KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Armed with her pen and always fighting for a bigger purpose – Lucile Harris Bluford helped change the landscape of Kansas City.
At the age of seven, Bluford moved with her family to Kansas City. Her father was an instructor at Lincoln High School.
She would later attend Lincoln High School, which is where she discovered her love for journalism.
“She was very active in the newspaper,” said Jeremy Douin, manager of the Missouri Valley Special Collection at the Kansas City Public Library. “She wrote a lot of articles and poetry and was class valedictorian in 1928.”
Bluford received her journalism degree from the University of Kansas. After she graduated in 1931, she worked for a paper in Atlanta, but eventually made her way back to Kansas City.
She worked for the Kansas City American and then the Kansas City Call. She became the managing editor of The Call in 1938.
“She loved the distribution of news to the Black community, always, but she wanted to make sure the majority community got the message about the good as well as the bad,” said Joanne Collins, a former Kansas City, Missouri Council member.
Bluford often challenged the status quo. She sued the University of Missouri for denying her admission to their journalism graduate program because of her skin color.
The university now has a residence hall named after her.
She also fought to make sure Black people were given equal rights.
“One example came in 1964. She lobbied and fought for the Public Accommodation Ordinance, which outlawed segregation in public places,” Drouin said.
Collins served on the city council from 1974 to 1990. Collins and Bluford interacted on a regular basis. The two would often disagree politically, but Collins said Bluford always looked to be fair.
“She went all over the community to get the information. You didn’t have to deliver it to her and then if she got one side of it she would always say, ‘Collins, you know there is more than one side,'” the former councilwoman recalled.
Her memories are fond.
“She’s challenged me and that’s why I loved her,” Collins said.
Bluford’s impact carried through the area for years. In 1987, the Kansas City Public Library started on the Lucile H. Bluford Branch, located on 31st Street and Prospect Avenue.
Mary Roberson is now the senior programming and service manager at the Kansas City Public Library Central branch. She previously managed the Bluford Branch and checked out the library’s first book to Lucile Bluford in 1988.
“Just pure excitement, I guess you would say. Just pure joy to do that to have that opportunity,” Roberson said.
Bluford would win the Kansas Citian of the year award in 2002. Even after her passing in 2003, Most would agree Bluford’s work and words still resonate today.
“She was able to just leave a legacy that still grows,” Roberson said.
“Kansas City, Missouri; Kansas City, Kansas; the state of Missouri and the state of Kansas are truly blessed to have Lucile Bluford come our way and provide the leadership that she did with the Kansas City Call,” Collins said.
Lucile Bluford Day is celebrated across Missouri on July 1.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — As the clock ticked into the late hours of March 16, offensive tackle Trent Williams was growing more and more convinced that his first foray into free agency was going to lead him away from the San Francisco 49ers and to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Williams had long maintained that he wanted to stay in San Francisco with coach Kyle Shanahan, but momentum toward a new deal had stalled and the Chiefs were making what he called Tuesday a “good push.”
But Williams, who has known Shanahan since their time together in Washington in 2010, had told Shanahan before free agency started that he wouldn’t leave without giving Shanahan a final chance.
“Once I got the hunch that K.C. seemed like they were ready to make it official, I called Kyle,” Williams said Tuesday. “I couldn’t even get it out and just tell him, but I was just like, ‘Hey man, we need to hurry this up, if you get my drift.'”
Williams’ message to Shanahan was actually sent by text, and the drift was simple: If something didn’t happen soon, he was on his way to Kansas City.
Shanahan immediately called Williams, who was walking into James Harden’s new restaurant, Thirteen, in Houston when Shanahan reached out. Williams stepped outside to speak to Shanahan and let him know that he was planning to make his decision by the time his dinner was over.
Before Williams got his keys from the valet little more than an hour later, Vincent Taylor, Williams’ agent, called with the news that Williams was staying in San Francisco on a record-setting six-year, $138 million deal with $55.1 million in guarantees.
It was the culmination of a two-year journey in which Williams sat out the 2019 season because of a rare form of cancer and a dispute with Washington over the handling of his injuries and his contract.
In the months leading up to free agency, Williams had maintained that he wanted to test his value — something made possible by a contract stipulation that he couldn’t be franchise tagged — and wanted to remain in San Francisco.
Despite all of that, Williams wasn’t sure he’d be able to make both things happen as he received recruiting messages from the likes of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Indianapolis Colts guard Quenton Nelson.
“I thought I would either get a lot of money and be somewhere I hated to be or I would be somewhere I love to be playing for a discount,” Williams said. “I definitely didn’t think it would be both.”
Williams’ comfort level with the 49ers, and especially Shanahan, was evident from the time the team traded for him on the third day of last year’s NFL draft. The 49ers felt the same way about him.
“After a year away from the football field, Trent came in and performed at an incredibly high level for us, demonstrating that he remains an elite tackle in this league,” general manager John Lynch said in a statement announcing the signing. “His familiarity with our coaching staff allowed for a seamless transition into our organization and culture, where he quickly earned the trust of his teammates and established himself as an important leader in our locker room. Trent’s passion for the game could be felt from Day 1 and this fits exactly with our vision of the 49er way and a championship culture. His contributions to our team extend well beyond the field and we’re thrilled to keep Trent in the Bay Area for a long time.”
Williams has said Shanahan’s offense has a way of showcasing his unique combination of size, strength and athleticism and that there’s an inherent trust that goes with knowing the Shanahan family for so long.
In fact, Williams said he was in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with Shanahan’s father, Mike, just before free agency began and the subject of free agency never even came up. No sales pitch from any member of the Shanahan family was necessary.
“Kyle is like family to me,” Williams said. “His family is like family to me. … That’s just how close I am with that family. Kyle didn’t have to sell anything to me. I already knew what this place has to offer. I knew what he has to offer, and I knew what the front office would have to offer.”
As it turned out, once the front office offered the largest contract for an offensive lineman in NFL history, the deal was done. Soon after it was, Shanahan messaged Williams and told him to “go get” the sixth year of his deal, the implication being that the 32-year old Williams has a chance to show he can stay an elite tackle deep into his contract and his 30s. Possibly even his 40s.
“I think playing until 40 is well within reach,” Williams said. “The way I feel right now, I do think I have six years in my body. But I’m not going to be unrealistic. I’ll take it one day at a time and continue to plug away at it, but that is the goal. I have something to prove. Can I play at a high level until I’m 40? We’ll see.”
Peregrine falcons are well suited to city living; they often nest at great heights, like skyscrapers and are natural predators of pigeons. There are currently seven successfully breeding pairs nesting in the Kansas City area, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. While this is enough to sustain the population for now, the department is trying to document others to continue conservation efforts.
If you see a peregrine falcon in the Kansas City area, please notify Joe DeBold of the Missouri Department of Conservation to report your finding at 816-759-7305 ext. 1130.
The victim who was killed in a shooting that also injured four people in a popular Kansas City amusement park was just 17 years old, authorities say.
Police identified the teen on Monday as Devin Harris, and said three men injured in the Westport shooting in Kansas City, Missouri, are in stable condition. Two of them were in critical condition. A woman also suffered life-threatening injuries around 1:30 a.m. Saturday after being shot by the occupants of a sports vehicle.
Devon Carter, 25, of Kansas City, Kansas, has been jailed on a $ 150,000 bond on charges of illegal use of a firearm and armed crime during a shooting. According to court records, he told police he was driving the SUV after going to a Westport club with 30 friends and family for a birthday party. He told police there was an altercation with another group after he left the club, resulting in a shooting.
No attorneys refer to Carter in the court records online.
An off-duty police officer watched the shooting and fired his gun at the SUV. But Officer Doaa El-Ashkar also said Monday that an investigation found that the officer had not hit anyone. He said officers were still searching for other suspects, but gave no details.
Banking and finance
The old Missouri Bank was closed Callie Carroll as Vice President of Business Development and Shareholder Relations Officer. She previously served as the director of track and field development at Missouri State University, where she earned a Masters in Professional Studies and Sports Management and a BA in Broadcast Journalism.
Kathy Lampley returned to Piatchek & Associates as Client Relations Manager. Previously, she was the company’s office manager for seven years and most recently founded a company, K&S Electric, with her husband Steve. Lampley holds a bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems from Ambassador University in Texas.
