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2017 a year filled with fear, loss, change and uncertainty

2017 has been a year of uncertainty and fear. It was a year of protests—supporters of Hilary Clinton and supporters of Donald Trump clashed at rallies, women gathered across the country unifying demonstrators around issues of reproductive rights, immigration and civil rights. The Latino community held a Day Without Immigrant rallies, to show the country the importance of immigration and to protest President Donald Trump’s plans to build a border wall and potentially deport millions of illegal immigrants.

Over the past year, the country has been divided politically. Immigrants have lived in fear that they would be deported. Rumors flew in the Kansas City metropolitan community that ICE, (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) would be waiting for people outside their Sunday church services or they would be entering schools to remove children who were brought to the United States by their families illegally.

Local government leaders, faith leaders and many other organizations stood together after President Trump took office and talked about sanctuary for families.

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) feared that Trump’s administration would begin deporting them to countries they did not know. The Trump administration announced it would end the DACA program and gave Congress six months to enact an alternative.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration will stop considering new applications for legal status but will allow any DACA recipients with a permit set to expire before March 5, 2018 the opportunity to apply for a two year renewal if they had applied by October 5, 2017 for the renewal.

Trump in a statement issued after Sessions’ remarks, said it was “in the best interests of our country to begin an orderly transition and wind down of DACA, one that provides minimum disruption.”

It was a year of loss for the Westside community as educator and community activist Gilbert Guerrero passed away in early February last year. Before his death, Guerrero was incensed by Trump’s calls against the DACA students.

“He took every DACA student’s story, their strife, personal,” recalled Cris Medina in an article in Hispanic News about Guerrero.

Guerrero was able to take a stand against injustice to the Latino community. He joined others as they marched in downtown Kansas City, Missouri against Trump’s statements on immigration and DACA students.

Gilbert Guerrero last post on Facebook that day said it all. “Proud to be a Kansas Citian right now. More than 1,000 marching down Grand Avenue protesting the dictator Trump, has lifted my spirit to resist.”

A strong pillar of the Latino community, Guerrero was 56 years old when he had been hospitalized following a stroke he suffered in mid-January. His death was followed by an outpouring of tears, memories and testimonials that spoke eloquently and directly to his influence as a mentor, educator, cultural explorer, justice seeker and family man.

“Gilbert whole being was about giving back to the community. None of us at Alta Vista would be here today if it were not for Gil, and I would not be the person I am today if it were not for his support, guidance and mentoring over all of these years,” said Eddie Mendez, Alta Vista High School Principal.

“Kansas City lost a special man, Gilbert Guerrero. We did our Master’s degrees together at KSU. He always challenged the status quo and sought to improve education for the kids. I last spoke with him about a month ago about a grant idea for the Westside. He wanted to change health outcomes for families. We will miss you Gilbert,” said Andres M. Dominguez.

Hispanic News tackled the tough issue of suicide last year, a topic that affects our communities, but families are afraid to talk about or sometimes seek help.

When mental illness or suicide strikes a family it pushes family members into talking about a sensitive subject that they would never address in a public way, let alone address one on one with their children. After a suicide, families can’t shake the feelings of shame and guilt. They question over and over why would my love one do this to me, why didn’t they talk to me.

We told the story of 18-year-old Uziel Melgoza Pecina, Jr. who committed suicide. We shared Thomas Pacheco story who attempted suicide and with a friend’s intervention, he lived.

“There are many people out there with thoughts of ending their life, said Pacheco, “I was bullied as a kid in grade school. It is an illness that you can’t physically see and I deal with it every day,” said Pacheco.

He willingly shared his story to let people know that you don’t have to end your life…you have family and friends that love and care about you.
Teresa Juarez wanted to save her son’s life and she reached out for help but found none. Her grief raw, she sobs and trembles as she recalls the day her son, Mark Anthony Juarez, completed suicide.

A survivor of depression herself, she understood the battle that was before him. She told him that she would get him help and she would support him during his therapy sessions.

In her eyes, the probation system failed her and her son as she begged and pleaded with them to help him. According to Juarez, the parole officer assigned to her son quit and then it seemed to her that he was passed from one officer to another.

“They just passed him around. I have cards of people that I contacted for help. I left a message in Topeka; it took them a long time to call me back. I called and told them he was violating his parole. I told them he had tried to kill his self in 2015 and that he needed to be in a facility. They never followed through and all I wanted to do was save my son’s life,” she yelled.

If you are having thoughts of Suicide call the Kansas Suicide Hotline number (913) 831-1773 and the Missouri Suicide Hotline phone number is (888) 279-8188.

The Kansas City, Missouri Police department saw a changing of the guard when Kansas City, Missouri Police Chief Darryl Forte retired and the city leaders began a search for another police chief.

In March, Police Chief Forte announced that he was retiring. On August 15, Richard C. Smith was sworn in as the 45th Chief of Police of the Kansas City Missouri Police department. He joined the department as an officer in 1988 and worked his way up the ranks.

“One of my primary goals upon taking the Chief of Police position was for our department to become more efficient and effective through partnerships. I can’t think of a better example of that than our new WatchKC program. Since we launched it, owners of more than 400 surveillance cameras have committed to making Kansas City safer by registering those cameras with WatchKC.”

When investigating a crime, detectives look to see if security cameras are in the area and if they may have captured what happened. WatchKC is a voluntary program and it saves investigators valuable time and allows the police to solve cases quicker. Other cities have implemented similar programs and had seen great success.

Smith cited another goal is to increase the visibility of the police department’s Community Interaction Officer, a liaison between the KCPD and the neighborhood it serves.

“I want to get more responsive to community needs,” he explained, “growing up, we were taught to take care of our neighbors, of our community. Kansas City has a lot of good-hearted, bright people. If we all come together about how we work on crime in the city, we’ll get good results.”

The Westside closure of Sylvia’s Deli at the corner of 18th and Washington in Kansas City Westside neighborhood came as a surprise for many customers. Sylvia and Louie Raya announced that the deli was celebrating 14 years in business, but they would also be closing the business at the end of 2017.

The news was meet with mixed emotions not only by Sylvia Raya but the customers as well.

“It’s just time,” she says, acknowledging that throughout the years, she and her husband, co-owner Louie Raya, have grown to embrace many of their customers as friends.

Linda Reyes, wasn’t just a deli regular, she’s been friends with Sylvia since the two women were in seventh grade. She said she will miss seeing Sylvia’s smiling face when she brings her grandchildren to the deli for a meal, and that she will miss at least one of the things on the menu specifically.

“Oh, I love her enchiladas. They’re some of the best,” Reyes exclaimed.

Ending our look back at 2017 on a fun historic event—the Solar Eclipse that crossed the Missouri and Kansas skies. Tourists from around the United States, as well as Australia, Asia, and Europe descended on the Midwest, where St. Joseph, Missouri was in the middle of the eclipse’s path of totality, viewers enjoyed a full 2 minutes and 38 seconds of total darkness.

It had been 99 years since a total solar eclipse had crossed the United States borders. People won’t have to wait that long for the next eclipse, it will happen on April 8, 2024.