Detroit residents, civil rights groups and local, state and national leaders attend the NAACP's Freedom Walk event commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Walk to Freedom in Detroit. (Photo by J. Gabriel Ware)

Barbrie Logan lost her Detroit home to foreclosure in 2007 and has been apartment hopping ever since.

The 68-year-old contends she was a victim of overtaxation, it ruined her credit and she’s never gotten over the loss of the home she raised her for children in and had owned for two decades.

“I have 10 grandchildren, and I can’t bring them to my apartment,” Logan told BridgeDetroit after marching downtown Saturday to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Walk to Freedom. “I don’t have enough room. I don’t have a backyard.” 

Barbrie Logan attended Saturday’s march downtown to commemorate the 60th anniversary of when Martin Luther King Jr. gave an early version of his “I Have A Dream” speech. Logan said she’s made it her mission to fight for fair housing. (Photo by J. Gabriel Ware)

Fair housing was among the causes that brought Logan out to the walk organized by Detroit’s branch of the NAACP in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s original “I Have a Dream” speech, which he delivered in Detroit on June 23, 1963 – just two months before he delivered its more famous version during the March on Washington. 

Logan, who worked 21 years for the Detroit Police Department, pointed to a 2020 investigation by The Detroit News that found the city overtaxed homeowners by at least $600 million between 2010 and 2016. She argues that residents, including herself, were overtaxed even further back, too. 

Hundreds of people made the 1.6-mile trek over the weekend from Woodward Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Hart Plaza, where the Detroit NAACP unveiled a statue honoring Dr. King the day before.

Marshalle Favors, a movie producer who works with New Detroit, a racial justice organization, marched alongside her 12-year-old daughter Riley. Before Saturday, Riley hadn’t known about Detroit’s connection to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. 

“It’s important to have our youth understand the significance of their history,” Favors said. “And how it’s important for them to know about the rights people before them have fought for and the rights that we have to continue to fight for.”

As a mother, Favors said one of the key issues today is the movement to erase African American History from the classrooms. According to Adweek, since 2021, at least 44 states – including Michigan – have introduced bills or taken other steps to restrict teaching racism in schools since 2021.

Marshelle Favors and her daughter, Riley, attended the Detroit branch NAACP walk on Saturday June 24, 2023. (Photo by J. Gabriel Ware)

“Outside of school, we can still educate our children in the household, but it’s important … for them to have that history taught in their formal education,” Favors said. 

Last year, Democrats in the Michigan Senate introduced a series of bills that would require public schools to teach students about the cultures of people of color and indigenous communities. Favors said that is the type of legislation needed to continue Dr. King’s fight. Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, told BridgeDetroit that the bills, SB797-800, are being reworked to be introduced in the fall.

Logan carried a sign Saturday that read “Reparations, Equity, Inclusion For Black Americans Also!!” For Logan, those words have become a life mission.

In February, she was the only one out of the nine-member Neighborhood Advisory Council to reject District Detroit’s community benefits agreement called for under a city ordinance that requires developers seeking tax breaks for large-scale projects to work with neighbors to negotiate benefits, like hiring and job guarantees, and to reconcile potential negative effects projects could have on the community.  

Logan said Detroiters are being priced out and pushed out of their homes to make way for new development. 

“I appreciate development but not at the cost of exclusion,” Logan said. “This walk has made me angry and more determined to do something about it,” she said. 

During a rally at Hart Plaza after the walk, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan gave a speech to the crowd, addressing concerns like those voiced by Logan. The mayor touted the city’s efforts to secure affordable housing and made a commitment to ensure that Black Detroiters won’t be pushed out of their homes like they were in the Black Bottom and Paradise Valley neighborhoods during I-375’s construction in the 1950s and 60s.

“When you look at the image of Dr. King, you realize we had a window there in 1963. We had a window we could have stepped in and that failure weighs on me every single day,” the mayor said. 

“And so, what I tell you is this, we go to work every day thinking we have to find ways for our police department to be part of the community, to be of the community so there is a bond there. We go to work every day so that as the property values are rising we need to make sure that nobody gets pushed out of this city,” he said. “We are going to keep expanding affordable housing … We’re going to keep pushing so that we can pull the plywood down from the vacant storefronts across the city and fill them with the Black and brown businesses from the talent of this community, and we are going to take down the abandoned houses and rebuild these parks so we can turn this city from blight to beauty.” 

After many starts and stops, marchers finished the normally 33-minute walk Saturday in about an hour-and-a-half.

Heaster Wheeler motivated and monitored the crowd during the Freedom Walk in Detroit on Saturday, June 24, 2023. (Photo by J. Gabriel Ware)

Heaster Wheeler, who formerly headed the NAACP’s Detroit chapter, worked up a sweat Saturday keeping the media at least 15-feet back from the banner carried by the first line of marchers, which included Duggan, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson. 

Wheeler also had the challenge of controlling the sidewalk walkers who frequently ventured into the streets, blocking the marching path. He did all this while leading the crowd in call-and-response chants; “Show me what democracy looks like,” he shouted through the bullhorn. “This is what Democracy looks like,” the walkers shouted back at him. 

“People want to be a part of these experiences,” Wheeler told BridgeDetroit. “What you saw was a sea of humanity.”

For Wheeler, the walk wasn’t just about commemorating Dr. King’s speech; it was also about the fight that’s still ahead. 

“It’s a reminder about fair housing and voting rights, the attack on African American history, and police brutality,” he said. “We still have a lot of work to do. Unfortunately, freedom isn’t free; we got to fight for it.”

One of the strongest, more vocal participants of the march was Detroit NAACP intern, Leeia Jackson. 

“It was an honor and a blessing to create and live within the history we created (Saturday) to honor the legacy that came before us,” Jackson said. 

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