Named the Ozark School District Morgan Kelly as headmaster of North Elementary and Tom Colvin as assistant director of Ozark Junior High. Kelly has been the assistant principal since 2015, succeeding retired Karen Hood. Kelly holds a Masters degree in Educational Administration and a PhD in Educational Leadership, Curriculum, and Teaching from Evangel University. Colvin has 23 years of training experience and has spent the last five years in Ozark. He holds a Masters in Education Administration from Southwest Baptist University.
Armstrong McDonald School of Nursing at the College of the Ozarks Listed as one of the Top 5 Nursing Programs in Missouri by RegisteredNursing.org. The ranking system categorizes the country’s college nursing programs based on the results of the National Council’s entrance exam, plus tuition fees, average program duration, and geographic coverage. C of O nursing graduates achieved a success rate of 100% last year, which was above the national average of 84%.
Appointed Governor Mike Parson Hollie Elliott, from Fair Grove, to the Coordinating Body for Higher Education and Abigail Pinegar-Rosefrom Ozark to the State Lottery Commission. Elliott has served as the Executive Director of the Dallas County Economic Development Group since 2017 and previously directed public affairs for the Springfield Chamber of Commerce. She has a master’s degree in administrative sciences and agricultural representation and a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communication from MSU. Pinegar-Rose is the director of marketing for Pinegar’s Republic and Branson dealerships. She has a Bachelor in Communication from MSU.
Named CoxHealth Alan Butler as system director for public safety in its six hospitals and 80 clinics. He has 30 years of health security experience, most recently as vice president of health security in over 200 hospitals for HSS in Denver. With a Masters in Criminal Justice Management from Sam Houston University, Butler has directed security for the University of Wisconsin hospital and clinics, Medical City Dallas Hospital, and Baylor University Medical Center.
Citizens Memorial Hospital added advanced practice providers Kelsi Yates, Candi Erven and Sheri Stofer. Yates, a nurse, joined the Urology Surgical Clinic. She holds a master’s degree in nursing from Maryville University, St. Louis and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Southwest Baptist University. At the gastroenterology clinic, Erven, a male nurse, holds a Masters in Nursing from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a BS in Nursing from MSU. Stofer, a nurse and medical assistant, joined the endocrinology center. She holds a Masters in Medical Assistant Studies from the University of North Dakota and a BA in Nursing from Excelsior College, New York.
Mid-West Family Broadcasting discontinued Makayla Easley as an administrative assistant. She previously worked in retail and at CoxHealth, registering patients in the emergency room.
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Speaking in Opposition of H.R. 1
This week, I spoke on the Senate floor in opposition of H.R. 1, the partisan For the People Act, to highlight the drastic impact this legislation would have on federalizing elections, restricting free speech and further dividing the country along party lines.
H.R. 1 is an affront to the United States Constitution. Americans did not vote to give one party free rein to implement an unprecedented power grab, to nationalize elections and strip power from states and localities from now into perpetuity. As a conservative, I believe in individual liberties and in a federal government that exercises restraint, and that state and local units of government are inherently more responsive to the wishes of the citizenry. My adherence to the Constitution instructs deference to state governments to oversee their own elections, and I hope all Americans, including my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, take the time to read and understand H.R. 1 for what it truly is.
Listen to my full remarks by clicking here or below.
Meeting with Kansas Health Officials Regarding Vaccination Efforts Across the State
Visiting the Sedgwick County Vaccination Center
On Monday, I visited the Sedgwick County COVID-19 Vaccination Center where more than 1,500 people received their shots throughout the day. During my visit, many Kansans made a point of telling me how well organized the center is and how pleased they are to receive the vaccine. My time at the center was a personal reminder that the goal of getting vaccinated is to keep people healthy so that they feel comfortable at work, comfortable hugging their grandkids and have the opportunity to go to church in person again—all the things that make up normal Kansas life.
I want to thank the many health care professionals and volunteers who continue to work to ensure the center is run efficiently and the vaccination process is smooth. Thank you to Sedgwick County Commissioners David Dennis, Jim Howell and Pete Meitzner, as well as Sedgwick County Health Director Adrienne Byrne for joining me on the tour.
