Violent flash mobs, shootings and a Twerk Fest.
By JENEÉ OSTERHELDT
The Kansas City Star
At the center of it all: Kansas City teens. And the finger constantly points to local government to provide the solutions. Weve been talking about the problem incessantly since the Plaza flash mobs two years ago. We have curfews for unsupervised minors in entertainment districts. Theres the summertime Club KC at community centers. Next week, City Council gears up to vote on spending $400,000 for more summer weekend youth clubs.
But the latest incident, the shooting at the twerk party, was two weeks ago. Why is all the focus on summer? Weekends are year-round. And why is everyone leaning on the cash-strapped city to keep kids busy? Parents have to step up. And we as citizens do too.
Enter KC Sole, a collective of 20-somethings who love kicks and Kansas City. Today they host the KC Sneakfest at Municipal Auditorium.
How can sneakers help our teens? Let organizer DeMarkus Coleman explain.
DeMarkus, 25, is the lead assistant manager at House of Hoops in Oak Park Mall and sees scores of teens every day. They come from all corners of the metro to get the latest must-haves in sports and sneaker culture. He gets to know them. Last year, a boy told him how much he looked up to the guys who work at the store. That moment made him realize their impact.
He started brainstorming ways to turn that influence into something positive. Major cities, most with NBA teams, have sneaker summits every year. They bring together people from all cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds to celebrate common interests, no different than South by Southwest or Comic-Con.
DeMarkus and a co-worker got the idea to do the same for Kansas City. KC Sole and its Sneakfest were born. The event will feature major sneakerheads with their collections on full display as well as vendors from Chicago, Omaha, Seattle and here. People can trade, sell and even donate kicks in a Sole Drive to benefit the less fortunate.
I grew up in the inner city, off 33rd and Cleaver, says DeMarkus. I know first-hand about the violence and negativity on Kansas City streets.
But he didnt become a statistic. He went to Lincoln Prep and then to Kansas State University.
Todays festival is just the beginning. They are planning college tours, basketball camps, talent shows and more.
Kendall Harris, 23, another KC Sole member, hopes their collective will show another side of sneaker culture. Too often the media focus on the violent outbreaks over high-priced sneakers.
He says theres more to shoes than that. Theres a lot of sentiment attached to kick collecting, like baseball card collections and stamps.
Kendall and his dad used to watch basketball games together, and seeing the shoes that Michael Jordan and his teammates wore was a big deal. He still remembers the pinstripe jerseys the team wore back in the 1995-96 season, when the Bulls won 72 games. Kendall was only 6 or 7 years old, but he remembers. Thats why he and so many others gravitate toward certain re-releases of old Jordan sneakers.
Friendships are born through a shared love of kicks, too. On Twitter and Instagram, KC Soles High School Kick-Off asks students to post pics of their shoes and outfits. Now you have Johnson County kids following Kansas City kids and getting to know one another. With a legion of young fans, KC Sole plans to direct their attention to positive things.
Even if this fest doesnt sell out, we have more plans. We arent going to stop, Kendall says. Were from the city and we are going to continue to make an effort to bring forth change instead of waiting for it. Were going to make a difference.
Theyre looking to put some soul in those soles. And we could all stand to follow in their footsteps.