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He Had A Dream, And At San Antonio's MLK March, They Live His Legacy

As in most years,  San Antonio's annual Martin Luther King Jr. March on Monday was one of the nation’s biggest walks in memory of the civil rights activist and global icon. We walked the route with about 100,000 other San Antonians, beginning our journey at the park-n-ride at St. Phillip’s College, boarding VIA buses for the ride to Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

There, we walked across the Freedom Bridge over Salado Creek, then gathered for the march. I interviewed more than 20 people to get a sense of what this march means to them. Here’s 17-year-old Sophia Gilmore, who was registering voters, but is not old enough to vote herself. She’s remarkably assured. “One of the best ways to honor Martin Luther King would be to give people more power, and more of a say in who their elected officials are, because that’s one of the things the civil rights movement was about.”

Daryl Harris is part of the Bexar County DA’s office. He’s contemplative. “Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it. This is part of our history.”

I have to ask him: “You have a dream?”

He laughs and says, “Yeah, [that] we learn from 2014!”

Oswald Jerralds is an older African American man who’s pretty well seen it all over the years. “I’ve followed this march ever since I’ve been living in San Antonio, now for the last 30 years, and I don’t think I’ve missed over one or two marches. We’re marching here because we love our country, and we love what it stands for.”

I move from a senior to a very young enthusiast. Emily cannot be more than six-years-old. "I’m here to celebrate Martin Luther King,” she says with assurance. I ask, “Who was he?” Her response is quick and to the point. “He was the guy who made everyone equal.” 

I moved on down the way and stopped to talk with a very formally dressed Charles Burks. Burks has seen segregation firsthand. “Well, I was born and raised in Georgia. It was part of my life; I didn’t like it. When the demonstration stuff came on, I was in Vietnam at the time, so that made it twice as bad.” Put another way, he risked his life in war fighting for a way of life whose benefits he didn’t even know. Even still, he has optimism. “The dream is still alive,” says Burks, and looking at him, you can see that it is.

I then come across a loud group of 15 to 20 young people doing a cheer for the N-A-A-C-P. Motherly Regina Horne-Espree is the group’s leader, and is waxing eloquent about Martin Luther King Jr. “He stood for peace and peaceful protest. He stood for love. He stood for commitment. He stood for atonement. He stood for us — all of us — to get along and love one another.” 

John Luciano is holding a big sign, and is there to make a serious statement. “A lot of people wouldn’t associate Dr. King with union organizing, but that was the main thing that he did. They wouldn’t connect him with socialist beliefs, but he did that.”

Maya Howell is also dead serious about her reasons for being there and they have more to do with the shadows of the present than the darkness of the past. “We’ve had too many lives lost, and none of the officers are being indicted for what they’ve done … and people are ready to be heard.” As we walk briskly, I ask, “You’re a young person — how are you going to make that happen?” “I’m going to keep walking, I’m going to keep speaking, I’m going to do everything that I can,” she shoots back.  I notice something key missing. “Did I not hear the word ‘voting’ in there?” “Oh, absolutely!" she laughs. "I’m going to keep voting as well!”

At a slow spot I come across a couple, young and clearly in love. I ask Thomas Fields what he thinks Dr. King would have made of the gathering. “He’d be proud, he’d be very proud to see all these people coming together, you know it’s not just about color. [There are] so many different income brackets.”

Amber Madison says this about her dream. “I think everyone should have a dream to do and create what they need to succeed in life.” I have to broach the subject, and yes, it is rather awkward. “People can’t see this, but your skin color is not the same.” Amber said "Right! I am African American." Thomas: "… and I am white, yes.”

I ask them if they get much blowback from people on that. Amber responds. "Just stares. Long, funny stares.” They exchange glances and laugh.

I move on along and come across blonde-haired, green-eyed Elizabeth Haney. She knows why she is there. “I’m here to support our rights, and to celebrate Martin Luther King, and what he did for our country.”

Michael Soto is walking with his wife and two young sons. “I am here celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and I’m enjoying a beautiful day with my family, and tens of thousands of my fellow San Antonians.”

Deborah Morrow is there with her husband, daughter and a friend. “I’m white, I’m Jewish, I’m first generation.” They come every year. I asked “So you’re thinking equal rights for everyone kinda means…everyone?" “Everyone! I do.”

Christopher Herring is articulate and dapper in a sport coat and hat, and he holds a Black Lives Matter sign. “Everyone has their own cause, right? That’s what also makes this march very beautiful. We can all unite under Dr. King’s dream of uniting as one.”

Peter Thomas, meanwhile, has really stuck with me. He had special circumstances that gave the march even greater meaning to him. “When I get here I feel like I’m in a sacred type of environment. Because everybody’s here for the same reason and they all came to honor a man who gave his life. As a matter of fact, I was just in Louisiana two days ago, burying my brother. So I thought enough to come back here to the march, which is what I do every year, I wouldn’t miss it.”

About then I came across a group of friends signing the old spiritual “I’m Gonna Let It Shine.” Each of those 100,000-odd people was there with their own story, but each was there to honor the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.