San Antonio’s annual MLK march brings thousands into the streets.
By James Dusek
Monday morning, Larry Campbell stood in front of his childhood home on Martin Luther King Drive. On the street in front of him, about 250,000 people marched carrying banners, chanting through megaphones and waving flags.
Campbell has had a front-row seat to the nation’s largest Martin Luther King Jr. Day march every year since the city-sponsored event began in 1987. Over those 30 years, he has developed relationships with many of the regular marchers; every couple minutes, someone stopped marching to say hello to him and his family, who sat in plastic chairs behind him.
The march, which honors the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr., is organized every year by the city of San Antonio, but began more than a dozen years earlier as a grassroots effort. The nearly 3-mile stretch from MLK Freedom Bridge to Pittman-Sullivan Park was lined with spectators in lawn chairs, drummers and activists handing out fliers.
The march is an important reminder to young people of the work and passion that went into civil rights, Campbell said.
“That’s what’s so great about it, really,” he said. “You know, to get the young people involved in this here, remember where their roots come from and everything. That’s one of the best things you can do around here.”
Ayasha Mays, human resource management junior at University of Texas at San Antonio, said she marched because she shared a similar sentiment.
“I’m a firm believer of, like, you have to know where you came from to see where you’re going, basically,” she said. “We’re always focused on the future, how things are going to be, where are we going to be, but it’s important to see, like, all the other sacrifices everyone made for us.”
Mays marched with her friends and classmates from UTSA. It was the first march many of them, including Mays, had attended.
Faye Davis, who watched the march from the sidewalk as she waited for her church group to arrive, has also participated in all of the city’s marches. She was in her early 20s during the civil rights movement, and recounted her awe when it began to grow.
“It was like … ‘Is this really happening? Has God created this earth for us all?’” she said.
Davis said that inequality is not solved in America, but she is optimistic about the future.
“I serve an awesome god,” she said. “… I serve one that he can stop anything that needs to be stopped. … so I don’t worry about this that’s going on. I don’t even worry about Trump. I put it in God’s hand and I move on.”
UTSA Kinesiology Sophomore Moe Adams said he is also optimistic, and that he feels events like the march help develop more understanding.
“ … It’s kind of easy to see people as the other side or a side that I don’t understand or whatever,” he said. “But when people come out together for one thing, it kind of breaks those invisible lines that are sometimes just created just because people don’t know.”
Adams said people are becoming less interested in people’s skin color and more interested in character each generation.
“Just me and you talking now is just a testament to that,” he said to this reporter. “I feel really good about the generation coming up.”
Mays said she is not only optimistic, but that optimism is crucial to achieving equality.
“I think we have to be (optimistic), really,” she said. “Because otherwise everything that’s been done would have just, like, went to waste, you know? So it’s just, like, looking at what’s been done and knowing that there’s always changes to be made. There’s always progress that can be made.”
Through their chants and music, the marchers flooding the streets exuded optimism. Young and old attendees looked toward a bright, peaceful future.
“It’s just about realizing that we share a home, right?” Adams said. “So, serenity and peace is far better than violence and discrimination.”