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East is East & West is West

Johnson County Library

East is East & West is West

Johnson County Library

Kansas City remains one of the most segregated metropolitan areas, both racially and economically, decades after housing discrimination and school segregation were outlawed. In this program, a panel of experts convened for a fact-based, civil conversation on the past, present, and future of addressing segregation in Kansas City.


Arthur A. Benson II is a prominent civil rights attorney in Kansas City, Missouri. His law firm Benson & Associates specializes in constitutional law issues as well as employment discrimination, police misconduct, First Amendment, and voting rights issues. He has received a prestigious Reginald Hebert Smith Community Lawyer Fellowship and has served as General Counsel and member of the Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union of Western Missouri. He has served on the Missouri Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and has received the Civil Liberties Award of the ACLU of Western Missouri.

Mr. Benson is well known for his work on the Kansas City desegregation case in which he argued that Kansas City’s metropolitan and suburban school districts had consistently failed to follow the mandate of the landmark case of Brown vs. Board of Education and that the school districts remained racially segregated twenty years after Brown.

Tanner Colby is the author of Some of My Best Friends are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America, a narrative history of modern race-relations in the United States. It was nominated for the American Library Association’s 2013 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. After the election of America’s first black president, Colby realized that not only did he have no black friends but that he’d never had a black teacher, college professor, or workplace mentor. Nearly everyone he knew and interacted with was white. Colby sought to discover how half a century after the Civil Rights Movement, true integration has made few inroads in to many Americans’ lives. Colby traces the color line through his own life and outward to other communities and cities, including Kansas City. Colby lives in Brooklyn, NY, and is a producer on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

Mayor Sly James was born and raised in Kansas City, graduating from Bishop Hogan High School and Rockhurst University before earning his law degree at the University of Minnesota. As Mayor, James has rallied community support around the goal of ensuring every child can read at grade level by third grade and provided safe activities for young people during summer break through Mayor’s Nights and Club KC. Mayor James has worked to raise Kansas City’s statewide and national profile by highlighting the myriad cultural and human capital resources in KC. At the state level, he has been a voice for commonsense gun control laws, economic development tools, and education reform. Nationally, he is a member of Black Mayors for Education Reform and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and he was elected in June 2013 to the Advisory Board of the United States Conference of Mayors. James also led the city’s efforts to host Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game in the summer of 2012.

Michelle P. Wimes serves as the Chief Diversity and Professional Development Officer at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., one of the nation’s largest labor and employment law firms. In her role, Michelle leads the firm’s efforts to attract, develop, retain, promote and advance a diverse group of attorneys across the firm’s national platform of 52 offices in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Additionally, Michelle leads the firm’s attorney training and professional development efforts. She is based in Ogletree Deakins’ Kansas City office.

Michelle has been recognized nationally and locally for her many professional contributions. Ingram’s magazine selected Michelle as a member of the “40 Under 40 Class of 2005” and in 2007, Michelle received The Daily Record’s Legal Leader of the Year Award. In 2009, Kansas City’s Call newspaper recognized Michelle as one of the top 25 most influential African-American Kansas Citians. In 2012, Michelle was awarded the Distinguished Arts and Science Alumni Award from the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) and was featured in the inaugural edition of Who’s Who in Black Kansas City. In 2014, the Societas Docta presented Michelle with the “Nefertiti” award for her demonstrated leadership in the Kansas City community. And, in 2016, the National Congress of Black Women recognized Michelle with the Shirley Chisholm Award for her public service. Michelle has also been featured in SAVOY magazine, MultiCultural Law magazine, and The Kansas City Business Journal.

Michelle has spent over 20 years volunteering in the community. She currently serves as President of the Board of Directors of St. Teresa’s Academy where she spearheads the school’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. She was recently elected to UMKC’s Board of Trustees. She also chairs the Diversity Committee of St. Peter’s Catholic School. Michelle served as Founding President of the Gifted Hands’ Domestic Violence Prevention Center for Kansas City’s teen girls for seven years. In addition, she has served on the University of Central Missouri’s Board of Governors, UMKC’s Alumni Association Board of Directors where she chaired the Minority Affairs Committee, and the UMKC Arts and Sciences Alumni Board. She was Founding Vice President of KIPP Endeavor Academy, a nationally recognized charter school in Kansas City.

Prior to a career in law, Michelle was an elementary and middle school teacher in Kansas City. She received a B.A. from UMKC and performed graduate work at the University of Seville in Spain and undergraduate work at the University of Xalapa in Veracruz, Mexico. Due to her studies and her extensive legal work in Latin America, she is fluent in Spanish. Michelle earned her law degree, with trial advocacy honors, from Tulane Law School. She is the proud wife of federal district court judge Brian C. Wimes and the mother of three daughters, Sydney, Gabrielle, and Saige.


Steve Kraske is a member of The Kansas City Star’s editorial board. He has worked at The Star since 1986 — first as a police reporter, then as a Statehouse reporter in both Missouri and Kansas. He was named the newspaper’s chief political correspondent and columnist in the mid-1990s.

Kraske has covered 11 national political conventions, including back-to-back gatherings in 2016 in Cleveland and Philadelphia.

He is host of “Up to Date,” a daily public-affairs radio program on KCUR, 89.3. He teaches journalism at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. And Kraske also has been a fellow at the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas.

Kraske is a journalism graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was a John S. Knight journalism fellow at Stanford University.

He has won numerous awards for his print and broadcast work. He lives in Westwood with his wife, Kady McMaster, a former Star reporter and editor who now works in marketing and communications at UMKC. The couple has two college-age sons.


Thanks to support from the William T. Kemper Foundation, we prepared facts and statistics about segregation in Kansas City and beyond. You can view or download a PDF of the fact sheet below.