- Associated Press - Sunday, November 22, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A group of African-American leaders from throughout Kansas is calling for expanding Medicaid, repealing restrictive voting laws, reforming criminal sentencing and putting more restrictions on payday lenders.

The Kansas Black Leadership Council met for the first time Saturday at a historic black church in Topeka to adopt a statewide political agenda for the upcoming legislative session and the elections to follow, the Lawrence Journal-World (https://bit.ly/1NjK5bp ) reported. The agenda also includes hiking the minimum wage, repealing the death penalty, increasing the use of body cameras among law enforcement and establishing economic development programs to spur business development in inner-city neighborhoods.

“I see it as a motivator to get people out to vote,” said Bonita Gooch, KBLC president and publisher of the Community Voice, an African-American newspaper in Wichita. “If you understand what the issues are, and how they impact you, you’re more likely to vote.”

The agenda comes amid rising political activism among black students at the University of Kansas and other colleges, as well as the national Black Lives Matter movement.

“I think that things have been brewing, and they simply were not addressed,” said Melody McCray-Miller, a former legislator who is now a vice chairwoman of the Kansas Democratic Party. “I think that with the Black Lives Matter movement, it has empowered, particularly younger African-Americans, younger people period. Because it’s not just a black thing. I mean, it’s across the continuum of races.”

Noticeably absent from the gathering, though, was almost anyone younger than 40 - black or white. KBLC leaders acknowledged that mobilizing young voters has been a challenge across the political spectrum in recent years. But they intend to push their agenda out to young voters through social media and other platforms.

“It’s all about making the issues relevant to them,” Gooch said. “And if we can connect the issues to them, and why it’s important, I think we can pull them out. And that’s going to be a challenge, but I don’t think it’s going to be that big of a challenge, based on this agenda.”

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, https://www.ljworld.com


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