Tens of thousands expected for Martin Luther King March

Submitted by Susana on January 13, 2011 - 4:48pm

Educator Mary Frances Berry knows a thing or two about civil rights, and her many distinctions include being arrested multiple times for protesting apartheid in South Africa.  

Her latest honor comes from San Antonio, where she will be the keynote speaker at the Martin Luther King Jr. March on Monday, Jan. 17.  

San Antonio hosts one of the largest marches in the nation honoring King, with about 100,000 people participating in a city-sponsored event that grows every year, come rain, sleet or sun. In 1990, the march drew about 20,000 people. Today, San Antonio's participants outdraw the ones in King's hometown of Atlanta. The slain civil rights leader was born Jan. 15, 1929 and would have been 82 this year.  

The march, celebrated on the third Monday of each January, to commemorate King's birthday, begins at 10 a.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Bridge at 3500 MLK Drive. It ends down at Pittman-Sullivan Park, 1101 Iowa St., where Berry will address the crowd. (www.sanantonio.gov/mlk/marchroute.aspx)  

This year marks the 24th year that San Antonians have celebrated the life of the revered civil rights leader who was assassinated April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tenn. at the age of 39. This is the 25th anniversary of the national holiday. The event is coordinated by the City of San Antonio and the Martin Luther King Commission.  

King was a Baptist minister who led peaceful campaigns and protests to end segregation. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, a year after the March on Washington, where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.  

The author of several books, Berry became in 1976 the first African-American woman to head a major research university when she was named chancellor of the University of Colorado. She was also Assistant Secretary of Education under President Jimmy Carter and in 1980 served as vice chairman of the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights.  

“We knew that Dr. Mary Frances Berry would be a perfect speaker for the 24th annual MLK march,” said District 2 Councilwoman Ivy Taylor, who is also the honorary MLK Commission Chair. “Dr. Berry’s life work has focused on racial justice and has been an outgrowth of Dr. King’s work.”  

Berry is the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1984 she co-founded the Free South Africa Movement, which was formed to end apartheid in South Africa. For this, she was arrested and jailed several times after protesting outside the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C.  

Berry joins a list of other notable speakers who have addressed San Antonio's events, including Paul Rusesabagina, whose life and actions were featured in the movie, "Hotel Rwanda," and Manuel V. Scott, one of the original Freedom Writers.(http://www.manuelvscott.com/)

In San Antonio, the procession is led every year by a vintage 1956 bus, symbolic of the one that Rosa Parks rode on when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger.  

This motorcade is followed by a color guard, city leaders and dignitarires. They are joined by students, families with children in tow and thousands of residents from all zip codes.  

The City of San Antonio is also touting this year's event as the first green one, with recycling bins placed along the route. The city is also urging residents to take VIA buses instead of driving to the event.

The MLK Commission has also invited gospel artists Earnest Pugh, who won two En Sound Music Awards in 2010.

There also other events commemorating King's life:  

  • MLK Early Morning Worship, 8 to 10 a.m. at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Academy, 3501 Martin Luther King Drive. 
  • MLK Early Morning Worship, Monday, Jan. 17, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., Pittman Sullivan Park, 1101 Iowa.  
  • MLK Commemorative Lecture with Lamont Hill, host of "Our World with Black Enterprise," 7 p.m. at Laurie Auditorium at Trinity University, 715 Stadium Drive.


For more information on the San Antonio march and events honoring King, go to www.sanantonio.gov/mlk; for background on keynote speaker Berry, go to www.maryfrancesberry.com