Correction: Marguerite Floyd-Gipson’s name was spelled incorrectly.
Annual holiday celebrates the life of slain civil rights leader.
By Cynthia M. Herrera
An estimated 175,000 to 200,000 people marched Jan. 19 commemorating the anniversary of the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Javier Martinez, media contact for the MLK Jr. Commission, said.
It was a day of reflections on milestones and the continuing work to eliminate institutional racism, especially in the judicial and educational systems.
King is an iconic hero who fought for civil rights for African-Americans in the 1950s and 1960s. Although many citizens looked up to King, others despised him for his ideas on equal rights.
His life came to an end April 4, 1968, when he was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was first celebrated as a federal holiday in 1986. San Antonio’s first march started in 1987, making this one the 28th annual event.
Among march participants were Mayor Ivy Taylor.
She is the first black female mayor of a major U.S. city and was the honorary commission chair this year.
“I don’t think anybody ever expected San Antonio to have a black mayor,” Taylor said.
Bishop David Michael Copeland, commission chair, is the senior pastor of New Creation Christian Fellowship.
“I think today was fantastic; everybody who came today participated,” Copeland said. “We celebrated the reason for the march, being for progress, for justice and social equality.”
Copeland attended Trinity University’s annual MLK Jr. Commemorative Lecture Jan. 15 to hear anti-racist essayist, author and educator Tim Wise discuss “The Legacy of Dr. King and Today’s Civil Rights Struggles.”
Copeland particularly admired Wise’s comments on taking King as a whole person rather than taking individual pieces of his ideas.
“[Tim Wise] was like fantastic, he was awesome,” Copeland said. “I think that what he shared and the way he shared it was so enlightening and inspiring to help us understand that we have a long way to go but we can do it in a positive way so that it’s uplifting and encouraging to people.”
Other political figures who attended the march included U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, 35th District, Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte.
Marvin Spring, 82, has been participating in the MLK Jr. March since it first started Jan. 19, 1987.
Spring said he had seen many changes in his lifetime.
“I was the first they hired out at the Pioneer [Flour Mills] and the unions. They wouldn’t let blacks in there but I got in there,” Spring said.
As he watched the marchers, Alvin Perry, 35, wore a shirt reading, “I am the Eastside.”
Perry is founder of Together Helping Each Other, an organization committed to improving the image of residents and businesses of the Eastside. He also designed the shirt.
Perry said the shirts are meant to be worn throughout the year, not only to protest unfortunate events, such as the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York City last year.
“I wanted to make a statement, and the statement is basically saying that not everybody is a gang member in the streets or thugs,” Perry said. “The people that can wear this shirt can be a lawyer or a doctor, so instead of just seeing them as a lawyer or a doctor, they see a person that says ‘I am from the Eastside.’ That’s the statement that they are making.”
Marguerita Floyd, who lives on the route of the march, staged a graphic depiction of the future many young black men face.
Her grandsons sat behind a set of security doors in her front yard to show that children are being incarcerated instead of educated. Floyd said she believes Spanish should be mandatory for preschoolers in San Antonio and that providing jobs for blacks would lower crime rates.
She wants teens in middle and high school in the black community to have access to apprenticeships so they can go forward in life and become productive members of society.
“We want to make statements to say, yes, we want to be educated, we want those individuals to know where they’re going to go or what they’re going to do,” Floyd said.