"Unity Walk" from Ann Arbor to Ypsi returns after COVID hiatus

The Dispute Resolution Center (DRC) is calling all Washtenaw County residents to take part in its annual fundraising Unity Walk from Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti on June 11th at 10 a.m. 

The walk, which supports the DRC’s Restorative Justice Program, is returning after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will begin at Washtenaw County Farm Park, 2230 Platt Rd. in Ann Arbor, and end at Brown Chapel AME Church, 1043 W. Michigan Ave. in Ypsilanti. A second, shorter route starts at Ypsilanti Community High School, 2095 Packard St. in Ypsilanti Township, and ends at Brown Chapel. People who are unable to walk are invited to join the celebration at Brown Chapel at 12:30 p.m. 

The Unity Walk's objective is to connect people in the neighboring communities of Ann Arbor and Ypsi through candid conversations and collaboration. 

"We also have an Eight Mile, like Detroit's Eight Mile [Road, which marks the boundary between the city of Detroit and its northern suburbs]. Ours is highway US-23," says Germaine Smith, DRC's assistant director. "It's the physical separation between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti and can be seen as symbolic in some ways. We'll have people from both communities start at one location and then cross US-23 together into another community to celebrate. And, as people are walking together, maybe they can share awareness and recognize inequities on various levels."

She notes that the DRC is committed to elevating Black, Indigenous, and people of color's voices, and other voices that aren't commonly heard. That makes the Unity Walk's partnership with historic Brown Chapel – one of the oldest local African Methodist Episcopal churches – particularly significant. 

"As an organization that values equity and inclusion, this partnership is really special because the chapel played a part in the Underground Railroad," Smith says. "We're happy that we can come together to help celebrate Black history and add some insight into people's perseverance and resilience."

In collaboration with the church, the DRC will host an elder learning circle consisting of local African-American residents who will discuss highlights of local African-American history.

"It's our hope that people understand others' unique challenges and history and then figure out what we can do together as a community to make change," Smith says. "Maybe you come out and have one conversation. Or maybe you come and meet some friends and together you start a group that changes the community." 

Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at jaishreeedit@gmail.com.

Photo by Doug Coombe.