KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Book bags and pencil cases aren't the kind of things that normally bring tears to your eyes - unless you know you'll never buy them. Because your child won't have a First Day of School, because they were shot and killed.
The air around 73rd and Indiana was thick and humid on Saturday, and carried a steady beat. Under the pavilion, people ate hot dogs and chips. Nearby, a table was covered with school supplies.
And then the dance music paused. A man took the microphone and began to pray. It was a prayer for everyone going back to school, and for those who would never go to school.
Charity Hooper's daughter is one of those who will not go back to school.
"The back to school time, it hits me hard," she said, "because she would've been going to 6th grade this year."
Hooper's daughter was Angel Hooper. She was killed at the 7-Eleven gas station at 107th and Blue Ridge in October of 2014.
"I want to keep her memory alive," said Charity. "I want her name alive. And not just her. There's Montell. There's Jayden. There's Machole. There's Baby Smoothie. Amorian Hale. The list just goes on and on and on," said Charity. "And it's terrible."
Amorian Hale died five year ago, at the age of 3. He was killed in a drive-by by bullets not meant for him. His mother never got a chance to wonder what kind of backpack he would want.
"You can't replace that void, you can't replace that," said Monee McKinney as she walked around Noble Park with her other children, Amorian's siblings, on Saturday. "You can't fill it with anything else. Because that is where that child was supposed to be."
McKinney said she came to the school supply rally for her other children, to keep Amorian's name alive, and to be here for other families who lost children as well.
"I think that this really helps me get through it," said McKinney. "It's one of my ways of hoping and getting through it."
And with each dance song that thundered through the speakers, each person understood. The whole event was orchestrated by Justice4Angels, a non-profit to help families navigate the system after a child has been murdered.
"This is in honor of our children," said Ashley Newson, the founder of Justice 4 Angels, "because unfortunately, they're not going back to school."
Each one of the 75 people at the pavilion interacted with the non-profit because each person lost someone to gun violence. And each one wants it to stop.
As Angel's mother Charity said, "Our children are our future. And if we keep killing our children, we won't have any future."
On Sunday, August 11th, there will be another School Supplies giveaway. Healing Pathway Victim Service Agency, a local 501c3 organization, dedicated to supporting children of homicide victims, will host a back to school supply giveaway, for surviving co-victims.
Its founder, Monica Roberts, said in an email that "the number of children continues to increase for this event as the number of homicides in the city have increased rapidly."
The event will include children that have lost a parent, caretaker, or sibling to homicide in the metro area. Children will receive school supplies, toiletries, and other items for their first day of school. The event is expected to serve nearly 100 children. Mayor Quinton Lucas will be attending to support the families of homicide victims.
- Location: ArtsTech Building, 1522 Holmes, Kansas City, Missouri 64108
- Time:12:30 p.m-1:30 p.m.
- Contact Healing Pathways for more information