Emanuel Cleaver III

Pastor at St. James United Methodist Church

Where were you born and raised?
Kansas City, Missouri.

What is your occupation?
Pastor.

What is your favorite childhood memory?
Spending Christmases in Wichita Falls, Texas every year with my family.

What does Black History Month mean to you?
It is an opportunity to highlight and learn about some of the contributions and achievements that black people have made around the world, in particular the United States. Although I teach about African American achievements all year, February is a special time because black history becomes a nation-wide focus.

What do you believe is the most important issue currently facing the Black community?
While there are many pressing issues facing the black community I believe addressing our broken educational system is the most important. The fact that school districts are funded by property taxes places a disadvantage on those schools in poor areas, most notably the urban core. A child's socioeconomic status should not determine the value of their education. It is simply unjust.

When did you realize you were Black in America and what has that meant for your life?
When I was ten years old the KKK burned a cross in my family's yard and threw a rock through a window in the house. I learned early on that the color of my skin made me a threat to some people in this country. I was also taught in my childhood that racism is not just an individual illness but systemic racism is even more problematic. I knew from a young age that because of my race I would have to work harder than others to get ahead.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration to push for change?
What inspires me the most to push for change are my children. Knowing that previous generations worked tirelessly so that I could enjoy many of the opportunities I have today motivates me to do the same for the next generation.

How have you supported or contributed to the local Black community?
I am the senior pastor of a church that has two locations, both in predominately black neighborhoods. In each location we focus on making the community better. We partner with several schools, give food, clothes, and diapers to those in need weekly. I also work with other pastors to push for police reform on the local level and I serve on the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission on the state level to ensure that implicit bias in law enforcement is addressed.

Your home for the Tokyo Olympics!