The Kansas Black Leadership Council, as the lead in a coalition that includes the Kansas African American Affairs Commission and The Community Voice, has been awarded an “Increase the Reach” Grant by the State of Kansas to help address health inequities among the state’s African-American community.  

With their grant funding, the coalition will target African Americans ages 5 to 35 living in Shawnee, Wyandotte, Sedgwick and Johnson counties.  

“With COVID-19, there has been a  lot of extra focus on the elderly,” said KBLC board president Stacey Knoell, “But what we saw in the statistics is that African Americans younger than 35 were the least vaccinated.”

The group also weighed other trends in making their decision to target this younger demographic.  

    • This demographic group tends to think they’re invincible and because of this they don’t pay close enough attention to their health, and 

    • A good healthy start is critical to sustained health later in life. 

In addition to COVID-19 vaccinations, the group will encourage routine lifespan vaccinations.  

To support their efforts, the coalition will hire an outreach coordinator who will partner with other community-based organizations and organizers.  In addition, the coalition’s plan calls for the group to sponsor outreach events in the targeted counties.  

The Community Voice, with its multi-platforms, will play a role in the organization’s outreach and education efforts.

Gov. Laura Kelly announced the “Increase the Reach” Grant Initiative last fall. The grant program was specifically designed to provide an additional opportunity for community-based organizations to receive funding to continue their work in promoting health equity through vaccinations. 

The program specifically aimed to reach socially vulnerable populations and those experiencing low vaccination rates, including both racial and ethnic minority populations as well as rural communities.

The Kansas Black Leadership Council, organized in 2015, is a statewide organization advancing meaningful change for Black or African Americans living in Kansas, while also changing historical systems that have traditionally harmed Black health, wealth and prosperity, allowing Kansans to achieve an equitable future.  

KBLC was originally organized by a group of Wichita community leaders – including former Kansas state Rep. Gail Finney; Melody McCray Miller, who at the time was the acting director of the Urban League of Kansas; former Wichita City Council member Lavonta Williams, state Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau; and Community Voice Editor Bonita Gooch. The group recognized the power of bringing African-American leaders from across the state together to speak as a unified voice on issues of importance to the state’s small-but-important African-American community.  Although not part of the original organizers, strong support for the organization has also come from The Kansas Organization of NAACP Branches and the Kansas African American Affairs Commission, a division of the Kansas governor’s office.  

KBLC is a 501c3 non-profit.  

The group’s “Expand the Reach” Grant funding ends on Dec. 31, 2023.

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Bonita Gooch

Since 1996, Bonita has served as as Editor-in-Chief of The Community Voice newspaper. As the owner, she has guided the Wichita-based publication’s growth in reach across the state of Kansas and into...