When Rosilyn Temple’s phone rings, informing her of another Kansas City homicide, it doesn’t matter what time it is. Even if it’s in the middle of the night, she will get up, get ready and drive to the scene. When Temple arrives, she looks for the mother because it’s a position she has been in herself when her own son was killed in 2011.
“I needed a mother that experienced the same thing that I experienced. I needed someone that felt my pain,” Temple said. “And I knew I had to do something in this community to make a difference.”
Since then, she has supported families and mothers who lost loved ones from homicide, guided them through processes with funeral homes, led them to counseling sessions, called weekly to check in on them and provided other resources through her position as the executive director of the nonprofit KC Mothers in Charge, a local chapter of the national Mothers in Charge group.
“I’ve never done anything in my life that felt so right,” she said.
The Kansas City Police Department helps fund KC Mothers in Charge for their collaboration with them and the group also receives federal grants and personal donations.
BUSIER THAN EVER
While the pandemic stopped Temple from going in person to homicide scenes for a few months, she and other volunteers continued calling families and giving any support they could at a distance. But since June, Temple has returned to the scenes in person, masked up.
Last year, KC Mothers in Charge visited 88 homicide scenes, provided 110 grief counseling sessions and made more than 5,000 support calls to families.
But this year, Temple has been busier than ever. While Temple said it’s normal for Kansas City to see about 100 homicides in a year, this year has been out of the ordinary. Kansas City has seen 170 homicides as of Dec. 10.
“I’ve been doing this for seven years, but it has blown me away this year,” Temple said. “I have never seen it like this. We have got to do something and we need help.”
About 104 of those 170 victims of homicide were Black males and 18 of them were Black women, making Black people 70% of the victims, while African Americans make up only 25% of Kansas City’s population.
Outraged by the disproportionate number of Black homicide victims, Temple said people of color need to start coming together.
“We have to protest not killing each other,” Temple said. “We have to start standing together just like the protests when murders (by police) happen.”
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said violence is high for a lot of reasons, but the biggest reason is systematic disinvestment in minority communities. “We need opportunities that everyone has, like jobs and education,” Peters Baker said during a recent webinar about gun violence in Kansas City. “It’s not a lack of hope, it’s a lack of opportunity.”
Temple says it also comes from trauma, the lack of mental health support and the lack of knowledge of how to deal with conflicts. That’s why KC Mothers in Charge focuses on not only guiding families to therapy, but also works on violence prevention through prisons and community outreach.
VIOLENCE PREVENTION LED BY MOTHERS
The organization KC Mothers in Charge is comprised of about 25 core mothers who have lost a child or family member to homicide. The members actively share their stories in hopes it will make someone think twice about committing a violent act.
Latrice Murray, KC Mothers in Charge’s outreach specialist, lost her son in 2009, just before the group began. For the last four years, she has been involved with community outreach events, prison visits and making check-in phone calls to families, knowing firsthand how important they are.
“(Latrice) is more than dedicated to the cause,” said Temple.
Last year, the core mothers shared their stories about losing a loved one and how it affected their families with more than 200 inmates and parolees from the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth and the Western Missouri Correctional Center.
Temple has seen firsthand how her story and other core mothers’ stories have changed some of the inmates’ mindsets. Some of them have told her she reminded them of their own mother, allowing for them to see the pain they may have caused their victims’ families.
HOPE AND HEALING
Understanding how confusing the criminal justice system can be, KC Mothers in charge hold monthly Hope and Healing meetings that give a chance for families to ask law enforcement questions they may have about the process. Previous meetings have included a crime scene lab, judges, detectives and Peters Baker has even visited.
“It’s all about bridging the gap between families, law enforcement and the community,” Temple said.
During Hope and Healing meetings, families also have the opportunity for group grief counseling to share their grief and receive support from others.
While KC Mothers in Charge has been primarily focused on helping families who lost a loved one to homicide, next year, the group will work with social workers to support victims of nonfatal shootings. Social workers will give the KC Mothers in Charge referrals and the group will offer counseling for them.
KC Mothers in Charge are asking for volunteers to help make their weekly check in calls with families and they’re looking for other core mothers to join the group. For more info on how to get involved, call (816) 606-8118 or email: admin@kcmothersincharge. org. To donate, visit their website: www.kcmothersincharge.org.