One on One with Swope Health: Larry Lester

Swope Health announces a new edition of its podcast, One on One with Swope Health, featuring Larry Lester, CEO of NoirTech Research Inc. Lester is a sports researcher and historian, author and co-author of several books about the Negro Leagues baseball conference and players.

Eric Wesson, managing editor and publisher of The Call, hosts the show’s conversations with Kansas Citians about issues of importance to the community’s health and wellbeing.

In this episode, learn about Lester’s history, experiences in Kansas City, and his views on the importance of understanding Black history.

“We need to know our history, Black history, where you come from and our roots,” he says. Understanding the struggles of our ancestors can put your own challenges into perspective, and give strength for the ongoing struggles.

Lester also speaks in personal terms about the importance of mental health, especially for Black men, who, he says, often are taught not to cry or show vulnerability.

“As a Black man, I know it’s very difficult to admit you need help with mental health, therapy or medication. We tend to be very strong and resilient. We think we’re bulletproof, but we’re not,” he said. “That’s part of the weakness of the Black man.”

Lester notes that the feelings of anger at being marginalized and misunderstood are sometimes repressed and internalized, until they build up and reach a boiling point. Instead, he calls for Black men to reach out to each other to talk, to share honest feelings and vent those emotions.

Lester also talks about the need for financial literacy in the Black community, specifically education about generational wealth, managing credit and making investment decisions that can bring greater rewards over time. He shares personal experiences as part of a class-action discrimination lawsuit against Bank of America and explains how to build strong credit by paying off balances each month.

Lester was featured in the special edition of “Our Health Matters” — Black Men Speak: Health, Strength & Hope.

Lester’s discussion is available on video and audio podcast.

Hear the conversation here:




One on One with Swope Health: Melissa Robinson

Swope Health announces a new edition of its podcast, One on One with Swope Health, featuring Kansas City Councilwoman Melissa Robinson, who talks with Eric Wesson, managing editor and publisher of The Call.

Robinson talks about her background, including her education and 15 years’ experience with the

Black Healthcare Coalition, a Kansas City non-profit with a mission to eliminate healthcare disparities through advocacy and access to care. She describes her activism in policies, which had roots in her service on the city’s Public Improvements Advisory Committee.

One of her earliest projects related to Brush Creek, which originates in Johnson County, Kansas, in a cemented channel to flow into eastern Kansas City to an unimproved earthen dam in the segregated Third District. The area was a natural collector for all the trash and debris picked up from Johnson County and through the Kansas City Plaza. She worked with former Councilman Jermaine Reed to get the Army Corps of Engineers to invest in the Brush Creek clean up – an act of environment justice supported by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II.

The resulting $20 million investment gave Robinson the impetus to run for city council representing the Third District, further advocating for equity and parity for all members of the city.

Robinson’s ongoing work includes trash and blight removal, as well as stepping up fines and enforcement for offenders, and addressing issues of water shutoffs in her district. She has worked on more than 200 ordinances in her tenure at City Council, and speaks with passion and conviction about the work still underway:

  • Addressing racism as a public health crisis
  • Social and economic mobility for residents
  • Affordable and middle-class housing, in appropriate density to attract goods and services
  • Economic development throughout the city
  • Reparations for African-American Kansas Citians.

Her interests on city council intersect with her efforts at the Black Healthcare Coalition, which works to address the social determinants of health; ensuring the organization is making a significant impact on reducing health disparities in the areas of hypertension, obesity, infant mortality, diabetes, breast and prostate cancer and childhood asthma.

Robinson also is the former Board president for the Kansas City Public Schools. She is a passionate advocate for ensuring all children have access to a globally competitive education.

Watch and listen in:





One on One with Swope Health: Judge Ardie Bland

Swope Health announces a new edition of its podcast, One on One with Swope Health, featuring Ardie Bland, Veterans Law and Municipal Court Judge for the 16th Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri – Kansas City Municipal Division. Judge Bland presided over Missouri’s first Veterans Treatment Court.

Eric Wesson, managing editor and publisher of The Call, hosts the show’s conversations with Kansas Citians about issues of importance to the community’s health and wellbeing.

