Introducing the 2016 Freedom Tour

Over twenty years ago, MCHR organized four historic Freedom Tours for metro-Detroit high school students. We are proud to announce that it is happening again!

We will be traveling from June 19 to June 29 2016 to visit historical sites in the civil rights struggle and meet with people who lived, made, and are still making, history.

The Freedom Tour will be an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the civil rights movement; to learn the history, to study and embody nonviolence, to build community and to engage the learning back here in Michigan.

It is the goal of MCHR to reach out to youth in the local community as we build up to this Tour. We will be hosting town hall meetings in the tri-counties- one in Detroit, one in Warren, and one in Pontiac- to engage youth with local activist artists. At these three events we will introduce the youth to the Freedom Tour and to MCHR. It is our ultimate goal to began to build a local grassroots youth movement in these communities, recruit youth to go on the Freedom Tour, and get input from youth to help steer the outcomes and aftermath of this Freedom Tour. More info on these three town hall events will be posted in the near future.

Our tentative itinerary for the 2016 Freedom Tour is as follows:

The first two days of the trip we will be in Georgia. Our bus will travel first to Atlanta for a one-day core study of Kingian nonviolence at the King Center. We will also visit the Welcome Center and the Historic Black College Education Center. The following day, we will visit MLK’s birth home and neighborhood, and the Ebenezer Church and bookstore.

The bus will then depart for Alabama. In Montgomery, we will visit the Rosa Parks Center, the Southern Poverty Law Center Wall of Tolerance, Dexter Ave. Church, the MLK Parsonage, and the Freedom Ride Museum.

The next day, we will visit Lowndes County, where we will go to the Liuzzo Memorial, the Interpretive Center, and the Freedom House Jail. That same day we will visit the Voting Rights Museum, the Park Memorial, and the Slavery Museum. We will go on a Neighborhood Walk and cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The tour will then visit the Interpretive Center.

The next day, we will arrive in Mississippi and visit Meridian and Philadelphia. We will also visit a Choctaw Native-American reservation. The following day we will depart for Jackson, where we will see Tougaloo College, the Arab Museum, and the Medgar Evers House.

Following that, we will depart for Tennessee where we will arrive in Memphis. In Memphis, we will see the Museum/Lorraine Hotel, the Mason Temple, and the Beale Street music area. We’ll spend the following two days in Henning, at Alex Haley’s birth home.

The following day, we will arrive home in Detroit.

Download student and mentor applications:

Download the 2016 Student Application.

Student applications are due on January 11 and can be mailed to MCHR (9200 Gratiot, Detroit, MI 48213).

Download the 2016 Mentor Application.

Mentor applications are due on December 30 and can also be mailed to MCHR.

If you have any questions, call 313-579-9071 or email

Support the Trip

Support the trip by making a donation to MCHR. It will cost MCHR at least $1,500 per student and we are committed to making it affordable for all students who want to participate.

Can your church, school, or neighborhood association support one student on this trip? Sponsoring a youth is a great way to invest in that youth’s future, plant the seeds of peaceful revolution, and give back to your community.

Download the 2016 Freedom Tour sponsor form

You can write checks to MCHR, designating them to the Freedom Tour in the memo line, and mail them to 9200 Gratiot, Detroit MI, 48213 or call 313-579-9071 for more information.

You can also donate online, through MCHR’s Paypal! Just include Freedom Tour in the description.

We are so excited to embark on this life-changing journey with all of you!

New Video Tells the Story of MCHR

“Bending the Arc” tells the story of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights. Through interviews with MCHR’s founders and leaders, this short film traces its history from its founding in 1980 by three Detroit clergy wanting to provide alternative views to the religious right and respond to growing divisive elements in religion and politics — to its current involvement to establish water rights for low-income Detroit citizens and sponsorship of Freedom Tours providing young adults the opportunity to travel and better understand the history of our country’s civil rights struggle. “Bending the Arc” was produced by John Hammond and Frank Joyce.

MCHR 2013 Freedom Tour remembered in Free Press article

This article, by Eric D. Lawrence, was originally published in the Detroit Free Press.

Trip to Selma connected local students to civil rights

When she walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., with a group of students from Michigan a year and a half ago, Chrisdiona Williams was just learning about some of the key moments in America’s civil rights struggle.

As the site of Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965, when police beat back 600 marchers seeking voting rights, the bridge qualifies as a major landmark. The attention generated by the media coverage at the time, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call for clergy to come to the area, and two subsequent marches that month, were instrumental in what led to the signing of the anti-discriminatory Voting Rights Act of 1965.

That connection hit home for Williams, 18, as she traveled in the footsteps of civil rights pioneers.

“The bridge was so big that I couldn’t imagine all that violence happening on that one bridge. I was picturing in my head bodies and the police officers on horses beating people who were trying to make a movement,” she said of the attempt to march to the state capitol in Montgomery. “It saddened me how violent it was during the Civil Rights movement.”

Today across the nation, including in metro Detroit, thousands will celebrate King’s legacy on what is now recognized as a federal holiday. King was born on Jan. 15, 1929. Marches, services and acts of volunteerism are planned throughout the region.

For many, the recently released film “Selma” is a history lesson they never learned or serves as a refresher course. For Williams, of Detroit, and the other students who took part in the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights Freedom Tour in June 2013, it’s putting on a big screen what they saw up close.

They visited the King Center in Atlanta for training in non-violent activism, marched across the bridge and even met Amelia Boynton, a now-103-year-old civil rights pioneer who was beaten nearly to death on Bloody Sunday. She is portrayed in the movie “Selma” by actress Lorraine Toussaint.

For Anderson Tilson, an 18-year old film student at Wayne State University, the entire trip was eye-opening, but certain spots held a special power.

“As we were crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I could almost feel something stirring inside of me. You could feel a vibration almost. … It’s surreal to have been in a place where so many indescribable acts happened,” Tilson said, noting that he was spurred to read and learn more after his return to Detroit.

edmundpettus2013 Freedom Tour crosses the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Photo: Bob Ingalls

Those who were involved in the fight for civil rights in the 1960s and others who have been fighting for their own causes offered a similar assessment. Many of them now live in metro Detroit, but spent time in the South during the 1960s.

Thomas Hinsberg, 87, of Detroit, was one of the many white people who answered King’s call for clergy and others to travel to Alabama after Bloody Sunday. He said there was a real desire to follow King then because of who he was.

“The battles we were fighting back in the 60s are the same battles now,” he said. “There’s just still so little understanding on the part of whites because we’re in a different place. … Good white folks still don’t get it.”

Hinsberg participated in a march led by King only days after Bloody Sunday and said the scariest part was walking along the streets of Selma past a line of state police who stood in front of white residents who did not want them there.

“We could feel the hate… it’s very vivid in my mind,” he said. “I was scared, I was thinking something is going to happen to us and something could happen to us.”

One of Hinsberg’s friends, who was a nun in the Immaculate Heart of Mary community in Monroe and taught at St. Agnes in Detroit, also went to Alabama. Elizabeth Reiha, 86, of Bloomfield Hills, took part in the third march that month, one that brought thousands of people to Montgomery. She said it was noteworthy that so many people of different religions, races and ages were marching to make sure that all people have the same opportunities.

“There was a great deal of animosity,” Reiha noted of the anger visible from many of the white residents as they passed. “They were not happy that we were there.”

Jonnie Perryman Hamilton, 71, has lived in Detroit almost her entire life, but when she was a child she spent her summers with family in Tyler, Ala., southeast of Selma. By the time she was 12 in 1955, she already knew she did not want to go back.

Life in the South then was different for African-Americans than it was in Detroit.

“I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just go into the bathroom,” she said of the way the facilities were separated based on race.

But the biggest difference was having to give up her place in line for a white person at a store.

“I was used to waiting in line and when I’m next I’m next,” she said.

Being “a little rebellious” and not wanting to go along made things awkward for her family members, and they were told “you better teach these Northern children some manners.”

Segregation happened in Detroit, too, but it was more subtle, she noted.

Civil rights activist Dorothy Aldridge said it’s important for people to get involved in the fight for civil rights today, just as it was in the 1960s. Others agreed.

“Our struggle is ongoing. We have never stopped since the time of slavery, said Aldridge, 74, of Detroit, who was working on voter registration in Alabama for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1965.

“You’ve got to stir up civil disobedience,” said Helen Moore, 78, of Detroit.

