By Steve Walker
Since this is my last “Just a Thought” column for 2015, I want to wish the readers of La Prensa, a prosperous and blessed new year. I look forward to beginning my fourth year writing this column which follows two previous successful years writing “Ask the Judge.”
To start off 2016 we can look ahead to the 29th Annual MLK March, January 18th that begins at 10 a.m. at MLK Academy in the 3500 block of MLK Drive. The two hour march finishes at Pittman-Sullivan Park, 1101 Iowa where speakers, choirs and other groups will perform for the crowd expected to exceed 200 thousand strong this year.
In 1981 when I served as the President of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, (Jaycees) I was afforded the honor to speak @ what was later to be the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. March.
Under Dr. King’s statue off New Braunfels Ave. over 500 people gathered to commemorate the groundbreaking event with me as guest speaker. The following year the National Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was approved and in 1986 City Council under Mayor Henry Cisneros approved San Antonio’s March that began January 19th 1987.
I am honored to have marched for the past eighteen consecutive years in the crowd that over the years have consistently drawn over 100-thousand participants. Now it tops 200-thousand participants. I have marched as a City Councilman, American Federation of Teachers Union President representing Harlandale ISD and Judge.
For the past 8 years I have covered the march in photos, posting them on my blog, the Walker Report. I have taken photos of Grand Marshalls to include Martin Luther King III, Congressman John Lewis, Dr. Joseph Lowry and other civil rights activists who marched with Dr. King in the 50s and 60s.
I was invited to speak at the first gathering because the San Antonio Jaycees chapter was the first predominately white local organization to actively support the movement to nationalize Dr. King’s birthday. As President I represented the chapter which at the time was the fifth largest Jaycee Chapter that sponsored non-profit events like Orphan’s Shopping Tour, & La Semana Alegre during Fiesta, in the county.
I was invited to address the crowd by Eastside leaders Reverend R.A. Callies and Reverend Clifton Byrd who organized the maiden event. I recall being somewhat nervous addressing an all-black crowd as the only white person at the gathering.
I expressed my concerns to Reverend Callies who comforted me by saying I would be fine. He encouraged me to share my heart and all would go well. Fortunately for me I took his advice and it worked out. Once I overcame my jitters I addressed the crowd and received a warm reception.
It should be noted it was my first time speaking to more than 50 people at one time unless you count my college days as a College Cheerleader in a filled to capacity gym yelling at the crowd, “two bits, four bits, six bits a dollar, all for the Rams, stand up and holler!!”
As a former Speech Teacher I instructed hundreds of high school and middle school students over the years. Having encouraged them to get up in front of a crowd, it was my turn to face off.
Performing in plays in high school and college was one thing reciting lines of a character, but using my own narrative to a crowd of five hundred people staring at me and listening to what I had to say about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was something else.
It obviously worked out for me as within that year I became a news reporter for a number of TV stations around Texas and a stint as a local newspaper reporter to eventually include this column for La Prensa!
I look forward to 2016 with La Prensa and my 19th time to walk the 2 and ½ miles of the MLK March.
Anyway, as always, what I write is “Just a Thought.”
Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and former Justice of the Peace and Journalist