Judge Bland is a native of Kansas City, Missouri, who attended Lincoln Preparatory Academy, Truman State University and then Drake University Law School. After law school, he returned to Kansas City to practice law and serve as the law clerk for the Honorable Thomas H. Newton. He worked as a decision writer for the Office of Hearings and Appeals in the Social Security Administration.  While with the Social Security Administration, he became passionate and knowledgeable of the physical and mental health diagnoses and their impacts on an individual’s ability to function in society.

In 2015, he became presiding judge over the Kansas City, Missouri, Mental Health Court, where he was able to help individuals with mental illness connect with mental health service providers, obtain treatment, and stay medicated without being incarcerated in an attempt to reduce police interaction and harm to the individual or the community.  Judge Bland currently serves as a Veterans Law Judge for the Veterans Administration Board of Veterans Appeals.

In this conversation, Judge Bland describes his call and passion for serving the community, especially in the area of mental health. He talks about the need for more education and understanding about mental health and treatments and therapies, to remove stigma and fear.

He notes that Black men have an issue in being seen as vulnerable, which he says is arguably tied to the experience of slavery. In slavery, men who were seen as hurt or weak were devalued. Even now, there’s great pressure to raise Black boys to be tough – but he argues, being tough should include being able to face problems and seek help.

Judge Bland also speaks on the relative scarcity of Black men in professional mental health roles – medical doctors, therapists, counselors – calling for greater understanding and appreciation of the profession. He also talks about the need to help young Black men and boys “find their voice” and understand themselves.

With examples from his years on the bench in mental health court and truancy court, Judge Bland shares practical tips on helping young Black males and their families.

You can also read Judge Bland’s article in the recent special edition of Our Health Matters, titled Black Men Speak: Health, Strength and Hope. The edition is available for download:

One on One PodcastListen to the podcast:




One on One with Swope Health: Gwen Grant

Swope Health announces a new edition of its podcast, One on One with Swope Health, with host Eric Wesson interviewing Gwendolyn Grant, the president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City.

Grant is a native of Kansas City who has long been recognized as a passionate and strong voice advocating for social justice and economic empowerment for African Americans and women. She is the first woman to lead the KC Urban League in its 100-year history. She is the recipient of numerous honors including the National Urban League’s Whitney M. Young Leadership Award for Advancing Racial Equity, William Jewel College Yates Medallion for Distinguished Service, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Community Service Award, and the National Urban League Association of Executives Academy of Fellows designation.

The Urban League publishes the State of Black Kansas City, a collection of articles and commentary on key points from the Black/White and Hispanic/White Equality Indexes. The every-other-year publication spotlights the gaps in Education, Employment, Health, Social Justice and Civic Engagement in Kansas City. The most recent report from 2021 is titled “Charting the Path Forward: Is Equity Enough?”

In this interview, Grant describes her earliest moments of civil rights advocacy, recalling how her mother instilled in her a sense of duty to work for change. At the time when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, there was a march called Solidarity Day in Washington, D.C., and Gwen, as a pre-teen, decided to go. It was a watershed moment, she recalled.

Early in her career, she worked for the YMCA before joining the Urban League, where she found her home.

She speaks on the civil right struggle then vs now, on today’s political climate with policies and practices that hold back Black people. She talks about the steady roll-back and erosion of rights, the ongoing threat to democracy.

“We have not achieved equality,” she says. “We are not free. Our slavery has just taken on a different form.”

Considering Urban League’s work in health disparities in Kansas City, Grant notes “Systemic racism is a public health issue.” To address health issues, Grant sees the need to address racism in all factors – education, housing, crime, and especially, the black-white wealth gap. She also describes the Urban League’s efforts in education on COVID-19 vaccinations, flu vaccines and other the importance of access to healthcare, including mental healthcare.

Listen in to the conversation and her comments on reparations, economic advancement, guns in society, and racism in the criminal justice system and policing.

“It’s time to galvanize all who are for inclusion and equal rights for everyone.”






One on One with Swope Health: Ruth Ramsey

Swope Health announces a new edition of its podcast, One on One with Swope Health, with host Eric Wesson interviewing Ruth Ramsey, publisher of Our Health Matters™, a monthly health publication focused on Kansas City.

