A man who walked more than 1,000 miles from his home in Huntsville, Alabama, to the place where George Floyd died in Minneapolis said he did so for his son’s sake and to protest injustice.
Terry Willis, a 35-year-old business owner, reached Minnesota earlier this week after he began walking on June 2. “For the last couple days I have been mentally preparing myself for this journey,” Willis wrote in a Facebook post before he began his trip. “As a black father who [is] raising a black son, I feel like I am obligated to do my part in making a change and better future for my son. I see what’s going on and I understand why people are mad.”
Appealing to Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1965 march in Selma, Alabama, Willis said he would walk “from Alabama to Minnesota for our right to be seen as equals.” Before setting off, he told local CBS affiliate WTVF, “When I first thought about it, I dismissed it almost immediately. But then I kept thinking more, what can I do that’s so extreme that it will make you listen?”
Willis described what he was doing as a “MARCH FOR CHANGE, JUSTICE AND EQUALITY.”
Good afternoon my FB friends and family. For the last couple days I have been mentally preparing myself for this…
Beginning at Fade Factory Barber Shop in Huntsville, Willis walked for more than a month. Throughout his trek, he posted updates on his Facebook page, which has more than 40,000 followers as of Wednesday.
Stopping along the way at Floyd’s grave in Houston, Willis also detoured to pay homage to Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Laquan McDonald in Chicago.
Willis told NPR that the recent deaths of Floyd, Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery “made me feel a plethora of mixed emotions: angry, frustrated, confused, sad. This could’ve been me, my family or friends. I knew I had to do something.” He was accompanied by a pace car and took breaks as needed.
When he reached the site on Sunday where Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police, he was overcome with emotion and delivered a speech to those who showed up to support him. “I just walked, that’s all I did,” he said. “I’m no celebrity, I’m no superhero, I’m just a regular man who’s seen a man get murdered, and I had to do something.”
Willis left his shoes at the site to commemorate Floyd as well as his own journey.
Terry Willis gets ready to march outside the Mall of America. He’s walking to the George Floyd memorial today on the last leg of his journey from Huntsville, Alabama. @MPRnews #onassignment pic.twitter.com/VBHc9GInTl
— Ben Hovland (@benjovland) July 12, 2020
Together with his brother, Willis started a GoFundMe with the intention of establishing The Dal House, a nonprofit that is “focused solely on teaching individuals with a criminal history and juvenile delinquents a trade from barbering to carpentry,” according to its page. The nonprofit will be “committed to ensuring that people that society gave up on are given an equal opportunity to turn their lives around by learning a trade.”
The fund has raised more than $43,000 of its $50,000 goal, as of Wednesday.
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