KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For one hour on Juneteenth, hundreds of people formed a miles-long human prayer chain on the east side of Troost Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri.
Pray on Troost was created by several members of the clergy along with active community members. The human prayer chain stretched 10 miles, with most participants wearing a face mask with a white piece of tape on the outside with one word written on the tape.
"I’m here for 'hope,'" Janice Cole said as she stood along Troost Avenue.
"My mask says 'unity,' and that is my personal prayer," Pastor Cassandra Wainwright said.
During the hour, participants stood silent, praying as passing cars honked in support.
"We believe it’s one of those movements where people can find a way to engage and find a way to stand up for truth and justice without tearing our cities apart," Pastor Jonathan Tremaine Thomas of Civil Righteousness said.
Behind the mask, each person was there for a reason.
"(I'm) hoping that this is just one step that brings us together to solve some of the systemic problems we have as a society," Cole said.
It was a powerful message of a community coming together to shape a better, and hopefully more inclusive, future.
"I believe there’s opportunity for us to build on what we have in common and not focus on what we have different," Pastor Greg Ealey said.
Troost Avenue has long been a symbol of racial division in Kansas City, separating black neighborhoods and white neighborhoods and often signaling wide economic disparity as well.
Under Jim Crow laws, Troost Avenue was used to legally enforce segregation prior to the civil rights movements of the 1960s. It also was used by Kansas City Public Schools as a dividing line to keep schools segregated.
It's become a political hot button in recent years as well, considering how much investment Kansas City underwrites through tax incentives and other measures west of Troost, which is predominantly white, versus east of Troost, which is predominantly black.