Rosilyn Temple remembers the day death knocked on her door. On Nov. 23, 2011 Antonio Thompson, Temple’s son, was murdered in his apartment.
Temple showed up to his apartment after trying to contact him all day. She knocked on the door but no answer. Temple contacted the office of the complex but they would not let her in. Temple called the Kansas City Police and Sergeant Painer arrived on the scene. Temple knew that something was wrong. Painer attempted to enter the room but couldn’t.
“Are you sure your son just didn’t leave town?” Painer said.
“No, he had just moved into his apartment and was starting a new job on Monday,” Temple responded. Painer called the fire department to gain access.
The fire department arrived, kicking down Thompson’s apartment door. Painer walked in, then returned to Temple, who was waiting outside with a sick face.
“Your son is in there, but he is not ok,” Painer said. “He is dead.”
“I couldn’t breathe,” Temple said. “My heart cried tears.”
From that moment on, Rosilyn Temple became The Mother of Kansas City. Temple is the executive director of the Mothers in Charge branch in Kansas City, Missouri. The nationwide organization is full of mothers who work to prevent homicides and violent crime in their communities. Temple works daily with loved ones of homicide victims, homicide detectives and prosecutors to bring relief to victims of violent crime and their families. She wants to change the city she has lived in her whole life.
After her son’s death, Temple attempted to return to work. She quit after a month. Temple didn’t know what to do with her life, so she gave herself to God with the hopes he would guide her on the right path. That’s when Temple met Dorothy Johnson-Speight. Johnson-Speight founded the first Mothers in Charge organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since then, it has grown nationally. Johnson-Speight gave Temple the confidence and strength to make a stand in her own community.
Temple thought the statement “Mothers in Charge” was powerful because, as a mother, she always wants to be in charge of the situation. Temple had found her purpose in life. She had to make a stand against homicide in Kansas City and support the victims of violent crime.
“It feels right for me help somebody in this situation,” Temple said. “I needed somebody to help me and there was no one there.”
“It feels right to be on scene and support victims of homicide,” Temple said. For Temple, there is never a scary moment or an internal debate on whether she should go to the scene or not. She always goes.
“I have to help that victim,” Temple said. “It feels right to hug them and say I understand.”
Mothers in Charge invites homicide victims in for healing sessions every third Thursday of the month. According to Temple, these sessions are a chance to heal and gain support from their community. Without the healing process, Temple said, you will die.
For two hours, victims and their families have the opportunity to scream, cry and talk about what they are going through. Homicide detectives and prosecutors come in to answer any questions the victims need answered. For the month of March, they have a yoga instructor teaching the victims how to breathe in a healthy way again. Temple says when her son was killed, she had to re-learn how to breathe. She had to re-learn how to be normal again and function as a human being. Having a yoga instructor allows the victims to be calm and start rebuilding from the inside.
Temple and Mothers in Charge work with the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (NoVA). NoVA is compiled of law enforcement and social services officials that work together to address and prevent violent crime. NoVA uses a focus deterrence method that highlights at risk individuals of being involved in violent crime or being victims of it and provides opportunities for them to choose life, life without violent crime.
Temple tells a story about a young girl who was at risk of being victim of violent crime. At the time the girl was confused as to why NoVA was targeting her since she didn’t participate in any criminal behavior. Temple said the girl hung out and associated with the wrong crowd. After two years of counseling and mentorship, the girl realized why NoVA focused on her and said it changed her family and gave her her life back.
NoVA also has direct contact and intervention with violent perpetrators on the streets and in prison. Temple says she mentored a young man for about year whose name was always coming up on homicide scenes. When she finally met him, she was surprised to find out that he was just a child. Temple says in order to connect with these individuals you must speak to them with love, talk to them like a mother would, and show them that someone cares.
When Temple and the Mothers in Charge go into prisons, they demand respect. They tell the inmates who are reentering the communities within the next few months that they will not stand for violence anymore. Temple and the mothers focus on providing opportunities to bring former prisoners back into the community. She understands that the street life is hard to leave behind, because she struggled with it herself. She says it’s hard to go from making $1000 a week to making $7.25 an hour and receiving a check for $400 for two weeks of work.
“I know that it doesn’t seem like much, but God can stretch that $400 and make it last,” Temple said.
Anyone can be a part of Mothers in Charge. Everyone has the ability to get active and combat violent crime in their community. Temple calls this “spiritual warfare.”
“Community members need to have their own voices and step outside of the boxes they were raised in and say, ‘no it’s not O.K. that there is violence in my community,’” Temple said. “Staying in your box and expecting normalcy will only keep us in the cycle of poverty and violence. We need to center our mindsets towards outside-the-box thinking and realize that it’s not as bad as most people see it.”
Temple recently won the Kansas City Star Citizen of the Year award and continues to work daily on her mission to deter and prevent violent crime in her community. Temple does door-to-door speaking out against crime. She has spoken to schools and groups all over the nation, promoting her message of love and life.
“I’m standing my ground speaking love,” Temple said.