Tag: Kansas City

Civil Rights Icon Roger Wilkins Honored with Building at George Mason University

Roger Wilkins (photo via thenation.com)

via jbhe.com

George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, recently named its North Plaza in honor of Roger Wilkins, a former long-time faculty member who died this past March. Angel Cabrera, president of George Mason University, said at the dedication ceremony, “when Roger came to George Mason, few knew much about this fledgling university in the suburbs of Washington D.C. Roger was one of those intellectual pioneers who helped put this university on the map.”

A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Wilkins moved to Harlem at the age of 9 and later settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He earned a bachelor’s degree and a law degree at the University of Michigan.

Wilkins joined the Kennedy administration in 1962 as a special assistant to the director of the Agency for International Development. In 1965, he was appointed an assistant attorney general by President Johnson.

When the Democrats lost power after the 1968 election, Wilkins left government to work for the Ford Foundation. Beginning in 1972, Wilkins began a new career as a journalist, first for the Washington Post and then The New York Times. He was the author of Jefferson’s Pillow: The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism (Beacon Press, 2001).

In 1988, Wilkins joined the faculty at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, as the Clarence J. Robinson Professor in History and American Culture. He remained on the faculty for nearly 20 years until his retirement in 2007.

Kansas City Teacher Darryl Chamberlin Creates Youth Orchestra With his Own Money

A-Flat Orchestra creator Darryl Chamberlain (photo via blackamericaweb.com)

by Michael H. Cottman via blackamericaweb.com

Darryl Chamberlain was determined to create a youth orchestra come hell or high water. In these uncertain times, where public school budget cuts are impacting African American students perhaps more than ever before, Chamberlain, a history teacher in Kansas City, Missouri, began thinking out of the box.

Chamberlain wants to change young lives through music but he had limited resources. So with the money he received playing piano in local churches, Chamberlain bought 70 used instruments, some from pawn shops, and cleaned them up for the students in his class.The result: The A-Flat Orchestra.

“The A-Flat Orchestra doesn’t have a funding arm behind it,” Chamberlain said, “just wit and ingenuity,” Chamberlain told The Kansas City Star. “And with a little ingenuity you can do anything.”

Chamberlain is delivering on a random act of kindness – a much-needed effort during a time when activities like music could be sacrificed in public schools across the country. “I’m doing more than teaching music,” Chamberlain, 59, told The Star. “I draw parallels to life situations and help them to understand how music connects to everyday life.”

He has assembled an orchestra of about 15 students so far but Chamberlain’s goal is to have a much larger symphony. He accepts all students regardless of their musical abilities. Chamberlain is shaping young lives every day and recent studies suggest that Chamberlain’s interaction with black students is critical.

Here is how Johns Hopkins University explains it: In a new study, low-income Black students who have at least one Black teacher in elementary school are significantly more likely to graduate high school and consider attending college, according to a study co-authored by a Johns Hopkins University economist. Having at least one Black teacher in third through fifth grades reduced a Black student’s probability of dropping out of school by 29 percent, the study found. For very low-income Black boys, the results are even greater – their chance of dropping out fell 39 percent.

Previous research has shown there are short-term benefits to pairing students with teachers of the same race, but this study, a new working paper published by the Institute of Labor Economics, demonstrates the positive impacts of having just one of these teachers can continue over many years. “Black students matched to black teachers have been shown to have higher test scores but we wanted to know if these student-teacher racial matches had longer-lasting benefits. We found the answer is a resounding yes,” co-author Nicolas Papageorge of Johns Hopkins said in a statement.

“We’re seeing spending just one year with a teacher of the same race can move the dial on one of the most frustratingly persistent gaps in educational attainment — that of low-income black boys. It not only moves the dial, it moves the dial in a powerful way.”Chamberlain is certainly moving the dial in Kansas City. “Music students have the lowest rate of teenage pregnancy, lower rates of violent crime,” Chamberlain told The Star. “

Source: Kansas City Man Creates Youth Orchestra With His Own Money | Black America Web

Obama Unveils High-Speed Internet Help for Low-Income Homes

(Photo via computerweekly.com)
(Photo via computerweekly.com)

Calling the Internet a 21st century necessity, President Barack Obama on Wednesday unveiled a program to bring faster Internet connections to more low-income households, particularly to help students living in public and assisted housing stay ahead in school.

Under ConnectHome, the public, private and nonprofit sectors have pledged to work together to provide high-speed connections and digital devices to more families at lower cost.

More than 90 percent of households headed by a college graduate have Internet access, Obama said. But fewer than half of low-income households have similar access.  In this day and age, Obama said the “digital divide” puts these individuals at a disadvantage by limiting their educational and economic opportunities because the Internet is increasingly needed to find a job, finish homework or keep in touch with family and friends.

“In this digital age, when you can apply for a job, take a course, pay your bills … with a tap of your phone, the Internet is not a luxury. It’s a necessity,” Obama said in Durant, Oklahoma, on the first day of a two-day visit to the state.  “You cannot connect with today’s economy without having access to the Internet,” he said.