Ruth is an entrepreneur, founding her business Ramsey & Associates Design in 1989. She launched the print and digital magazine in 2005, as she became increasingly aware of the sharp health disparities facing African Americans and other minorities. There is strong evidence showing how hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cancer and other diseases are much more prevalent among Blacks. Ruth determined she could help the community by offering information on how to take care of themselves and get preventive screenings.

Our Health Matters appears five times a year and is distributed free at 100-plus locations throughout the Kansas City metro area and via mail subscriptions.

In this interview, Ruth describes her Kansas City roots and upbringing, and her journey that led to launching Our Health Matters as a way to bring beneficial impact to the community. With the special issue “Black Men Speak,” members of the community offer personal stories of strength, health and hope.

The issue offers frank tales of racism, prejudice and discrimination, lack of access to employment, housing and employment, and those traumatic impacts on health. As an example, Ruth describes an interview with a 16-year-old young man. When asked how he is perceived by society, he said without a moment’s pause, “They think we’re criminals.”

What can we do better for black men and boys? That’s the reason for the special issue. Authors bring expertise from fields of economic development, health, education, housing, employment, social justice, public safety and government. The magazine serves as a resource to the community, providing guidance, inspiration and references for driving positive change.

This issue takes a step to broaden the perception of black men in the community. “We need to look at and support our community of black men and boys,” Ruth says.





One on One with Dr. Jennifer Collier

In the latest edition of the Swope Health podcast, One on One with Swope Health, host Eric Wesson interviews Dr. Jennifer Collier, the interim superintendent of the Kansas City Public School District.

Dr. Collier has served as an educator in the KC Public Schools for more than 23 years, as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal. She also served as the Chief Human Resources Officer, Chief of Staff, and Deputy Superintendent before her latest appointment as interim superintendent following the departure of Dr. Mark Bedell.

She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree from Avila University, as well as an Educational Specialist in Educational Leadership and doctorate in education from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

In the podcast, Eric Wesson, the managing editor and publisher of The Call, reviews her background and professional career, including her first job as a substitute teacher in the KC Public School District.

Dr. Collier talks about the “laser focus” on literacy that she brings to the school district, while dealing with kids struggling with homelessness or a lack of stability in housing. While the district has made strides in literacy, she calls this a time to “roll up our sleeves and do better.”

She notes high levels of anxiety and stress throughout society and increasing social-emotional support for staff, teachers, principals, and students. “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” she explains.

Eric and Dr. Collier talk about the importance of reading and explore the socio-economics of learning, how those differences show up in test scores. Additional topics include early learning, teacher shortages, family-school partnerships, and addressing violence with conflict resolution training and more.

Learn about her passion for elevating education, her commitment to quality education for Kansas City students, and her focus on building community engagement and support.

Listen to and watch the the conversation:




One on One with Qiana Thomason

Swope Health announces a new edition of its podcast, One on One with Swope Health, featuring Qiana Thomason, President and CEO of Health Forward Foundation.

Eric Wesson, managing editor and publisher of The Call, hosts the show’s conversations with Kansas Citians about issues of importance to the community’s health and wellbeing.

Health Forward Foundation is a nonprofit organization working to fund initiatives that “support and build inclusive, powerful, and health communities characterized by racial equity and economically just systems.”

Qiana joined Health Forward as president/CEO in 2020. She previously served as vice president of community health and health equity at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC). Prior to her tenure at Blue KC, Thomason spent eight years at Swope Health as the director of clinical operations for behavioral health and program manager of the multi-municipality Mental Health Court. She also served as deputy director and health and human services liaison for United States Senator Jean Carnahan.

In this discussion, Qiana discusses how her family molded her and “planted a seed” in her for community activism and advocacy.

Qiana says she is most troubled by health injustices in the community – she doesn’t like the term “health disparities” because it sounds so non-humanistic and injustice is the more fitting description. Injustices speak to policies and how decisions at the ballot box shape our experience, including access to quality jobs, schools, broadband internet. These shape health outcomes almost more than the foods we eat, she says.

She emphasizes the importance of thinking more broadly about health, encompassing housing, social conditions and voting. On the importance of voting, she recalls a long wait for the Missouri legislature to take action on Medicaid expansion and ultimately, how the issue was forced by the will of voters who approved the Medicaid expansion because they wanted greater access to healthcare.

