Sunday, October 17, 2010
The Viable Third - Bernard Powell
The level of crime and violence in the 3rd District has escalated in the eyes of the media of late and has gotten the attention of the religious faithful. I haven't looked at the actual crime statistics to know if the homicide rate is up or down (I think it stands at 87 for the year) or if violent crime is up or down for this year. But does it matter? Because regardless of the facts, the assumption is that violence is up and that it is much more dangerous in the 3rd district than ever.
Recent murders in Westport, on Broadway, and Downtown have all included discussion that suggests it is the Eastside violence that is encroaching on the rest of the city. Of course there is no evidence of this, but it is always the first assumption. The recent events with teens gathering on the Plaza suggest the same. My people always like to jump to the most obvious conclusion - that black=crime and danger.
A local minister has glommed onto the bandwagon too. I include the video here ONLY because he mentions the subject of this post - Bernard Powell.
Bernard Powell was a civil rights leader who lived at 28th and Brooklyn in the 3rd district. He had a national presence as well as a local impact. He is attributed for having said the phrase, "Goldmine or Ghetto - The Choice is Yours." He believed in the 3rd district and I do too.
Powell was shot to death at 27th and Indiana in April 1979. He was only 32 years old. He made his mark in this world while in his 20's. The old heads who cling to power in this city need to remember that - young people are viable leaders too.
There is a very nice memorial erected to Powell (in 1991) at Spring Valley Park on the Brooklyn Avenue side. His boyhood home overlooks the park. I've driven by there a million times and decided to stop one day. Then I investigated the life of this young man. Here is his bio as written on the Black Missouri site. Here is the City's description of the memorial and fountain (fitting for a Kansas Citian). Bernard's sister, Teola, ran for city council in the 3rd district in 2007. A look at the KC Star archives online only goes back to 1991. Any research on Powell's death will have to be done in the library with microfilm. From all accounts I have found, in books and other historical accounts, Powell was active in bringing civil rights and social justice to Kansas City's Eastside. Desegregation of the city swimming pools, opening up real estate opportunities, and voting rights were all on his agenda - but in the 1960's anything seemed possible.
Here is a photo slideshow I put together to commemorate this great place - the memorial at Spring Valley Park and this great citizen, Bernard Powell. He knew the 3rd District was viable. I do too.