Local residents reflect on the history of Broadway Street

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JOPLIN, Mo. — From the Minnie Hackney Community Center to Broadway Street, Joplin residents recall how these local landmarks made an impact on the black community.

It’s safe to say these places have left a big impact on generations of Joplin residents.

I spoke to two women on their experiences of how Joplin shaped them to be who they are today.

Both of them say–it all starts with having a strong sense of community.

Miss Betty Smith, a self-proclaimed Black Historian of Joplin, born and raised, watches the town grow and change.

When she was young, her family would frequently visit the Minnie Hackney Community Center.

She went back when it used to be called The Center.

That’s what it was for the black community.

Miss Betty Smith, Joplin Historian, said, “It was the only place we had. Where we could go for entertainment, dinners and what have you.”

She remembers when black businesses we’re lined down Broadway Street.

“And on this street, everything you needed to have in life, was on this street.”

From restaurants, grocery stores, and dance studios, Broadway Street had it all.

For one business owner, she knew her cafe could only thrive in that special spot.

Melodee Colbert-Kean, Owner, Me’s Place, said, “I just look at it as an investment in the area and when you beautify or help revitalize any area of your community it helps grow your whole city.”

Colbert-Keen was also Joplin’s Mayor–she still sits on the City Council.

Being in this position, she hopes she inspires girls–just like her.

“I’m excited for the possibilities because we have the chance to regain some of the things we grew up with and we have a chance to pass that on to our kids.”

Her community looks a lot different now, but, Miss Betty says those strong bonds are something to build on.

“And I still love living in Joplin because of the connection we have with each other, community wise, church wise, organizations. We just all fit together,” said Smith.

Miss Betty says she’s noticed activity at the Community Center has gone down, but she would like to see it return as the vibrant place it once was.

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