Tressie Smith lost a nephew and a grandson to violence in 2017, a year when Kansas City recorded 151 homicides.
She and other members of the anti-violence group KC Mothers in Charge gathered at the Kansas City Police Department’s East Patrol Division headquarters Monday to pay tribute to their lost loved ones on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“It means a lot, with what the day represents,” Smith said.
About 20 students from Rockhurst University and other schools joined members of the mothers group, including its founder, Rosilyn Temple.
They stood in sub-freezing temperatures near the corner of 27th Street and Prospect Avenue, holding signs and praying for the bloodshed to cease and for the killers to be brought to justice.
“He was a homicide victim,” Temple said of King. “So I think it’s very important today that we stand arm-in-arm and pray that we can end this violence in our community.”
Temple’s son, Antonio Thompson, was murdered Nov. 23, 2011, at age 26. She founded KC Mothers in Charge two years later.
The group has since made the MLK Day remembrance an annual event.
“I wish it were a little warmer,” Smith said, “but this and what today means and to share it with the community I think is a good thing.”
Smith said her grandson was 19 and her nephew was 20 when they were killed. She said a neighbor’s daughter was also a victim of homicide.
“They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Smith said. “They weren’t involved in any type of disputes or anything. That’s what makes it even harder.”
Kansas City recorded 135 homicides in 2018. The city has not recorded fewer than 100 since 2014.
Photographs of other victims of violent crime were displayed at Monday’s event.
“We’ll always remember them,” Temple said. “Just like we always remember Martin Luther King.”