'Unity' unites, as supporters march through Muskegon Heights

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All photos by Jeanne Vollmer

by Cynthia Price

 

A diverse, high-spirited crowd of around 100 followed behind Rev. Eddie Sanders for an over-three-mile march through the streets of Muskegon Heights to “put the unity back in community.”

Last Saturday’s Unity March was not huge – threats of rain may have kept people away – but it was full of passion and goodwill. There were also many shows of support along the march route, including a large group of people handing out water for participants.


The three-year-old march was the brainstorm of Sanders, who wanted to bring people together and strengthen the pride in Muskegon Heights.


At Rowan Park, after a brief speech by Sanders himself, Muskegon Heights Mayor Kim Sims took the stage. “It is always a privilege and honor to work with Eddie Sanders, and I appreciate his wanting us to get out and move,” she said. “I want you to LOVE – Let Our Voices Encourage.”


She was followed by performer Kwame Kamau James, who sang a very personalized version of This Land Is Your Land, asking people to sing along with the chorus.


Kamau added another verse to those normally sung in the famous anthem by Woody Guthrie, calling it an “apocryphal verse.” The verse was, in fact, present in the first and many other versions of the song, though Kamau modified it slightly:


“In the square of a city, in the shadow of a steeple; Down by the welfare office [the original said Relief office], I see my people; And as they stood there hungry, I stand there wondering: Is this land really made for you and me?”


This was particularly poignant because Sanders had arranged to have a food-giveaway truck present, and it was busy.


There was also a prayer, and then people went to the streets and marched for a little over an hour.


Sanders and Cody Mulready had megaphones, and Mulready ran repeatedly the length of the march, pumping people up and encouraging them to keep walking.


There were also politicians in abundance, many of whom represented other districts so were not in it for the votes. Mayor Sims; Muskegon County Commissioner Bob Scolnik; Rob Davidson who is running for Congress representing Muskegon’s 2nd District; Collene Lamonte and Poppy Sias Hernandez, both running for state senator; and state representative candidate Andy O’Riley all attended.


Sanders told the encouraging story of a man who joined the march last year when it was in progress, who got a job from someone he met while marching, and was able to turn his life around.


Read Muskegon and Mercy Health screening were also there to help out the community.