South Holland community marches in “Unity Walk”

About 150 join in “time of lamenting and reflection” based on Micah 6 verse 8

By Josh Bootsma

SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (June 30, 2020) – Roughly 150 people gathered at First Reformed Church in South Holland on Friday to participate in a “Unity Walk”—a demonstration focused on lament and mourning in light of recent racial unrest across the country.

The event, which was organized by the Village and the South Holland Ministerial Association, used Bible verse Micah 6:8 as the theme for the event: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Signs with the phrases “Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly” were handed out to demonstrators.

Signs with “Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly” were handed out to demonstrators. The phrase is taken from Bible verse Micah 6:8. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Marching humbly

To follow CDC guidelines, the crowd was split up into six groups in the parking lot of First Reformed Church, each group with less than 50 people. Many of the marchers had umbrellas or rain jackets on hand as the skies and gusty winds threatened rain. South Holland’s Village Police Chaplain Carl King gave the opening remarks and prayer.

Socially-distant demonstrators listen to Carl King, South Holland Police Chaplain, before stepping off. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

“When there is a blatant disregard for the preciousness of all life and respect for one another, we lament,” King said. “It is insanity to believe that there would not be a reckoning day someday, one day, today. It was arrogance to think that sin would be ignored or given a pass, or nod, or wink forever.”

Traffic on 162nd St. is halted as demonstrators march south on South Park Ave. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

The six groups then began marching in order south on South Park Avenue, crossing 162nd Street and regathering at Calvary Community Church. South Holland’s Police and Fire Departments helped block roads along the route. Calvary’s pastor, Alfonzo Surrett, spoke to the crowd and prayed before the group marched back north.

The halfway-point of the march was Calvary Community Church, where pastor Alfonzo Surrett asked the crowd to raise its hands in prayer. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Shouts of “No justice, no peace” and other chants were taken up by some of the marchers.

Impassioned leaders speak boldly

Once the demonstrators arrived back at First Reformed Church, having completed a circuit of nearly a mile-and-a-half, community and church leaders took to the portable stage that had been set up and addressed the crowd.

The first speaker was Pastor Phil Tarver, who prayed and introduced South Holland Mayor Don De Graff, who denounced racism and underlined South Holland’s commitment to unity.

De Graff said, “Our South Holland Unity Walk today is something very special and appropriately named. We are unified in our philosophy, we are unified in our approach, we are unified in our practice to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.”

He continued, “My fellow South Hollanders, take this to heart: we must—and we will—continue to set an example to be the beacon of light that shows the way. We will not tolerate and we will not turn a blind eye to racism or exclusion in any form because we understand and we defend the sacredness of human life for people of all tongues, of all ages, of all ethnicities, and all races that God has created in his own image.”

South Holland Mayor Don De Graff recommits to fighting racism in all its forms in South Holland. He is flanked by John Purnell and Rev. Carmin Frederick-James, who also spoke. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Rev. Carmin Frederick-James spoke next and told the crowd to ask the people next to them, “Are you a thug?” She referenced the popular 2017 book and 2018 movie The Hate You Give, which is a fictional story about a black teenager who witnesses a white police officer shoot her friend. Frederick-James mentioned that the book takes its name from a longer phrase popularized by the late rapper Tupac Shakur: “The hate you give little infants forgets everyone.” The phrase is an acrostic for “Thug Life” and the original contains an expletive. Frederick-James challenged the crowd to change the phrase to, “The hope you give little infants fuels everyone” and said, “I’ll ask the question again: will you be a thug and give our children hope so that they might act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God?”

John Purnell spoke next, youth pastor at Abounding Life Church of God in Christ. He said, “I’m here to ask you to act. I don’t want you to leave here and be satisfied. I don’t want you to hurt yourself patting yourself on the back.”

He continued, “I don’t want to have any more nights of lamentation. I’m raising three teenage black boys. Three young men. And I don’t want to have another walk because something happened to one of them…I need you to act like my three little boys are your three little boys. I want you to hear the hurt and the pain from so many parents who have lost so many little boys and little girls and I want you to make the decision in your heart that you’re not going to let it happen again—that it will not be your silence or your inaction that causes the death of another young person.”

Final prayer and moment of silence

First Reformed Church pastors Jim Oord and Corey Buchanan then prayed. Oord started the prayer saying, “We thank you God, that when you became flesh and walked among us, the flesh you took on was the flesh of a Middle Eastern person of color who ended up lynched by the imperialistic, oppressive forces of Rome and their militarized police. So we don’t have to sit here and ask what side you’re on.”

After the prayer finished and before the gathering dispersed, the crowd participated in eight minutes and forty-six seconds of silence, the length of time George Floyd was held under Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee.

Tables were set up in tents in the parking lot for demonstrators to register to vote, learn about the 2020 Census, and access other educational materials.

First Reformed Church is located at 15924 South Park Ave, South Holland.

Calvary Community Church is located at 16341 South Park Ave, South Holland.

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1 thought on “South Holland community marches in “Unity Walk””

  1. This event touches my heart. No Black Lives Matter. Only prayer for unity. This is how it should be. People who share a community coming together in unity to pray & work to do their part in healing this broken world. No outside interference. It’s wonderful! God bless your endeavors.

    Reply

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