Sunday, May 17, 2015

Students from St. Clare of Montefalco march in the Unity Walk on Saturday, May 2.

Grosse Pointe and Detroit families unite to march against violence

By Dave Mesrey

Hundreds of Detroit and Grosse Pointe residents came together Saturday in a show of solidarity in the wake of the shooting deaths of Paige Stalker and Christina Samuel.

Stalker, 16, of Grosse Pointe Farms, was shot and killed on the city’s east side near the Grosse Pointe Park border on Dec. 22. Samuel, of Detroit, was shot and killed in her car on Christmas Eve near Eight Mile and Gratiot. She was 22.

The Unity Walk, sponsored by Save Our Children’s Future of Michigan, took place along Mack Avenue, which borders Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park on the city’s east side.

The nonprofit community group is the product of an unlikely friendship between Stalker’s grandfather Dave Lawrence and Samuel’s father, Chris Samuel, who’ve forged a strong bond in the aftermath of their families’ tragedies.

“Chris is my brother and my rock,” Lawrence said.

Grosse Pointe Park mayor Gregory Theokas and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan were on hand and addressed the crowd in a rally at Mack and Alter.

“What you saw was two families sharing the same pain,” Duggan said. “They responded to the attacks with unity. … I’ve never seen this in my lifetime. The way you handled this tragedy, you’ve put the city of Detroit on the road to being a much better place.”
Detroit mayor Mike Duggan, left, greets the families of Paige Stalker and Christina Samuel.

Other speakers included Detroit City Councilman Andre Spivey, U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence and YouTube sensation Fredrick Wilson II.

“This is the dawn of a beautiful community coming together,” Wilson said.

“This gathering is absolutely what this country needs,” Lawrence said, adding that the deaths of Stalker and Samuels would not be in vain.

Notable among the marchers Saturday were students, parents and staff from St. Clare of Montefalco, the diverse elementary school located in the heart of the march route.

Long an anchor in the neighborhood, St. Clare is quietly leading its community forward, striving to give students a quality education no matter what side of the border they live on.

Founded in 1926, it is something of a microcosm of the Unity Walk: a multicultural, multidenominational school focused on peace and nonviolence.

“We had children and families from both sides of Mack marching together,” said Principal Sr. Kathy Avery. “Some of our children knew the two girls that were killed, so I think it was especially meaningful to them.”

Detroit resident Tom Sherry and his wife, Jennifer, marched in the parade with their two children, both of whom are students at the school.

“St. Clare is a loving, integrated community,” Sherry said. “It’s a living example of our shared future.”

A key speaker at Saturday’s rally was federal Judge Terrence Berg, a Grosse Pointe Park native and St. Clare graduate recovering from a gunshot wound he suffered in an attack outside his home in March on Detroit’s west side.

“We know these incidents do not tell the whole story of Detroit,” Berg told the crowd. “We’re all here because we love Detroit. We’re here because of our commitment to peace and nonviolence.

“We must ensure that every child in Detroit gets a quality education. If we don’t better educate our children, we will not be able to reduce the problem of gun violence.”

For more information, visit If you have information on the deaths of Paige Stalker or Christina Samuel, you can leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers at 1-800-773-2587 or go to