Published November 21st, 2022 at 11:30 AM
On Jan. 21, 2019, tragedy altered the life trajectory of a church-going, God-fearing family in Kansas City. Bishop Frank and Lady Carmen Douglas of Beth-Judah Ministries lost their son – Cameron – when he was shot and killed at the age of 23.
Cameron left behind a baby girl. Frank Douglas was distraught at seeing his granddaughter left fatherless and made it his mission to see that such tragedy would not happen to another family.
Douglas saw an opportunity for community growth. Knowing the lack of positive father figures in Black American culture, Douglas was empathetic to families in similar situations. If certain deficits could be healed, he believed, violent crime by Black youth would decrease.
Thus, his three-pronged nonprofit organization was born.
He named it the Heart of the Father Initiative, Project Relentless and the Innovative Seed Group. Each arm of his community outreach initiative had a distinct purpose toward his goal of achieving wellness and preventing tragedy.
The Heart of the Father Initiative seeks to provide preventative care by mending the wounded bonds between fathers and their children. The initiative offers parental training and aims to uplift men by inspiring them to become active leaders in their community. The initiative aims to be a moral guide between the natural phases of a man, Douglas said, raising boys into manhood.
Project Relentless assists families of homicide victims through the court and grieving processes. Douglas’ experience after his son died was both long and full of learning, having to deal in real time with the pain and frustration of the court system that took two years to convict and sentence his son’s killer.
It was hard to cope with the reality that the trial of his son’s murderer served the city and not the family of the victim. Harder still was having to listen as the defendant’s attorney painted a narrative that attempted to absolve his son’s murderer. Project Relentless prepares parents for the logistics and hardships of trial and provides moral support during a devastating time.
Finally, the Innovate Seed Group aims to further build community by providing organizational and strategic consulting plus life skills coaching to individuals and couples.
Each prong of this ad hoc project mends a different piece of the Black familial structure through counseling, training and mentorship. These initiatives mean to strengthen the village that is needed to raise a healthy child.
Douglas’ mission goes to the roots of pervasive problems that remain unhealed despite decades of work by so many. Activists have struggled to find where to start in driving real change, but Douglas believes tangible and effective healing in the Black community begins in the home.
As part of its work, Douglas’ initiative has remodeled a childhood home at 5447 Highland Ave. into Healing House. The home’s history of three generations of strong families and fatherhood symbolizes the healing Douglas seeks at the center of a neighborhood in peril. The Healing House will serve as a center for all three prongs of Douglas’ work.
This dream of some kind of community healing had been in Douglas for 20 years, he said. When his son was killed, he had to put it into action so that his son, as he used to exist on these grounds, would be worth so much more than a “pound of flesh.”
This is what Douglas carries with him. He remembers the positive men who influenced him and he holds the memory of a dozen Black male loved ones who have been killed during his lifetime. He steps into the gap between them, rising against this place of despair with love and righteous fellowship.
Aubrey Hughes is a reporter for the Kansas City Call. John McGrath is a video producer for Kansas City PBS.