Learning More about Johnson County’s Vaccine Distribution
On Tuesday, I visited the Johnson County COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic and was pleased to hear reports that no vaccines are going unused. Dr. Sanmi Areola, Director of Johnson County’s Department of Health and Environment, updated me on their vaccination efforts across the Kansas City area. Currently 117,000 residents of Johnson County have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
I also enjoyed speaking with all the Kansans at the clinic who got their vaccine to hear firsthand about their experience. Thank you to Dr. Areola, Johnson County Chairman Ed Eilert, Johnson County Commissioner Mike Ashcraft and Assistant County Manager Joe Connor for joining me on the tour. The efficiency of Johnson County’s distribution is a testament to its leadership, and I again want to reiterate my thanks to all of the health care professionals and volunteers working at this clinic, and across our state, to get shots in the arms of Kansans so we can continue on this path back towards normal.
Expanding the VA’s Vaccination Efforts to Spouses and Caregivers
This week, I introduced the Strengthening and Amplifying Vaccination Efforts to Locally Immunize All Veterans and Every Spouse (SAVE LIVES) Act with my colleagues on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. This legislation would expand VA’s COVID-19 vaccination authority, enable the VA to vaccinate more veterans than currently allowed and offer vaccines to individuals within a veteran’s circle of care.
Currently, the VA is only able to vaccinate active VA Health Care System enrollees. While the VA will continue to prioritize vaccinating VHA enrolled veterans with its allocation of COVID-19 vaccines, this legislation enables the VA to vaccinate non-enrolled veterans, veteran spouses, caregivers, overseas veterans and others with excess COVID-19 vaccine supply.
Military service is family service. It impacts not only our servicemembers but their spouses, families and support networks, and it is why the VA and this committee aim to care for both veterans and their families. More shots in more arms is our best option for ending this pandemic and returning to normal; expanding the VA’s ability to vaccinate veterans as well as those within their support network further reduces COVID-19 risk to veterans and the general public.
Improving Care for Veterans Exposed to Toxic Substances During Service
This week, during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC) hearing, I called for a framework to improve care for veterans exposed to toxic substances during their service. The committee heard testimonies from two wounded warriors who shed a harsh light on their experiences, dealing with health consequences from toxic exposures to substances such as Agent Orange and burn pits, as well as the often frustrating process to get care and service from the VA. For too long, veterans who have been exposed to toxic substances during the course of their military service have faced overwhelming barriers to get the VA care and service they deserve—the burden of proof is challenging for veterans, and we must find a way to bridge the gap.
I was encouraged by bipartisan legislation passed out of this committee last Congress to address this issue. As a result of our work, we now have several new laws on the books directing research and covering more of our Vietnam and Korean War veterans. As the lead Republican on SVAC, I will continue to build on that progress this Congress and listen to the needs of veterans to provide them with the care they require.
Restoring Jobs in Kansas City
This week, I was pleased to learn that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will restore 500 positions at USCIS facilities in the Greater Kansas City Metro Area that had been eliminated due to financial constraints and the COVID-19 pandemic. Restoring these critical jobs at the National Benefits Center in the Kansas City region will help support the local economy and the nation, as these employees work to process immigration applications. Because of the dedication and the invaluable contributions of these employees, the Kansas City Metro Area boasts a diverse business community that has brought countless economic advantages to the region. I’m thankful for the work they do and will continue to work with my Congressional colleagues to get our USICS workforce back to operating at pre-pandemic levels.
Recognizing Women’s History Month
Remembering the Efforts of the “Hello Girls”
March is Women’s History Month, and I was proud to celebrate it this week by introducing legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the women who served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War I (WWI), also known as the “Hello Girls.” These brave, trail-blazing women are considered some of our nation’s first women veterans.
In 1917, General John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe during WWI knew that the U.S. had thousands of experienced women telephone operators back home, so he directed the Army to recruit female wire experts who were fluent in English and French to deploy to France to run the telephone equipment on the front lines. Connecting more than 150,000 calls per day, and doing so six times faster than their male counterparts, these female switchboard operators played a crucial role in WWI. Despite their service, it took decades for them to receive veteran status and therefore be recognized as some of our nation’s first women veterans. This Congressional Gold Medal will serve as way to honor the trailblazing Hello Girls and recognize their important contributions to our history.
