There are many organizations dedicated to civic engagement but few are better suited for helping the public identify and address issues of public concern than the library. As a long-standing, trusted source of information, Johnson County Library recognizes the need for civic engagement beyond books and databases, which became evident following the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary school in Dec. 2012. The event triggered nationwide shock, confusion and many questions, and the library was ready to provide a place where it is safe to ask difficult questions, accompanied by librarians trained to facilitate such dialogue.
Since that time, the Library has hosted civic engagement discussions around a number of controversial subjects such as school shootings, gun control, animal breed-specific legislation and race. These are all significant topics, with race continuing to be one of the most charged.
Making it Personal
Why does race continue to play such an instrumental role in our daily lives and why does race matter? Race Project KC, coordinated by Johnson County Library, is creating dialogue around these critical questions through an annual immersive racial justice initiative focused on the history of the U.S.
Race Project KC investigates the history of racial politics in Kansas City, Johnson County and its schools through the prism of land, ownership and division lines for teens grades 9 to 12.
Creating a New Chapter
By introducing a means for safe dialogue around race, Race Project KC facilitates the exploration of critical skills and tools designed to help students understand our city and its past, how to analyze the present and build a better future through dialogue and increased understanding. Through peer-to-peer interactions, students from different parts of the metro learn to build and demonstrate leadership skills and share what they’ve learned with others.
On Thursday, April 19, we’re holding a panel discussion, moderated by KCUR’s Steve Kraske, on the past, present and future of addressing segregation in Kansas City. Panelists for the discussion include: Arthur Benson, Civil Rights Attorney, KCMO; Tanner Colby, Author of Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America; Sly James, Mayor, KCMO; and Michelle P. Wimes, Chief Diversity and Professional Development Officer at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.
Sponsorship for the event comes from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, in partnership with Johnson County Library, the Johnson County Library Foundation and the National Archives at Kansas City, Missouri.
Want to explore Kansas City’s race history yourself? Download the new app Dividing Lines: A History of Segregation in Kansas City, created by Brainroot Light & Sound. The app allows drivers to retrace the creation of the metro’s racially charged real estate developments and see how redlining and covenants continue to affect the metro’s populations.
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