By Cristina Blackwell
La Prensa de San Antonio
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS — More than 100,000 people took to the chilly streets of San Antonio Monday morning to celebrate the life and legacy of one of the most prominent civil rights leaders in American history, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The march honoring the slain civil-rights leader, born 82 years ago on January 15, wound through east San Antonio from the MLK Academy to the Pittman-Sullivan Park on Iowa St., attracting participants from across the cultural and demographic spectrum.
This year marked the 24th anniversary of San Antonio’s MLK March and Commemora- tive Program, one of the largest in the country.
Congressman Charlie Gonzalez, Judge Peter Sakai, former mayor Henry Cisneros, SAPD Chief Wil- liam McManus, Councilman Phillip Cortez and Jaime Martinez were among city leaders who attended the march Monday.
(Photo, Maria Elena Cruz)
To begin the walk with uplifted spirits, an early morning worship service took place at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Academy. Music, dance, prayer and heartfelt words of encouragement filled the air to praise and celebrate the king’s legacy.
Dr. Mary Frances Berry, the first black woman to head a major research university, delivered the keynote speech in front of the MLK Academy. The musical guest for the commemorative program was gospel artist Earnest Pugh.
Students discussed the meaning of being participants. Teachers cited community ac- tivism, and living without fear. Politicians spoke about the importance of honoring civil rights and non-violence.
“San Antonio is proud of its diversity and this is reflected by the support and participa- tion given each year to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said District 4 City Councilman Philip Cortez, who marched alongside Community Activist Jaime Martinez, SAPD Chief William McManus, Judge Peter Sakai, Congressman Charlie Gonzalez, and former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros.
Those missed at the march were Mayor JuliÃ¡n Castro, who was out of the city, and San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood.
Young and old marched alongside each other, those who could not march moved along in strollers, wagons, wheelchairs, bicycles, roller skates and even scooters. Men and women carried banners. Marchers sang songs, carried posters and waved flags.
Participants from various organizations wore shirts, jackets or hats emblazoned with their insignia. Others wore t-shirts with President Barack Obama’s name or King’s portrait.
The march, hosted annually by the San Antonio Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, also marked the beginning of the event going “green” as re- cycling was offered throughout Pittman-Sullivan Park during the commemoration celebration.
Attendees also took advantage of VIA Metropolitan Transit special event Park and Ride services, which provided convenient transportation and another way to help the environment.
“Freedom, equality and justice were tenets that our founding fathers embraced and we march to demonstrate our continued commitment to those values,” said District 2 City Councilwoman Ivy R. Taylor.
Martin Luther King Jr. was an African American clergyman, activist and prominent leader in the American civil rights movement. In 1964 he became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent protests to end racial segregation and discrimination.
By the time of his death in 1968, he had refocused his efforts on ending poverty and opposing the Vietnam War, both from a religious perspective. His life was cut short when he was assassinated April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.
King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.
Though the federal holiday honoring King was first established in 1986, Texas approved it a year later as the third Monday of January.
During the walk, San Antonians reflected on the meaning of King’s work in hopes to continue some of the virtues he espoused: peace, freedom, equality, and putting an end to hatred.
If you would like to support the MLK March, annual MLK scholarships, or any of events that will take place, the MLK commission welcomes the partnership of local and national businesses. For more information visit www.sanantonio.gov/mlk.