Ed’s Note: Power & Light District President Jon Stephens took about 20 minutes of his day to chat with me via phone. I met with him in person later. This letter is taken from what I said to him on the phone, via e-mail and in person.
Dear Mr. Jon Stephens,
Thanks for giving me a few minutes of your time today. I called you just after I listened to a KC radio personality’s on-air conversation with you. I also read The Kansas City Star’s and The Pitch’s work concerning the issue. Even chatted with a television station reporter or two.
After listening and reading, there were still a few things that concerned me. That’s why I called you. That’s why I e-mailed you. That’s why I’m writing this open letter to you.
You were quoted in both The Star and The Pitch as saying that The Power & Light District promotes diversity. I think I explained that “diversity” fairly well in the previous open letter. And as I said to you, it’s exclusive concerning blacks.
There’s nothing in the tax-payer funded Power & Light that remotely caters to an urban a black audience. This may be overt or covert, but the “separate but equal” clause supposedly went out the window nearly 40 years ago.
Since the P&L opened last year, there has been nothing remotely close to what transpired for 30 minutes on Saturday night. If I’m not mistaken, that was your biggest crowd. By that, I mean that there have been no results from any effort to make black people feel welcome in the P&L — including the dress code.
Hosting a gospel concert on Sunday was a step in the right direction (yes, I attended for an hour. No, I didn’t buy anything). Bringing in DJ Jazzy Jeff was as well.
But we took five steps back after Saturday night’s debacle. I’ve talked to Jeff’s manager. I’ve talked to you. And I’ve talked to other P&L employees close enough to the situation to know that there was more going on than just “output levels in the red” that might blow the system. Something was said that made DJ Jazzy Jeff, MC Skillz and Co. pack up and leave. Period.
No DJ legend walks away from a set specifically because of issues with output levels being “too high.” We get that, and we’re beyond it.
As I said yesterday, a boycott won’t work. That link explains why.
The question now is what will The Power & Light District do to rectify the perceived problem? You’ve said that the P&L is about “diversity.”
Well, your convictions will crucify your own mouth’s contradictions. And right now, The P&L is looking real unfamiliar (~Riley Freeman) like Jim Caviezel. In cliched terms, your actions will speak louder than your words.
Please prove that diversity to be inclusive of Kansas City’s black and urban cores. That same environment — with break dancers and people reciting the lyrics to Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin” and Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend” — is feasible. You just have to make it happen. Please prove that doesn’t just mean we can look at the murals of Charlie “Bird” Parker, Satchel Paige and others great black Kansas Citians that sit on the OUTSIDE of buildings on the P&L’s south end.
It’s apparent that we will come out and play nice. There are several great hip hop DJs in Kansas City who could bring a similar atmosphere to the P&L’s KC Live. You just have to give us that chance.
When you do, you’ll learn that, although we may be different, we have a lot in common. Today I learned that you and I both have to go outside to talk on our cell phones at times because the reception is horrible thanks to a certain company. We share an alma mater and a similar disdain for a certain school in Lawrence, Kan. And we are both proud Kansas Citians, tried and true blue or red, depending on the the season.
Let’s make it so that the rest of the world can understand why we love KC. Moreover, let’s make it so that the people who live here now have justifiable reason to boast about it, and not just shake their heads in disgust after incidents like Saturday night’s.
Again, thanks for sharing your time and thoughts.
P.S. This is technically my first “Dear John” letter on this blog. Kind of ironic, huh?
P.P.S. Another song I wanted to hear Saturday night: DJ Jazzy Jeff & Raheem Devaughn’s “My Soul’s Not 4 Sale.”