For 60 years, Freedom Inc. has been a political force in Kansas City’s African American community. A Freedom Inc endorsement has helped open the door for most of the city’s Black elected officials and along the way has been the impetus to many political firsts including the city’s first Black Congressman Bill Clay and the city’s first Black Mayor Emanuel Cleaver.
More than 100 political power brokers gathered this past Friday evening to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Freedom, Inc., to acknowledge its founders and to present a number of Legacy Awards to individuals and organizations who have helped keep the mission of Freedom Inc, alive.
Freedom Inc. was founded in April 1962 by political activists Bruce Watkins, Howard Maupin, Charles Moore, Fred Curls and Leon Jordan. At this weekend’s event, moderated by Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, a brief history of each of the founders was presented.
“It’s without question that Freedom Inc. was the brainchild of Leon Jordan,” said Freedom Inc. president Rodney Bland. “Leon knew that to be successful, he would need to enlist the help of other strong Black men and women in the community.”
The inaugural Legacy Awards, presented at the event, were each named after one of the organization’s founders.
The Leon M. Jordan Voter Engagement Award recognized someone who seeks to uplift the Kansas City African American community by emphasizing voter’s rights. Much like Jordan, the awardee is boots on the ground in registering voters, voter education and ensuring African Americans are able to get to and from the polls on election day. This award went to Patricia Jones Macklin of the Greater Kansas City A. Philip Randolph Institute.
“Pat tirelessly pushed nonpartisan activities encouraging the Black community to exercise its right to vote,” said former Missouri state Senator Shalonn ‘KiKi’ Curls, Fred Curls’ granddaughter.
The Bruce Watkins Equality Fighter Award was given to someone who fights to create equal footing for African Americans and is bestowed on a person who creates opportunities that help with economic empowerment, civic engagement and preservation of Black heritage. This award went to Santa Fe Area Council president of five years, Marquita Taylor.
“(Taylor) has worked diligently to preserve the historic nature of the community as Kansas City’s oldest Black neighborhood. Under her leadership, the home of Leroy Satchel Paige will be transformed into a museum,” said Freedom Inc. member Keith Brown.
The Howard Maupin Business Champion Award was awarded to someone who realizes the need to use their resources to give back to the community. Like Maupin, the awardee would provide an avenue that creates space to discuss strategies and plan to improve Kansas City’s east side. This award went to the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Association.
“After cleaning up the trash, debris and reducing crime, the (Ivanhoe) council ruled to increase the number one way to build stability and that was safe housing. Using the same blueprint, Ivanhoe combined community commitment with economic stability to rehab vacant housing, encourage businesses to the area, create a farmer’s market and build new townhomes for seniors. They turned their neighborhood into a viable business,” said Brown.
The Charles Moore Community Engagement Award was given to someone who is in tune with the community, identifies the needs and provides the resources and solutions. Moore was a chiropractic physician who knew that politics was the best method for improving the condition of African Americans. He followed up on his beliefs by going out into the community and listening to his patients to find out the existing problems and how to solve them. He was an early leader in community engagement.
Pastor Modest Miles of Morning Star Baptist Church was awarded the Charles Moore Community Engagement Award.
“Pastor Miles has continually opened the doors of his Morning Star Youth and Family Community Center to provide services to the Black community and others,” Curls said.
Miles’ community center was one of the original sites for COVID-19 vaccination and one of the sites to apply for rental assistance.
The Fred A. Curls “Making It Happen” Award was awarded to someone who, like the real estate mogul, just “made it happen.” He was instrumental in developing young people in the areas of business, politics and community service. He was one of the first Black licensed real estate agents and brokers.
This award was given to Chairman of the National Black United Front Kansas City Chapter Talib Muwwakkil, who helped develop the Urban Summit’s ten pillars of action.
“I have a true passion for my people and this city and I’m going to stand on that and continue to fight for our people no matter what,” Muwwakkil said.