Local public defender Robin Stephens says that when people walk, people talk.
She encourages anybody in Washtenaw County to experience this for themselves June 1 at the second Bridging 23 Unity Walk, where participants will walk from Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor.
The free event will begin with a rally at 8:30 a.m. at the Ypsilanti District Library's Michigan Avenue branch, 229 W. Michigan Ave. in Ypsi. It will end at the Ann Arbor Downtown African American Festival at North Fourth Avenue and East Ann Street in Ann Arbor.
The event's objective is to connect people in the neighboring communities of Ann Arbor and Ypsi.
Stephens founded the event in response to a challenge from a 2017 Bridging 23 community forum, organized by the Dispute Resolution Center and the Association for Youth Empowerment. Those events were intended to facilitate discussion and collaboration between Ann Arbor and Ypsi residents.
"Everyone was challenged to come up with something that would extend from the conference and that would be in keeping with the unity that they were telling us about and trying to promote," Stephens says. "... I had participated in three walks for breast cancer and found that I met people I didn’t know and we talked about everything under the sun, all while walking."
Stephens says last year's walkers did a lot of chatting and found out that they had far more in common than they had differences.
There were 40 walkers at the inaugural event and 80 people are already signed up this year. Stephens expects another 10 percent will show up without having pre-registered.
Linking the ending celebration with the Ann Arbor Downtown African American Festival is new this year. Stephens says it will definitely increase the entertainment factor.
"Last year we only had a few hours, but this year we’ll be around for the whole day," she says. "That will be plenty of time for people to make one-on-one connections."
Registration and more information is available here.
Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently in based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Doug Coombe.