GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It was an emotional morning in downtown Grand Rapids following the night of the May 30, 2020 riot, hundreds of people from all walks of life came together to clean up the city the next day.
The people who were there say it taught them more lessons than one.
“People of different races, backgrounds, ages, ethnicities, it was powerful,” said Graci Harkema.
“It just felt good to go clean up with the people who didn’t deserve that,” said Brandice McGahan.
“We had a hard time at first finding a spot to actually help because there were so many people down here,” said Tracy Bandlow.
Three people, three different ages, three different stories, but with one unified goal: to help those in need.
“It’s one thing to watch it happen, watch all this good go on in front of you, but it’s a whole other feeling to be a part of it,” said McGahan.
Harkema says she wanted to send a message that morning.
“I wanted to help support the community and also to ensure that people knew that the people who were protesting for justice and for accountability with George Floyd’s murder weren’t the same ones that were vandalizing our city,” said Harkema.
Bandlow wanted her kids to learn a lesson.
“We really felt that it was a good teaching moment for them, to show them that when something bad happens in life, you can actually go out and do something good for what has already happened,” said Bandlow.
As far as if things have improved in the city when it comes to racial tensions, McGahan says there’s more work to do.
“I think the Chauvin trial really helped start the easing of the tensions, but I think there’s still a lot more that needs to be done,” said McGahan.
“That’s the type of work that we need in order for us to work together to achieve equality and for us to achieve change and progress in this community,” said Harkema.
These women hope that people remember how they felt that morning. They say it’s much better to work together than fall apart.
“You need to step up and be there and help everyone out around you,” said Bandlow.
“It’s all our responsibility to step up in order for us to achieve equity and equality. We need to start seeing people and valuing people for who they are, the identities that they have, the background that they have, and the journeys that they’ve lived,” said Harkema.