We Need to Know Why We Marched in case you forgot! Knowing why we honor Dr. King is now more important than ever in this age of overturning Obama. Many in the community have felt that the MLK celebrations were turning into a farce because of the ignorance of what Dr. King stood for. But some of that spirit is coming back with the Black Lives Matter Movement and the SNCC Legacy Project. Dr. King was a radical fighter for civil and human rights who opposed racism, segregation, the military industrial complex, the war in Vietnam, and injustice everywhere. He would be standing up today against the radical right-wing and the Donald Trump legions.
The MLK March in San Antonio became the “biggest March on the Planet” as a result of a grassroots effort that started 48 years ago—NOT 30 years as claimed by some. To tell the whole truth, the first march, after King’s death, was in 1969 and went down Iowa Street to Mt. Zion First Baptist Church with about 100 people. That 1969 March was organized by the local SNCC Chapter. This is the 30th Year Anniversary of the MLK March by the City, but not by the historical record. SNCC organized the first one in 1969 and in the 1970s Rev. Callies made the March a consistent event. Rev. Callies March was then augmented by dozens of community groups and leaders in 1978. It was in 1978, that this call to action to create a big march was being led by the NAACP, OUED (Organizations United for Eastside Development), ROBBED, Ethyl Minor, Lillian Sutton-Taylor, Rev. R.A. Callies, TC Calvert, John Sanders, Rick Greene, Robert Johnson, and myself, and so many more ordinary citizens. The initial Marching was not supported by the politicians of the City of San Antonio and it would take about nine years for them to consider that! Bexar County never wanted to participate in those days.
The talk of a March was being heard in the community, but not at city hall by politicians. The March in 1972, after the 1969 one, was a small one with about fifty people participating. Community organizations helped to galvanized the grassroots call for a March and make it the biggest March in the country. The Texas MLK Holiday became state law, after a civil and human rights group called Frontline 2000 started a radical campaign against former Speaker of the House Gib Lewis in 1990.
Frontline 2000 targeted Texas Calendars Committee Chairman Pete Laney with a move that threatened a boycott of all Super Bowls bids for games being played in Texas unless the Texas legislature honored Dr. King with a state holiday. It was a direct result of this action that led to the passage of the Texas MLK bill after the Texas Speaker of the House agreed to a meeting with Frontline 2000. Immediately after that meeting the Speaker promised that the bill would move forward, and it did, but it took the threat of stopping a Super Bowl bid and an economic boycott of Texas to accomplish this. Every year from 1972 to 1990, hundreds of people would go to Austin and protest and demand a MLK holiday, but nothing was accomplished from this. It was the winning strategy of Frontline 2000, and Rick Greene’s idea to boycott and sue the NFL if they ever played a Super Bowl in Texas without a MLK holiday that won the day,
The legacy of the true Dr. King must be kept alive by educating the public about the issues that face the country today. His words echo across eternity as he would be speaking to the issues of health care, genocide, fake news, the wars, the economy, drugs and thugs, and other challenges that Dr. King would have taken on in this day and time had he not been cut down by a racist killer. We don’t need the MLK March to ever be turned into a silly social gathering. We still have a lot of fighting to do. We must remember that King was arrested many times by racist law enforcement, beaten and threatened by the KKK, and saw many of his associates and just plain ordinary folk murdered by white supremacists. The true flavor of Marching did return last year when the Black Lives Matter Movement did a ‘Die In” at Pittman Sullivan Park. MLK was not an armchair radical. He was not just a talker, but a doer! MLK would be marching to stop voter suppression and the lies that the right-wing nuts have spread in support of Donald Trump—let’s make sure that the true meaning of the March is fulfilled. Our struggle will continue.