‘Time to come together’: Black leaders in Wichita reflect on impact of leadership on MLK Day

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Diversity in leadership in Wichita is not just a collection of different races, but diverse roles that impact the community.

Leaders from the Black community in Wichita reflect on their role in the community and what it means on MLK Day.

“Dr. King is one of my real-life superheroes growing up and still is,” said vice mayor Brandon Johnson.

Before he came vice mayor or a councilman, Brandon Johnson was always climbing.

“Unfortunately, I still find myself fighting some of those same battles today,” Johnson said.

Johnson is the only Black man on the city council now. His picture looks up to a strong lineage of others who came before him in the Atwater Neighborhood City Hall.

“To make things better, to make policies more equitable and improve our city for the life of all citizens and especially for those who have been historically left out,” he said.

And stepping into a community role is Odell Harris Jr., who is a pastor while also serving on the city’s citizens review board that holds police accountable.

“I appreciate being able to hold men of all races and colors and creeds accountable for the things that they do,” Harris said.

And what the next generation of young men and women do is often guided by David Gilkey who mentors thousands of youth through his Rise Up For Youth program, helping thousands of students gain a diploma.

“It is dedication, determination and discipline,” Gilkey said.

Gilkey, Johnson, and Harris each share a role of leadership in the community, and MLK Day is a reminder of that responsibility.

“I always said the only thing that should be separated by color is laundry, and I truly believe that,” Gilkey explained. “It is time to come together.”

While reminding people that all are equal and the Dr. King’s message and dream is still alive.

“They should take the lessons of Dr. King and understand that leadership is risky, but it is worth it on this planet to make a difference,” Johnson says.

“I have to ask myself sometimes is that dream still achievable? Is it still attainable and I can still say yes,” Harris added.

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