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Peace Outside and Inside

As the Mourning Continues After National Shootings, Local Groups Gather for 'Peace Walk' and Fundraiser

Group singing on stage
Dudley Hogue, (right, foreground) and other Kansas City actors and musicians sing 'The Best Of Times Is Now,' at a fundraising concert for the Orlando shooting victims and families. For more on the fundraiser, see sidebar below. (Photo: Daniel Boothe | Flatland)
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For the Rev. Ken McKoy, following the teachings of Jesus does not mean simply preaching from the pulpit.

“There’s very little record of Christ spending his time in the synagogue,” said McKoy, a St. Louis pastor who walks the dangerous streets of his city three nights a week armed only with his faith and the urge to help the youth on the street.

“In my imagination, we’ll start a movement for other congregations, other religions,” he said. “We’re challenging contemporary church culture to stretch what they’ve been doing.”

And that’s why McKoy was in Kansas City on Friday night, where he led a “peace walk” on the East Side. The event came a day after the slaying of law enforcement personnel in Dallas following the racially charged police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota.

KCK Cabaret Raises Funds for Orlando Victims

Remember Orlando?

Just one month ago, that word was enough to remind us of what was then the latest example of hate and violence in the United States, when a gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in that Florida city and wounded dozens of others.

But now, we have Dallas, Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights.

On Monday evening, though, members of the Kansas City performing arts community did their part to keep the memory of Orlando alive, even as they shared the shock and indignation that followed the most recent round of violence.

They put on a cabaret fundraiser at Trinity Community Church in Kansas City, Kansas, with the proceeds directed to OneOrlando, a victim’s assistance fund established by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dryer. The show featured more than 25 songs.

“It is tough because we are in this never-ending, 24-hour news cycle, but that does not change the fact that a lot of people’s lives were turned upside down in Orlando,” said Paul Morel, a local professional actor and director. “So we want to continue to be a voice for them, raise awareness, spread love and send some money their way.”

The organizer was Bob Evans, a local performing arts critic, who wanted to do more for Orlando than simply donating money himself.

“We are glad that you are here,” Trinity Community Church Pastor Ron Holland told the crowd of roughly 100 people, who were asked for a minimum donation of $10. “But it is a sad commentary that sometimes it is hard to remember: How many tragedies back was Orlando? Tell me, how painful is that?”

The event has not been forgotten in Orlando, however.

Orlando police arrested 10 protesters this week who were holding a 49-hour-long sit-in in the lobby of the building where U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has his Orlando office in protest of his National Rifle Association ties. The 49 hours represented an hour for each victim.

— Daniel Boothe is a reporter for Kansas City Public Television. To reach Boothe, email him at dboothe@kcpt.org

The mourning was sadly reminiscent of a vigil held only last month in downtown Kansas City, where clergy and supporters gathered to mourn the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

One of the most enduring images of the Orlando vigil was Kansas City Mayor Sly James expressing his frustration, yet again, at the senseless violence here and around the country.

But there were no megaphone speeches at the peace walk, and that’s why McKoy and his local supporters think they have hit upon a strategy that will prove more effective than the protests, demonstrations and social media prayers that follow each incident that horrifies the nation — only to be knocked from the public consciousness by yet another unconscionable act.

“I think the walking is something different from thoughts and prayers,” McKoy said. “Actually sacrificing our bodies is what Christ calls us to do; I think that’s different. What’s been happening is the thoughts and prayers. The engagement hasn’t been happening; we’re doing that, out there building relationships.”

McKoy would like to think that his efforts have helped lead to a slight dip in homicides in the area he walks in St. Louis, even as the homicide rate increased elsewhere in the city. Last year, Kansas City saw the most homicides since 2011.

Organizers estimated that Friday’s event in Kansas City drew roughly 1,000 participants. It began around 9 p.m. as a crowd spilled out of the packed basement of the Metropolitan AME Zion Church on 28th Street and Prospect Avenue to walk almost 2 miles through the streets plagued by gun violence.

Wearing reflective vests, the walkers ignored the jeers of passersby and a break-off Black Lives Matter protest. Along with McKoy, leaders included local and regional clergy from the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, many of whom were in town for the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Missouri Conference.

Communities Creating Opportunity and Aim4Peace were the primary groups involved in organizing the walk with AME Zion Church.

CCO is a faith-based organization focused on increasing opportunity for marginalized groups. Aim4Peace is a Kansas City Health Department initiative that works to reduce gun violence and homicides in Kansas City.

Pastor Kelsey Hopson of St. Matthew AME Zion Church on Linwood Boulevard in Kansas City emphasized the need to be mindful of appropriate and inappropriate responses to events like those of last week. Even though God had “righteous indignation,” Hopson said we must be responsible in our actions.

“We cannot become complacent and accept such incidents as normative,” he said. “We need to continue to stand up for what’s right and stand and speak against violence that happens against black and brown bodies. In wake of recent events, killing is never justified. We condemn violence against black bodies, but also violence against those who have been charged to serve and protect.”

Walkers made sure to thank the police officers who blocked traffic along the route.

Antonio Reese and Dawn Araujo-Hawkins, two black Kansas Citians, participated in the walk.

Reese said it seemed as if young black men have two strikes against them, facing not only violence amongst themselves but also incidents of abuse from police.

“I came out here to show that we’re tired of it,” he said. We want a change.”

Araujo-Hawkins said the walk helped her through feelings of helplessness and despair for a couple of reasons.

“For black people, the church has been a place of solace and strength, so I think in that aspect, having black clergy here is continuing a tradition of strong black theology,” she said. “I think of having diverse clergy here, it speaks to this idea of people asking, ‘Where are white pastors when something like this happens?’ But they’re out here, and they’re doing something.”

— Kelly Cordingley is an intern for KCPT and a recent University of Kansas graduate. Follow her on Twitter @KellyCordingley. To reach Cordingley, email kcordingley@kcpt.org.

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