Education senior Rose Marie Ortiz and her daughter, Jaylene Ortiz, 8, marched down Martin Luther King Drive on a cold Monday morning with hundreds of thousands of participants commemorating the work of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
“It’s an experience,” Ortiz said. “I brought my daughter with me and this is her first time coming out and I think everybody should do it. Because of Martin Luther King Jr., if it wasn’t for him, there’s things that she (Jaylene) can’t have at this time…and I told her she needs to learn to appreciate that.”
Texas A&M University-San Antonio participated in the march Jan. 20 with a group of over 130 attendees composed of students, faculty and staff. According to Civic Engagement Coordinator Christina Guerra, the number of participants is increasing, with last year’s attendance being 114.
“I’m seeing a lot of students starting to get more civically active because they realize that the power balance isn’t always in their favor,” Guerra said. “But what I’m proud of is that they’re seeing that they can take that power for themselves, in a civil way, in a way that’s respectful, in a way that shows their education and shows their place as leaders in the community.”
The Martin Luther King Jr. March in San Antonio is one of the biggest in the country, with total attendance in 2019 being over 300,000, according to local news outlets. Participants meet at Martin Luther King Jr. Academy on MLK Drive and Brooksdale Avenue.
A shuttle service sponsored by the Mays Center shuttled participants from A&M-San Antonio from campus to the march. Participants represented on-campus organizations such as the Mexican American Student Association, Student Government Association and the Black Student Union.
“What I hope for the organization is that we’d be able to connect to more people, whether it’s on campus or in the community,” BSU President Roxanne Saunders said. “Collaborating to do more good within the community.”
After opening remarks from members of the MLK commission, the march started at 10 a.m. with attendees making a 2.7-mile trek to Pittman-Sullivan Park where vendors, musicians and speakers ended the event with a large celebration.
The smell of turkey legs and fried Oreos floated in the air as participants of the march sat on a hill facing a stage with keynote speakers and musicians performing gospel and country music. Local community organizations and food vendors set up booths where they interacted with participants of the march.
Clutching her microphone closely, business senior Robin Randalls led the A&M-San Antonio group in chants that caught the attention of fellow participants.
“It’s alright, it’s ok. Remember MLK,” chanted the group during the final stretch of the march.
Randalls said the march represents “more freedom, and continued freedom.”
Students leading the A&M-San Antonio group carried a banner with the university logo and other participants carried the university flag on their backs. Marchers shed their sweaters and jackets as the morning grew warmer and temperatures rose from the low-50s to mid-60s.
“We already do a good job at acknowledging and educating and celebrating other cultures, celebrating civic duty and service at A&M-San Antonio,” SGA President La-Tieka Sims said. “So when I see my fellow peers at this march it reinforces the fact that what we’re doing is working and that the culture we’re building at this campus is stretching beyond campus walls.”
Diversity continues to be a main theme among marchers with groups of people coming from different civic, community and ethnic organizations. Church congregations along the route sold barbecue plates and gave away water bottles. Local radio station Energy 94.1 had performers rapping freestyle lyrics and rousing weary participants at the halfway point along the route.
“It’s important to voice your opinion, no matter your gender, race or age, anything,” Isa Rodriguez, vice-president of MASA, said. “It’s marches like this that show how many people are concerned and how many people care.”