Flint, MI–As the streets were pelted with pouring rain and rushing wind, around 100 people marched down DuPont Street holding signs with pictures of loved ones who died from violence.

Neighbors waved, greeted, and prayed with the attendees of the 20th annual Unity March June 26 as they marched and handed out flyers.

The Unity March, created by WOW outreach, local churches and more than 30 other community organizations, was created for Flint residents to honor loved ones lost to violence, people grieving about their loved ones lost to violence, as well as perpetrators of violence.

“’It’s not just about those who’ve been affected (by violence) but those who are doing it, because people don’t really realize the effect that it has on the family members,” Omar Young, vice president of WOW Outreach, said. “If someone goes to jail, we pray for those who did the harm. But on the same note, those family members because they have to live and go through the pain as well. That’s the reason why we do this: just to make sure that everyone knows that we’re here for them, on both sides.”

The march lasted approximately two hours, with pauses along the route for speakers and performers. It started at Church Without Walls on Dupont Street and proceeded to Upper Room Missionary Baptist Church on Saginaw Street before looping back.

Kenyetta Dotson, 50, of Flint, delivers a speech at the 20th Annual Unity March on June 26, 2021. Dotson is one of the lead organizers of the event. (Khue Tran | Flint Beat)

Kenyetta Dotson is the founder of WOW Outreach and one of the lead organizers of the Annual Unity March. She credits her brother, Martez Warren, former pastor of Church Without Walls, as one of the visionaries of the events who “passed the baton” of planning the event to her 20 years ago.

At the time the event was initially created, Dotson remembers putting out a call to action to the Flint community to draw attention to the violence happening in the city because “there was so much silence.”

Eric Mays, Councilman of Flint’s first ward kneels and bows his head in prayer as he holds the hand of another attendee praying at the 20th Annual Unity March on June 26, 2021. (Khue Tran | Flint Beat)
A resident greets members of the Unity March with her children peeking behind her. (Khue Tran | Flint Beat)

During the march, attendees and organizers rushed to houses to pass flyers about the event, greet their neighbors, or take a moment to pray with them.  

“I just think there’s too many people who are out there hurting in the world who are right outside our window, right next door to our home, and we let the opportunity pass us by,” Dotson said. “I think we have to love the hell out of people and I think sometimes we’re too afraid to do that.”

Pastor Alvin Bradford, of Flint, bows his heads in prayer, calling for attendees of the 20th Annual Unity March on June 26, 2021, to touch the person next to them for a group prayer. (Khue Tran | Flint Beat)
“It’s crazy how people know our strength just based on our location,” Kameron Motley, 17, of Flint, reads aloud his original poem titled, “I Am Flint.” Motley was presented with an outstanding youth award at this event by Mayor Neeley, in recognition of the work he has done with WOW Outreach. (Khue Tran | Flint Beat)

WOW Outreach has several community programs, including one for “youth ambassadors,” which provides mentorship and support for participants 13-21 years old aimed at helping them achieve more academically and not fall into violent behavior.

“We want the community to know that we’re here. We do have resources,” Young said. “We can get you to the right people if you need help. … We have social workers on board, we have counselors on board, we have mental health on board. If somebody is grieving, we have someone here to pray for them. So we’re here for them. One hundred percent committed.”

At the 20th Annual Unity March on June 26, 2021 around 1:30 p.m., participants walked in the pouring rain for the final stretch of the march along DuPont St. (Khue Tran | Flint Beat)

Khue Tran (she/her) is a journalist hailing from Pflugerville, TX. She is currently a student at Yale University and has written for multiple publications on campus, in addition to having words in the...

2 replies on “Unity March embraces ‘both sides’ of victims of violence”

  1. You’re an incredible journalist and your professional mannerisms are greatly appreciated Ms. Tran. It sas an honor walking along side of an amazing person such as yourself. I recommend all who can read every article of publication you write and attend every activity assigned to you if possible. Thank you for all you do. You’re helping us make a difference in all communities. Keep going. There’s greatness in you.

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