The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

MLK march sparks San Antonio residents to come together

MLK march sparks San Antonio residents to come together - The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

San Antonio residents march on Martin Luther King Drive during the 2023 MLK march on the East Side of San Antonio. Photo by Xochilt Garcia

Walking down Martin Luther King Drive at 9 a.m. on Jan. 16, an unknowing passerby might get the sense that something big is about to happen. 

The bustling sounds of gospel music and morning fill the air, and the residents of the area walk more with a spring in their step.

They greet each other from across the street as they set up chairs and folding tables in their lawns and driveways. Some have dozens of cases of water.

There’s a slight chill in the air, but it’s not too cold. It’s the perfect weather for walking outside. 

The city of San Antonio hosted what officials describe as the biggest Martin Luther King Jr. March in the United States on Jan. 16. 

The procession kicked off at 10 a.m. at M. L. King Academy and ended at Pittman-Sullivan Park, covering a distance of 2.70 miles. 

Hundreds of thousands participated in the march. Participants included grade school students from the area and college students from local universities like Texas A&M University-San Antonio, Trinity University, St. Mary’s University and the University of Texas at San Antonio. 

Joe Kamuntu and Lanie Perez, Mr. and Ms. A&M-San Antonio, marched with the student participants. Perez expressed excitement for the march.

“I think it’s a great way to come out and support the community,” Perez said. “It’s pretty cool that in San Antonio this is one of the largest marches.”

The crowds swarmed the street, and marchers waved to those watching from the sidelines. Participants held colorful banners and flags that announced what group, organization or school they belonged to. 

Chants and songs from historically Black fraternities and sororities rang through the air, as the throngs of people cheered the marchers on. 

Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez spoke at the kickoff. McKee-Rodriguez represents District 2 of San Antonio, which includes the area where the march took place.

During his speech, McKee-Rodriguez celebrated the historically Black community where the march was held. 

“On this march, we’re going to see some beautiful, beautiful things,” McKee-Rodriguez said. “We’re going to see people who have made this community what it is. We’re going to see artwork that has been cultivated by artists.”

McKee-Rodriguez also addressed the more adverse qualities of the community such as the unhoused population and crumbling infrastructure caused by “decades and decades of underinvestment.”

“We’re not marching just for joy. We’re marching still in the fight,” McKee-Rodriguez said. 

District 35 Rep. Gregorio Casar spoke about San Antonio’s longstanding civil rights legacy. 

“This is one of the first cities in the entire American South to beat back segregation,” Casar said.  

Casar also recalled Martin Luther King Jr.’s passion for economic justice. King was assassinated in 1968 days before he was to march alongside sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. 

“Get rid of big money in politics. Get rid of racist gerrymandering,” Casar said. “Expand Medicare. That’s what Dr. King still wanted us to keep marching on towards.”

Some of the march’s sponsors such as United Healthcare, H-E-B, Wells Fargo, CPS Nationwide and Valero. 

At the conclusion of the march, participants were met with live music performances and dozens of food and treat vendors. 

Along the march’s path, local vendors set up tables and tents to sell sodas, chips, wrapped sausages and turkey legs. 

Lydia Richardson, owner of Our Place Community Market on Martin Luther King Drive, was fundraising for the Organization For Black Unity, a free-standing African-centered school. Richardson said the market also teaches finances, holistic health and free expression while targeting at-risk children.

Richardson said the market used to be an adult care center but was converted into a cultural market and center after the pandemic. 

“We set it up so vendors can exercise their creativity and financial independence,” Richardson said. 

Our Place Community Market is open noon-4 p.m. Saturdays.  

Several residents of Martin Luther King Drive offered passerby water bottles and played music from their driveways.  

Kamuntu said it was his first time participating in the march. 

“I feel represented,” Kamuntu said. “I’m very happy to see that the community is being represented as well.”

About the Author

Xochilt Garcia
Assistant Editor
Xochilt Garcia is a sophomore at Texas A&M University-San Antonio majoring in communications. In her downtime Xochilt enjoys reading anything she can get her hands on and listening to music in all forms. Xochilt hopes to become a full-time reporter, traveling and bringing light to the stories that matter to the community.

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