Terry Willis' journey will take him more than two weeks, and he says he's doing it to fight for a better future for his young son

By Rachel DeSantis
June 04, 2020 04:40 PM
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An Alabama man is going the extra mile – plus 999 more — when it comes to making his voice heard in the fight against racial injustice.

Terry Willis of Huntsville is walking 1,000 miles to Minneapolis, where he’ll end his journey at the spot where George Floyd died while in police custody on May 25.

“When I first thought about it, I dismissed it almost immediately,” he told CBS affiliate WTVF. “But then I kept thinking more, what can I do that’s so extreme that it will make you listen?”

Willis set off on his journey on Tuesday, and has been live-streaming the trek on Facebook Live for anyone who wants to follow along over the next two-plus weeks.

The business owner said it’s his 7-year-old son that inspired the mission, and the reason why he keeps pushing forward.

“As a black father who [is] raising a black son, I feel I am obligated to do my part in making a change and better future for my son,” Willis wrote on Facebook. “MARCH FOR CHANGE, JUSTICE AND EQUALITY. My voice will be heard.”

By Wednesday, he’d made it to Nashville, Tennessee with the WTVF crew accompanying him as he stopped for selfies with people and talked with others who asked for hugs or honked their car horns in solidarity.

“I think a lot of people are just fed up,” he told CBS affiliate WHNT. “Because they’re like, alright, enough is enough. You just murdered [Floyd] in front of the whole world, on camera. That can’t happen and that’s why I am marching 1,000 miles – for change, justice and equality.”

Willis — who is being followed by a pace car — told the outlet that he hasn’t given himself a time constraint, and will make sure to take water breaks when he gets tired.

He’s also raised nearly $7,000 on GoFundMe to put toward supporting his family, as he’s had to close his business during the march.

“I just would really love for us African Americans — they call us black people, colored people, whatever — just for us to be seen as equals," he told WHNT. "That’s it.”

Willis' peaceful protest is one of hundreds that have taken place across the United States in the last week following the death of Floyd, who was killed after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes.

The incident was caught on camera and went viral, and the officer involved, Derek Chauvin, has since been charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers on the scene were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. None of the accused has entered a formal plea, and attorneys who might represent them have not come forward.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

• Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.

ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.

• National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.