KANSAS CITY, MO — The Winter Solstice is Monday, Dec. 21. It’s the shortest day and longest night of the year.
For the ninth year, families of homicide victims and community leaders will come together for the Longest Night Prayer Event to recognize and remember those who were lost to violent crime.
For 173 families in Kansas City this year, their longest night was when they found out their loved one had been killed by the violence plaguing the city.
With many funerals not taking place because of COVID-19, Monday night’s event will be the first time most will be able to properly mourn the loss of their loved ones.
“Kansas City can’t keep calling itself a world class city when we’re behaving like a third world country,” said Pastor Darron Edwards of United Believers Community Church.
Kansas City has seen 173 homicides in 2020, a record-setting number of lives lost. That’s means dozens of family will live through their first Christmas missing their loved ones, including victims of all ages.
Now, 173 crosses have been placed on the lawn at the Wornall Road Baptist Church. They represent each life lost, each dream squashed and each future stolen.
“You look at the names and you look at the ages and you look at the date that they were murdered, and we realize how much hurt and how much pain,” said John Mark Clifton, organizer of The Longest Night event.
“The Longest Night started in 2011, which that year my son was murdered,” Rosalyn Temple said. “I didn’t have the strength to get up to even come out, but the following year I did.”
Temple emerged from her grief after her son, 26-year-old Antonio Thompson, was found dead in his KC apartment, to become a crusader in the fight to end violence. She and her organization KC Mothers in Charge call 300 families a week to help pull them through the tunnel of grief and confusion.
“I plead with the inner-city community to take a stand,” Temple said. “Support our law-enforcement; they need us. They can’t do it by themselves. We have to speak out.”
It’s not just people in the inner city who need to step up, but everyone in the Kansas City metro, no matter what zip code.
Edwards likens it to a set of dominoes. When you hit one, sooner or later, the one at the end is going to fall down.
“What you are seeing in Kansas City is the dominoes have been pushed. Those dominoes way on the end they’re saying, ‘Well, it doesn’t affect me.’ But when it does, you want the testimony and the love and support of all of the other dominoes that it has affected,” Edwards said. “So it is my hope that the city that I love will feel hurt and pain and frustration from people who don’t look like you.”
Due to the pandemic, only the families of those killed this year will be invited to attend in person. Everyone else is invited to join virtually here.