Americans began 2022 weary from almost two years of the pandemic. While we never reached “herd immunity,” a large number of us were vaccinated and thought the worst was behind us.  Instead, the COVID-19 Omicron variant, a much more contagious but not as severe version of the virus, was sweeping across the country.  

Americans, who had mostly put masking behind them, were reluctant to put them back on.  As a result, emergency room visits and admissions were significantly higher than during the previous high COVID-19 transmission periods, but deaths were significantly lower.

JANUARY 

The Biden Administration began the year by purchasing a billion at-home rapid COVID-19 tests to give to Americans for free. Online ordering and home delivery simplified the process.    

Kansas City, KS, Mayor Tyrone Garner, was sworn into office on Dec. 13, making history as the Wyandotte County Unified Government’s first African-American mayor. In January, The Community Voice featured him and his leadership team of two dynamic Black women: his Chief of Staff Mildred Edwards and interim City Manager Cheryl Harrison Lee.  

Kansas City, MO, still battling with the issue of houselessness, rolled out “Heart Carts” as a solution for the homeless to keep up with their belongings. The repurposed trash cans didn’t go over well with community advocates.  

Wichita was still reeling from the death of 17-year-old Cedric “CJ” Lofton, who died at the hands of Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center officers after his foster dad called 9-1-1 saying the young man was having a mental crisis In January. Released body camera and JIAC video showed – similar to George Floyd – CJ was held down in a prone position by officers until he could no longer breathe.  

The community was frustrated by a recommendation by Sedgwick County District Attorney Mark Bennett not to charge the officers in CJ’s death and used Kansas’ Stand Your Ground Law as the reason he “couldn’t” charge the officers.  

FEBRUARY

“The Black Mafia in KC,” one of several stories featured in The Community Voice’s annual Black History supplement is a big hit. The story continues to rack up pageviews on our website: bit.ly/3X6Mfk9.

This year development really got underway in the 18th and Vine Jazz District. In February, the Kansas City Council approved a $23 million deal with a private development firm to build a residential complex with first-floor commercial, on city-owned property between 18th and 19th on the west side of Vine.  It was a good start to a year, with several new projects breaking ground in the jazz district.

KCK Police Chief Karl Oakman announces creation of a Cold Case Division.

America reaches 900,000 deaths from COVID-19.

Kansas City Pink Lipps cosmetics seals a deal to be marketed in Target Stores 

FEATURE:  DIVIDE & CONQUER A lawsuit is filed against Kansas’ proposed congressional redistricting plan that divides Wyandotte County in half, with the area north of I-70 shifting into the more rural 3rd District.  By taking the heavily Democratic area out of the 2nd District and adding more rural Miami County to that district, the Republicans hoped to form a more Republican 2nd District that would help them regain the state’s only Democratic congressional district from Congresswoman Sharice Davids.  It didn’t work.  Davids was reelected in November. 

“Bel-Air,” the dramatic retake of the 90s sitcom “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” debuts. The series was the idea of Kansas City resident Morgan Cooper, whose concept trailer for the show went viral.  Cooper was nabbed as a co-producer for the show. A second season for the show is planned.  

Former President Donald Trump calls prosecutors who are investigating him racists.  All of them are Black: New York Attorney General Letitia James, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Fulton County GA DA Fani Willis, and Chair of the Jan. 6 Committee Bennie Thompson.  

MARCH  

With Russians attacking Ukraine, African students are forced to organize their own rescue efforts out of the troubled country. 

Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay resigns and Deputy Chief Wanda Givens retires

In another sign the world is bouncing back, Essence announces Essence Festival return in July.    

The Kansas Legislature refuses to ban No-Knock Warrants.

Missouri is charged with making a “feasible effort” to spend 10% of state agencies’ expenditures with minority-owned businesses. The state has only reached that goal four out of 30 years. To continue this “set-aside” program, the state is required to conduct a disparity study and contracted with UMKC to complete it. The study was due to be complete by June 30, as of Jan. 1, no results have been posted. 

In the “Slap heard around the world,” Will Smith slapped Chris Rock live on stage at the Oscars, before going on to win the Oscar for Best Actor.  

The Community Voice Honors 11 Black Women in Business 

FEATURE: RACISTS TEXT THREADS Information surfaces about racist text threads between Wichita SWAT officers and Sedgwick County officers. Wichita City Manager Bob Layton said he only learned about the texts that occurred in April 2021, 30 days before they became public. “Not true,” said former WPD Chief Ramsay, who said he told the manager about the incident when it occurred. No disciplinary action had been taken against the officers.   

