Michelle Tyrene Johnson | KBIA

Michelle Tyrene Johnson

Michelle is a reporter covering race and culture for KCUR and also is part of a Diversity Initiative project that produces audio storytelling with reporters in St. Louis, Hartford, Conn. and Portland, Ore.

As a fourth-generation Kansas City, Kansas native and resident, Michelle has been a newspaper reporter, an employment attorney, a diversity and inclusion speaker, a columnist and is a local and national playwright. She is an author of three books about diversity and one book about her grandmother.

Michelle received her degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and her law degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, but bleeds red and blue all day, every day.

 

Kansas City, Missouri, is internationally recognized as one of the cradles of  jazz and nationally known for its barbecue and its sports teams. 

But late last year, it earned national headlines as the city that waited until 2019 to name a street after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., only to have voters reverse that decision ten months later.

Key Methodist leaders in the Kansas City area say it will be business as usual for them when it comes to LGBTQ inclusion, after an announcement on Friday that the United Methodist Church would split to allow a new, "traditionalist-minded" denomination for congregations who don't support same-sex marriage or allow LGBTQ clergy.

Adam Hamilton, pastor of the 22,000-member, five-campus Church of the Resurrection, said he predicts only a handful of churches in the Kansas City area will split off from the existing denomination.

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.

Nicole Jackson came to the first Midwest SoulVeg Fest to get some inspiration on her slow path to being a vegan. She admitted that as a black person who grew up going to events centered on meat, it’s easier said than done.

“Sunday dinner after church, the cookouts, the barbeques, where we are just gathered by food that pulls us together,” said Jackson, who is from Olathe, Kansas.

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.

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

Former Missouri state lawmaker and educator Yvonne S. Wilson died Monday. The 90-year-old Democrat from Kansas City was remembered by many as a community advocate, especially for children. 

Following a trend across the Johnson County suburbs, the Overland Park City Council passed an ordinance Monday night banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Latinos seek help for mental health issues at half the rate of non-Hispanic whites. Yet when they do, as with other people of color in Kansas City, they can have more difficulty finding providers with a similar cultural background. 

 Segment 1: Fresh cocktails for a new season.

As summer winds down, two mixologists join us to share their favorite autumnal cocktails.

  • Brock Schulte, bar director at The Monarch Bar
  • Jill Cockson, owner of Swordfish Tom's

Segment 2: The best Italian food in Kansas City.

Our food critics recommend their favorite Italian dishes across the city, from classics like spaghetti and meatballs, to experimental plates of carrot pesto or bone marrow.

One in five Americans deals with a mental health issue. However for people of color, being a person of color itself takes a toll on mental health.

Studies show that discrimination and microagressions can negatively effect the health of blacks, Hispanics, Indigenous people and Asians. 

Segment 1: Kansas City Classics

Among the new and noteworthy restaurants populating Kansas City, let’s not forget those that came first and have stuck around for a while. We talk about the classic restaurants of Kansas City, which have set the standard for diners across the metro.

Segment 1: Kansas City, Missouri's mayor reflects on his time in office. 

Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Sly James leaves office July 31. He discusses his eight-year legacy before he hands over the job to the next mayor.

  • Sly James, mayor, Kansas City, Missouri 

Segment 2, beginning at 37:13: The legacy of a Kansas City theater director, actor, and entertainer.

Segment 1: The changing culture of language-learning in professional baseball.

About 25 percent of Major League Baseball players were from Spanish-speaking countries on Opening Day in March. What role do professional baseball teams play in incorporating language-learning into their players' transitions to living and playing in the United States?

Segment 1: The nationwide trend of violence against transgender women of color.

A man was recently charged with the murder of Brooklyn Lindsey, a black transgender woman who was found dead in Kansas City in June. Anti-trans violence is on the rise nationwide, and we talk about why.

  • Sarah McBride, national press secretary, Human Rights Campaign 

Segment 2, beginning at 20:17: How a movement combines art and activism.

