Darius Lane, GKC-PRSA Scholarship Committee Member

I have the distinct privilege of serving on the committee for the Inez Kaiser endowment fund for the Greater Kansas City chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. 

 

I don’t use the word ‘privilege’ lightly. To be Black. To serve as a public relations practitioner. To represent Kansas City — an area with such a rich, cultural impact that’s omnipresent. These are all attributes I now find myself to share in company with Mrs. Kaiser.

 

The honor alone is humbling. Yet, I treat this assignment in the highest regard, as if each day I lend to this committee has to stand trial in front of Mrs. Kaiser herself and earn her approbation. That’s what it means to me to work in her lofty memory. 

 

But, I’m here now. It’s no longer about my own accomplishments. The real focus is the GKC-PRSA scholarship program and what it means to future PR pros of color and their respective contributions to the industry. It’s about our renewed commitment to diversity and inclusion.

 

We’re looking to help unearth and cultivate the next generation of Inez Kaiser’s. As our society evolves, diversity of thought and experience will be crucial to pair with fundamental strategies and tactics required of a skilled PR professional. Organizations nationwide will need this next crop of PR professionals to manage increasingly complicated discussions that brands of all sizes and industries will have to navigate, internally and externally.

 

As a chapter, we are resolute towards this aim. As a committee, we will lead this effort to help financially support college undergraduates in the general KC vicinity on their journey. As a black man, it is my duty to ensure their voices are heard more loudly and effortlessly than those who preceded them. This is our path forward to a better tomorrow. 

 

 


About GKC-PRSA

The Greater Kansas City PRSA chapter is a community of public relations and communications professionals across the Kansas City area, from recent college graduates to leaders of some of the largest firms, agencies and non-profits. Our members represent nearly every practice area and professional and academic setting within the public relations field.

In addition, we support students from across the Midwest who are members of their campus Public Relations Student Society of America chapters.

We hold regular professional development events to enhance our professional growth. Our chapter also boasts signature events, such as our annual PRISM Awards gala honoring the year’s best in communications excellence and our full-day, interactive student event, our PRSSA Summit. At GKC-PRSA our mission is to be the professional resource and advocate for Kansas City’s PR and Communications community.

PO Box 413794, KCMO 64141

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Inez Y. Kaiser Memorial Scholarship Fund

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Celebrating Black History Month

 

Let’s Do Brunch: Remembering Inez Kaiser

by Anita K. Parran

I was honored to join the inaugural Inez Kaiser Scholarship Committee. That invitation was the catalyst for remembering a long-ago memory.The pre-Fall late morning Saturday was crisp and sunny. The furniture and floors had been polished, and the rugs vacuumed. The dining room table was tastefully decorated with flowers, and the serving plates and cutlery arranged for easy access. The caterer had artfully arranged the food, and soft music was playing in the background.

I continuously peeked out the front windows, anxiously awaiting the first guests to arrive. It was brunch time at my humble abode and the invitees were fellow communicators representing a wide variety of disciplines. The brunch objective was to make new acquaintances, revive past relationships, and enjoy current connections.

Guests arrived at a steady flow, some staying one hour and others the entire three hours. At halftime, there was a singular surprise guest who appeared at the front door. As usual, she was impeccably dressed, smelled delightful, and breezed through the door capturing everyone’s immediate attention. Who was this diminutive older African American woman who seemed to capture everyone’s attention? None other than Inez Kaiser.

There she was – smiling broadly and exuding friendship and goodwill. After giving Inez a warm welcome and she greeted a few women she knew and seated herself in one of the two high-back white chairs in my living room. 

I was asked ever so often, “Who is that?” One by one, I introduced the inquisitor to Inez. She graciously engaged in brief conversations with each one. I admired how Inez deftly shared stories, responded to questions, and gave sage advice. The feedback elicited from those who spoke with Inez said they were in awe and vowed to learn more about her public relations history. 

I will never forget having met Inez Kaiser, a renowned public relations professional and trailblazer who was the epitome of success. I salute GKC-PRSA for recognizing Inez Kaiser in such a grand manner and am excited to participate in this adventure that will benefit students who aspire to career in public relations.

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Inez Yeargan Kaiser (April 22, 1918 – July 31, 2016) was an American educator, public relations expert and entrepreneur. She was the first African-American woman to run a public relations company with national clients. She was a well-known member of both GKC-PRSA and PRSA. Kaiser was born in Kansas City, Kansas. She earned a bachelor's degree in education from Pittsburg State University in 1941 and later a master's degree from Columbia University. In 1957, she founded Inez Kaiser & Associates, which was both the first public relations firm led by a black woman and the first business owned by an African American to open in Kansas City. She was the first black woman to join the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the Public Relations Society of America. Credit: Museum of Public Relations. Visit prmuseum.org for more information about Inez Kaiser and other pioneers in the industry.

