In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, Melodee ColbertKean had thoughts she wanted to express.

Joined by her cousin, Doniqua, they used a phone and Facebook Live to have a discussion about race, justice and other issues that became part of the national conversation over the summer of 2020.

Fast forward a few months, and there’s a three-camera setup and lighting rig for the latest edition of “The Colbert Connection.” Broadcast live every Tuesday evening from the dining room of her Joplin restaurant – ME’s Place – it’s obvious that the production has grown significantly.

“Basically, we want to educate, we want to entertain and we want to have a conversation,” she says of the weekly program shared via Facebook. “We like to listen to other people’s opinions and we don’t judge people for their viewpoint. This is your chance to talk and we’ll listen.

“Now, we’ve got some stuff to say too, and it is what it is.”

Colbert-Kean, a ’99 graduate of Missouri Southern who served 14 years on the Joplin City Council – including a term as the city’s first African American mayor – isn’t one to shy away from a difficult discussion. It’s healthy, she says, especially if it’s working toward something positive.

“We do talk about politics … Trump, Biden … and we respect your opinion,” she says. “There’s so much negativity going on right now. We want to look toward solutions.”

On this evening, their discussion topics range from the countdown to the presidential election, schools returning to face-to-face instruction and hair – specifically, the difference between professional hair and “pandemic” hair. They’re joined midway through by Erik Theis, Jasper County Circuit Court Administrator, who is on hand to talk about the juvenile justice court and drug court programs.

“We don’t have a set agenda (for picking guests),” Colbert-Kean says. “We just want it to be someone we think will be interesting for the public to hear from … people who need to have their voices out in the community.”

Recent guests have included Dr. Melinda Moss, superintendent of Joplin Schools; Joplin Police Chief Sloan Rowland; and Dr. Dean Van Galen, Missouri Soutern’s new president.

In addition to Colbert-Kean, there are other Missouri Southern connections behind the scenes on “The Colbert Connection.”

Former students Josh Shackles and Jessica Johnson handle the technical production details. Victor Sly, a member of the University Police Department and president of the Joplin chapter of the NAACP, serves as casting director by helping book guests to appear on the weekly program.

“We hope to grow this show and have a studio, sponsors, all of that,” Colbert-Kean says of what the future holds for “The Colbert Connection.”