While chatting with a former Kansas City council member at Equal Minded Cafe one day this past spring, I overheard the 26-year-old owner Dontavious Young telling a customer about being a troubled Black kid from Iowa who came to open this cool coffee shop and meeting spot on Troost Avenue. I immediately thought: Everyone should hear him tell his story. And I wondered how many other inspiring stories like his might be out there, especially among Kansas City’s more underrepresented residents.
I shared my eavesdropping experience with a Kansas City Star colleague. It dawned on us both that stories like the one Young told in his cafe are what folks who’ve been meeting with us to talk about coverage say they crave. We found several other Black owners of businesses to share their experiences with us in their own words. Today we are launching the first part of that new project – Voices of Kansas City – created in partnership with Kansas City GIFT (Generating Income for Tomorrow), a Black-founded nonprofit that supports Black-owned businesses, and KKFI 90.1 FM community radio station.
Over four weeks, we will be highlighting the voices of these small-business owners through written question-and-answer pieces, photos, videos and radio broadcasts. Here’s why we’re doing it: This year The Star sought to pursue a number of projects that would carry forth a commitment that the news organization made two years ago to improve the way it reports on those communities whose voices for decades had not been adequately highlighted.
After publishing a project in December 2020 – The Truth in Black and White – in which The Star apologized for decades of poorly representing the voices of the Black community, we decided to start our efforts to do better by focusing first on segments of Black Kansas City. Star reporters and editors interviewed eight of these small business owners, including Young, in a studio at GIFT on Prospect Avenue.
From a young woman with a metro area delivery service to a local filmmaker who tapped into lessons learned from his grandmother to start an innovative urban farm on the edge of the city’s historic jazz district, and more, each one was eager to share stories of struggle, triumph and joy. “It’s an honor,” said Damesha Cook, owner of Dash Delivery service. “No one has ever reached out to me and offered me such an opportunity. I’m so excited that someone thought of my business and that I was important enough to be heard, to share my journey.”
We were introduced to Cook and the others by GIFT CEO and co-founder Brandon Calloway, who was thrilled to be a part of the project. “There is a wide range of Black-owned businesses in Kansas City,” he said. “At a regional level, I think it is important to shine a light on our underutilized assets, which are these Black-owned businesses. It is good for the city to see and hear about the gems we have here.”
Read more at: https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article278829159.html#storylink=cpy