Each year, San Antonio hosts the largest MLK march in the nation that attracts approximately 300,000 participants. With a variety of educational, inspirational and celebratory events, we honor one of the world’s most revered civil rights leaders.
In order to prioritize the health and safety of our community and visitors, The City of San Antonio’s MLK Commission decided to commemorate the legacy of Dr. King by virtually celebrating his life and legacy and recognizing the 53rd anniversary of the 1st March for Justice organized by the late Rev. R. A. Callies, Sr., a San Antonio teacher and pastor.
Rev. Callies began in March in 1968 to call attention to the need for basic infrastructure on the city’s east side. Since then, community members along with thousands of others who travel across the country to participate, have gathered each year in increasing numbers to reflect on their own Dream of Justice, Peace and Equality in America.
The MLK Commission organizes the annual March and leads the community’s effort by hosting various events paying tribute to Dr. King.
The “MLK Commission,” was established on April 3, 1986, by official act of the San Antonio City Council under the leadership of then-Mayor Henry Cisneros. The first chair of the Commission was Mrs. Aaronetta Pierce.
The mission of the San Antonio Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission is to promote human equality, the principles of nonviolence, and the understanding and acceptance of racial harmony, respect, and goodwill among citizens, all as a way of building community in San Antonio and across the United States.
Mere words cannot begin to demonstrate the immense pride that I feel in having been appointed in February by Councilwoman Jada Andrews Sullivan to chair the 2021 March Committee of the Commission and this past October to serve as Chair of the MLK Commission.
The Commission makes clear and ensures that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. March is not a “parade.”
As you will see in our virtual presentation, the March is very inclusive of all groups. Such as Social Justice, Criminal Justice, Economic Justice, Environmental Justice, and Political Justice TO INCLUDE Voter Registration, AND Frontline Workers, Garbage Workers, our VIA Transit’s 1966 Commemorative Rosa Parks Bus, Community Activist, First Responders to include Fire and Law enforcement, grocery workers, nurses, doctors, Veterans, Ministers, Churches, Family Groups, Middle Schools & High Schools, some Corporations, Civic, business and elected leaders, nonprofit organizations, colleges, universities, sororities & fraternities, and the MLK Commission award winners.
Let me now say, that for decades, I have marched either by Reverend Callies side or with his spirit. In doing so, I have always used this occasion to reflect upon where we as a people, and as a community, region and nation, stand with the Reverend Dr. King’s legacy. How his fight for equality and equity has progressed. Where it has succeeded, AND where we, the incarnation of his dream, carry it through. It is, specifically, in recalling the obstacles and the pitfalls that I, myself, have seen firsthand over these decades the resistance that makes us pause and yes, at times question, whether we should suspend or try to carry on the fight when it is a more popular idea, or when it is a better political climate, that I am reminded of a ringing statement made by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr as he sat in a Birmingham jail in 1963:
“For years now I have heard the word “WAIT!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “WAIT” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
1963. 58 years… To say that an event occurred 58 years prior was simply ‘a long time ago’ is a vast understatement. In 58 years we have elected, 12 different presidents. We have ushered in hundreds of new Congressional leaders.
We have seen a Black man elected president. We have seen a Black woman elected as vice president. And a Black man elected to the US Senate from GEORGIA! All of these, momentous and absolutely prolific happenings in this nation spearheaded by an open-minded, open-hearted populace, imperfect though WE may be.
And yet… and still… WE ARE here now, as we lay our memorial wreaths, and look to all of you and say, the Reverend Dr. King’s words are still relevant to this day.
For more than three decades, our March participants have heard the words of Dr. King as spoken by some key leaders to include Martin Luther King, III, Rev. Bernice King, Rosa Parks, Congressman John Lewis, Olympian Carl Lewis, Coach Herman Ike Boone, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Lane Kirkland, Ben Chavis, Rev. Claudette Copeland, Rev. E. Thurman Walker, Rev. Claude Black, Tom Joyner, Hill Harper, David Banner, Jamal Bryant, Former Obama US Trade Rep Ron Kirk, Tommy Calvert, Jr., Roland Martin and the Freedom Riders
We must continue to come together and act upon these words rather than just use them in classrooms and speeches.
In closing, I wish to leave you with two things: one is a reminder and the other is a task. With all the powerful emotions evoked at commemorative events such as this that are designed to honor and recall the profound greatness of the Reverend Dr. King and his legacy of fighting for racial equality, there is often an overlooked reality. In his last months, the Reverend Dr. King began to focus heavily on the plight of the poor and the notion of economic justice. The very reason that he stood upon that Memphis balcony where he would be assassinated that god-awful day in April, 1968 was to lead a demonstration in support of those striking in favor of economic justice.
Your reminder is this: let us remember to not ignore disparity. Let us remember to not feel apathy. Let us remember to not allow our focus on matters of equality among races force us to turn a blind eye to the socioeconomic injustices beset to those same individuals we fight for equity and equality. With the same passion, let us be reminded that economic justice is true social justice, and may we not be satisfied until this is realized.
Now, your task is this: If you are one of our future civic leaders; if you are a dreamer, if you are a decider, if you are a person of action and determination and resolve to mold this world, to shape it to the ideals that we share with the Reverend Dr, King for social and economic justice… then I now look to you. I look to you with hopeful eyes and a faithful heart and I say, NOW IS YOUR TIME. Now is your time to lead, to teach, to organize, to fight, to endure, and to carry on the Dream and the legacy of the Reverend Dr. King that we convene here to honor. NOW IS YOUR TIME.
Remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday is a day on, not just a day off.
And as the late Congressman John Lewis would say, get into some good trouble today for a better tomorrow!