Springfield, MO

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Rebecca Green | SBJ

12 People You Need to Know in 2023: Kai Sutton

Always Forward

Posted online

Kai Sutton has built a life around using challenges as momentum for change.

As president of the Springfield NAACP, Sutton says the civil rights organization is focused on boosting education, growing business opportunities, and improving access to health care and the ballot box.

“If you look back at history and all the things that people of color have endured, there was some time where the Black business community was thriving and then bad things happened,” she says. “It’s important to address the things that have happened, but it’s also important to rebuild.

“No matter what we have gone through, we have to keep going.”

Sutton became president of the local NAACP chapter in June 2021 and was recently elected to a second term. Each chapter president has their own vision, she says, and hers is equally focused on the club’s goals and building community.

“I love to spotlight people who are doing great things,” she says. “That’s what helps keep people in the community empowered and keep doing the work and keep fighting.”

Sutton’s mantra rings true to her own story of moving forward. In 2011, Sutton left her hometown of Chicago, where she worked in real estate, to escape an abusive relationship. On the bus ride to Joplin was her four children, one suitcase and $20.

“We just never looked back. It was quite a journey,” she says, but the challenges did not stop there. “As soon as we got to Joplin, then shortly after was the tornado.”

She researched other cities in Missouri and Springfield rose to the top of the list. She moved with her kids to the Queen City to start a new life.

Emotionally broken, Sutton says it seemed like everywhere she went she met other women who were experiencing domestic violence.

“They would come to me for help,” she says. “I started to advocate for people, which was also healthy and healing for myself.”

Before leaving Chicago, she had started a walk called Stand Up & Speak Out to honor her best friend’s mother who had been killed by her abuser. She decided to bring that walk to Springfield in 2012. She also started a girls’ empowerment conference to promote self-esteem.

She began to build her network in Springfield, connecting with other people with similar passions.

Then in 2018, another challenge. Her fifth child, Victory, was born prematurely and weighed only 2 pounds. Sutton says during her stay in intensive care, she received a lot of community support.

“I want to return the favor,” she says. “I want to bring smiles to families in hard times.”

So, she formed Victori-us Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit that will support families with babies in the NICU with services like transportation, and help with bills, diapers and food.

Her goal is to launch the nonprofit in early 2023.

Sutton says when you’re passionate, you’re committed. And she’s certainly found her passion: Giving back.


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