 

Please join as a member if you are not already a part of our chapter.


 

A Tribute To Inez Kaiser, Kansas City’s Own

“Not Alone” by Sheba Clarke

Many of us know what it’s like to walk into a room, to sit at a table, to be a student in a classroom or an employee in an office where you are the only one that looks like you.  Every now and then there may be two or three of us, still we were always the minority.  When I was in the first grade, my mother moved our family to the suburbs. In my new school district I was the only black girl in my entire grade all the way up to the seventh grade.   Then all of a sudden, there were three of us.  Even as a young child, I noticed.  Most of the time the isolating feeling of being the only minority was subtle, but there were times when it wasn’t.  That’s when jokes were told, names were called, comments were made and treatment was different.  The incidents were consistent reminders that you were one of the only ones in the room that looked like you. But what I know now is not what I realized then. That is, you are not there alone.  

I can only imagine what Dr. Inez Kaiser went through as she blazed her trail.  Not just to be the only one, but the first.  The first black woman to open a public relations firm in the United States. The first black woman to open an office in downtown Kansas City. The first black woman to become a member of various chambers, attend high-end events, consult with the largest brands in the world and the list goes on.  She was the first during a time when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was barely signed and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was just beginning to bring attention to the continuing challenges  and inequalities black people faced decades after emancipation. By the way- if you ever hear someone say they were the ‘first black’ anything, please know that road came with more than the usual bumps.  I was the first black homecoming queen in high school. The first in a 40 year tradition but I’m sure the bumps were mole hills compared to Inez’s mountains.  

As a public relations practitioner today, stories like Inez’s are empowering. Her story speaks to every little black girl that finds herself at the table or in that boardroom sitting ‘alone.’   Her story is my story.  Her story is OUR story.  When you think about it, we represent each other. Even without knowing it, our stories uplift, encourage and inspire each other to what inclusion is and what it should be.  Because of this, we are never sitting there alone.  

Thank you Inez.



by Lea-Ann Germinder, APR, Fellow PRSA

I want to thank the chapter for allowing me to share a story about one of Kansas City’s very own national black pioneers. When I was president of the Kansas City chapter in 1999, there was a decidedly diminutive exquisitely dressed “older” African-American woman at the PRISM awards I had not met before. I asked someone who it was. I was about to give a speech, and the only thing I can honestly recall was the response, “oh, that’s Inez Kaiser.” I went up to give my “all-important” speech and the moment to meet Inez was lost. I don’t recall seeing her again.

Fast-forward 22 years later. I was attending the Museum of Public Relations 5th Annual Black History Month event as the guest of speaker Cheryl Proctor-Rogers, APR, Fellow PRSA, past chair of PRSA and a noted PR Business Strategist/Executive Coach. Cheryl not only knew who Inez was, she celebrated her as one of the black pioneers of the public relations profession in her presentation, “Why History Matters: Making the Case for Storytelling.”

Perhaps chapter members don’t know what I learned that night and subsequently: Inez Kaiser was born in Kansas City, Kansas in 1918. She worked 20 years for the Kansas City school district before entering public relations. She started Kaiser & Associates here in Kansas City, and she was the first African-American woman to own and run a public relations firm with national clients in the U.S. She was the first African-American woman to join PRSA nationally. She was also the first African-American woman to join the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. She wrote a column for the Kansas City Star, “As I See It” and a syndicated column, “Fashion Wise and Otherwise” to help other African-American woman and promote pictures of women of color. She was a counselor to presidents Nixon and Ford – but as noted by her son voted for Obama! The list goes on.   

She was an extraordinary national trail blazer that is one of Kansas City’s own.

Inez Kaiser passed away at 98 years old in 2016. I know how hard it is to start a business as a woman, but to start a business in 1957 as an African American woman? I’m glad I got to know her story, but regret I never really met her. We have so much to thank Inez.

Immediate past president Norita Taylor, APR is working with me to engage with interested members to celebrate Inez Kaiser in other meaningful ways. If you knew her, please email me at [email protected] or Norita Taylor at [email protected] to share more chapter memories. Thank you Inez and thank you Cheryl-Proctor Rogers, APR, Fellow PRSA for calling attention to Inez Kaiser’s enduring legacy.