Continue reading “Obama Unveils High-Speed Internet Help for Low-Income Homes”

Black Lawyers to Challenge Police Brutality in 25 Cities

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – In an effort to combat police brutality in the Black community, the National Bar Association (NBA) recently announced plans to file open records requests in 25 cities to study allegations of police misconduct.

BlackLawyerPamela
National Bar Association President Pamela J. Meanes

Pamela Meanes, president of the Black lawyers and judges group, said the NBA had already been making plans for a nationwide campaign to fight police brutality when Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a White police officer following a controversial midday confrontation in a Ferguson, Mo.

Meanes called police brutality the new civil rights issue of this era, an issue that disproportionately impacts the Black community.

“If we don’t see this issue and if we don’t at the National Bar Association do the legal things that are necessary to bring this issue to the forefront, then we are not carrying out our mission, which is to protect the civil and political entities of all,” said Meanes.

The NBA, which describes itself as “the nation’s oldest and largest national network of predominantly African-American attorneys and judges,” selected the 25 cities based on their African-American populations and reported incidents of police brutality.

The lawyers group will file open records requests in Birmingham, Ala.; Little Rock, Ark.; Phoenix; Los Angeles; San Jose, Calif., Washington, D.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Miami; Atlanta; Chicago; Louisville, Ky.; Baltimore, Md.; Detroit; Mich.; Kansas City, Mo.; St. Louis, Mo.; Charlotte, N.C.; Las Vegas, Nev.; New York City; Cleveland, Ohio; Memphis, Tenn., Philadelphia; Dallas; Houston; San Antonio, Texas, and Milwaukee, Wis.

In a press release about the open records requests, the group said it will not only seek information about “the number of individuals who have been killed, racially profiled, wrongfully arrested and/or injured while pursued or in police custody, but also comprehensive data from crime scenes, including “video and photographic evidence related to any alleged and/or proven misconduct by current or former employees,” as well as background information on officers involved in the incidents.

Not only will the NBA present their findings to the public, but the group also plans to compile its research and forward the data over to the attorney general’s office.

Meanes said the group’s ultimate goal is to have a conversation with Attorney General Eric Holder and to ask, and in some cases, demand he seize police departments or take over or run concurrent investigations.

Meanes said federal law prohibits the Justice Department from going into a police department unless a pattern or history of abuse has been identified.

“The problem is that the information needed for that action is not readily available in a comprehensive way on a consistent basis with the goal of eradicating that abuse,” said Meanes, adding that the open records request is the best way to get that information.

Meanes said that the NBA was concerned that the trust had already brrn broken between the police force and the residents of Ferguson and that the rebellion and the protests would continue.

“We don’t think St. Louis County should investigate this. We don’t think the prosecutor should investigate this. There should be an independent third-party investigating this and that is the federal government,” said Meanes.

Phillip Agnew, executive director of the Dream Defenders, a civil rights group established by young people of color in the aftermath of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager in Sanford, Fla., said law enforcement officials taunted, antagonized and disrespected peaceful protesters who took to the streets of Ferguson and at times incited the violence they attempted to stamp out in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown.

“An occupying force came into the community, they killed someone from the community, and instead of being transparent and doing everything they could do to make sure the community felt whole again, they brought in more police to suppress folks who were exercising their constitutional rights,” said Agnew.“If your protocol results in greater violence, greater anger, and greater disenchantment of the people, you have to chart a different course.”

On the heels of the NBA announcement, Attorney General Holder launched two initiatives designed to calm anxiety and frustration expressed by Ferguson’s Black residents towards the local police department over allegations of misconduct, harassment and discrimination.

The Justice Department also introduced a “Collaborative Reform Initiative” to tackle similar concerns with the St. Louis County Police Department and to improve the relationship between police officers and the communities they serve.

Continue reading “Black Lawyers to Challenge Police Brutality in 25 Cities”

“Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker” Chronicles Parker’s Focus, Faith In Music

Charlie Parker started playing as a boy, when his mother gave him a saxophone to cheer him up after his father left. He went on to spearhead a musical revolution.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Charlie Parker started playing as a boy, when his mother gave him a saxophone to cheer him up after his father left. He went on to spearhead a musical revolution.

Charlie “Bird” Parker was one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. In his brief life, Parker created a new sound on the alto saxophone and spearheaded a revolution in harmony and improvisation that pushed popular music from the swing era to bebop and modern jazz.

In Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker, scholar and author Stanley Crouch tells the story of Parker’s early years and his rise to prominence. But Crouch says he didn’t want to tell the same old story of young black musicians overcoming obstacles.

“These guys, they thought about life,” he says. “Oh yes, they thought about being colored, but they also thought about life. And people came to hear you because you played life. It wasn’t because you played, ‘Oh, I’m just a poor colored man over here, just doing some poor colored things. I’m thinking about my poor colored girl and how the white man is not going to let us blah blah.’ That wasn’t what they were playing.”

‘I Put Quite A Bit Of Study Into The Horn’

Crouch’s book opens with a triumphant moment in Parker’s career. It’s February 1942 and the 21-year-old alto player is on the bandstand at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom, performing with the Jay McShann Orchestra for a live radio broadcast. He steps up to solo and Crouch explains what happens next:

Kansas City Lightning

When the band started throwing up stock riffs behind him, Parker sidestepped the familiar shapes, issuing his responses from deep in left field.

