Harmony formed in 1989, out of a lack of open discussions about prejudice and racial bias. It began as a merger of two different projects, with the goal of “improving race relations, reducing prejudice, and celebrating diversity.”[1] Immanuel Cleaver had the initial idea for Harmony, a combined effort with the local branch of “A World of Difference.” This was a national group, connected to the Anti-Defamation League. Together, these groups formed an organization called “Harmony in a World of Difference.” Maggie Finefrock and Luther Washington were the first co-directors. The coalition initially began as an 18-month campaign, and as it reached the end of its term, there was a strong desire to continue the initiative. [2] It became evident that efforts to improve race relations could not be accomplished within the framework of a short-term project; this was an ongoing process.[3] As a result, this temporary merge became an organization, with a focus on media, education and community.[4]

Harmony’s mission was to “improve race relations, increase appreciation for cultural diversity, and eliminate intolerance.” They hoped to create a “model community,” which values and celebrates diversity. They sought to unite classrooms, families, cultures and races, instilling values which would transfer to future generations.[5] Structurally, Harmony was built around four different components. The first involved media exposure in collaboration with Channel 9. The second initiative was to build coalitions with other human rights groups within the community. The third, focused on education, through the development of curriculum and trainings. The fourth, and final component, was to build relationships with religious groups, businesses, and other important community organizations in a unified effort to end discrimination.[6]

Harmony built a coalition which brought all the groups in the community together to share information and events. They also developed task forces and training which educated thousands of teachers on bias and prejudice reduction. Harmony provided the materials and created a study guide that maintained a local perspective. The Harmony media campaign made significant efforts to humanize groups, by providing footage of different cultures, as well as coverage of local interfaith events.[7]

In 2005, Harmony merged with the NCCJ.[8] The programs set forth by Harmony eventually became institutionalized and incorporated into other areas of Kansas City, such as Lee’s Summit and Raytown. Their curriculum set a standard for schools, businesses, nonprofits, and faith communities, shaping their mission, values, strategic plans, and congregations for many generations to come. In a sense, Harmony never truly dismantled; it successfully achieved its goal of creating systematic change towards eliminating bias and bigotry in the framework of the city and its institutions.[9]


References

[1] Harmony. About Us. Accessed February 6, 2019. http://www.asjes.com/links/Susan%20Asjes%20-%20About%20Harmony.htm.

[2] Finefrock, Maggie, interview by Geneva Blackmer. 2016. KC Harmony (March 16).

[3] Harmony. About Us.

[4] Finefrock, Maggie, interview by Geneva Blackmer. 2016. KC Harmony (March 16).

[5] Harmony. About Us.

[6] Finefrock, Maggie, interview by Geneva Blackmer. 2019. KC Harmony (January 25).

[7] Finefrock, Maggie, interview by Geneva Blackmer. 2016. KC Harmony (March 16).

[8] Guillot, Lawrence, interview by Geneva Blackmer. 2016. Interfaith History in Kansas City (February 15).

[9] Finefrock, Maggie, interview by Geneva Blackmer. 2019. KC Harmony (January 25).