Beyond Medicaid expansion and ensuring all who are eligible are signed up, she focuses on public health issues. She notes that public health offices have been stripped of their authority and are not adequately funded to manage health issues like COVID or the current syphilis outbreak in Kansas City. She raises concern that Missouri and Kansas are ranked 50th and 49th respectively in per capital funding on public health – making our communities the least prepared to respond to issues.

Health is about our community conditions, beyond our health behaviors like foods we eat and how physically active we are. Housing, education, employment, civic engagement are all important factors Health Forward Foundation addresses.

Listen to the conversation:




One on One with Mayor Quinton Lucas

Swope Health announces a new edition of its podcast, One on One with Swope Health, featuring Mayor Quinton Lucas.

Eric Wesson, managing editor and publisher of The Call, hosts the show’s conversations with Kansas Citians about issues of importance to the community’s health and wellbeing.

In this episode, you can learn a bit about Mayor Q’s experiences growing up in Kansas City and his early sports preferences (soccer and boxing). He talks about the path to becoming Mayor and throughout, shares his values and how he tries to live his principles every day.

The discussion covers many topics: health needs in Kansas City, violent crime, control of the Kansas City Police Department, city government structures, infrastructure needs and more – including his candidacy for re-election.

Lucas is the 55th mayor of Kansas City, sworn in on Aug. 1, 2019.

Born and raised in Kansas City, Mayor Q has spent most of his life in the city’s urban core. As a child, his family moved often and even experienced homelessness. Despite these challenges, Quinton remained focused on his schoolwork, earning academic scholarships to high school, college and eventually Cornell Law School before returning home to Kansas City.

In 2015, Mayor Q won a City Council seat representing Kansas City’s Third District at-Large, where he focused on bridging the gap between east and west in an economically and racially divided city.

Mayor Lucas serves as chairman of the United States Conference of Mayors Criminal and Social Justice Committee and co-chair of Everytown for Gun Safety’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, where he advocates for local, state, and federal policy change to build safer communities.

Mayor Q is also a local and national leader in public transportation advocacy. The year he was elected, Mayor Q led Kansas City in launching an innovative Zero Fair Transit initiative, making Kansas City the first major American city to make all public transportation fare-free. Mayor Q serves as co-chair of Accelerator for America, a “do tank” focused on connecting municipalities with federal infrastructure resources to drive transformative change in communities across our country, and previously served as Vice Chair for Transit on the United States Conference of Mayors Transportation Committee.

Also among his accomplishments: he led the City Council in removing possession of marijuana as a violation from the City Code of Ordinances and launched a Municipal Marijuana Pardon Program. Working with grassroots organizations, Mayor Q has also led the City Council in adopting the City’s first-ever Tenants’ Bill of Rights.

Listen now.

Find Swope Health’s One-on-One podcast at these platforms:




Google Podcasts:

Also listen to previous episodes featuring Bob Kendrick, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and James “Grand Dad” Nunnelly, civic leader and health activist.

One on One with James “Grand Dad” Nunnelly

Swope Health has released a new episode in the podcast “One on One with Swope Health,” featuring host Eric Wesson in conversation with James Nunnelly.

James Nunnelly, also known as Grand Dad, infuses his passion for healthcare into every facet of community engagement.

Nunnelly is well known in the Kansas City community for his health care advocacy, youth outreach and mentoring. He is a retired health care executive, the founder and administrator of Jackson County COMBAT, a progressive anti-drug program that emphasized treatment over prison terms for drug use. For years, he was known as the host of Generation Rap, a Saturday morning youth program. Nunnelly is an activist, spreading information on diabetes and healthy living, and an inspiration to generations in Kansas City.

In this discussion, learn about

  • The Monday Nighters, a men’s club celebrating 52 years of regular gathering on each Monday night during football seasons.
  • The central role of healthcare as an economic base in the community.
  • Considering food as medicine, and other ways to embrace healthy living (including using decades-old clothing as an indicator of weight management).

Listen now:

Or find Swope Health’s One-on-One podcast at these platforms:

Spotify —

Google Podcasts —

YouTube —

Anchor FM —

One On One with Bob Kendrick