San Antonio Celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today over 200,000 residents of San Antonio and the region are expected to march side by side through the streets of the city’s East Side to commemorate and honor the memory of the civil rights leader, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The 29th annual MLK March will begin at 10 a.m. at the MLK Academy located in the 3500 block of MLK Drive and end at Pittman-Sullivan Park, 1101 Iowa (march route and info).
Although various civic and community organizations have been organizing memorial processions and ceremonies on Dr. King’s birthday in the 1970s, it was not until 1986 that the City officially recognized, sanctioned and supported the celebrations.
On April 3, 1986, the San Antonio City Council through City Resolution No. 86-15-19 under the leadership of then-Mayor Henry Cisneros established a volunteer organization “The MLK, Jr. Commission” to organize and oversee the march and various events around the city that commemorate and celebrate the life and vision of the civil rights leader.
On January 19, 1987, chaired by Aaronetta Pierce, the Commission and the City of San Antonio held its first official Martin Luther King, Jr. March.
The marches continued each year, but it was not until 1991 that the third Monday in January would become an official, paid state holiday allowing city and state employees, families and individuals to participate in the community events and reflect on the messages of Dr. King. Many individuals, local and regional activists, civil rights advocates, state and the city leaders as well as the National Football League championed the establishment of an official holiday in Texas.
In San Antonio, Mario Marcel Salas, a prominent advocate for San Antonio’s African-American community and a key member of local activist groups such as the San Antonio chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Organizations United for Eastside Development, Black Coalition on Mass Media, and Frontline 2000 spearheaded the movement behind the MLK holiday. On June 12, 1991, Governor Ann Richards signed into law a bill creating a state holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.
The Mario Marcel Salas papers document his activities to establish the holiday and shed light on the strategies of the activists as well as the rhetoric of the opposition in the aftermath of the bill’s passing.