PHOTOS | Man who ‘had to do something’ completes 1,000-mile mission

His silent protest against police violence ended Sunday in Mpls

Powered by righteous indignation and a trusty walking stick, Terry Willis embarked June 2 on a 1,000-mile walk from Alabama to Minnesota in silent protest against the recent police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other victims of police violence.

Willis completed his historic walk on July 12, capping off the month-long trek with remarks at 38th & Chicago Ave. in South Minneapolis, the site where Floyd breathed his last under the knee of a former MPD police officer.

A 35-year-old Black father and Alabama business owner, Willis heeded the call to action after being stricken by the needless loss of Black life he was seeing in the news. “It 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,” Willis said.

He began his journey at the Fade Factory Barbershop in Huntsville, Alabama, making a point to honor victims of police violence in various states. Supporters followed him every step of the way online via social media and in-person. Willis arrived in Minneapolis on Saturday, July 11 and held a public meet-and-greet—while also getting trimmed up—at Clientele Barber Shop on the North Side.

On Sunday, July 12, Willis concluded his venture walking with 500-600 supporters the final seven-mile stretch from the Mall of America in Bloomington to Floyd’s memorial in South Minneapolis. With the aid of two men flanking each side, Willis arrived at his destination late afternoon.

It was both a jubilant scene and an emotional one. Willis addressed his supporters and also led them in a moment of silence to honor Floyd. At one point, the inspiring sounds of the late Nipsey Hussle rang through the speakers, much to the delight of the crowd. Willis was also presented with a “Terry Willis Day” proclamation signed by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.

Willis said he was overwhelmed by the support. “I’m no celebrity,” he said to the crowd. “I’m no superhero; I’m just a regular man who’s seen a man get murdered, and I had to do something.”

Next, Willis will continue the marathon for social justice as he sets his sights on establishing a nonprofit called The Dal House. According to the “1000 Mile March for Change, Justice, and Equality” GoFundMe page, the aim of the initiative will be to empower juvenile delinquents and people with a criminal history with “a trade that will subsequently allow them to open their own businesses and employ others.” So far the effort has raised more than $42K.

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