illustration by Bryan Stalder

By Daisy Garcia-Montoya

New Latino faces will be representing the Northeast area on the Kansas City Public School (KCPS) board and on City Council following the June 20 election. 

Crispin Rea

Voters elected Crispin Rea onto the City Council, becoming one of the two Latinos elected to City Council for the first time in 30 years. Rea, who is a Northeast Kansas City native, will be representing the Fourth District at large, which encompasses the Northeast area, one of the most diverse districts in Kansas City. 

Prior to running for City Council, Rea has been involved in the Northeast through his previous role as a volunteer on the Mattie Rhodes Center Board of Directors. Additionally, he helped create the Latino Advocacy Task force, which focused on solutions to the increasing violence and homicides among Hispanic teenagers. 

Jonathan Duncan

The new Latino representation on the City Council from Jonathan Duncan, who will be representing the Sixth District in-district, and Rea representing the Fourth, will allow for their perspectives and Latino experiences to be shared in order to influence policy. 

When Rea saw the election results, he said he felt humbled by the historic significance of the moment and inspired to tackle the challenges ahead. 

“I am going to be a voice for all Kansas Citians, including Latinos, many of whom live in disadvantaged neighborhoods like where I grew up,” Rea said. “I will be a listener and a voice. I will make sure our residents, businesses, and organizations have a voice and are included during important city conversations and initiatives.”

Rea said that with the election results, there will be new leaders that will bring representation across the board and open the door for others to follow. 

Robert Sagastume

In addition to the City Council results, Robert Sagastume, who ran a write-in campaign for the KCPS Board, was elected to fill in the vacancy and complete the term left by Manny Abarca, who served as the Board Treasurer, after being elected onto the Jackson County Legislature in November 2022.

Sagastume, a former undocumented immigrant and resident of Indian Mound, decided to run to bring the immigrant perspective to the school board and represent Sub-District 3, which holds the largest immigrant community in KCPS, including Northeast and the Westside.

“The base of my campaign is to ensure that the voices of our community are being heard when things are being presented for a vote,” Sagastume said. “My focus is to ensure that the community in Sub-District 3 have a representative that is meeting with them, hearing their concerns, victories, and highlighting what’s working and what may need to be looked at. Looking to ensure that the implementation of any policies or any changes truly are to enhance the life of our children, parents and families that don’t create unintentional problems in our communities.”

Sagastume said that he is also looking forward to being able to speak Spanish and have the opportunity to communicate with others who may face language barriers as well as the intersectionality he will bring to the board as a Latino, former immigrant and member of the LGBTQ community. 

Manny Abarca

Manny Abarca, who now represents the First District for the Jackson County legislature, felt he still had a lot to accomplish on the school board when he left and is proud to see that Robert will complete the rest of his term.

“I am thankful we have a dedicated, experienced, young Latino who will share all his experiences and language access taps into the fastest growing population at KCPS,” Abarca said. 

In relation to the historical representation of Latinos in Kansas City government for the first time in 30 years, including his own, Abarca said that it means that there will now be someone looking out for Latinos.

“It means when priorities – like where to put a new pool – someone will have our backs; when bilingual students need more resources, someone who has lived that experience has our back, and when your property taxes goes back up, someone has your back and will fight for you,” Abarca said. “That’s what we have right now for the first time in over 30 years.”

Northeast-based organizations such as Mattie Rhodes Center – an organization providing culturally competent family services and support, youth development, community support, cultural arts and emergency assistance programming – and Revolución Educativa (RevED) – the political engagement and advocacy arm of Latinx Education Collaborative, a nonprofit supporting Latinx parents, teachers and students – were vocal supporters of both Rea and Sagastume throughout their campaigns.

“Robert and Crispin are passionate community leaders that have done the work,” Edgar Palacios, CEO of RevED and the Latinx Education Collaborative said. “They have been proximate to the issues that are important to our community and they deeply care about improving the outcomes and experiences of the Latinx community. They understand the importance of representation and can devise solutions that are inclusive of the needs and wants of our community.” 

Palacios said that their elections will provide students and families with the necessary representation, given that the Latino population is rapidly growing, allowing them to be engaged in the civic process while serving as an example to younger Latino generations. 

“With their respective wings, Robert and Crispin have broken barriers and ignited a sense of pride. I hope that they will inspire other Latinos to get politically engaged. More importantly, I hope that our young people see themselves reflected in positions of power and influence,” Palacios said. 

Sagastume joined the KCPS board, which meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Board of Education building on 2901 Troost Ave., on June 28. Rea will begin his term on City Council, which meets weekly at City Hall at 3 p.m., on August 1. Jackson County Legislature, which Abarca has been serving since January, meets weekly at 3 p.m. at the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City.