San Antonio resident, Erma Kidry, who celebrated her 89th birthday on Jan. 20, sat with a group of residents Monday in front of the Mt. Zion Sheltering Arms enjoying the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. march, one of the largest in the nation.
Kidry, who said she experienced hatred and bigotry over generations, said it warms her heart to see people of all races marching together keeping Dr. King’s message of peace and love alive.
“I am grateful and I have never been so proud with the strength the good Lord gave me to be 89 years old, can do a lot of things myself and I am in fairly good health,” Kidry said.
Kidry, who had a sign with one of Dr. King’s quotes, sat in front greeting marchers with a smile and conversation in a purple jacket, brown, scarf and hat on a cool January morning.
On a day when thousands reflect on the past, present and future, Kidry was happy to share her history of growing up in the south.
“I can tell you stories that can make your hair rise,” Kidry said.
Kidry was born in Jefferson, Texas, approximately 30 minutes from the Louisiana state line and six hours from San Antonio.
Kidry is a mother of two, grandmother of four and great-grandmother of two. She has lived in the Mt. Zion Sheltering Arms, an elderly community on Martin Luther King Dr., for over 18 years because her friend. Kedry moved there because she and her friend Etta Mae Ray McGarity wanted to live close to each other.
Kidry said she remembers walking down the street after it rained and moving out of the way when a white person was walking past in the opposite direction.
“We would have to walk in the water and the mud to let the white people pass,” Kidry said.
She went on to say she could not drink out of fountains not marked “colored,” get credit or go into certain stores.
“Black people could not go into Neiman Marcus,” Kidry said. “If you needed anything from that store, your boss lady had to get it for you. Now we can go anywhere.”
Kidry recalled a time when she was six years old, a cashier from the local store tried to cheat her mother for bed springs she bought on a prior visit.
“He said my mother did not pay for them so he was going to charge her for them again,” she said.
Kidry’s parents went to home and brought the receipt back to the store to show the clerk they did purchase the springs.
Kidry talked about a time when she went to the store to get a coke, but the cashier told her she did not want to get the coke and handed her a strawberry soda instead.
“I did not want a strawberry, I wanted a coke,” Kidry said. “I just threw the soda water down and walked right out of the store.”
Kidry said her father told her you can do right as long as you know you are doing right by standing your ground, looking someone directly in the eye and don’t drop your head.
“This is the way I am, which in my young years, it got too high,” Kidry said. “I never got into trouble, but I did not gain a lot of friends either because my head was too high.”
The day Dr. King was assassinated in 1968, Kidry said she rushed home to her family and hugged them.
“I just thought, ‘Oh Lord we are in trouble now because we have no more leaders,’” Kidry said.
Kidry lived in a time where African Americans and other minorities did not have rights as all citizens have today.
They could not do the basic things such as shopping or getting water from a water fountain unless it had a “coloreds” sign.
African Americans also had to sit in the balcony of a movie theater and in the back of the bus to allow white passengers to sit down.
Lynchings were common to minorities during this time period and the people who did them could get away with it.
Kidry said she hopes to be alive long enough for her newly married granddaughter to bring her a great grandchild, and to see another march like the others she has experienced for the past 18 years.