In 1993, I was 16 and living with my mother and my younger brother James in a little white house on Iowa Street, which is across the street from Pittman-Sullivan Park. My brother and I would go there and practice football by running routes, working on our footwork and sometimes just be teenagers.
One day, my best friend Jibri asked me to go with him to the Martin Luther King Jr. March. I never consider walking because I did not understand the importance of it. I knew what Dr. King stood for but did not understand why people were marching up the street because in my mind, there was no reason, yet I went anyway.
On the day of the march, Jib’s dad dropped us off at the “Freedom Bridge,” which is on MLK Drive. We walked past what was then Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. It wasn’t packed but you could feel the love and sincerity of the event. The march would end on the plaza of North New Braunfels and East Houston Street, where they would have guest speakers including the mayor, council members and other speakers. Although it wasn’t the biggest march in the nation, listening to people talk about and remember Dr. King made the march worth it. According to the website www.sanantonio.gov, in 1987, the City of San Antonio held the first official march. Through time, the march would eventually grow to be the largest in the nation.
Fast forward to 2010: as Jib and I marched, it felt different. There were companies such as HEB, USAA and more people turned out. People came to the march to voice their opinion about the war, the economy and their political beliefs. When the march ended, this time it would be at Pittman-Sullivan Park where there were many booths set up as if it were a carnival. The march, which felt like something to remember freedom and equality, now feels like it is a show. As Jib and I started to walk back to the car, I noticed a couple of young ladies wearing outfits as if they were going out on a Friday night. The kicker was when we started to walk to the car, some gentleman passed out flyers to the “Official Martin Luther King Jr. After Party.” This was ridiculous. The march to remember Dr. King for civil rights came across as a show, and I did not feel the love as I did when I was 16.
As I drove home, I thought about the march and I remembered a scene from the movie “Happy Gilmore.” Adam Sandler plays the title character Happy Gilmore, a hockey player who had a unique ability of hitting a golf ball over 500 yards. Because Gillmore was rough around the edges, he befriended a former golfer named Chubbs Petersen. When Petersen died from falling out of Gilmore’s apartment window, everyone in the golf world started to mourn him. Even “Shooter McGavin,” who was the biggest star in the “Pro Golf Tour,” dedicated the championship game in Chubb’s honor.
When I think of all of the corporations who had many of their employees walking up MLK Drive., the first thing I thought of was “Shooter” dedicating a match to someone he never really talked to or cared about until he died.
A couple of years ago, I began to cover the march as a reporter for The Ranger at San Antonio College and now for The Mesquite at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, I wondered does anyone know why they are marching anymore. I even saw two men who had to be in their 60s sitting on the side of the overpass on MLK Drive drinking beer at 10:30 a.m. I thought if anything, these two should be marching because they would have at least experienced the purpose of the march. I would think back to the marches on Selma and in Birmingham where people were beaten, attacked by dogs, sprayed with fire hoses, had rocks thrown and were spit on so I can be equal as the next person in the world. Now what I see is coming across as a show. People walked but it felt like it was the “It” thing to do. For a time, I wondered why I am out here because this does not seem to be remembering a dream.
At the end of the march, I walked up Iowa Street. I looked at the little white house across the street from the park and it took me back to 1993, which reminded me why I was out here, and it was not because I’m a reporter. I want to ask: Do you know why you are out here? You can have the fancy sayings and speeches, but do you know why you marched? Did you march for notoriety or to tell friends and colleagues you were at the march and show them your selfies? Did you show up to the event to promote a party, your business or to get someone’s attention?
I can tell you why I march. When I march, I do it to remember those who sacrificed their livelihood, so I can go to a restaurant and not be placed in the “colored section”. I march so my son and I are able to take advantage of a good education. I march for another one of my best friends named Westley, who is white and his wife Adrianna, who is Hispanic. These two met in their early teenage years, fell in love and have a beautiful family and for over 25 years their interacial family is strong as ever. I also march for James and his best friend Jason, who is a white man, and their friendship lasts for over 28-year. I march for Brandy, a white woman and my son’s godmother. She and her husband would open their family and home to us and we do not get judged. I also think of those who do not have to hide being homosexual and transgender. Did you march for the same reason or were you just out here?