Harmony Focuses on Bridging the Divide

diversity race

Kansas City is a diverse community with ever-changing needs. To keep up with those needs, the community group Kansas City Harmony has tried to evolve as well.

It is not enough to simply be respectful of different races and cultures anymore, said Diane Hershberger, Harmony's executive director.

“Knowing how to work together more and learning from each others' differences is what is going to make our community grow and be great,” she said.

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HISTORY

Kansas City Harmony began in 1989 when Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor pro-tem Emanuel Cleaver and Mayor Richard Berkley galvanized leadership within business, government, education, and religious communities to work on an eighteen month project to improve race relations, reduce prejudice and celebrate diversity throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area. It soon became evident to those involved with Harmony that improving race relations and reducing prejudice was not a "project", but an ongoing process.

Race relations and diversity work require vigilant attention in order to build upon and expand the progress that has been achieved. Through the commitment of civic leadership, progress will continue to be made to make our community, Kansas City, a world class city. What began as a project with fanfare and celebration, continues as a multi-faceted community process, fulfilling its mission and completing its vision.

Harmony, commonly known by one of the organization's earliest and most successful campaigns, "Harmony in a World of Difference", continues to diligently pursue its mission... " to improve race relations, increase appreciation for cultural diversity and reduce prejudice in metropolitan Kansas City." Kansas City Harmony works toward uniting classrooms and living rooms, cultures and races; building bridges that will span generations.

VISION

By virtue of Harmony's work, the Kansas City metropolitan area will be a model community that values and respects the cultural diversity of its people, a community that strives for a high quality of life for all, and one that celebrates the uniqueness of each individual.

MISSION

Harmony is a resource and catalyst in and for the metropolitan Kansas City community to improve race relations, increase appreciation for cultural diversity, and eliminate intolerance

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Irene Caudillo, President, Youth Opportunities Unlimited
Crystal Whitmore, Vice President, Deluxe Corporation
Mary Brown, Secretary, Community Volunteer
Marco Listrom, Treasurer, Valdes & Moreno Rev. Emanuel Cleaver II, Honorary Board Chair, St. James-Paseo U.M. Church
Mark Bohen, Fortis Benefits
Chester Brock, Kerry Ingredients, Inc
Muhammed Chaudry, Hallmark
Art Davis, The Civic Council of Greater Kansas City
Mark Gilgus, Seigfried, Bingham, Levy, Selz
Vickie Harris, Hallmark
DeeDee King, Community Volunteer
Laura Loyacono, Community Volunteer
Celeste Rogers Reed, Kansas City Star
Richard Spring, KCPL
Shani Tate, Kansas City Royals Baseball Club
Janet Watson, Greater Kansas Ctiy Chamber of Commerce

STAFF

Diane Hershberger, Executive Director
Darryck Dean, Associate Executive Director of Pinel Tamara Givens , Community Builder
LeNesha Brown , Community Builder
Marisa Gray - Training Coordinator
Janet Moss, Congregational Partners Coordinator

Race Relations

The August 2001 Metro Outlook Report, prepared by the Mid-America Regional Council, indicated that nearly 90% of surveyed residents believe good race relations are important to their quality of life. Just slightly more than 20% strongly believe race relations are good. How can we deal with this sensitive issue that can be viewed in so many different ways?

First we need to recognize that different people frame the problem differently. Some believe racism is no longer a problem and that those tensions belong in the past. Others believe that issues of race and ethnicity tough all our lives every day, even if we don’t realize it. They believe race and ethnicity affect where people live, work and shop, and how our children our educated. Some believe racial influences sometimes are obvious and sometimes are masked.

The Kansas City Race Teams started with back in 2002 with the Kansas City Forums put together and funded by the Kauffman Foundation after the insightful Citistates report. Twice a year Kansas City Consensus, the new organizer, start a new round of forums were citizens from all over the metro can come and discuss Healthy Neighborhoods, Regionalism, Economic Development, Transportation and Race Relations. After each forum those participators that are interested can join an action team. The action teams meets for roughly six months, and plans a course of action for their particular team.

Kansas City’s Race Relations Dialogue focuses not on how to solve the problem, but rather on how we view the problem. It offers different perspectives on race relations as a way to promote public deliberation of this important issue. But first, we must reach a shared understanding of the problem before we can create a common ground for action.

Annual Harmony Interfaith Thanksgiving concert

The Harmony Choral Celebration Concert is the only known interfaith concert in the United States that features both a mass choir and demonstration choirs. The goal of the concert is to promote understanding and respect among people of different faith and cultural traditions.

In performing music outside their own faith, mass choir members demonstrate respect and understanding of the traditions of other choir members. And, in discovering the commonalities and differences among traditions, choir members and audience participants can deepen their own beliefs.

The first concert was held in May 1990 at Beth Shalom Congregation with a performance of Mendelssohn’s “Elijah.” Four Choirs, Beth Shalom, Linwood United, Grace and Holy Trinity, and Country Club Christian joined with the Kansas City Civic Orchestra. In 1994, over 1,400 people came to St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church to hear that years choral celebration, in 1997, more than 200 voices from over 40 congregations and choirs came together, reflecting the rich cultural and sacred diversity of the greater Kansas City community.

Kansas Citians are leaders through their creativity and commitment to this spectacular annual gathering.