Woman raised in the segregated South reflects on Dr. King's impact at Southfield Peace Walk

Posted at 4:38 PM, Jan 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-20 17:18:57-05

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) — Today, many folks are celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Events have been taking place all over a metro Detroit.

That includes the 35th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Walk in Southfield. This year’s theme is Community in Action. Southfield was the first city in Michigan to host an annual peace walk on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Moday’s event started at the Hope United Methodist Church and ended a mile away at the Southfield Pavilion. Braving the cold, ice and snow, some walked quietly – others chanted a message.

After walking a mile to the Southfield Pavillion, thousands gathered to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Tommie Wise stands patriotically but grew up in an America that’s different than today.

“We had to sneak to go to the playground," Wise said. "We couldn’t go to the library – the public library in my town.”

Wise lived in the segregated south during the start of King’s civil rights fight.

“(I) didn’t really know him that well at the time,” she said.

When she was 18 years old, her father took her to an event to meet Martin Luther King Jr.

“Well it’s something I will never forget and I’m always telling my grandchildren about it,” Wise said. “My youngest grandson said ‘really?’ I said, ‘yes, I really met him.'"

When Tommie takes her family to Estill, South Carolina, she always points out the library she wasn’t allowed to go to.

“They said, ‘we’ll buy the library for you,’” Wise said.

She attended Monday’s event in Southfield to remind her family the important impact made by Dr. King. The event is even attended by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“Today is not just a day off," Whitmer said. "Today is a day to serve communities and to recognize the great legacy of Dr. King."

For 75-year-old Wise, MLK Day is full of promise for a better future.

"We still have to fight," she said. "Everything is still very hard and a lot of people don’t believe we have it hard, but we still have a long ways to go. I don’t know if I will live to see all of the changes but it’s much different than it was when I was a child.”