San Antonio’s sixth annual DreamWeek summit kicked off Friday, the beginning of two weeks of community programming aimed at advancing tolerance, diversity, and equality while celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.

Through lecture series, workshops, mixers, film screenings, art shows, live music, and other gatherings, DreamWeek organizers seek to foster healthy public discourse about relevant topics in today’s society. What started with 30 events six years ago has grown into a 16-day commemoration with more than 226 events throughout the city organized with 180 local partners.

Of those partners, 90 are participating in DreamWeek for the first time.

This year Martin Luther King Jr. Day falls on King’s actual birthday, Jan. 15, and San Antonio’s MLK March, which is consistently one of the largest in the country, will begin at the MLK Academy, located at 3501 MLK Dr., and end at Pittman-Sullivan Park. The City’s MLK Jr. Commission of San Antonio hosts the event, which drew an estimated 300,000 participants last year.

You can view the march route and find information about complimentary VIA bus rides to the festivities here.

Politics, race relations, religion, women’s rights, LGBTQIA issues, and immigration are among the topics explored during the summit, which runs through Jan. 20. For a full list of DreamWeek events, click here.

The intent is to increase inclusive discussion and understanding among different groups of people, something organizers point to as one of the key pillars of King’s teachings.

“We are hoping to nurture an environment that allows people to at least speak,” DreamWeek founder Shokare Nakpodia said in a conversation with the Rivard Report. “And we believe that the truest voice will always triumph,” which is the wisdom that civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. intended to leave behind.

DreamWeek was born out of Nakpodia’s desire to create more opportunity for people of different backgrounds to connect, offer their opinions, and hear from other people in order to grow their tolerance and understanding.

Nakpodia said that King’s dream of tolerance is relevant to all people, and the events are hosted by groups and organizations that work to embrace and promote acceptance.

“When we connect with [an event] host, we ask them: ‘Do you honestly believe in tolerance, diversity, and equality, and how do you express that?’” They are then tasked with creating an event that expresses these ideals, he said.

DreamWeek Program Manager Jordan Mischel Thomas said the approach for this year’s schedule was to put relevant events together, either on the same day or at the same venue, to allow for audiences to delve more into issues. “The point is to have more strategic, nuanced conversation, and to dive deeper into universal issues that affect us all.”

Programming to include immigrant voices will take place on Jan. 13, when a panel of speakers from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund will discuss immigrant rights and current legislation, including the impact of the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. Immediately following will be a social justice workshop, focusing on communicating personal perspectives.

Also on Jan. 13, The DoSeum will host the third annual children’s citizenship ceremony, where 50 immigrant children will take the oath of U.S. citizenship. Later that day, the Magik Children’s Theatre will present a free storytelling session at which area actors and community activists will act out children’s books by famous black authors.

Amarah, age 4 from India, walks up with her dad to accept her U.S. naturalization certificate.
Amarah, 4, from India, walks up with her dad to accept her U.S. citizenship certificate during DreamWeek 2017. Credit: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / San Antonio Report

For those interested in examining issues within the LGBTQIA community, a “learning day” will take place on Saturday at which speakers will dissect such topics as gender identity, understanding sexual orientation and the coming out process, and being an ally.

Ride for Reading SA is sponsoring a kids’ neighborhood bike ride through the Eastside, followed by games and giveaways at the Ella Austin Community Center on Jan. 20.

Nakpodia said that DreamWeek encourages families and children to explore San Antonio, taking them to areas they may not have previously visited.

There are worship programs throughout the 16-day summit, including the third annual Shut It Down gospel showcase hosted by Gospel KDML Praise Radio, taking place at Vertical Church on 4218 Thousand Oaks Dr. on Jan. 13. The following Sunday, Citychurch Downtown will host a “racial reconciliation,” which is described as “a celebration of diversity through Christ” and will take place at the Cameo Theater.

Our Lady of the Lake University hosts a conversation they are calling “black bodies and the justice of God,” and how this idea intersects with motherhood, theology, and the Black Lives Matter movement. This free event is Jan. 18 at Providence Hall on the OLLU campus.

Aside from the MLK Day march, the MLK Jr. Commission is hosting a number of other events this year, which can be found here.

Nakpodia said that the march served as his inspiration for DreamWeek because it shows that a diverse city can also be inclusive.

“I feel that San Antonio has a lot to teach the rest of the world,” Nakpodia said. “I’ve travelled to a lot of different places, and there is a kind of openness and generosity of spirit here that we are trying to keep going.”

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.