Supporting Women in the Aviation Workforce
I also I introduced and the Senate passed a bipartisan resolution supporting women in the aviation industry, committing to help increase aviation and STEM job opportunities for women and designating March 8 through March 14, 2021, as “Women of the Aviation Workforce Week.”
The most famous woman in aviation—Amelia Earhart—grew up in Atchison, Kansas. She set flight records, broke barriers and led the way for thousands of women to pursue careers in aviation as engineers, flight crew members, air traffic controllers and pilots. However, women still make up less than eight percent of our pilots and a small percentage of aeronautical engineers in the U.S. To address this disparity, I, along with my colleague Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), established an advisory board at the FAA that aims to support women in aviation and better meet the growing demand for workers in the industry. As more women pursue careers in aviation, I’m proud to join my colleagues in sponsoring this resolution to recognize Women of the Aviation Workforce Week.
Reauthorizing the USADA in Preparation for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles
This week, I introduced legislation to reauthorize the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in preparation for the 2028 Summer Olympics along with my colleague Senator Blumenthal (D-Conn.). As a member of the Commerce Subcommittee with jurisdiction over the health and safety of amateur athletes, Sen. Blumenthal and I have previously worked to make certain our nation’s athletes are able to pursue the sports they love in a safe and fair manner.
In 2001, Congress recognized USADA as the official anti-doping agency for the Olympics, Paralympics, Pan American and Parapan Games to help combat the use of performance-enhancing drugs and create a fair and level playing field for our athletes. USADA is a non-profit organization and manages the most comprehensive anti-doping program in the country while setting the standard for all other national anti-doping programs abroad. The program consists of in-competition and out-of-competition drug testing, results management processes, drug reference resources and athlete education in order to prevent athlete doping practices.
Since its inception, USADA has modeled integrity and fair competition for the international athletic community and anti-doping agencies around the world. As the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles approaches, I remain committed to making certain USADA has the tools and resources it needs to ensure all American athletes are competing in fair trials leading up to the Games.
Addressing the Trucking Industry’s Driver Shortage with The DRIVE-Safe Act
This week, I introduced the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe) Act with my colleagues to address the driver shortage in the trucking and logistics industry and enhance safety training and job opportunities for young truckers.
Though 49 states and the District of Columbia allow individuals to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) at age 18, federal law currently prohibits those operators from moving goods from state to state until they are 21.
As we saw during this pandemic, a shortage of truck drivers impacts our ability to move goods across roads and highways to support our economy, including transporting Kansas products. The DRIVE-Safe Act allows young CDL holders that meet rigorous safety standards and performance benchmarks to move goods from state to state, addressing the driver shortage while continuing to deliver commodities across Kansas and the country. Read more about this legislation by clicking here.
Protecting Aviation across Kansas
Securing $8.9 Million in Grants to Support Kansas Airports
This week, I announced $8,903,293 in Department of Transportation grants for 23 Kansas airports to help with expenses related to COVID-19. The grants were made available by the Federal Aviation Administration as part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act.
Local airports, whether in small towns or big cities, help bring economic opportunities and critical resources to communities across Kansas. Since the onset of this pandemic, our airports have worked hard to create safe flying opportunities for passengers and crew, and these grants will help Kansas airports with associated costs related to the pandemic, including sanitization services, to continue to ensure a safe experience as folks are passing through.
Click here to view the full list.
Touring Spirit AeroSystems
This week, I visited with leaders from Spirit AeroSystems for a factory tour and discussion on how the company continues to navigate the ongoing challenges caused by the pandemic. My legislation, the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Act was recently signed into law, and it will create a public-private partnership between the federal government and aviation manufacturers, like Spirit, to protect the aviation manufacturing industry, workforce and supply chain that have been impacted by COVID-19. Kansas’ leading aviation manufacturing industry plays a critical role in commercial and general aviation and within our defense community, and this legislation will help to support this invaluable sector from future workforce reductions and ensure this talented workforce remains intact when demand returns. I would like to thank Tom Gentile and Duane Hawkins for their input throughout the tour.
