San Antonio’s Martin Luther King Jr. march largest in the nation – mySA

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While plenty of cities throughout the South are packed with history and regarded as key places during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, San Antonio can take pride in being home to one of the biggest Martin Luther King Jr. marches in the country.

Though Atlanta hosts a large parade complete with a number of floats on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, San Antonio celebrates the reverend in the same way that he made change: by marching.

“There’s a distinct difference,” says Jessica Kemp, communications chair of the City of San Antonio’s MLK Jr. Commission. “We march in the manner in which King and civil rights leaders marched, and that’s very important to us.”

She says a prior march with 400,000 participants earned San Antonio the honor of being the largest MLK march in the nation. On average, there are upward of 300,000 participants.

Though put on each year by the commission, the annual march was first held in 1987 thanks to the tireless efforts of a local educator and pastor. Rev. Dr. Raymond A. Callies Sr., who was a teacher with San Antonio ISD for decades, began leading processions after the leader was slain, the first being just two days after King was assassinated in 1968.

In addition to building what is now known as the annual march, Callies also founded the local MLK scholarship benefiting college-bound high school students and Dream Week programs, as well as having advocated for the renaming of streets, bridges, and schools to honor King.

So, how can residents follow Callies’ lead and keep King’s legacy alive?

On Monday, January 16, San Antonio will mark the 36th annual march – which is returning in-person for the first time since 2020 and after two years of virtual events. This year’s event is “Together We Can Be THE Dream.”

“Very little has changed when we think about it,” Kemp says. “Together we can be the dream. Together through our collective works we can achieve the dream that Dr. King and so many others talked about.”

The march kicks off at 10 a.m. outside of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Academy on the city’s Eastside. The 2.75-mile trek concludes at Pittman Sullivan Park, where the late reverend’s legacy will be celebrated with multicultural performances and vendors. The festivities will also include a keynote address by San Antonio Express-News columnist Cary Clack, who will be the second local resident to hold the honor.

Those wishing to participate in the march can take advantage of VIA’s Park-and-Ride service, available at Freeman Coliseum and St. Philip’s College from 8-10 a.m.

“The opportunity to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King and engage with the community really outweighs, in my opinion, anything that will hinder you from participating,” Kemps says. “Most people have a desire to see good in our world. I think this is definitely an opportunity to experience in a tangible way what that feels like.”

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