Third Annual Unity March: This Is What Unity Looks Like
By Brian Dolinar
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, October 7, 2006, a colorful crowd of nearly 200 participants joined in the Third Annual Unity March. This year, we took the Unity March to the community. We went into the Garden Hills neighborhood, ground zero for the effects of racism and poverty in Champaign.
The march started at Bradley and Prospect. From there we walked west to McKinley and north passing through the Dorsey apartments, where there are many individuals who receive Section 8 vouchers. These are the people that certain members the Champaign City Council would like to keep segregated. Champaign City Council member Ken Pirok recently attempted to repeal a city ordinance passed in March to prohibit landlords from discriminating against Section 8 recipients. This pro-discrimination policy was also supported by Vic McIntosh, the City Council representative from this neighborhood.
The march also went past the cites of several tragedies that have struck this embattled community in the last year. The first was the block of Honeysuckle where police called out the S.W.A.T. team and an armored truck to deal with Carl “Dennis” Stewart, a suicidal black man with a gun. Pushed into a corner by police, Stewart allegedly put the gun to his head and killed himself.
Next we walked down Hedge Road past the home of Quentin Larry who died over Memorial Day weekend in the Champaign County jail. Larry was one of five deaths that have occurred in the jail in the last two years. His mother came out to greet the crowd and there was a moment of silence for her son.
Moving down Hedge Road, marchers chanted “This is what community looks like.” We walked past a burned and boarded up house at 1313 Hedge Road. On September 25, a 3 year-old boy named Demetrius Lenard, Jr. died in the fire. In a News-Gazette article, writer Mary Schenk was more concerned about the property damage and blamed the mother for her son’s loss, emphasizing there should have been an escape plan. Unity marchers again bowed their heads in a moment of silence and Carol Ammons placed a wreath of flowers in front of the home.
The march ended in Thompson Park with a rally. Several politicians were in attendance and a voter registration table was set up. Members of the community who had joined in the march sat on the grass with their children or stood under trees for shade.
Once again, the Unity March was a sign that people prefer community and togetherness over war and destruction.