Moore is on the board of directors of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma and has been at the forefront of the fight to return local control to Detroit Public Schools ever since the state imposed an emergency manager to operate the district. She sees parallels between the civil rights movement of the 1960s and issues like state control of the schools in urban districts, where she said money is being diverted away from public education into a corporate-driven system.

Many say that racism is still alive, even if it is expressed differently than it was in 1960s.

Cases such as the fatal shooting last year of black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., and the killing of another black man in New York by police unleashed waves of protests in Missouri and elsewhere last year and galvanized a new type of protest movement that incorporates other social issues such as Detroit water shutoffs last year.

Brandon Jessup, 33, chairman of Michigan Forward, a nonprofit, progressive think tank, said the end result of the Selma protests — the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — show what barriers can be overcome when people work together and stay focused.

But “the way in which we fight (now), it is very, very different,” Jessup said, referencing the way the many forms of media available now have influenced the more recent protests.

Al Williams, 34, membership director for the Michigan Democratic Party, said voting should not be overlooked as a force for change.

“I like to tell young people that are involved in the new civil rights movement now that you can’t discount the ballot box. Protesting is one thing, marching is one thing, but you’ve got to get out there and vote,” said Williams, who was in Selma in 2005 to commemorate Bloody Sunday.

Valeria Jean, and her daughter, Quiara Blakely, went on the trip with the human rights coalition in 2013.

“Everywhere we stopped we heard first-hand accounts of what it was like for people who were there,” said Jean, 39.

But she and others noted the coincidence of learning that at the same time they were visiting Selma, the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act, essentially allowing nine states — mostly in the South — to change their election laws regarding voter ID and early voting without advance federal approval. They said it exemplifies, along with the recent spate of fatal encounters between police and black men, the types of injustices that sparked the civil rights movement.

“Not a whole lot has changed,” Jean said. “The day we were marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the Freedom Tour, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, gutted it.”

Fall 2014 Film Series: Tuesdays beginning October 7th at 7 pm

Michigan Coalition for Human Rights and Peace Action MI presents:

Fall 2014 Film Series

Tuesdays beginning October 7th at 7 p.m.

St. John’s Episcopal Church, Royal Oak

Eleven Mile and Woodward

Lighted secure parking behind the church off 11Mile

Oct 7th- Water On the Table features Maude Barlow, international activist who crusades to make water a human right. It will be shown at 7 p.m., October 7, 2014 at St. John’s Episcopal Church. The church is located at 26998 Woodward Avenue (at 11 Mile), Royal Oak, Michigan 48067.

Access to water has become a critical issue for many Detroiters and others in the Metro area. It’s been a global concern for decades and the United Nations has proclaimed that access to water is a universal human right.

The film follows Barlow, who was in Detroit this summer protesting water shut-offs, for a year in her pursuit to protect water from privatization. It also offers opposing commentary from policy and economic experts who believe that water is a resource and a marketable commodity like any other.

Lila Cabbill of the People’s Water Board will moderate a discussion about water rights in Detroit after the film.

The presentation is open to the public and free of charge. Donations accepted.

Facilitator: Lila Cabill, People’s Water Board


Oct 14th- My Brooklyn asks who has the right to live in cities and who decides? As small businesses and the poor are driven out of developing neighborhoods (gentrification), who is making the decisions and doing the planning? A local facilitator will draw connections to current development in Midtown and Corktown sections of Detroit. Facilitator to be announced.


Oct 21st- Separate and Unequal shows how public schools are more segregated now than in 1968 then asks the question, does it matter? What part do charter schools play in segregated schools? How are Detroit schools faring under emergency manager? Facilitator will make local connections to this important issue in Detroit. Facilitator: Professor Thomas Pedroni, WSU Education


Oct 28th- Battle Zones We will show clips from the conflicts in both the Ukraine and Syria. Our facilitator will help us look at US foreign policy in those regions as well as in Gaza and Iraq. How has the Obama administration fared with its foreign policy? Will foreign policy play a part in the 2014 elections? Watch MCHR website for more details. Facilitator: Dr. Fred Pearson, director of Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, WSU

$5 donation accepted. For more info call the MCHR office at 313 579-9071 or go to,  or call the Peace Action office at 248 548-3920.