Fed up with increasing violence that has ravaged Kansas City’s African-American community, neighborhood leader Pat Clarke says he doesn’t need to attend another anti-crime rally or candlelight prayer vigil.
It is time for direct action.
Over three days beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, community leaders, law enforcement and other residents will have an open and sometimes painful discussion about the impact of black-on-black violence and ways to loosen its grip on the Kansas City urban core.
The black-on-black crime summit will take place at the Interscholastic League Field House at Swope Parkway and Meyer Boulevard. A panel discussion, “Ain’t Nobody Killing Us But Us,” will feature people personally affected by the violence.
“It is no secret in Kansas City that crime overall is a problem, but black-on-black crime is something else,” said Clarke, an event organizer and president of the Oak Park Neighborhood Association. “But I have never seen it like this before.”
In an effort to engage youths, a basketball skills camp will run from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. Events culminate at 3 p.m. Sunday with a prayer vigil that organizers hope will draw people from across the city.
The summit is open to the public.
“I applaud efforts from the community, and the leadership of residents like Pat Clarke, to do whatever it takes to reduce black-on-black violence,” Mayor Sly James said in an email to The Star. “If you look at violent crime statistics in our city, it’s clear that black-on-black crime is an issue we have to address if we ever expect to be a city where all neighborhoods are free from criminal activity.”
A vast majority of the city’s violent crime occurs in an area that stretches from the Missouri River south to about 85th Street.
A look at 2013 Kansas City police statistics from south of the river show the extent of the problem:
About two-thirds of homicide victims were African-American. Roughly 35 percent of the known suspects were too.
Nearly 60 percent of rape victims and about 64 percent of the suspects were African-American.
In robbery cases, 45 percent of the victims and more than 76 percent of the suspects were African-Americans.
Over half of the aggravated assault victims and more than two-thirds of the suspects were African-American.
So far, 2014 shows similar trends.
“While only a part of the overall crime picture, as of this month, 63 percent of homicide victims and 30 percent of homicide suspects in this city are black,” James said. “That’s an undeniable trend that cannot be ignored and it will take the help of everyone — from churches and nonprofits to law enforcement and the city — to make a dent on black-on-black crime statistics.”
A direct response is needed following the April 18 murder of Ka’Vyea Curry and shooting of his 10-year-old son, Ka’Vyea Tyson-Curry, at a convenience store near 45th Street and Cleveland Avenue, Clarke said.
“The tribe is not the same anymore; it’s not a village — it is a shame,” he said.
Other summit discussion topics Friday have provocative titles: Why is it important that I kill my brother? And: No love, just hate.
The titles were created to awaken those who seem unaffected by the suffocating impact of urban violence. It is time to put words into action, said Clarke, who works as a community liaison for Police Chief Darryl Forté.
“I want people to come out of there saying, ‘They told the truth in there,’” Clarke said.
Summit organizers say the weekend discussion is just the beginning.
“There is a plethora of things that have to be done,” said Evalin E. McClain, a program coordinator for the Kansas City Municipal Court. “We have to look at this from a systematic approach and come up with a strategy and a plan to identify individuals who have the power, means and resources to help transform communities.”
Target areas include high unemployment, substance abuse, mental health, generational poverty, quality public education and strategies to reduce the availability of firearms.
Cooperation between civic groups, law enforcement and other community leaders is essential, said Andrew M. Fox, assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
“When a community has to rely on formal social control or law enforcement to regulate behavior, you know that community is in trouble,” Fox said.
Some community and neighborhood groups have worked to reduce violence and other forms of unacceptable behavior, he said.
“One of the things we see as people collaborate … we have a much better chance of changing the norm and addressing the problem,” Fox said.
Efforts such as the city’s Aim4Peace and the Kansas City No Violence Alliance are national models that have proved to be successful in other communities, he said.
It’s time to collaborate and be supportive, organizers said.
“Nobody has all of the answers, but we have got to do something to improve the conditions of our community,” McClain said.
To reach Glenn E. Rice, call 816-234-4341 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.