Editorials

People stayed away from First Friday. Did one guy with a gun change it forever?

Downtown Church of the Resurrection honors KC homicide victims during First Friday

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas joined hundreds of others for a family fun night at Church of the Resurrection. Adam Hamilton pastor for the church where the event was held, said the church’s downtown campus is “pushing back fear, sharing light.''
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Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas joined hundreds of others for a family fun night at Church of the Resurrection. Adam Hamilton pastor for the church where the event was held, said the church’s downtown campus is “pushing back fear, sharing light.''

If it weren’t for the Church of the Resurrection, which dedicated its First Friday celebration to the memory of Erin Langhofer, who was killed by a stray bullet at last month’s festival, the streets would have been empty on what’s normally a big and busy party night in downtown Kansas City.

With no streets closed off — and with some in the Crossroads Community Association giving every indication that they’re panicking as a result of the shooting — it almost could have been any other night of the month. The crowds were sparse, the food trucks and vendors had been relocated, and the vibrant urban atmosphere of past First Fridays had all but disappeared.

Mayor Quinton Lucas, who was shaking hands and taking selfies with those who had shown up, thanked the church for holding steady. “It’s not lost on me,” he said, “that it’s a majority white church saying we refuse to be divided further” by the shooting. Langhofer was a 25-year-old therapist and advocate for survivors of domestic violence at Rose Brooks Center, and her father is a pastor at Resurrection’s church in Leawood.

Lucas talked up the turnout: “I’m happy about this,” he said, looking around the church parking lot at hot dog vendors and kids with face paint. “People feel safe, people feel positive. We don’t run in Kansas City.”

We hope that’s true, but if this is what it looks like with the church doing its best to fill the streets, First Fridays organizers need to take some deep breaths and think again.

If they don’t buck up, all of their hard work building First Fridays into one of the city’s signature events will have been undone in a second, by one guy with a gun. Are they really OK with that?

Those who did come to Crossroads on Friday made clear they aren’t going to be bullied. “This is in honor of Erin,” said David Sisney, who was selling tickets for ice cream, “and it’s saying we have no fear.”

“It’s important to show the kids you’ve got to get out and love on your city,” said Doty Hoffman, who came with her four children, ages 11, 9, 6 and 4. “We brought ‘em all.”

Lucas disagrees with those festival organizers who now feel the event should be scaled back and “go back to its roots.” It began as a modest gallery crawl — a regular chance for artists and their friends to check out and support each other’s work.

But over the years, “the event became bigger than the arts,” the mayor said.

That’s the enlarging effect that art has. Violence, of course, has the opposite effect, but is art going to win, or violence?

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