In Wichita, a 16-year-old is accused of shooting and killing 14-year-old TrenJ’vious Hutton in Towne East Square mall.

APRIL

The Black News Channel closes down and files for bankruptcy. Later in the year, Weather Channel owner Byron Allen purchases the network and changes the name to the Grio.

Ketanji Brown Jackson is confirmed as the first African-American female Supreme Court justice.   

Congress passes $35/month cap on insulin. The Senate wouldn’t pass the bill until October and limited it to Medicare recipients only.    

Meta, formerly Facebook, announced plans to build a nearly 1-million-sq-ft data center in Kansas City, investing more than $800 million and supporting up to 100 jobs and another 1,300 construction jobs. The center is expected to be operational in 2024.

FEATURE: KCK COMMISSION STRUGLES SURFACE First signs of trouble between KCK Mayor Garner and the WYCO commission appear publicly. The commissioners are shocked when Garner presents his proposal for a major property tax decrease at a “visioning session.” Instead of a “vision,” the commissioners felt the mayor presented more of a “proposal” and left them out of the visioning process. Ultimately, they didn’t approve the mayor’s plan but did cut property taxes slightly.  

Administrators of the American Jazz Museum announced programming in celebration of the museum’s 25th anniversary.  

Wichita’s Citizen Review Board reports back on their investigation of racist texts among law enforcement and calls the city’s punishment inadequate. The Wichita City Council makes policy changes to improve the transparency of the CRB and give the board more power.  

In response to discrimination lawsuits, the National Football League announced a new rule that requires all 32 teams to hire an offensive coach who is “a female or a member of an ethnic or racial minority” for the 2022 season. 

MAY

Based on the organization’s tax filings, it was revealed that the Black Lives Matter Foundation started by Black Lives Matters organizers had a net worth of $42 million.  

KCK Mayor Garner doesn’t support a two-year-old agreement for the redevelopment of city-owned property in downtown KCK that would include commercial and retail space as well as a new, but smaller, convention facility. Project developer Willie Lanier Jr., who is Black, said he had already invested $750,000 in the project.  Reardon Center remains closed and the project remains off track with no other plans introduced for the land.    

Kansas City’s Freedom Inc., a political powerhouse in Kansas City, began celebrating its 60th anniversary with awards and founder’s recognition event. They followed that event with an anniversary luncheon in the summer.  

A new Boys and Girls Club opening in Hickman Mills is named after former Missouri state Sen. Kiki Curls.  

Kansas City was ranked the worst city for dating in America by Sperling’s Best Places. Wichita was ranked the second-worst city. The study included 80 metro areas.

Missouri faces lawsuits in both federal and state courts over its congressional redistricting maps.  

FEATURE: TASKFORCE HARSHEST ON JUVENILE INTAKE CENTER The Sedgwick County Taskforce appointed to review Youth Corrections Systems following the death of Cedric “CJ” Lofton in juvenile custody returned its report with 60 recommendations for changes in the Kansas Dept. of Children and Families (DCF), law enforcement and youth corrections programs.  The report’s most pointed recommendations were targeted at the staff, systems and processes at the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC), where CJ was held down in a prone (on his stomach) position for nearly 25 minutes until he was rendered unconscious.

The Leeds-Dunbar Neighborhood in Kansas City, home to the historic Liberty Park (renamed Yvonne Starks Wilson Park) celebrated its 100th anniversary.  

Two Black female officers, Rashawnda Williams and Alexis Bush-Bailey, with the Kansas City Police Department, sued the KC Board of Police Commissioners citing discrimination and a hostile work environment. 

Kansas Supreme Court upheld the Republican-drawn congressional redistricting map that reduced voter power in Wyandotte County by splitting the county between two congressional districts.  

Both Kansas and Missouri Legislatures concluded their annual sessions. Kansas passed a gradual reduction of taxes on food and sports betting. Missouri passed nurseries in prisons.  Both failed to pass marijuana legislation:  Medical in Kansas and recreational in Missouri, which in Missouri left the issue for consideration by a ballot initiative.  

JUNE

The U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade that guaranteed a woman’s right to abortion.  

After 12 years in office, incumbent Missouri Sen. Ray Blunt decided not to run for reelection and floodgates opened with people seeking to replace him. There were 21 Republicans, 11 Democrats, 1 Libertarian and 1 Constitution Party candidate vying to replace him. Six of the Democrats were African Americans, all of whom failed to gain traction after millionaire Trudy Busch Valentine entered the race.

Lincoln-Coles National Alumni Association opened an Alumni Memory Room inside Lincoln High School.  