Visiting with the United States Senate Youth Program
This week I had the opportunity to meet virtually with Sean-Patrick Hurst of Iola and Seth Jarvis of Burlington. These two young men were chosen to represent Kansas as delegates of the 59th annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP). Established in 1962, two individuals are selected to represent their state during their time in Washington, D.C.
The mission of the USSYP program is to help instill within each class of USSYP student delegates a more comprehensive understanding of the American political process and a lifelong commitment to public service. In addition to the program week, The Hearst Foundation provides each of the 104 student delegates with a $10,000 college scholarship with encouragement to continue coursework in government, history and public affairs during their undergraduate studies. I commend the achievements of these engaged young Kansans. Together, we talked about qualities that create community leaders, and the remarkable leadership that Kansans have shown in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sean-Patrick and Seth demonstrated a strong commitment to public service that will serve them and their communities well.
Expanding Access to Allergy Testing
This week, I introduced my bipartisan Allergy Testing Access Act of 2021. This legislation would expand access to allergy testing and ensure proper diagnoses of allergies for patients, including the elderly, young children and individuals in rural communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States and carry an annual cost of $18 billion. Over 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year, with symptoms ranging from mild to life-threatening.
This legislation will remove barriers which inhibit patient access to safe and accurate allergy tests, thereby empowering patients with personal health care information that can help them live healthy, productive lives. Regardless of age or location, people ought to have equal access to allergy testing to ensure a proper diagnosis and treatment to avoid a potentially life-threatening situation. Allergies can pose a significant threat to one’s health and this sensible legislation creates fairness in coverage and improved accessibility of testing.
Introducing the The Global Trade Accountability Act
I joined two of my Senate colleagues this week in introducing the Global Trade Accountability Act, a bill that would subject unilateral actions by the president to increase trade barriers for congressional approval. The Kansas economy depends on sound trade policies, and imposing undue tariffs or other trade restrictions could have serious ramifications on Kansas agriculture and manufacturing.
The Global Trade Accountability Act would require both chambers of Congress to affirmatively approve of any “unilateral trade actions” by the President before they could take effect, which are defined in this legislation as “any increases in tariffs or duties, tightening of tariff-rate quotas or quantitative restrictions on imports, and other restrictions or prohibitions on imports.” For too long, administrations have been making trade decisions without appropriate input from the legislative branch, and this legislation would reinstate Congress’ constitutional authority over commerce with foreign countries.
Welcoming Millennium Corporation to Wichita
On Friday, I was pleased to announce that Millennium Corporation, a defense contractor and cybersecurity company, will establish a regional Wichita office. Millennium currently supports the cybersecurity needs of the Department of Defense, McConnell Air Force Base’s 177th Squadron “Red Team” and other federal agencies. As a thought leader in the cyberspace and security industry, Millennium is a welcome addition to Wichita’s growing cybersecurity community. Regional businesses continue to be reliable and growing partners for our military through Department of Defense contracts, and with Millennium’s expertise and credentials, it will be a great asset in providing cybersecurity services for our nation.
This story was sponsored in part by a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism.
In December 2019, Lori Curry’s friend, who has been incarcerated for nearly two decades, sought medical help from the prison’s medical staff. Health care workers told him that his condition was not serious and that if he sought help again he risked being messageed about a disciplinary offense. When Curry, 39, heard from Joplin what had happened, she was angry. Wanting to take out her frustration in the Missouri Justice Department but at the same time fearing that her criticism might hit her boyfriend back, she created a new Twitter handle @ MissouriPrison and tweeted anonymously about the ordeal. She didn’t know then, but the project she had just started would dominate her life in 2020 and become a real advocacy in 2021.
During those first few weeks, Curry tweeted mostly about her friend’s problems with Corizon Health, the health care provider for all prisons in the state. It wasn’t long before she heard from others with imprisoned loved ones dealing with similar issues. She did what she could to raise awareness of what she viewed as inadequate health care for Missourians in prison in the hopes that it could be fixed if the right people became aware of the problem.
