. Rev. Susan McCann and Rev. Ken McKoy spoke of the public policies needed to address violent crime; Rev. McKoy started the NightLIFE marches in St. Louis, where he leads them three nights a week. We then heard from Governor Greitens, who said we need to ensure young people have access to quality education and jobs, but also know they are deeply loved.

This was not an endorsement of Governor Greitens or any of his past or current policies. This was an opportunity to urge him to support policies that immediately act to reduce violent crime, to show him the conditions that lead to violence in Kansas City neighborhoods, and to express our love for and solidarity with our brothers and sisters living in dangerous places long abandoned by local government.

Speaking of violence prevention, this has become one of CCO's organizational priorities. There are four key areas to which CCO will devote its focus and its passions:

Please click on the focus area(s) you're interested in to get involved!

Have a blessed week!

Victory! City Council Passes Higher Minimum Wage

Victory! City Council Passes Higher Minimum Wage

We did it! In a resounding victory for working families, the Kansas City, Missouri, City Council approved a higher minimum wage this afternoon. This result comes in large part from intense pressure placed on the City Council by social justice organizations, activists, and people like you: concerned citizens willing to add your signature to petitions, to contact councilpersons, and show up at City Hall when it mattered most.

The council members who voted for a higher minimum wage were Quinton Lucas, Jermaine Reed, Katheryn Shields, Lee Barnes Jr., Alissia Canady, Scott Taylor, Teresa Loar, and Kevin McManus. Mayor Sly James, Scott Wagner, Heather Hall, and Dan Fowler voted against, while Jolie Justus was absent.

The ordinance establishes an $8.50 per hour minimum wage starting September 18, 2017, an increase to $13.00 by January 1, 2023, and in 2024 it will increase or decrease according to the cost of living.

The measure came at a time when the future of wages throughout Missouri is uncertain. A bill is moving through the Missouri Legislature to prohibit cities from raising their own minimum wages. It is the hope of advocates that this move by the City Council secures higher pay for Kansas Citians before the bill can be passed, but the threat remains that the Missouri Legislature might retroactively veto the Council's ordinance. 

Councilpersons Lucas, Reed, and Shields spoke most passionately about the need to give Kansas Citians the ability to afford the necessities of life, such as rent, food, gas, utilities, and medicine, that are continually growing more expensive while wages remain stagnant. Shields reminded the chamber that "it is never the wrong time to do the right thing."

Mayor James was the most vocal against the ordinance, saying it will be overruled by the state. He put forward and helped pass a resolution to support a statewide petition initiative to get a higher minimum wage for all Missouri on the 2018 ballot.