SAN ANTONIO – Unable this year to gather together due to COVID-19 case surges, the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission staged a virtual version Monday of the city’s MLK march that, in years past, has been one of the nation’s largest.
Even so, Mark’s Outing, a popular burger joint and a favorite gathering spot for marchers over the years, had its first annual MLK block party.
The festive atmosphere was in stark contrast to the turbulent events of the past year, from last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests against racial injustice, false claims of stolen election culminating in the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the nation’s peaceful transition of power under continued threat.
Ezequiel Allen, a Buffalo Soldier who participated in this year’s festivities, said the group is counting to honor the life and legacy of King.
“Dr. King would say march on. He’d say, don’t let that distract us from our purpose and our goals,” Allen said. “That’s what we are doing. We are marching on in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King.”
Valerie Reiffert, who supports Black Lives Matter, said his spirit helped fuel many of the protests that took place across the country in opposition to racism and police brutality.
“I definitely think Dr. King believes in Black Lives Matter,” Reiffert said. “I think he would be behind this movement one thousand percent.”
Reiffert said she helped carry on his legacy through Radical Registrars, a group that was instrumental in registering many voters ahead of the presidential election.
However, she said she is concerned about the progress of the San Antonio City Council Members and their declaration that said racism is a public health crisis.
“There’s a vaccine out for COVID, but there’s still nothing being done about racism,” Reiffert said.
Many African-Americans have pointed to the racial inequity on display during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol as proof.
Local activist Kimiya Factory said she believes it is important for people to live King’s legacy through their own actions.
“So, it’s very important that we keep up the dream that he had for democracy, especially considering what happened at the nation’s capitol.” Factory said.
Al Davis, who attended the block party, said those who by take sides, stoking division, should consider, “It’s just ugly. You don’t feel good. It don’t look good, and it’s just not good. It’s not good.”