Then something unexpected happened. She received messages from current and former MODOC employees, especially proofreaders, who had their own problems with the department but did not want to air them publicly.
“I remember the very first message I received from an employee,” says Curry. “I thought, ‘Is that a practical joke?’ I was very surprised. I just didn’t expect them to work with me or give me any information. ”
Without meaning to, Curry found itself to be one of the few channels of communication for inmates and law enforcement officers to get information to the public without fear of retaliation.
She quickly found that the interests of the two groups were not always as diametrically opposed as popular films and television suggest. Inmates who turned to Curry often complained about lack of access to resources and programs. The COs complained of understaffing, were stretched thin, and constantly asked to do more with less.
The information that Curry publishes is often of the type that may not be up to date to the general public, but is of tremendous importance to incarcerated people and their families. For example, Curry posted a story on the internet last week Missouri Prison Reform Website about inmates who do not have access to complaint forms. These are the main means an inmate can use to appeal when they feel they are wrong.
Much of what she writes these days is related to COVID. She has posted numerous messages from inmates saying they were closely with those who tested positive or showing symptoms of COVID. Earlier this month, she published a letter from a person who worked for MODOC until recently, claiming that the department is not following their own virus containment plan. The @ MissouriPrison account is also one of the most accessible ways to keep track of the daily changes in the system in COVID cases.
Curry says she is able to some extent to verify the sources of information she receives, as the identities of both public employees and inmates are publicly available. If she passes on something that turns out to be inaccurate, she immediately posts a correction. Journalists from Kaiser Health News, the Kansas City Star and the RFT Used information published by Curry as the basis for further reporting.
Earlier this year, St. Louis-based civil rights attorney Chelsea gave Merta Curry a Sunshine Inquiry crash course, which Curry now conducts regularly to obtain information on inmate deaths.
“She is such a force of nature,” says Merta. “I can show her how to do something, give her a tool and she’ll just run with it.”
Curry has also recently connected with Sami Abdel-Salam, a Bolivar, Missouri-born professor of criminal justice at Westchester University in Pennsylvania. He reached out to Curry and offered his help after coming across her account on social media.
“It is more likely that I will meet someone who is imprisoned and come out and try to do something to change the system,” says Abdel-Salam. “I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone personally who hasn’t been arrested and has gone that far [Curry] has in terms of advocacy for people who are. I am sure they exist. But she’s the first one I met. ”
In her previous life, Curry worked in a number of caregiving professions, including adults with developmental disabilities and children with autism. She switched to medical coding and billing jobs, but had seizures that forced her to stop working. Around the same time, a friend whose boyfriend was in jail said that her boyfriend knew a man inside who was looking for a pen pal. Would curry be interested? Newly unemployed and with some time in her hands, she said safely. Why not?
She didn’t know how old he was or what he was in jail for. They exchanged letters and then made phone calls.
“He was so positive,” she says. “I think about it and to this day I always think, ‘How are you so positive in your environment that you are in? ‘I’m getting out and I’m out here. ”
She went and met him a little over a month after they started communicating. Curry adds, “He was really handsome.”
Curry asked to keep her significant other’s name out of the play, but said he has been in jail for nearly twenty years for an armed robbery committed as a young man. And he still has almost twenty years for his sentence. Neither he nor Curry apologize for his crime, but she says, “I don’t know what the point of keeping him in this environment. He’s a changed man a long time ago. ”
For the past few weeks, Curry has faced the dilemma of anonymity. It had allowed her to post freely, but it also prevented her from expanding her work as much as she wanted. As more and more journalists, activists and academics reach out to her, she sees a more formal role for advocacy. But that’s difficult, if not impossible, when you work as a faceless Twitter account. Even a simple exchange is difficult. She recently found herself at a very modern crossroads: she had planned a Zoom meeting with a lawyer and had to decide whether or not to turn on her camera. She decided to turn it on.
Curry has decided to turn Missouri Prison Reform into a 501c3 nonprofit that will enable him to raise funds and apply for grants. She hopes that the money will, among other things, set up a pen pal program for inmates and help families of inmates at low cost. However, registering a nonprofit organization also means putting their name on the public record. So she steps out from behind the shield of anonymity, hoping to advance the work she began more than a year ago.
