KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The second annual Walk for Unity was held Saturday morning in the 18th and Vine District. Hundreds of people across the metro walked down Troost Avenue, sharing their lived experiences through conversations with intention of striving for racial unity.
"Troost was a diving line in our city for a number of years,” said Ray Jarrett, executive director of Unite KC. “So we picked this location to kind of make our stand and say, 'Hey, we want things to be different that where people can live and work together and just understand one another.'”
Jarrett says events like Walk for Unity are a step in the right direction. He believes the path to racial reconciliation starts with conversation.
“When you have an opportunity to meet new people that don’t look like you, to talk to them and to just get to know them, those relationships help make the work of racial reconciliation a lot easier,” he said. “You start to find out that people have these ‘aha’ moments. And then they start to have what is the most critical thing that we can have for one another, which is empathy.”
He says overt racism and discrimination have lessened over the decades, but the social impact of Kansas City’s history still remains. Jarrett also mentioned tension returning during the racial unrest of 2020.
“It’s disturbing because I know it’s not really representative of what goes on in Kansas City and even some of the other places that I’ve been,” Jarrett said.
It was at that time leaders throughout Kansas City came together to create Unite KC. People from different backgrounds come together through various events to educate, learn and share lived experiences.
Born and raised Kansas Citian Jerome Franklin experienced first-hand the racial tensions that came with living on the east side of Troost Avenue.
“I grew up in the inner city, and back when I was a kid, I’ve experienced some of that racial tension," Franklin said. "So it really kind of affected me to heart because it hit close to home."
At Saturday's event, Franklin says his attendance physically represented his ancestors who paved the way for him. He wanted to step forward and do his part in history.
While walking down what was once a line of division, Franklin met two people from Mississippi and Ohio.
“Just them not understanding and knowing the things in the nature that other races go through, it opened that window for a better opportunity to get them to understand and do their part and help out more,” he said.
Other connections were made at the walk as well.
After conversations about their lives in Kansas City and Lenexa, along with the importance of faith and family in their lives, Chandra Williams and Ken Hensley realized they are not so different after all.
“It starts right here — we are all human, we are all God’s people,” Williams said.