The first Juneteenth as a federal holiday was celebrated in a big way across Kansas City, Wichita and the state of Kansas.  

Wichita’s Riverfest was back with a full nine-day schedule that included performances by War. 

Broadway’s season and Tony Award nominees were “So Black.” Sixteen of the actors nominated for the 33 performance roles were Black. The season was also marked by the embrace of seven Black playwrights. In addition, two Broadway theaters were being renamed for Black icons James Earl Jones and Lena Horne.

Herschel Walker, candidate for U.S. Senate in Georgia, began a chain of denials when he claimed he never denied having four children, even though he’d never publicly disclosed their existence before. Later in the election cycle, Walker on at least two occasions denied paying for two other women to have abortions. 

In Kansas City, the recently approved Tenant’s Right to Free Counsel Law went into operation.  The law provides tenants facing eviction free legal counsel.     

JULY

The culmination of a 13-year effort, WeDevelopment Credit Union organizers announced approval of their charter for a community development credit union. CDCUs typically serve populations that have limited access to safe financial services. WeDevelopment, chartered to serve an area east of Troost, officially opened in early December.  

Missouri’s revised election laws tightened up on acceptable Identifications for voting. In the past, voters could present a variety of different identification including a utility bill or voting card.  Under the new law, only government-issued IDs are acceptable. The bill did create a two-week window to cast an absentee ballot without an excuse.

Japan’s Panasonic Corp. selected Kansas as the location for a multibillion-dollar mega-factory to produce electric vehicle batteries. The company, lured by a large taxpayer-funded incentives package, is expected to employ 4,000 workers.  

The Wichita City Council voted to use $1 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to provide infrastructure — refrigerated cases — to be used for convenience and dollar-type stores to keep and stock fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Lynette Woodard Center, formerly the MEFSEC (Moving Effectively for Social and Economic Change), celebrated its 50th anniversary. The center, located at 18th and Volutsia in Wichita, was known as one of the top places to play high-quality basketball in the country.  

AUGUST

The Kansas African American Museum in Wichita announced plans for a new location at 201 N. Main in downtown. While the building has been purchased, the museum kicked off a $5 million capital campaign to renovate the facility.  

The City of Wichita finally announced discipline for officers involved in sending racist texts.  Three were suspended without pay for 15 days.  The other two were prohibited from serving in any special assignments until they undergo a cultural assessment, training and coaching program led by a community psychologist.

The Rev. Lincoln Montgomery, long-time senior pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Wichita, retired. The beloved pastor died Sept. 12 from cancer.   

The federal government filed civil rights charges against four Louisville police officers over the drug raid that led to the death of Breonna Taylor.  

Wichita residents and people across the state mourned the sudden and unexpected death of Kansas State Sen. Gail Finney. The well-respected and beloved representative had already decided not to seek reelection. A “deal” some people weren’t pleased by pretty much secured a seat for her self-selected replacement, Ford Carr.  

SEPTEMBER

Bonita Gooch, the Community Voice editor-in-chief, was inducted into the Wichita Black Business Hall of Fame. 

The Wichita City Council secured a firm to do a thorough review of the city’s police department. The hired firm conducted a similar review of the Louisville, KY, Police Department following the death of Breona Taylor. The report is due in six months. 

New COVID-19 boosters designed to fight the Omicron variant were finally available.  

The Wichita City Council decriminalized marijuana by voting to remove possession of marijuana and fentanyl test strips as violations in the municipal code. 

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment finally decided to make Wichita’s Northeast and predominantly Black neighborhoods aware of a 15-year-old cancerous chemical spill at a Union Pacific railroad site that had spread, creating a two-mile toxic plume in the community, contaminating soil and groundwater in its path.

Charges were filed against retired KCK police captain Roger Golubski, who had been the subject of brazen legends in Wyandotte County for decades. In September, he was indicted on six federal counts including rape, sexual assault and kidnapping. In November, Golubski and three other men were charged with conspiring to hold young women in a condition of involuntary sexual servitude and another charge for holding an underage female in a condition of involuntary servitude.      

OCTOBER

After more than a year of committee work led by Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw, Kansas City rolled out its new Zero KC Plan to end homelessness. The plan is built on a successful housing-first model being used successfully in other cities like Houston. The philosophy: get people in housing first, then address their other needs.  

KC Public Schools proposed a far-reaching reorganization that would close 10 schools, build or expand others and free up plans for academic goals. The plan didn’t go over well, with most people opposed to the closing of their neighborhood school.  

A woman who escaped an abductor’s basement helped expose a problem of missing Black women in Kansas City.  

