A farewell to two of south KC’s biggest activists

Photo: Florentino “Tino” Camacho, right, received the Rachel E. Neely Lifetime Achievement Award from the Multiracial Family Circle in 2012. Photo courtesy Regina Klepikow

Fierce Fighters for Justice

By John Sharp



John Sharp

Two of our city’s most committed activists and my dear friends who both have been described as fierce fighters for justice recently died and their decades of unpaid community service need to be remembered and honored.



Both Florentino “Tino” Camacho and Rosa James largely avoided the limelight but never avoided standing up for social justice.  Even though they both retired from their occupations years ago, they never retired from trying to make our community and our country more just for everyone.

Tino, a southland resident and active member of St. John Francis Regis Parish, was a leader for years in the struggle to treat immigrants fairly.  He told me about his childhood growing up in Laredo, Texas, and seeing big signs that said, “No dogs or Mexicans allowed.”

“I don’t know why they hated us so much,” he said.

When I was vice president of the Multiracial Family Circle, our organization honored Tino with the Rachel E. Neely Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

“We believe Tino has been a tireless advocate for the fair treatment of immigrants and for immigration reform.  More than that, he has spoken out whenever injustice occurs, regardless of who the victims are,” I said when presenting the award.

His speaking out continued throughout the rest of his life.  I would get his Facebook messages about social justice issues almost daily, often in the wee hours of the morning.

Tino’s family has suggested memorial contributions to St. Regis Church and Academy, 8941 James A. Reed Rd., KCMO 64138.

Rosa retired in 1998 after serving 36 years as a classroom teacher and administrator for the Kansas City School District, but she never retired from educating members of the public about the importance of being involved in their communities, voting and becoming informed voters.

Rosa was the first African-American female appointed to the Kansas City Election Board, and she also served on the committee that nominated finalists for positions as municipal judge in KCMO.

Rosa James crop
Rosa James


She mentored scores of emerging young leaders such as Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) Superintendent Mark Bedell and KCPS School Board member Manny Abarca.  I talked to her weekly since she always shared my son’s Weekly Capitol Report with her extensive following on social media and often made helpful suggestions on how to improve it.

When I was on the City Council, the Council narrowly approved an ordinance to outsource ambulance billing to a Fort Lauderdale company that had suffered a major patient identity theft which it hadn’t disclosed to the city in a timely manner.  

I worked with Rosa who was one of the organizers of a referendum petition drive to put that ordinance on the ballot unless the Council repealed it.  That effort required over 7,000 valid signatures of voters, and Rosa would take a card table and folding chair almost daily and collect signatures at shopping venues and community events.  

That effort collected over 10,000 signatures, many at predominantly African-American churches, and over 8,000 of them were validated.  The Council repealed the ordinance, and the jobs in question, many held by African-American women, remained in Kansas City instead of being outsourced to a private company in Florida. 

Rosa’s family has suggested memorial contributions be sent to the Rosa James Foundation for Education, c/o Sonia James Randle, P. O. Box 3762, Cedar Hill, TX 75106.

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