For many in the transgender community, use of their birth name to refer to them after they have transitioned is a no-no, a sign of disrespect.

But Merrique Jenson, a transgender woman working in the LGBTQ community, knows she is in a unique situation. She started her transition in October, but she is best known, both in Kansas City and nationally, as Randall Jenson.

Segment 1: Mapping Micheladas.  

The mexican specialty mixing beer with tomato juice has been growing in popularity in Kansas City. We speak with the creator of the Michelada Map about where they are consumed the most in the United States.

Segment 2, beginning at 9:54: Food critics and Mexican food.

Segment 1: How are grocery stores changing?

Leon's Thriftway recently closed down in Kansas City, marking the end of an era for a black-owned business that had served its community for 50 years. The closing of Leon's reflects a sea of changes for a grocery industry that now has to keep up with the Amazons and WalMarts of the world. So how are grocery stores trying to keep up with the times? And how has the consumer relationship to grocery stores changed? In this segment, we tackle these questions and discuss the future of grocery stores.

Segment 1: Metro areas experience hotter summers, and Kansas City is no exception.

An urban heat island is a city that gets signigicantly warmer than its surrounding area, just by virtue of having a lot of buildings and a lot of people in one place. Downtown Kansas City is one place that feels the effects of urban heat, especially in the summer. We talk with local Kansas Citians who have studied this phenomenon and how to combat its effects. 

Segment 1: Why does Kansas City look like swiss cheese?

If you look at a map of Kansas City, you'll find little holes of independent towns, such as Platte Woods and North Kansas City. We speak with representatives from some of these non-annexed communities to talk about how these tiny towns fit into the fabric of the bigger city.

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.

Setting children up for academic success is Annie Watson’s driving passion.

The Kansas City, Missouri, native is the director of early education and parent success at Turn the Page KC, a non-profit that aims to have all children reading at grade level by third grade.

Actor Clifford “Kip” Niven, well-known to theater audiences in Kansas City and a Hollywood mainstay going back to the 1970s, died yesterday from a heart attack at the age of 73.

Niven was known for his role on the 1970s television show "Alice" and for playing in dozens of local productions, as well as his avid support of the Kansas City theater scene.

Popular and ubiquitous in the theater community, Niven cut a wide swath of friendship. That was made evident by the overwhelming shock and grief flooding social media of Niven’s sudden passing.

Tony Ross lives in the small town of Peculiar, Missouri, now, but he was shopping at Leon’s Thriftway on East 39th Street days before the grocery business shut its doors for good.

Ross was shopping for his mother who lives in a nearby senior living facility.

“My mom is devastated. We all devastated,” Ross said. “There’s just a lot of history about this store."

After 51 years in business, Leon’s Thriftway closed over the weekend.

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.”

Eleven candidates in the primary for Kansas City mayor.

Two women.

Four black.

One openly LGBT candidate.

Five white men, with two of them named Scott.

No candidates who are Latino, Asian or Native American.

While the field of candidates isn’t representative of the city’s demographics, that still doesn’t ignore that demographics are an element in the decision-making.

Several hundred coffee lovers and coffee experts converged on Kansas City, Missouri, over the weekend for the U.S. Coffee Championships.

The baristas who competed were looking to win a trip to the world championships in Boston next month. And a local woman did just that: Kaley Gann with Messenger Coffee won the 2019 Brewer's Cup category.

The Olathe City Council on Tuesday passed a resolution to promote diversity and equality in the city. However, many community members attending the meeting said it did not go far enough.

“A proclamation is nothing but lip service,” Olathe resident Chad Palmer told the city council, expressing that they needed to go further in making a stand against discrimination.

Marvin S. Robinson II has been trying for years to get some appropriate national recognition for the Quindaro Ruins. The site in Kansas City, Kansas, was originally a stop on the Underground Railroad, a network that assisted slaves in escaping to freedom.

Robinson and others have been pushing for the site to be named a national historic landmark. This week it received a slightly less prestigious designation as a national commemorative site, but Robinson says he's still happy.

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