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Group's Goal Was A Weekend Without A Murder In Kansas City

Aviva Okeson-Haberman
KCUR 89.3
Ronell Bailey gives a group of kids instructions ahead of the potato sack race Saturday at United Believers Community Church.

The grassroots organization Operation Ceasefire KC had one goal: a weekend in Kansas City without any murders.

With the Kansas City Police Department reporting more than 60 homicides heading into the weekend, Operation Ceasefire KC scheduled a gospel concert on Friday, a field day on Saturday and free haircuts at local barbershops on Sunday.

“These type of events, especially on Friday and Saturday, bring out the family and it brings them to a safe environment, something that’s positive that we’re lacking in our community,” Operation Ceasefire KC organizer Ronell Bailey told KCUR on Friday.

But the weekend had barely begun when a woman was found stabbed to death in the 8500 block of East 92nd Street during the early morning hours on Saturday. And early Sunday evening, the Kansas City Star also reported that a man had been shot and killed after a traffic accident at 51st and Swope Parkway.

This was Operation Ceasefire KC’s third attempt at a murder-free weekend; killings also spoiled similar efforts in 2016 and 2017.

Credit Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Brenden Haugen, 6, participates in the potato sack race at United Believers Community Church Saturday.

Royal Flagg brought his three kids to Saturday's field day at United Believers Community Church, which attracted around 50 people on a cool afternoon. Flagg said he came out after he heard that it was geared toward addressing gun violence.

Though the event was well-intentioned, he said, it didn’t reach the audience that would be best served by its message.

“This is a good event for all these kids out here," Flagg said. "Chances are the guys selling drugs and putting pistols in their car right now as we speak don’t even know this event is going on and don’t even care about the event.” 

Flagg said efforts to reduce gun violence should engage with people who are perpetrating violence.

But Bailey said the goal was to reach the entire community, not just people who are gang members.

“This is a community event open up to whole entire public," Bailey said on Saturday. "If they show up, wonderful. If they don’t, I hope they still get the message and see that the message is on the news, in the newspapers.”

Credit Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Natalie Keys brought three of her children, Kennison, Cameron and Kevin, to Operation Ceasefire KC's field day event Saturday.

Natalie Keys brought three of her kids to Saturday's field day. Her eight-year-old son Cameron was so excited that he woke her up at 7:30 a.m. to make sure they weren’t late to the event, which started at noon.

“I love the idea of helping the children feel safe and loved and celebrated,” Keys said.

Samantha Hamilton, an organizer for Operation Ceasefire KC, said she was inspired to help found this initiative after seeing shootings on the news.

“These events show that the community still cares, that we’re still trying to figure out ways to be safe, to be back on one accord, to be unified,” Hamilton said.

Aviva Okeson-Haberman is a KCUR news intern. Follow her on Twitter @avivaokeson.

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