Just hours after the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City asked for a ceasefire of violence through their “21 Days of Peace” initiative, there were three different murders that happened around Kansas City. Instead of walking away from their initiative, members of the coalition showed up on the scene of all three murders comforting and praying for the families.
Determined to work toward “Days of Peace, members of the coalition are on call, offering conflict resolutions and spiritual counsel for persons at risk,” said Pastor Vernon Percy Howard, SCLC-GKC president at the Urban Summit meeting June 18.
“This is an ongoing problem within our community,” he said. “We will not accept the continued murder of our people by KCPD or the murder of each other as the norm any longer. We won’t do it.”
As of June 21, there have been 69 homicides in Kansas City this year and more than 60% of the victims are Black men. Last year, the city experienced a record breaking 178 homicides.
Joining the SCLC in support of their “21 Days of Peace,” are local clergy and members of other groups including the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime, the National Black United Front and the Urban League of Greater Kansas City.
They ask for community members to not seek retaliation, but to seek out non-violent conflict resolution.
To help at least in part to explain the violence, activist groups point to the city’s lack of local control over the Kansas City Police Department. Because KCPD is overseen by a Board of Police Commissioners appointed by the governor and not overseen by city council, community members say the organizational structure dilutes citizens’ say in KCPD decisions, which decreases their overall trust in the department.
“When there’s high distrust in law enforcement, the violent crime rate tends to increase,” said Gwen Grant, president of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City. “So, what we have evidence of here in Kansas City is that community trust with the police department is very low, so there’s high violent crime.”
Grant also points to other reasons, like the availability of guns in Missouri, the mental health crisis, struggles brought on by the pandemic, KCPD’s leadership and the lack of African-American representation on the police force.
“Black people are not represented equitably on the force. The people who are going out and investigating crimes are primarily White investigators who are racially insensitive and culturally incompetent when they show up on the scene to investigate,” Grant said. “They get no help from the witnesses, from family members of victims. That’s why changes are so important.”
For those in need of a conflict resolution expert, contact Jaylon Verser: (816) 461-8255
For on-call, 24/7 prayer and spiritual counsel, contact Pastor Cassandra Wainright (816) 716-3473