Intern – Ashlin Wang

What I’m doing with North East Kansas City

As many of you may know I am working as an intern for NEKC Chamber of Commerce. My role is to tell the stories of individuals associated with the area and the organizations associated to the Chamber. Basically by explaining the lives of the people inhabiting the area, their dreams, their difficulties, their daily routines, what brought them to this part of United States, etc etc. I hopefully will make you want to spend money in the businesses. I think as humans we can be drawn to what one is doing, if we know who that person is.

Bobbi Baker’s House- the place where everything starts.

This is the beginning.

I have started off by shadowing staff members of the Independence Avenue Community Improvement district or CID for short. There are many ambassadors for this branch of the Chamber, from Urban Street Ambassadors, to Avenue Angels, and on and on. This branch seeks to make Independence avenue safe, comfortable, and beautiful. The individuals who serve will do whatever is in their power and authority to accomplish those goals. They are not a faceless organization. The build relationships with many of the community members, tiers their services to the needs of each individual.

The first individual I met was Carl. He is the Ambassador of our Business & Community (taken straight from his business card) and as you will quickly find out, although each individual has a title, they often go beyond their “assigned” roles to better serve where they can.

Carl at the CID offices located under the UMB bank

His task for the day was to obtain the title for a truck (which was recently purchased to improve the abilities of the USA) and inform business owners that occupy a strip mall to lock up their dumpsters to prevent the spreading of trash as individuals will rummage through and take things out of the dumpster. The trash is being spread to different areas and the library had recently issued a complaint. This task is dry and often met with resistance from business owners. Carl had to meet every manager or owner where they were at and try and reason with them. The goal was not to ostracize or irritate the businesses but prevent the city from issuing fee’s or requiring various protocol be met (which often had larger price tags.)

*Please Click through these galleries that are sprinkled throughout the article

Carl has lived in Kansas City for his whole life and moved to the North East twenty five years ago. He is invested in the area and knows the people well. His experiences are diverse and was not part of the CID until recently (last year- 2014/15)

The next individual I shadowed was Preston who works as an Urban Street Ambassador. His role may seem small and unassuming and many people probably drive by and cast judgement on such an individual. But he was full of thoughts, about the city, about the people, about commerce, about politics. The interaction never felt awkward because he always had something to say, much of which was heart felt and considered.

Preston in Bobbi Baker’s Office

His surface role is simply to pick up trash up and down the avenue, but he makes it so much more, he knew so many individuals, he complemented people, he shared thoughts with me, people knew him by name. In reference to his and USA’s role “People might actually think it’s something small, but it is actually something great.”

It was also a dang cold day. He walks it and will ride the bus occasionally. He said a lot of things that viewed people beyond their appearances, going into the individuals introspective perspective, their circumstances, their experiences. It was exactly the humanistic view needed to be an influence, not just someone who beautifies the area. He talked about education and how that ends crime, “some people need to be pushed and some people you can just lead” he also shared that a lot of people’s interactions whether it be postivie or negative are based on “how they view the area and how they view themselves.”

It was a delight to have my own generic preconceived notions be crushed, as I often view people who pick up trash along the sides of roads as people performing community service for retributive reasons, and not out personal desire or inspiration. I remove the person from those people when I see someone picking up trash.

The last individual I shadowed was Alan; an Avenue Angel. These individuals are security officers that serve the area in whatever way possible. Firstly, to keep the street safe for patrons and people of the community. Then from there the tasks are diverse, from helping people with flat tires, to getting keys out of locked cars, they help if people have questions, they will help escort any individual who feels unsafe to their vehicles. They document graffiti and various vandalism and track and prevent prostitution.

documenting graffiti

Alan filled my ears with stories of the things he had seen and had to do. From having to wrestle an individual on PCP to having to prevent someone from killing him self. His tasks are very diverse and he experiences many things. The Avenue Angels will do whatever that is in their power to “make home safer, for people who call this place home.”

Everyone I had met had a life beyond their roles. Preston like to hang out with his granddaughter and is part of the Gentlemen of the Round table (a brother hood where men can get help other men restore their selves, communities, minds, spirit, & mental state) Alan is married and helping support his wife through medical school. Everyone of their lives are complex and they take time out of it to serve this community.

I’m waiting to be surprised by more life, and it shouldn’t be hard, because life is everywhere.