San Antonio’s 2021 MLK March canceled, virtual events planned amid COVID-19 concerns

Commission Chair explains decision to have virtual march in 2021

Images of the 30th annual MLK March in San Antonio on Monday.

SAN ANTONIO – This year’s cancellations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are now spilling over into 2021 as San Antonio’s MLK Commission has voted to forgo the annual march and is planning a virtual-only event.

Dr. Keely Petty, MLK Commission Chair, said the decision ultimately came down to the safety and well-being of the thousands of people who attend the march.

“I had to think about the 300,000-plus citizens of our beautiful city who come out and honor that dream every year," Petty said.

Petty said she spoke and sought advice from Metro Health Director Dr. Colleen Bridger and other medical officials before making the final decision, and also took notice of other events like Fiesta and South by Southwest that were forced to cancel and could not go virtual.

She said the idea behind going virtual-only was in part inspired by how the Democratic and Republican National Conventions were held and said she did not want to delay the decision.

“This is a global pandemic, something to the likes that we’ve never seen,” Petty said. “It made sense to me that we not delay the time and make preparations so that we could have an excellent virtual march.”

While the logistics are being planned, Petty said it will look similar to previous marches.

She said the virtual event will be held on Jan. 18. It will be a 2-hour event with speakers, entertainment and scholarship recipients. Petty said there will also be ways for the community to help financially.

“We’re going to give people an opportunity to pledge, make a contribution of their choosing to the MLK Commission so we can launch and start the 2022 MLK March in excellence,” Petty said.

Naturally, Petty has received pushback from people upset about the decision.

“At the end of the day, I will be accountable for persons becoming infected and I say we are not going to do that. I believe Dr. Martin Luther King would do virtual if he were here. He he would have enough sense and enough love for the brethren to say, hey, we are going to do something different,” Petty said.

“The dream is still alive. This dream is still moving. The dream is still powerful. But we are just going to do something different," Petty said.

Petty also took into account the rates of African-Americans that have become infected with the virus.

“With the disproportionate rates of COVID affecting African-Americans, we don’t want to endanger that population of persons,” Petty said.

San Antonio’s MLK March is one of, if not the largest march in the country with hundreds of thousands of participants. The march has been held every year since January 19, 1987.

The MLK Commission is a volunteer organization that promotes equality and racial harmony and takes the lead on events paying tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Watch: Hundreds of thousands of people march in San Antonio’s 2020 MLK March:

Hundreds of thousands gather at MLK March in San Antonio

About the Authors:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.

Julie Moreno has worked in local television news for more than 20 years. She came to KSAT as a news producer in 2000. After producing thousands of newscasts, she transitioned to the digital team in 2015. She writes on a wide variety of topics from breaking news to trending stories and manages KSAT’s daily digital content strategy.