Brian Betts and Celester McKinney, who have both served 20 years for a crime they say they didn’t commit, were awarded another evidentiary hearing. Their uncle, who testified against them, recanted his testimony years ago, saying he was forced to identify them by police. In a Golubski connection, the duo’s attorney revealed the relationship between the individual murdered and KCPD officer Golubski was not revealed in the trial. It turns out the victim was Golubski’s nephew by marriage. In December, the judge turned down their request for a new trial saying the uncle’s testimony wasn’t convincing.  

Wichita City Council named Joseph Sullivan, a 38-year-veteran of the Philadelphia Police Dept., as Wichita’s next police chief.  

NOVEMBER

An ordinance has been prepared for the Kansas City Council’s consideration that would establish a Reparations Commission charged with studying, developing, adopting and implementing a reparations plan for Kansas City’s Black community in five core areas: housing, education, healthcare, economic development, and criminal justice. The ordinance appears stalled.  

Wichita Councilman Brandon Johnson announced the allocation of $1 million to turn Finlay Ross Park in downtown Wichita into a site that highlights more of Wichita’s African-American history. The park, located on Douglas just west of Century II, will house the 20-foot-long bronze sculpture depicting the Wichita NAACP youth-led Dockum Drug Store Sit-In. 

President Biden pardons thousands of Americans convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law.  

The Community Voice was selected as one of eight Black-owned local news organizations for participation in the second cohort of the Knight x LMA BloomLab, a three-year immersive experience designed to help participants transform to the next level in their path to long-term sustainability. 

Election Results:

Maxwell Frost, 25, became the first Gen Z elected to congress.

With the election of Karen Bass as the mayor of Los Angeles, African Americans are now the top elected officials in the nation’s four largest cities.  

Jaylen Smith, 18, is elected the youngest Black mayor in America.  

Wes Moore was elected governor of Maryland.  He’s the only Black governor in the U.S.  

Jackson County Board of Commissioners gets a brand-new look. The commission, which had two minority members, now has a majority minority membership, with four Black members, two minorities and three Whites. Frank White, African American, returns as Jackson County executive.  

Get prepared, Missouri primaries for local races – including commission, councils and school boards – are the first Tuesday in April.  Candidate filing has closed and some races have as many as five candidates.  

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” has a record opening.  

Bobby Bostic was released on parole after 27 years in Missouri prison. The St. Louis native, behind bars since age 16, was among 100 people given life sentences as juveniles who got a new chance at parole with 2021 law.  

DECEMBER:

Hakeem Jeffries made history when he was selected U.S. House Minority Leader, replacing Nancy Pelosi, who decided not to run again.  Jeffries is the first African-American to serve in this role for either party.  

Due primarily to a shortage of firefighters, the City of Wichita has temporarily changed its hiring procedure. Now firefighter recruits can get paid $19 while they complete their required EMT certification. 

Recreational marijuana became legal in Missouri.  We took a deep look at what’s in and not in the new law. You should read it if you plan to smoke or would like to get a license to operate a dispensary. Visit  www.communityvoiceks.com/marijuana. 

Construction remains on schedule for a March 2023 opening for the new Kansas City International Airport Terminal. Visit our site to learn more about the terminal or to take a tour inside the terminal.  

Valley Center and Topeka High Schools completed an investigation of a racial incident at a basketball game. The White students at Valley Center High have been disciplined and a future reconciliation between the two schools is planned. With just 38 African-American students out of 1000, the incident helped the school uncover a much deeper internal, racial problem. 

Black Lives Matter Foundation established a student relief fund as loan forgiveness stalls.  Individual awards under the program depend on the amount of student debt an individual has but ranges between $1,500 to $4,500.   

Missouri Republican files a bill that will automatically expunge a person’s record when they’re eligible.  

Following 12 community listening sessions, Interim KCKPS Superintendent Jennifer Collier recommended to the school board closing just two schools, instead of 10. The school board dismissed into private executive session to discuss which schools they would close. The board is expected to take up the recommendation during their first meeting in January.  

The Community Voice concluded its year-long Shift, Pivot, Thrive Awards Program, which honored successful businesses in Wichita, with an awards dinner. The awards program was a partnership with Koch Industries.  

At their last meeting of the year, Wyandotte County Commissioners voted to strip the mayor of some of his power. The mayor is no longer able to prevent items approved in any of the city’s four standing committees from advancing to the full agenda for discussion and a vote.

After a nationwide search, the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners appointed Stacey Graves, formerly acting deputy chief in the Kansas City Police Department as the Departments new Chief of Police. She becomes the Department’s first female Chief.

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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...

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