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 Cynthia Douglas, president of the Grosse Pointes-Harper Woods Branch of the NAACP, urged attendees of Marching the Red Line to join an organization such as the NAACP to fight racism as  a group.

Cynthia Douglas, president of the Grosse Pointes-Harper Woods Branch of the NAACP, urged attendees of Marching the Red Line to join an organization such as the NAACP to fight racism as a group.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran


Symbolic march against racism bridges divide between city, suburbs

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 23, 2020

 Grosse Pointe South High School graduate Bianca Garcia, one of the organizers of the Marching the Red Line demonstration in support of Black Lives Matter June 12 in Grosse Pointe Park and Detroit, presents a list of demands that organizers are seeking.

Grosse Pointe South High School graduate Bianca Garcia, one of the organizers of the Marching the Red Line demonstration in support of Black Lives Matter June 12 in Grosse Pointe Park and Detroit, presents a list of demands that organizers are seeking.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

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GROSSE POINTE PARK/DETROIT — A crowd of more than 100 gathered near the intersection of Kercheval Avenue and Alter Road June 12 for a peaceful demonstration calling for an end to systemic racism, police brutality and racial injustice.

Organized by Grosse Pointe South High School graduates Bianca Garcia, of Grosse Pointe Park and Southwest Detroit, and former Grosse Pointe Park resident Kori Webb, of Detroit, Marching the Red Line was held on the Grosse Pointe Park-Detroit border and marched up Alter and across Mack Avenue, along the notorious “red line” that divides the city of Detroit from its suburbs. Held in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the march was preceded by speeches from members of the community who shared their experiences with racism.

The organizers also had a list of demands, including educating law enforcement about racial equality, bringing in Black officers and removing physical barricades between Grosse Pointe Park and Detroit.

Cynthia Douglas, president of the Grosse Pointes-Harper Woods Branch of the NAACP, urged attendees to join an organization such as the NAACP that targets racism.

“You standing alone does not make a difference,” but standing with a group does, Douglas said. “This movement has brought us all together. We can make a difference here. We’re going to have some hard conversations here.”

In a reference to the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, Douglas said, “It’s time for you to get your knee off my neck so I can stand up.”

Greg Bowens, of Grosse Pointe Park, the founder and first president of the Grosse Pointes-Harper Woods Branch of the NAACP, said this was the fifth such demonstration against racism in recent weeks in the Grosse Pointes. He said they “respect the police” but noted that members of the crowd need to remember that they have to orchestrate change.

“As a society, we are in charge of the police, (and) we set the rules,” Bowens said. “Somewhere in here is a mayor, or someone in here is a city council member. Someone in here is a police chief.”

He said people can no longer stand idly by.

“Police brutality against Black people is police brutality against everybody,” Bowens said. “Do what you can to change the rules, because if you don’t, someone else will (do it for you).”

Webb recounted a number of racist incidents against her or other students of color in school and in the community, including a time she received a detention after she yelled at a white male student who was harassing her and had followed her home; the white student received no punishment, she said.

At South, she said one student said all Black people need to be deported and should be branded.

“This is definitely very important,” Webb said of the event. “The Black students (in Grosse Pointe schools) still aren’t welcome.”

Madison Payne, of Grosse Pointe Park, said she was looked down upon and even perceived as a troublemaker by some in Grosse Pointe schools.

“As an African American, you are already thought of as less than, until you show that you are more than,” Payne said.

She said they can all learn from each other.

“It’s about uprising together, because we’ve been down for so long,” Payne said.

The Delta Sigma Theta sorority has been practicing its principles of sisterhood, scholarship and service for 81 years in Detroit, said Larmender Davis, president of the Detroit Alumni Chapter.

“We strive for a just and fair world, and until Black Lives Matter, no lives matter,” Davis said. “It’s going to take all of us working together.”

Zora Bowens — Greg Bowens’ daughter — is now a college student and attended Grosse Pointe schools as a child.

“I will never know what it is like to be in an all-white room,” she said, addressing the white marchers. “It is your responsibility to speak up when something (racist) happens.”

Stephen Poloni, the public safety director for Grosse Pointe Park and Grosse Pointe City, was on hand for the protest, as were several officers from the Detroit Police Department. Poloni said the killing of Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer May 25 is not reflective of the type of policing done in the Pointes. Video footage shows police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, for which Chauvin is now facing murder charges.

“Obviously, we support everybody’s right to protest,” Poloni said. “We were all appalled by what we saw on the video. We’re glad that (the protesters) are here. This is how you make change — by peaceful protest.”

Douglas said mayors and public safety directors from the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods have formed a committee to hold police accountable.

“We’re going to keep that dialogue open,” Douglas said. “This is something that we want to continue. They have been very supportive.”

For the young organizers of the march, the message is simple but still so hard to achieve.

“If you’re nice to everybody, why wouldn’t that benefit everybody?” Webb asked.

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