… Each chorus was getting hotter; it was clear, from the position of his body and the sound of his horn, that Charlie Parker was not going to give in. All the nights he had worked on it, the flubs, the fumblings, the sore lips, mouth, and tongue, the cramped fingers — they all paid off that afternoon. Suddenly, the man with the headphones was signaling McShann, Don’t stop! Don’t stop! Keep on playing!

In 1980, the late pianist and bandleader Jay McShann described how Parker’s sound grabbed him the first time he heard it.  “One particular night, I happened to be coming through the streets and I heard the sound coming out. And this was a different sound, so I went inside to see who was blowing,” he said. “So I walked up to Charlie after he finished playing and I asked him, I said, ‘Say man,’ I said, ‘where are you from?’ I said, ‘I thought I met most of the musicians around here.’ Well, he says, ‘I’m from Kansas City.’ But he says, ‘I’ve been gone for the last two or three months. Been down to the Ozarks woodshedding.’ “

Continue reading ““Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker” Chronicles Parker’s Focus, Faith In Music”

Jackie Robinson Film Screenings to Help Kansas City Negro Leagues Museum

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Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in a scene from “42.” (Warner Bros. Pictures)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City was announced Wednesday as the host site for the only advance public screenings of a film chronicling the rise of Jackie Robinson, a nod to the city where the baseball great made his professional debut two years before breaking the major league color barrier.  Harrison Ford stars as former Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey in the film, “42,” which details Robinson’s Rookie of the Year season in 1947 while combating unabashed racism on and off the diamond.

Ford and fellow cast member Andre Holland planned to attend the screenings on April 11 at a movie theater on the city’s north side. Proceeds will benefit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, museum president Bob Kendrick said.  Although the story of Robinson in Brooklyn is well known, Kendrick said Kansas City also played a prominent role in his early career. Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs, a member of the Negro Leagues, in 1945, batting .387 while hitting five home runs and stole 13 bases in 47 games. After a year in the minor leagues, he joined the Dodgers in 1947 and won the inaugural Rookie of the Year award.

Continue reading “Jackie Robinson Film Screenings to Help Kansas City Negro Leagues Museum”

Homeless Man Who Returned Ring Gets Over $175K in Donations, Reconnects with Family

Billy Ray Harris’ story has inspired a windfall of donations.
When Kansas City homeless man Billy Ray Harris returned Sarah Darling’s engagement ring last month after she accidentally dropped it in his cup, it could have been the end of the story.  Instead, the experience has changed his life.  In the weeks since his good deed went viral, Harris has gained national attention, and supporters have raised over $175,000 for him to find a new home.

Something even more valuable happened: Harris is back in touch with his family, from whom he was estranged for the last 16 years.  Amid the media storm around the engagement ring episode, Robin Harris, Billy Ray’s younger sister, happened to come across an article about her brother, and reached out to the local news station that first reported the story for help tracking him down.

“When I turned my head, I recognized the name, and I turned back around and I looked at the picture again, and it was my brother,” Robin told TODAY.com. “I called and I said, ‘that’s my brother. I’ve been looking for him for 16 years.'”  Robin, who still lives in Texas where the family grew up, said she made repeated efforts to find her brother over the years, but had heard varying reports about his whereabouts, and was even once told that he had died. Continue reading “Homeless Man Who Returned Ring Gets Over $175K in Donations, Reconnects with Family”

Homeless Man Returns Engagement Ring, Couple Starts Online Support Fund

homeless man billy ray returns engagement ring

Homeless Kansas City man, Billy Ray Harris, who returned an engagement ring a woman accidentally dropped in to his cup last Friday, is reaping the benefits of the mantra “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

For Sarah Darling and husband Bill Krejci, simply thanking Billy Ray Harris (pictured) for holding on to their ring wasn’t enough. Nor was giving the homeless man all the money they had the day he returned it to them. So days later, they decided to step it up, starting a financial support campaign for Harris.

“My wife was interviewed, and I noticed that on some websites people were asking how they could help Billy Ray,” Krecjci told the New York Daily News. “That’s when I got the idea to start the campaign.”

Krejci went to fundraising site Give Forward and started a donation’s page for Harris, which will remain active for the next 90 days. As of Tuesday evening, the page has garnered almost $14,000.  “A couple of days ago we noticed it was really starting to gain traction,” Nate St. Pierre, GiveForward’s director Of communications, told the News. “He (Krejci) put the goal at $1,000, and had no idea it would get so big.”

97 Years Ago Today: The Negro Baseball League was Founded in Missouri

The Negro National League was founded in Kansas City, Missouri, by former player Robe Foster on Feb. 3, 1920.  The Negro Leagues would be home to some of America’s greatest Black talent and future Hall of Famers like Martin Dihigo and John Henry “Pop” Lloyd . Minorities were banned from major league teams until Jackie Robinson, a former Negro Leagues star, broke the color barrier in 1947, when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
article by Britt Middleton via bet.com