For our show on June 20th, host Richard Mabion will speak with Elnora Quintelle Tellis Easley Jefferson, who defines herself as a civic activist. In 2012, along with thirteen other presidents of Northeast KCK area neighborhoods, she co-founded the Historic Northeast-Midtown Association (HNMA), a Neighborhood Business Revitalization Organization (NBR) for Northeast Kansas City, Kansas. The HNMA service area covers approximately 11 square miles and includes the Fairfax Industrial Area and 15 neighborhood groups. The youngest of the eight NBR’s, HNMA will celebrate its 10- year anniversary on September 21, 2022. The area is rich in historical landmarks, districts, neighborhoods and family birthrights. In 1939, the Fairfax Industrial District gave Kansas City, Kansas the honor of being called the state’s leading industrial center.
HNMA’s mission was to provide programs and services that enhanced the area’s ability to recover from disruption and rebuild the once thriving economy in the northeast area. These neighborhoods were the those most negatively impacted by the injustices inflicted by the federal legislation that set the stage for local implementation of redlining and urban renewal. The injustices resulted in outward migration, displacement of people and the necessary resources that any community needs to thrive with life and well-being.
In 2019, HNMA was selected as one of the local trusts on the Groundwork USA network. A National Park Service and EPA resourced organization, the local trusts are organizations that in their portfolio of community, economic and human development initiatives, include brownfield reclamation and youth engagement in green technologies.
This is Elnora’s second professional career that began when in the 1990’s she took note of the gradual devastation that had occurred and continued to occur in the neighborhood of her youth. The questions, “What happened to Mr. Carter’s house?”, “What happened to Ms. Hazel’s house?” and “Who sanctioned a toxic land field in a neighborhood area that was once complete with rolling hills and small well-kept houses?” played in her mind. The sight of the shell of a once a proud and vibrant community where her mother stayed and did not want to leave, prompted Elnora to retire from AT&T where she had worked for 25 years as a manager of technical voice and data sales. She saw the aftermath of outward migration, neglect, random destruction, poor stewardship of neighborhood resources and concentration of clustered poverty. The resulting landscape, often called blight, too readily prompts the casual observer to overlook the legacy of the area, the strength in the spirit of the surviving property owners and the unspoken plea of those who would if they only could. Elnora and her family recognized what humankind for ages has always known, that the land itself is an economic equalizer. To this end, they initiated in neighborhood urban agriculture to feed and educate youth and families, to improve community health and well-being and to create wealth. This included a contract with USD 500 to supply local pesticide-free vegetables for children’s lunches.
Today, the northeast area is in a state of demographic flux. Populated by people who come from countries all over the globe, the largest immigrant population is Hispanic.
Elnora’s advocacy continues. Her personal goal is for the northeast to become a destination spot of investment and family life. To this end, her advocacy purports ownership, self-sustainability and the elimination of the systemic barriers that jeopardize both.
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George Carlin said “we (meaning people in general) are arrogant to think we (usually meaning they) are a threat to the planet. This planet put up with dinosaurs for 165 million years then waited another 65 million before putting up with people. Do any of you think people, humans, can last 165 million years?”