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Nick’s Picks | MLK Day, Inauguration Day and the Chiefs

Big Days Abound This Week in KC

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Above image credit: "Kansas City Week in Review" host Nick Haines. (John McGrath | Flatland)

We begin our week by honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It’s now been 53 years since the civil rights leader was assassinated on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. 

While Dr. King remains one of the nation’s most celebrated leaders, Kansas City is still struggling to find a way to honor him. More than a year after Kansas Citians voted to remove his name from an historic street there is still no consensus on what should happen now. 

A proposal to rename Swope Parkway, Volker Drive and Blue Parkway after King has yet to win approval.

Just a reminder, if you were planning to head to the post office today, or to your bank or to get your driver’s license renewed you will be greeted with shuttered doors. Most public institutions and many local businesses are closed today. And in many cities, trash collection will also be delayed until tomorrow.

And sadly, the pandemic has canceled nearly all in-person celebrations of Dr. King’s life. The Southern Christian Leadership Council is moving forward with its Dr. King celebration but it’s now taking place via Zoom. The event featuring U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City begins at 5:30 p.m.

By the way, Dr. King came to Kansas City six times before his death.  Flatland recounts his relationship with our city. You can check out that report here.

A New President

America will get a new leader this week. Joe Biden will be officially sworn in as the nation’s 46th president on Wednesday. That’s expected to happen at 11 a.m. our time. You can watch live coverage on Kansas City PBS starting at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

We’ll also be broadcasting a special “Celebrating America” concert that will feature the president, Vice President Kamala Harris and a slew of music stars, from Bruce Springsteen and Justin Timberlake to Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez. You have a front row seat to the entire event. Kansas City PBS coverage begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Wednesday is also “moving day” for outgoing President Donald Trump, who has decided not to attend the inauguration of his successor. He will leave the White House earlier on Wednesday morning and is planning a ceremonial farewell at Joint Base Andrews. That’s the Air Force facility just outside of Washington D.C. where Air Force One is headquartered. 

The farewell is expected to include a red carpet, military band, color guard and 21-gun salute. He’ll then make his final Air Force One flight to Florida, to take up residence at Mar-a-Lago, his West Palm Beach estate where he will begin his post-presidency.

President Donald Trump, left, and President-elect Joe Biden
This combination of Sept. 29, 2020, file photos shows President Donald Trump, left, and former President-elect Joe Biden during the first presidential debate at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo | Patrick Semansky, File)

Meanwhile, in a remarkable show of force, more than 20,000 National Guard troops have been deployed to maintain security for this week’s inauguration events.

And those include troops from where we live. The Missouri National Guard has been called up. So have 300 members of the Kansas National Guard. 

According to the Military Times newspaper, there will be four times as many troops guarding the inauguration than are serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Federal agencies have also tapped several local law enforcement agencies across the country to assist with security. The Kansas City Police Department says it’s sending 50 officers to Washington D.C.

Multiple Firsts

While the focus is now on Biden, we can’t minimize Kamala Harris’s elevation as the nation’s first woman vice president. She is also the country’s first Black and first Asian American vice president.

But for all of Harris’ impressive firsts, she’s not the first person of color elected vice president of the United States.

Did you know that was achieved by a man from Kansas?  Charles Curtis was a Native American lawmaker and member of the Kaw Nation, who served under President Herbert Hoover some 90 years ago.

According to a remarkably detailed portrait of Curtis in the Philadelphia Inquirer, he spoke the Kansa language before English and lived on a reservation just outside of Topeka.  And despite widespread discrimination against Native Americans, he celebrated his ethnicity, often boasting of his rise “from tepee to Capitol,” decorating his office with artifacts, and posing for photos in a feathered headdress.

Vaccine Access 

Starting today, Missourians 65 and older can now get the coveted COVID-19 vaccine. Missourians with chronic health conditions can also get the shot. You’ll notice I said only Missourians. Kansans in those two vulnerable groups will still have to wait a few more weeks to qualify.

But there are some serious questions being asked about how much vaccine will be available to quickly inoculate local residents.  A government website that lists where you can go to get the vaccine is displaying a large warning at the top of the page.

It reads, “The state of Missouri is still experiencing an exceptionally limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines. Before contacting a vaccination site, please understand that many vaccinators are still awaiting supplies from the federal government.”

Another Name Change?

Is the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art about to get a name change? A story in the Kansas City Star over the weekend claims the museum is now “reflecting” on its association with William Rockhill Nelson just days after the newspaper removed his name and face from its masthead. 

The Star had argued that its founder helped lay the foundation for decades of racial segregation in Kansas City.

Kansas City’s best known art museum opened in 1933 and was bankrolled in large part by Nelson’s estate.

Chiefs

For the second straight week, football will be one of the biggest news stories in Kansas City. This weekend, the Kansas City Chiefs will move one step closer to winning back-to-back Super Bowl’s as they take on the Buffalo Bills. Kickoff is this Sunday at 5:40 p.m. at Arrowhead Stadium.

There will be a collective crossing of fingers in Kansas City that Patrick Mahomes will be fit for that game. The Chiefs quarterback suffered a concussion and didn’t finish Sunday’s match-up against the Cleveland Browns.

And as my mother-in-law asked Sunday night, “If the Chiefs win their next game, will they be World Series champions?” 

I told her sadly, no. But they will be Olympic gold medalists.

Chiefs flag waves in Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs take on the Browns in Sunday’s Divisional Round at 2:05 p.m. CST. on CBS.

Nick Haines dissects the week’s most impactful local news stories, Fridays at 7:30 p.m. on Kansas City PBS.

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