KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One year ago , 41 Action News anchor Kevin Holmes met in a Kansas City, Missouri barbershop to hear from a group of men working to make Kansas City a better — and safer — community.
Earlier this month, to mark the anniversary of the first barbershop conversation, Kevin met again with a group of influential men to revisit some of the topics first brought up in 2018.
Many of the topics remained the same, as did the style of the venue - a barbershop.
“People come in here so happy and excited because they have that one chance for about an hour every week or sometimes every two weeks to express themselves," 180V Salon owner Joey Thomas said. "It represents freedom of expression, freedom of self. Freedom from whatever kind of bondage you have.”
The following is an edited version of the discussion at the salon, located in the 18th and Vine District.
Kevin: What do you think about KCPD? How are they doing right now?
Henry C. Service, attorney: “They (the police) just drew guns on me in the parking lot, just out here. They literally drew guns on me in the parking lot of my own building as I was coming to see Joey. I pull into the parking lot and before they even said a word to me, jumped out and held me at gunpoint. And said that I fit the description.”
Sgt. Robert Gibbs, KCPD: “Twenty-eight years ago, I decided I’m going to get on the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department. I had a college degree. I could’ve moved somewhere else, but this is home for me, and I wanted to try to help home. So, sir (directed to Henry Service), I am sorry about the situation you had, but the best way to fix those type of situations, to improve perception, is to become part of the solution.”
Terrell Ray, Stop the Violence KC: “I don’t necessarily believe that joining a force is the solution. But KCPD joining with community is more of a solution than us joining cops. And that would actually help the community.”
Erik Dickinson, President Urban Rangers: “I’ve seen the police in Kansas City do a lot of good things for young people. I just think the partnership has to be there and finding more ways that young people can feel like policemen are safe.”
As of Sept. 24, Kansas City is on pace to have one of its deadliest years in recent memory. So far there have been 111 homicides; compared to (98) this time in 2018, (112) in 2017, (88) in 2016, and (75) in 2015. And there’s a disturbing trend.
Holmes: More than one-third of the victims and more than one-third of the suspects are under the age of 24. What's the responsibility we share to fight those numbers?
Rodney D. Smith, Univerity of Missouri - Kansas City professor: “We have to reverse and change our narrative about ourselves. I mean, let’s be honest; There has been a four-year public relations campaign to convince us that we are something that we’re not.”
Terrell Ray: “I think accountability is one of the big issues; holding the next person accountable of their actions. Instead we’re encouraging it.”
Holmes: The people watching this don't all look like us. We'll have women, women of color, white women, white men and others who will be watching this. What role do they play in all this? What's your message to them?
Brian B. Shynin’, morning co-host, KPRS Radio, Hot 103 Jamz: “Just try to be a little more culturally sensitive to our background.”
Charles Leach, community activist: “In my opinion, the brothers that really can change these kids’ perspectives, can change these kids' state of mind, are not here. The people that can really change these kids are the people on the block.”
Erik Dickinson: “What we need in Kansas City… people outside the urban core to come back and give their time, talent and treasure. We need more people to volunteer.”
Sgt. Robert Gibbs: "When people ask me what can be done, I say to them, 'Look at what you are passionate about, and take that knowledge, that information and give it to other people. Give it to young people.”'