Friends, family, anti-violence groups hold Memorial Day vigil for teen killed in 2021

Memorial Day is a holiday traditionally to honor the lives of members of the United States Armed Forces who died in service to their country.

On Monday, while many families heeded the tradition of honoring fallen servicemen and women, some others came together to remember the lives of loved ones murdered in the metro.

The family of Annetreuna Bowden gathered for their third annual Memorial Day vigil of remembrance for the 17-year-old who was killed at Stonegate Meadows Apartments in 2021. The case has not been solved.

Family, friends, and loved ones of Boweden, along with representatives from several anti-violence groups, united to pay respect to all those who have died from crime around Kansas City. The gathering of over 20 people, many wearing t-shirts with Bowden’s image on them, assembled outside the apartment building where Bowden was murdered.

Bowden’s aunt, Massia Releford, organized the vigil as a way to keep the case in the minds of the community so her niece’s death will hopefully not remain just another unsolved murder.

“These things happen all the time but really don’t hit home until it happens to you,” said Releford. “We want answers, we want justice and the opportunity at closure.”

The event opened with a prayer from Bishop Frank Douglas, of Beth Judah Ministries, who’s son was shot and killed in 2019. He believes that many in the community have become desensitized.

“My son was not a victim, he was victimized,” said Douglas. “I lost my son to gun violence 5 years ago and stand with this family here today.”

Douglas works with the AdHoc Group Against Crime and started the Heart of the Father Initiative, which focuses on helping young men get involved in the community.

Gayle Williams, founder of the Ray-Ann Memorial Foundation, also came to speak and show solidarity with the Bowden family. She urged anyone with information about any of Kansas City’s unsolved murders to come forward. Williams, the mother of two murdered daughters, killed in 2017, has spent the years since their deaths campaigning against domestic violence within the community.

“We are going to be that voice for those who can not speak for themselves,” said Williams. “There should never be a child, niece or daughter loss to violence.”

Douglas and Williams hope these displays of unity, centered on the pain caused by gun violence, will show area youth who have been traumatized by the loses, that they are not alone.

Damon Daniel, President of the AdHoc Group Against Crime, says that his organization hosts dozens of vigils like the one for Bowden. Working in his position for the past decade, Daniel is thankful to be able to spend this day of remembrance with people who also are dedicated to stopping the violence and bringing about real change.

“I have seen a lot more efforts from the community to confront these issues because so many people have been impacted by gun violence,” said Daniel. “We have to keep the memories of these victims alive and want the community to come together to change the culture of violence and generational trauma.”

As the vigil concluded, Releford said they would spend the day putting up flyers asking for information about Bowden’s death. They will spend time together as a family.

“Each year we seem to grow and it isn’t just our family anymore,” said Releford. “All of our hearts are broken and we have come together to find comfort and support and be here for each other.”