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Fronteras Extra: San Antonio's African American Legacy

African Americans make up about 7 percent of San Antonio’s population, but they have made rich contributions to the fabric of the Alamo City.

Born Logic Allah, director and co-producer of “Walk on the River: A Black History of the Alamo City," said one of the most important educational figures was Dolores B. Linton, who made something out of nothing for black children living on the west side of San Antonio.

students_outside_st_philips_normal_and_industrial_school_306_villita_street_san_antonio_texas_1898_copy_1.jpg
Credit Institute of Texan Cultures
Students outside St. Philips Normal and Industrial School, 306 Villita St. San Antonio, TX 1898.

“She convinced the parents there to let her take an old bar that was called Paradise Cove and then converted it into a school,” said Logic Allah. “And that later became an actual school on the west side of San Antonio. They still have a school named after her to this day.”

St. Philip’s College in San Antonio is the only college in the U.S. to be categorized as a historically black college and a Hispanic serving institution.

The film’s producer, Aundar Ma’at, says the school got its start in 1898 as a sewing school for African American girls. “Of course, it expanded, and it expanded to the east,” said Ma’at. He said Artemesia Brown played an important role in the expansion of the college. “(She) came here from North Carolina and served as the principal, a teacher, and a fundraiser, and for 52 years really helped to establish that institution, which has, in the film, referred to as ‘the crown of the East Side.’”

San Antonio also has the distinction of holding the one of the largest Martin Luther King Jr. Day marches in the nation. The first march was organized by Rev. R.A. Callies just two days after King’s assassination in 1968. 

Fronteras Extra: San Antonio's African American Legacy
Born Logic Allah and Aundar Ma'at discuss the beginnings of San Antonio's annual Martin Luther King Jr. March, one of the largest in the U.S.
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Credit Image capture from 'Walk on the River.'
San Antonio's Martin Luther King Jr. March.

Logic Allah says the march “morphed from a small march that took place on the East Side.” When the City of San Antonio became involved in the march in 1987, Logic Allah said, “it took on a life of its own...and it seems as if the words just really started to flow, and they really pushed and promoted it as a beacon of unity for the city, and so it really just grew over the years.”

Ma’at said the MLK march should inspire community participation year-round. “The question is, ‘how do we continue to take the march from being one day, but make it a movement that is a movement to elevate the lives of people throughout the year?’ ”

At the film’s start, San Antonio poet Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson wrote and performed the poem “Walk on the River.”  

But another important voice that moves the film along is Tony Jenkins.

Fronteras Extra: San Antonio's African American Legacy
Born Logic Allah and Aundar Ma'at talk about two figures who lend their voices to the film, poet Andrea "Vocab" Sanderson and narrator Tony Jenkins.
andrea_vocab_sanderson.png
Credit Image capture from 'Walk on the River.'
Andrea "Vocab" Sanderson

Fronteras Extra: San Antonio's African American Legacy
Andrea "Vocab" Sanderson reads "Walk on the River," as heard in the film.

Logic Allah says they happened upon Jenkins at a screening of their previous film, “A Message the People: The Story of Malcolm X.”

“(Jenkins) and a friend of his, they were there early, so they purchased tickets, and we were just sitting there talking because they were the first people there, and we were saying, ‘wow, he has a great voice!’ And so we knew that we were going to start working on ‘Walk on a River.’ So we approached him, and we said, ‘do you think you would be interested in being a narrator?’ And he was like, ‘yeah, absolutely.’

But when it came time to start production, Logic Allah wasn’t able to find Jenkins number, so they initially tried another narrator. “They did their best,” said Logic Allah, “but we just weren’t satisfied...But one day I was looking through my phone, and I came across it and I emailed him and he jumped right on it, and he has been a Godsend...The film would not have been what it is had it not been for him.”

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren