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Kansas Citians Line Troost Avenue In Prayer And Solidarity Amid Calls For Racial Justice

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Carlos Moreno
Participants in PrayOnTroost line the east side of Troost Avenue between 52nd and 54th streets on Friday evening. Organizers of the event chose Troost because it is known as Kansas City’s racial dividing line.

Churches across Kansas City on Friday night organized PrayOnTroost, an hour of prayer, reflection and conversation on ways to heal and move forward on issues of racial justice.

Hundreds of Kansas Citians on Friday evening spanned portions of Troost Avenue in solidarity against racial injustice and to commemorate Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. Some participants engaged in prayer while others waved to passing automobiles and encouraged them to honk in support.

Pray on Troost was organized by the Concerned Clergy Coalition of KC, a group composed of pastors and ministers throughout the metropolitan area, to help heal the racial divide through acts of faith.

“This isn't a rally and this isn’t a protest,” Pastor Cassandra Wainwright of the Concerned Clergy Coalition told KCUR. “We are coming together, we are unifying to lift up our voices in prayer and saying publicly that we believe in God and that he will bless our efforts to be part of racial healing.”

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Carlos Moreno
Allison Tappan, 21 (middle), stands along Troost Avenue near 63rd Street with her mother, Laura (left), and her sister, Sarah, 19, during PrayOnTroost. Many participants wore face masks with messages like “Listen,” “Unity” and “Support.”

Wainwright said meeting on Troost and holding the rally on Juneteenth would only help elevate their message.

“I have written ‘Unity’ on my mask because as we stand here on the racial dividing line of Kansas City, commemorating Juneteenth and the end of slavery, we are uniting to say we can make a difference,” he said.

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Carlos Moreno
Ramon and Alycia Nichols wave to passing and honking motorists supporting participants in the Pray on Troost rally on Friday night. Nichols, whose mother was the late Missouri State Sen. Yvonne Wilson said her mother and father were passionate about social justice and peaceful demonstration. “Communication like this speaks volumes,” she said.

Wainwright said participants were inspired by Civil Righteousness, a prayer movement started by Pastor Jonathan Tremaine Thomas in Ferguson, Missouri, during the social unrest there six years ago.

“We must first allow ourselves to feel each others’ pain and lament together, and then we can move to implementation, legislation and all the reforms we need,” Thomas said.

Not every local activist was on board with the event. “Mama” Hakima Payne of Uzazi Village said it had been co-opted by a largely white support base.

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Carlos Moreno
Ellie Cisneros, 7 (left), and her sister Gianna, 9, draw on the sidewalk along the east side of Troost Avenue near 63rd Street on Friday evening as part of PrayOnTroost. Their mother, Meaghan, said she brought them to the event because “It’s so important for our girls to know that Black lives matter.”

“It still smacks of white saviorism,” she said. “Folks can just come down, say a quick prayer. It’s symbolism, which isn’t the same as doing something about social inequity.”

Instead, Mama Hakima organized “Dialog On Troost,” a counter-conversation aimed at encouraging those praying to think about what sort of concrete action they could take beyond acts of faith.

Jeremy Ruzich, a participant in Dialog on Troost, said he was skeptical of PrayOnTroost but encouraged by the diversity and commitment he saw.

“People were willing to talk about how they will help make change beyond the moment, beyond the prayer,” he said.

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Carlos Moreno
C.C. Evans prays intently on the east side of Troost Avenue on Friday evening near Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard as PrayOnTroost began winding down. A visibly emotional Evans said, “Social reform and political reform and police reform will not heal this land.” She said she attended the event because she wanted to “be a voice of prayer” and help heal.

But C.C. Brown, who was among those who came to pray, said she felt it was a necessary first step in the healing process.

“Social reform, political reform and police reform will not heal this land,” Brown said. “We have to return to the power of prayer.”

As KCUR's health reporter, I cover the Kansas City metro in a way that reflects our expanding understanding of what health means and the ways it touches different communities and different areas in distinct ways. I will provide a platform to amplify ideas and issues often underrepresented in the media and marginalized people and communities in an authentic and honest way that goes beyond the surface of the issues. I will endeavor to find and include in my work local experts and organizations that have their ears to the ground and a beat on the health needs of the community. Reach me at noahtaborda@kcur.org.
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