KANSAS CITY- The life of a little-known Civil Rights leader in Kansas City is more important now than ever, according to ACLU of Kansas Director Micah Kubic and Kansas City Star Reporter Glenn Rice.
Kubic and Rice joined The Green Duck Lounge Playwright Michelle Tyrene Johnson at KCUR in Kansas City to discuss the impact of Leon Jordan, a Kansas City politician and activist who was assassinated in 1970. Jordan founded the black local political organization (LPO) Freedom, Inc., and his story is at the center of the Green Duck Lounge play, opening this week on MU campus.
“Had it not been for Leon Jordan … you wouldn’t have public accommodations, equal access and so forth to what you may have today,” Rice said. “Leon Jordan laid the foundation for a lot of the things we have today.”
But Kubic said that despite the level of respect that most people in the black community had for Jordan, there was still much divisiveness during the time of the protests. He said activists tend to look at the 1960s as the golden years, but there were plenty of challenges at that time.
“There was just as much, if not more tension and friction in the black community in the 1960s than there is today,” Kubic said. “We should actually listen to what they said back then, which is unity without uniformity - that you can be united without always agreeing 100 percent of the time, and use what we’ve got now in order to make progress.”
While some progress has been made, Johnson said she fears too many people have forgotten recent history.
“People want to believe racism is some relic from the past,” Johnson said. “As if the basic institutional racism was so long ago. So many people want to jump back to slavery and forget about Jim Crowe.”
“People forget that there was an urban rebellion in Kansas City immediately in the aftermath of the assignation of Dr. King,” Kubic said. “You even had white folks from outside of the city come into the city and do sharp shooting from roofs against police officers in the hope that African Americans in the community would be blamed and that there would be an even more violent backlash against it.”
Rice, who with Mike McGraw covered the assassination of Leon Jordan for the Kansas City Star in a series of reports in 2010, said you can still see the original strategies used by Freedom, Inc. in politics today. “There was a period in which the second generation of the freedom leaders didn’t necessarily groom their successors,” Rice said. “That has changed now so you do have a number of young, African American leaders in their 30s or 40s that are now gaining political power.”
The Green Duck Lounge plays Feb. 21- Feb. 25 at MU’s Rhynsburger Theatre. For more information, go to www.greenduckproject.com.