by Beverly Church
Audrey Moffat was one of dozens of people who gathered at Nardin Park United Methodist Church on Sunday, June 21, to participate in the Joshua March, the final event in a three-day Juneteenth celebration sponsored by the First African Methodist Episcopal (FAME) Church of Farmington Hills and the Farmington/Farmington Hills and Metropolitan Detroit Areas Juneteenth Committee.
“I have a young grandson that I worry about all the time,” said Moffat. “Watching all the young Black people get hurt – it’s ridiculous. Everyone needs to come together and I thought, let me come out here and do something.”
Local faith and community leaders led the march from Nardin Park to Farmington Hills City Hall and back for a total of 1.6 miles, or 8,460 feet. The distance signifies the eight minutes and 46 seconds that a police officer’s knee was on George Floyd’s neck, resulting in the Minneapolis man’s death on May 25.
The walk closed out a three-day, virtual Juneteenth celebration that included speakers, panel discussions, and story-telling.
Rev. Dr. Patricia Coleman-Burns, pastor of FAME, explained that the name of the march refers to the Biblical story of Joshua, whom God called upon to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land. With God’s help, they were able to bring down the walls of Jericho.
“The metaphor is that the walls of racism should come down,” said Rev. Dr. Coleman-Burns. “That’s what we’re here for.”
No tolerance for injustice
At City Hall, Farmington Hills Police Chief Jeff King addressed the marchers.
“We will not tolerate inappropriate or unlawful application of justice in our city,” he said. “That is what we stand for. That is what I’ve committed my life and my career to doing.”
Rev. Dr. Coleman-Burns said she sees the walk as an opportunity for people to take action “to make sure this moment is not lost.”
“I have committed as pastor of FAME to work with those people who want to do more,” she said.
In addition, Rev. Dr. Coleman-Burns has called for the community to make commitments to next year’s Juneteenth. She noted that can include pledging to buy from black-owned businesses or helping to get out the vote.
“We all have to come together – it’s not us and them,” she said. “It’s about helping people understand who they are, what their contribution has been and can be, and not have to strip themselves of any identity to fit in. That’s why we’re such a beautiful community – because we have different gifts, we have different ways of lifting and uplifting the community.”
Correction: Sponsors for the Juneteenth celebration and Joshua Walk are First African Methodist Episcopal (FAME) Church of Farmington Hills and the Farmington/Farmington Hills and Metropolitan Detroit Areas Juneteenth Committee.