WBHS demonstrates MLK preaching of equality

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published January 4, 2014

 West Bloomfield High School marching band leads the walk down Orchard Lake Road during the 2013 United We Walk.

West Bloomfield High School marching band leads the walk down Orchard Lake Road during the 2013 United We Walk.

File photo by Donna Agusti

WEST BLOOMFIELD — Re-creating the 1963 March on Washington, the West Bloomfield community is invited to join students and their families in the 20th annual United We Walk event at West Bloomfield High School at 3 p.m. Jan. 19.

Former Orchard Lake Middle School Principal Esther Peterson began United We Walk during the 1993-94 school year, according to Hertha Woodruff, adult co-chair for the walk. A proposal letter was read before the West Bloomfield Board of Education requesting the district close to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The board unanimously agreed to close the schools Jan. 16, 1995, for the first time to honor the holiday, Woodruff said in an email. The community-wide event, including a multicultural walk from Orchard Lake Middle School down Orchard Lake Road to West Bloomfield High School, was proposed to celebrate the diversity of West Bloomfield and educate on the teachings of King. Woodruff served as the first general chair for United We Walk.

The 20th anniversary walk down Orchard Lake Road to Walnut Lake Road is a way to celebrate the diversity preachings of King, said Sara Nirenberg, student co-chair for the event. The only cost for the event, persay, is taking some time to join in the walk that day, she added.

During the walk, Orchard Lake Road will be temporarily closed by the West Bloomfield Police Department and will reopen at 3:45 p.m. Event organizers ask that people delivering food donations or planning to participate in the walk arrive at West Bloomfield High School by 2:30 p.m. For those arriving between 3 p.m. and 3:45 p.m., an alternative driving route will be available to access the high school  — Green Road, from Walnut Lake Road. Drives will have direct access into the school’s parking lot at the traffic light.

“It’s one of the very nice events,” said West Bloomfield Police Chief Michael Patton.

“Maybe the only downside is it’s in January — it’s cold and snowing and stuff like that — but that actually adds kind of a nice aspect to it because we all kind of huddle up as we walk, which also brings us closer together.” Patton is one of the adult co-chairs for this year’s event. Adult co-chairs partner with the four student co-chairs for the various planning aspects.

“The key element of celebrating diversity has kept the event vibrant,” Woodruff said in an email. “United We Walk has lasted successfully without interruption because, in West Bloomfield, the event is everyone’s celebration and holiday. No one is excluded.”

Following the 3 p.m. walk, news anchor Carolyn Clifford of WXYZ TV will address the community, commencing a program in which contest winners will be announced. Entertainment will be provided by the Laker Express, Legacy Dance Studio LLC, and the high school’s choral groups and orchestra.

Every year, a community and world leader are selected and recognized. Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was announced as this year’s world leader, but a community leader has not been selected yet. According to Patton, the community leader will be announced prior to the event.

A candlelight vigil, which will include a special memorial tribute to Rev. Dr. David W. Robertson and David Henig, will take place at 5:15 p.m. in the West Bloomfield High School auditorium. After the vigil, attendees will gather in the cafeteria for a complimentary community dinner, which is being sponsored by local restaurants, churches and grocery stores.

“It’s one way for us to set aside all difference and share a meal and break some bread,” Nirenberg said. “Everything is free. It’s a community event, and we just want the community to come out and be a part of it.

“The whole event and the whole purpose is echoing community engagement and unity in the community,” Nirenberg said. “The event is just a way for us to celebrate, remember and act what Martin Luther King Jr. taught us.”

For more information on United We Walk, visit www.unitedwewalk.org.