The Detroit Branch NAACP will commemorate the 60th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Walk to Freedom at the June Jubilee, a series of events starting next week. Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, Detroit Branch NAACP president, announced local and national leaders who will receive awards for their work advancing civil rights. (Nushrat Rahman)

The Detroit Branch NAACP’s June Jubilee kicks off next week.

This story also appeared in Detroit Free Press

The series of back-to-back events, from June 22 to 25, honors the 60th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Detroit Walk to Freedom and the continued fight for justice and equality. Detroit NAACP leaders on Tuesday announced awardees who will be recognized for their work advancing civil rights locally and nationally. The June Jubilee features a commemorative walk down Woodward Avenue, the unveiling of a statue of King at Hart Plaza and the NAACP’s annual Fight for Freedom Fund dinner.

All are welcome and upcoming events are a reminder of King’s message, said Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, Detroit Branch NAACP president at a Tuesday news conference.

“We’re reminded of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to lift our nations from the quicksand of racial injustice, to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now’s the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. Now’s the time for us to re-energize our people and to refocus our efforts on the work that is still yet to be done.’ Detroit will be the scene to remind the nation of the need to maintain our vigilance and commitment to freedom, justice and equity,” Anthony said.

Seven local and national leaders will be recognized “based on service that has been done and work that has yet to be done,” Anthony said. Awardees are expected to be honored during the week’s commemorative events. They include:

  • Erin Keith, a staff attorney at the Detroit Justice Center (Great Expectation Award)
  • Kenneth Nixon, president of the Organization of Exonerees (Great Expectation Award)
  • State Sen. Stephanie Chang (Mary Church Terrell Freedom and Justice Award)
  • Michigan Supreme Court Justice Kyra Harris Bolden (Ida B. Wells Freedom and Justice Award)
  • Rapper and beatboxer Doug E. Fresh
  • Former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young (James Weldon Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award)
  • U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock (President’s Speaker Award)

“This is a lineup of awardees to remember,” Anthony said. “Each one has established a pathway that leaves impact, sets a direction for others to follow and is indeed worthy of our sincere recognition.”

The Walk to Freedom took place on June 23, 1963 to decry segregation and inequalities around wages, education and housing, according to Wayne State University’s Walter P. Reuther Library. Community activists, labor organizers, clergymen and government officials participated. It was in Detroit where King delivered a version of his famous “I Have A Dream” speech, just a few months before the historic March on Washington.

“Detroit is forever a part of the evolution of the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. We were a part of making that history which children now recite as they look for an America that is fair and equitable,” Rochelle Riley, a former Free Press columnist and director of arts and culture for the City of Detroit, said at the news conference.

Here’s what to expect at the June Jubilee:

  • Freedom Walk Summit: The summit will feature discussions on a range of issues including civil rights and voting rights. Author and entertainer Ayanna Gregory, Prof. Kimberlé Crehnshaw and Michael Eric Dyson are among the summit’s guest presenters. 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thurs., June 22, Wayne County Community College District Northwest Campus. Register at
  • Unveiling of a statue of King: 10 a.m. Friday, June 23, Hart Plaza
  • 60th Commemorative Freedom Walk and Rally: The roughly 1.7 mile walk will begin 10 a.m at Woodward Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and a rally is scheduled for noon at Hart Plaza. Sat., June 24. Register at
  • 68th Annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner: Warnock will be the keynote speaker. 5 p.m. Sun., June 25, Huntington Place. Purchase tickets at

Anthony encouraged those who marched in 1963, or other commemorative walks, to attend and upload pictures from then online. The Detroit Branch NAACP is also seeking hundreds of volunteers. For more information, go to

Nushrat Rahman covers issues related to economic mobility for the Detroit Free Press and BridgeDetroit as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

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