“In order for us to go forward and do the things we want to do, it will just happen,” she says. “People will find out who I am. I am ready to do more. And don’t hide. ”
Ryan Krull is a freelance journalist and assistant professor in the Department of Communications and Media at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story contained inconsistent spellings of Lori Curry’s last name. We regret the mistake.
Jason Ballard, Icon’s chief executive, commented in a press release: “There is an extreme lack of housing that has left us with problems around supply, sustainability, resiliency, affordability and design options.
“We anticipate more high-velocity progress in the years ahead to help bring housing and construction into the modern world and in line with humanity’s highest hopes.”
According to the statement, the houses can be built faster than traditional homes, and are also more energy efficient, stronger and fire resistant.
Buyers can choose between four two-to-four bedroom houses. Features include open floor plans, bespoke interior design, vaulted master bedrooms and an interior design palette that uses woods, metal finishes and earthy tiles.
Gary O’Dell, 3Strands’ chief executive, said: “Icon has delivered better homes at a better value across a variety of cost-centres than conventional construction, including materials, time to market, and labour.
“The East 17th St residences represent the future of homebuilding for the mass market and illustrate what is possible with this technology.”
To date, Icon has built about 24 homes in Texas and Mexico, but this marks its first mainstream housing project.
The first buyers will be able to move into their homes this summer.
Images courtesy of Icon/Logan Architecture/3Strands/Fort Structures
Not to completely rip off the beloved American adaptation of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, but…
Welcome to Spring Training baseball in 2021, where it seems like everything is made up, and the points don’t matter.
The Texas Rangers fell to the Kansas City Royals by a score of 3-2 in the Cactus League opener on Sunday afternoon in Surprise. It could have been a lot worse, but Rangers manager Chris Woodward rolled the second and fifth innings with only two outs. The Royals had the bases loaded in both situations.
“Yeah, it sucks. I don’t like it,” Woodward said. “Obviously, we’re going to try to limit that as much as possible.”
As a part of many health and safety protocols implemented to help curb the spread of COVID-19, the MLB’s 2021 Operations Manual allows for managers of a defensive team to end an inning prior to three outs following any completed plate appearance, provided the pitcher has thrown more than 20 pitches. The rule is in effect through March 13.
Both Nick Vincent and Joe Gatto were around the 30-pitch mark when Woodward signaled to roll the innings.
In addition, Sunday’s spring opener lasted only six innings. The game was scheduled for only six innings, in accordance with 2021 spring training guidelines, which allow for shortened contests upon mutual agreement between the teams.
-On the brighter side of things, Joey Gallo got off his spring off to a great start with a two-run home run in the top of the first inning. Gallo is coming off a rough season at the plate in 2020, and is out to prove that his breakout 2019 season was not a fluke.
-Sunday’s starter Wes Benjamin breezed through his one inning of work, giving up no runs on two hits. Benjamin usually has no problem hitting the strike zone, so Sunday’s game plan was rather simple.
“To be honest, the game plan today was put the ball in play and have them swing at it,” Benjamin said. “I wasn’t trying to do too much, working with Jonah [Heim] the first time here.”
-Rangers first baseman Ronald Guzmán turned a number of heads throughout the offseason when he won the Dominican Winter League MVP. With a new sense of confidence, Guzmán carried that over into Cactus League action on Sunday, going 1-for-2 with two quality at-bats.
“I feel really good,” Guzmán said. “I feel like I’m doing the same thing I was doing in winter ball, with the same approach. I feel like I’m on time with every pitch.”
-For the first time since March 11, 2020, the Rangers played in front of live fans. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas played the entire 2020 season without paying customers in attendance.
Fans were not permitted back into ballparks until the 2020 National League Championship Series and World Series — both of which took place at Globe Life Field as a neutral site.
In accordance with the City of Surprise, one-third of Surprise Stadium’s capacity can be filled with spectators throughout Cactus League play. Sunday’s announced attendance was 2,024.
-The Rangers continue their spring slate on Monday, hosting the San Francisco Giants at Surprise Stadium. Right-hander Kyle Gibson will start for Texas.
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